Sunday Rewind: “My Favorite Baseball Movie”

 
 


With so many  MLB bloggers posting their favorite baseball movies the past few days, I thought I might have to include my personal favorite baseball movie that I watch almost institutionally before Spring Training. It is a movie that almost everyone knows, but might not put at the top of their prospective “All-Time” lists.  I put the German versions DVD cover on the top of the blog to show you that this movie has made the move to the International audience, and is not just a US baseball  classic movie.

 
So far this off season, I have watched this movie only about 6 times, but the movie never seems to become dull to me. Maybe it is the fact that I try and find something new  within the film that I have not seen in other viewings. But beyond all of that, “For the Love of the Game ” is by far my “go-to” movie when it comes to baseball.


I actually see this classic as two movies in one: A Baseball movie and a romance. The sporting sequences featuring the “live action” in the film  are definitely worth the price of admission. A Little known fact here, Kevin Costner actually threw every pitch you see in the movie. He did not use a “stunt” pitcher, but wanted a realism that only the actor actually throwing his pitches could provide to the audience. Every pitch came from his shoulder and there is not a single frame of CGI magic or  differentail photographic magic to render his image over another pitcher’s body. It was all Costner….All the time.

 

That to me spells out the love that Costner truly has for the game of baseball. I know you might think that this is a fantasy for him (and it is), but it is also the type of role that he seems to have been born to play. He is that type of actor that you can believe in this role. You could believe that he was the character, and not just someone propped up on the mound for publicity shots. And he is the kind of guy you would root for if he actually had a chance at a perfect game.



As for that second part of the sequence, the romantic angle. I can also see him in a relationship with a woman as complex and beautiful as Kelly Preston in real life.




Most of the solid relationships with women who are attracted to baseball players that seem to succeed in baseball are by women who are attracted to the way you play the game and not just by the way you look in your uniform on the field.


That is why the romantic scenes make sense to me in the film. I know of a few ball players on the Rays that sit in the Bullpen area and check out the stands every game. A few phone numbers have trickled down to the bench, even if they are not wanted by the players. That is a part of life playing a professional sport. Romance is on your own time, and sometimes you have to juggle a lot to get beyond that first “hello”..

 





Being the (hopefully) level-headed guy that I am, I can dig a good romance. While this movie isn’t perfect, it’s a great “compromise video choice” for the sports-loving couple browsing for a  movie choice at the video store. As tough as it seems to achieve a  perfect balance between the game sequences and the lovey-dovey stuff, director Sam Raimi  does a great jot working towards a harmonic level of switching between the evolving game  excitement and the budding relationship between Chapel and Jane.

It seems on the personal level that aging pitcher Billy Chapel (Costner) is having a completely rotten day. He finds out that the only team he has ever played for, his beloved Detroit Tigers are being sold and that the new ownership group wants to trade him to the San Francisco Giants at the end of that season.  And if that might not derail  a normal person for one day, he also learns that his  love interest girlfriend Jane (Preston) is moving to England to begin her career dream job. But the third strike in all of this is that Chapel is scheduled to pitch his final start of a losing season for the Tigers against the hated Yankees and his mind is not in the game.



Through the course of Billy’s  game day preparations and during the game itself, the movie does numerous flashbacks to earlier points in his career. While most of these deal with his romance with Jane, some are memories of lost and distant friendships and unfortunate decisions Chapel has had to make in his life. Granted, the constant ‘back-and-forth’ gimmick may grow a bit tiresome, but by this moment, you will either hate the movie or be completely caught up in the adventure.


I actually took it as life reflective moments that we all have  had at some point in our lives. You get a better sense of Chapel because of the flashback sequences where you see his past career highlights (Tigers World Series appearance), his  remorse and regrets, plus his accident in the off season at his winter lodge that could have derailed his baseball career.



 


I actually enjoy that kind of playful reflection into the background of a character and find the movie more entertaining because it is played out like “at-the moment” elements of the game while Chapel is pitching.  Given some of Costner’s recent films, there’s no real reason to expect this movie to be any good. But it actually is quite an entertaining movie, thanks mainly to the direction of Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead series, A Simple Plan ).

