DVD Article

The Baseball Movie Hall of Fame

The Baseball movie hall of fame -- Our All-Star team with players from ''The Pride of the Yankees,'' ''The Natural,'' ''Bull Durham,'' and more

Baseball may be a team sport, but the spotlight usually shines on individual heroics. The same is true of baseball movies, most of which center on star players in their moments of glory. With Opening Day of the new season this week, we've chosen the most memorable screen players for our Baseball Movie Hall of Fame:

First Base: Gary Cooper, The Pride of the Yankees (1942, Key) Cooper's Lou Gehrig matches the Iron Horse of Yankee lore: He's strong, soft-spoken, decent. As Ameri-can archetypes, the movie star and the ball player were virtually interchangeable in 1942. Of course, if Gehrig had been cursed with Cooper's stiff batting stroke, he'd never have hit 493 home runs. On the other hand, if he was really anything like the man Coop makes him out to be, he deserves to be a legend anyway. In black and white. B+

Second Base, Shortstop: Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949, MGM/UA) Sinatra is Ryan, the second baseman; Kelly is O'Brien, the shortstop, and they spend more time singing and dancing than they do fielding grounders. This lesser Busby Berkeley film (directed with Kelly and Stanley Donen) is so corny it's almost camp, although Sinatra and Kelly make a great double-play combination. C+

Third Base, Left Field: John Cusack and D.B. Sweeney, Eight Men Out (1988, Orion) As George ''Buck'' Weaver and ''Shoeless'' Joe Jackson — the only Chicago ''Black Sox'' stars who, according to the film, weren't trying to throw the 1919 World Series — Cusack and Sweeney bring a dose of reality to baseball-movie tradition. Where most big-screen ball players go from underdogs to champions, Cusack and Sweeney sympathetically portray two guys who went the opposite way. A

Center Field: Anthony Perkins, Fear Strikes Out (1957, Paramount) Perkins plays Jimmy Piersall, who overcame mental illness to star with the Boston Red Sox. As a player, Perkins runs well, fields okay, hits lousy. Yet he captures Piersall's inner torments, reminding us that sports heroes are human too — an almost subversive message in 1957. B

Right Field: Robert Redford, The Natural (1984, RCA/Columbia) Redford is suitably iconic as ''middle-aged rookie'' Roy Hobbs, a man with a mysterious past and a mythical talent: When he hits the ball, he literally knocks the cover off. If Redford weren't such a natural himself, he'd never have pulled this off. But the guy's got such a sweet swing that you never doubt the myth for a minute. A-

Catcher: Kevin Costner, Bull Durham (1988, Orion) As journeyman slugger Crash Davis, Costner adds brains and sex appeal to the standard ball player profile. Okay, so he's a lifelong minor leaguer. But how many major leaguers could hold their own with Susan Sarandon? A+

Pitcher: Tatum O'Neal, The Bad News Bears (1976, Paramount) Coach Walter Matthau's star pitcher is spunky and practically unhittable — important qualities when you're the only girl on a misfit Little League team. In her swan song as a tomboy, Tatum supplies the star power to an otherwise motley crew. A-

Originally posted Apr 12, 1991 Published in issue #61 Apr 12, 1991 Order article reprints