Whenever Dana Stevens’ (City of Angels) script veers towards some corny moment, Raimi pulls up just short, and quickly flashes to the present, and gives us some fantastic baseball sequences. I still think that the film crew did an outstanding job making  the old Tiger Stadium look like Yankees Stadium for the production of the film. And even though they had to do multiple shots of the crowds moving around the stadium and then CGI-ing them into position all over the ballpark, it is a great job of creating the “New York fan vibe” in the film.

Costner plays Billy as melancholy and regretful, the very things that cause him so much trouble in his love life. Unfortunately (and as usual ) Costner never loosens up at all; he’s always stoic and mellow. Kevin Costner suffers from “Movie Star Syndrome”. When he plays a real character, like in the film “Tin Cup’, he shines brightly. While she’s no Oscar threat here, Kelly Preston easily holds her own as Jane, although her character is a bit underwritten for the female lead a romantic film.



What matters most in a movie like this is whether or not you care if
these characters have a happy ending or not. There are several things that can ruin this for you: poor performances, a cliched and lazy script, or just an air of what I can only call ‘fakeness’. ( See “Fools Rush In” or Costner’s own “Message in a Bottle” for examples of such romantic ‘fakeness’).  “For Love of the Game” avoids these romantic maladies (for the most part ). If Costner and Preston don’t always click as a couple, that’s OK because she’s really beautiful (I hate John Travolta for getting to her first ).


If the baseball sequences seem a tad forced or convenient, that’s OK because it’s a damn well-made baseball movie. The scenes are pretty fresh. My favorite is still the one where a rookie is playing in the outfield in Fenway Park, and a ball ends up bouncing off his head ala Jose Canseco and the Boston crowd just laugh as he looks up at them. Now I know for a fact that if that happened, it would have to be in right field at Fenway, and they would more than just laugh at the guy the rest of the series. 
 

In between mediocre Hollywood flicks (I still do not get “The Bodyguard“, but have been hit in the head with the DVD a few times),Costner does another classic baseball movie. While it might not compare in the same breath as some of his other impressive baseball works like “Bull Durham” or “Field of Dreams”  it is gaining popularity as a baseball movie. The true test to this movie might be the simple fact that you want to believe that Chapel can evolve during the movie. I actually see this film as a everchanging morphing of Chapel from a top flight ballplayer to finally realizing his life will not end  by chosing Jane over the game. And in that last scene you see that he truly can let the game go without remorse or regret. And as an ex-athlete, I can admit that moment of realization is an intense moment in your life.



 

32 Comments

cool blog the movie it self was great. keep up the good work as always hope u read mine when ever u get a chance might give u an idea 4 ur next blog.
tmas619

T,
Thanks for that.
I will check it out. I had a long night last night and forgot to check it out.
It is on my “To Do” list today.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Danke Her’ RaysRenegades. Gutten tag!
This is a very good movie. I forget what I may have been watching whenever I stumble upon it flicking channels. I judge a show using the Remote Effect. If I’m watching something with the remote in my hand, odds are it’s getting changed. If a show gets you to put the remote down, now you’ve got something. Field of Dreams is my tops though because of that whole father/son/baseball and ghosts of the past thing. It broke my heart when “DOC” couldn’t play anymore. At least he got to wink at the pitcher, once.
Be well.

Bklyn,
Es ist eine ausgezeichnet Montag.
Furwahr est ist kalte heute.
I looked that part too, but my favorite was Ray Liotta as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson since I am a big fan of his.
I am glad I am not on that show, because the remote is always within reach if I am watching anythnig but baseball.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

BK,
It is about your Tigers, plus there did all the baseball scenes in the old Tiger Stadium that they finally finished demolishing this season I believe.
It has some amzing dialogue from master broadcaster Vin Scully, and some amzing baseball scenes.
I might have to watch it again on Weds night.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

RaysRenegade
Thanks for commenting on a couple of my posts! I am going to have to see For the Love of the Game, its about my Tigers!
BK –
http://dtiggers.mlblogs.com/

i know i caught some heat for living it off my favorite list. i do enjoy it, a gripping story but maybe just a little two over my head. i enjoy the childhood tales of baseball. i’ve only seen this sophisticated movie once. maybe it is time to give it another go

http://pittpeas.mlblogs.com

I think your summary of this movie is what I was hoping for in “Field of Dreams”, and perhaps that is why I was disappointed in that movie. “Field” went on too many tangents, and was not as centered on his family as I would have wished. I’ll have to check out “For Love of the Game”. Thanks, Cliff!! I hope 2010 is a good year for you! Take care.

Funny you mention “Tin Cup” also. A syndicated sports program called “The Sports Machine” is featured in that movie, and its host, George Michael (not the singer), was our local NBC sportscaster growing up. Partly due to him, I grew up to love sports. I just learned that Michael died (of cancer) just before Christmas. I’ll miss him!

Matt,
It is fine to leave some off your list.
Believe me, there are so many great baseball movies from “Eight Men Out” to even “The Sandlot” for us to remember all of them.
Even a movie like “The Natural” has so many baseball references and landmarks hidden within the text and film you might not figure them all out if you watched it 24/7.
I liked your list…..just have a few of my own too.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Greg,
“Field of DReams” was going in so many different directions that even some of the subtle things were missed by people.
Ray Liotta threw the ball right-handed and batted right-handed in the film. “Shoeless” Joe was totally left-handed.
From the perplexities of “Moonlight” Graham, to seeing the message at Fenway Park during a game, it is a film that you also can not see 10 times, but have to see at least 50 before you get some of the references and the subtle homages to the game.
Perfectly fine not to see them. We do not see every nuance during a game either…….

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Greg,
Yes we lost another great sportscaster in George Michaels over the holidays.
I hate it near the end of the year when we see the sports channels run the “In Remembrance” gambit and we see just what kind of talent and history we lose every season to age, cancer, or even unnautral causes like the death of Steve McNair and Charles Henry.
Makes you sad for the family, but treasure your own breathing even more..

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

well have 2 new blogs well sort tat rays renagade i u havent read 4 awhile the other is brand new
tmas619

rays renagade thanks 4 comment on my blog as well as my blogger friend TTTF (the braves Insider) yep well i’ll only do blog response on stuff like that but otherwise thanks
tmas619

T,
Sorry but I only have limited time on some day due to the WIFI connection that is near my car.
I try and get to everyone, but you were on the list for the AM, but got you taken care of tonight.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Again T,
Not a problem.
I try and get to people blogs ASAP, but sometimes the connecyion is not great and I lose the comments after they are posted on my end.
That is what happens when you do not have a cable/landline internet link.
I work only off of the nearest Panera bread WIFI signal.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

This is awesome. I love For Love of the Game! Great movie!

ok raysrenagade hope u get better connection
tmas619
PS new blog in a day or 2

Tomahawk,
I know you are a bit young, but there was also a movie centered around the Atlanta Braves years ago called ” The Slugger’s Wife.”
It was a pretty good quirky comedy that you might be able to find online or at Netflix to check out some day.
Not near the top of the list, but it had some great moments in it too.
I still have a picture of that baconator in my mind…………

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

T,
I will keep an eye out for a new posting.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

It’s so heartening to know that you’re a guy who likes a good romance, Renegade. So sensitive AND manly. LOL! After reading your recap of the movie, I need to go back and watch it again. It’s never been on my favorites list, but maybe it should be.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Do you remember a baseaball movie involving William Petersen, Dermot Mulroney and Virginia Madsen? I believe it was called Long Gone, set in the minor leagues with Petersen as the team’s player-manager and Mulroney as its newest second baseman. Nice little movie, I remember staying up late one night to watch it in its entirety. Never could find it at the local video store, though.

Jonah
http://jonah77.mlblogs.com

Jane,
For someone like you who has written to both sudiences, baseball and romance, you might get a kick out of the movie.
I honestly think it would be a perfect movie for the “She-Fans” of the world to rall behind.
I do not know about romantic at heart and all, but it does have baseball, so it keeps my interest.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

Jonah,
“Long Gone” was actually a made for television movie back in 1987 starring William Peterson as cecil “Stud” Cantrell.
And the only reason I know that is that he was a star for the Tampico Stogies and was set in the 1950’s when baseball ruled the Florida region. The team’s name was actually a baseball homage to the old TampaBay area semi-pro teams that traveled around the state and played local teams.
I had forgotten about that small gem of a film.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I’ve never been big on fictional sports movies, or even non-fiction to be truthful. The game just never seems all that real to me, and even it does, I know I it is not. Although, I did enjoy the Blind Side a lot…

http://www.statisticianmagician.com/

Stat,
I can totally see that point of view. Certain sports can look so foreign to some people that it is totally fictional at best.
I personally can not ride a skateboard and find the tricks and antics of Tony Hawk beyond belief.
It is one of the reason that human belings have their different personalities and different outlooks and opinions on so many things.
I respect the different view and also the difference that give all of us our individuality.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I am actually ashamed that I haven’t seen “For the Love of the Game.” It is the type of movie I love, and I think I need to go out and get it right now. I’ve been a huge fan of baseball movies for a while now, and I love the fact that my favorite sport can relate to heartwarming, sad, or adventure-filled stories. Thanks for the reccomendation.

-AL
http://fryingpan.mlblogs.com/

Al,
That is fine you have not seen it. I will not take your Baseball card collection away fron you.
I enjoy bringing some new information to the masses, and some people like the stuff I talk about, others could care less.
That is life.
Hope you enjoy the film, and submit a 250-word essay on your findings (I am kidding).

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

“For The Love Of The Game” is indeed a great baseball film. Personally, I rank Field of Dreams and The Natural ahead of it, but those baseball scenes with Vin Scully will give you goosebumps! If you want to check out another great baseball flick, try “Little Big League”. It is actually more of a kids/family movie, but really nails the concept of “baseball humor” and will have you on the floor laughing on a few occasions. It is about a teenager who inherits the Minnesota Twins from his Grandpa and becomes the manager, with hilarity ensuing!
http://zkonedog.mlblogs.com/

Zkonedog,
I have seen that movie and I kind of put it in the same category as “Angels in the Outfield”.
A great flick to watch with younger fans, but I am an old dog, so besides liking old flicks like ” Pride of the Yankees” and “Fear Strikes Out”, my taste run through Costner-ville right now.
It is actually a bit funny that he did three movies that are considered some of the best “baseball movies”. Maybe it is the way he protrays the game on screen that makes him to desireable for such roles…..

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

I came over here after seeing the link on the She Fan site. Being a baseball AND movie lover and always appreciating your comments on that web site, I wanted to see what you recommended. I haven’t seen this movie (when it came out, I think Kevin Costner was suffering from over exposure, so I didn’t watch it) but now I will make a point of seeing it.

I also love “The Sandlot” and I also really love “Rookie of the Year.” The plot is silly, but it really captures the childhood love and excitement with baseball. I just loved the kid playing in the majors and sort of bringing the seasoned professionals back to the “Pitcher has a big butt” level of kids.

There is a scene in the movie that was repeated in real life this year. When Henry is running towards home, his team mate is right behind him. That happened with Andy Pettite and Derek Jeter this season.

And as a mom, I just loved the scene with Henry’s final pitch.

Melissa

Melissa,
I enjoy commenting on Jane’s blog, and also consider her a great influence for both writers’ on this blog and aspiring authors’ who only see roadblocks instead of bookcovers.
Seriously, she is one of those people you can respect by her writing, but to meet her in person and chat with her….. You understand why she is the best!
I loved “The Sandlot”, but was a bit disappointed in “The Sandlot 2″, but most sequels do not gather the same karma as the originals.
“Rookie of the Year” is a great kid’s movie like the Charlie Brown small cartoons we saw as kids where he always got blasted off the mound by a ball hit back up the middle.
Seriously, Kevin Costner has done three baseball movies as of right now, but I am also a fan of John Cusack (Buck Weaver) and D B Sweeney (Shoeless Joe Jackson) as member of the 1917 Chicago White Sox in “Eight Men Out”.
Thanks for commenting, and hope you are not a stranger to my post, or Lady Jane’s in the future.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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