Full-count films countdown

15. “Rookie of the Year” (1993) “Pitcher’s got a big butt.”

You don’t usually hear that kind of trash talk in the big leagues, but if you are a 12-year-old Cubs player who can throw a 100-mile-an-hour fastball, opponents should expect it.

It comes from Henry Rowengartner, played by Thomas Ian Nicholas, years before his “American Pie” fame, who is a less-than-talented Little Leaguer turned major league pitcher as the result of a freak accident due to a broken arm.

Rowengartner delivers a pennant for the Cubs while battling a skipper who can’t get his name correct, his mother’s boyfriend who tries to cash in on his success, and a slip and fall during the pennant-clinching game that causes him to lose his ability to hurl the heater.

Win one for the little guy.

14. “Eight Men Out” (1988) It’s Charlie Sheen’s first attempt at a baseball picture before he becomes “Wild Thing” the following year. The movie centers around the Black Sox gambling scandal after eight members of the 1919 team threw the World Series, retaliating against owner Charles Comiskey and his lack of paying his players.

In reality, the White Sox payroll was $17,000 greater than the Cincinnati Reds, who defeated Chicago in seven games that year. Sheen played Hap Flesch and D.B. Sweeney played the legendary “Shoeless” Joe Jackson.

13. “The Rookie” (2002) Dennis Quaid plays Jim Morris, coach of the Big Lake Owls in Texas, a team that had won just three total games in the past three seasons. Morris finds a way to motivate his players by promising to chase his major league dreams if the Owls win a district title.

Big Lake wins 17 games and Morris sets out for a tryout with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. While keeping his three kids occupied, the chemistry teacher hurls 98-mile-an-hour fastballs in front of pro scouts. He ultimately makes his way through the minors and plays in his first major league game in Arlington, Texas.

12. “The Sandlot” (1993) “You’re killin’ me, Smalls!”

One of the more famous lines from any sports movie comes from “Ham” Porter. He is constantly exasperated by the awkwardness and the lack of baseball ability of Scotty Smalls, who recently moved into the area and wants to make friends with the local kids that play baseball at a nearby sandlot.

The kids enjoy the dog days of summer while combating “The Beast” who resides over the outfield fence as they try to retrieve a priceless baseball signed by Babe Ruth.

11. “42” (2013) It ranks at the top of the list as one of the most significant sports moments in history, but the movie nearly cracks the top 10. Chadwick Boseman plays the legendary Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play professional baseball in the modern era. Harrison Ford plays Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey.

Robinson overcomes many obstacles, including disdain and hatred from some of his own teammates. With encouragement from Rickey, the Dodgers eventually see what Robinson has to go through as he leads the team to the World Series in 1947.

10. “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” (1998) The only documentary on the list. It details the career of Hank Greenberg, better known as the first “Hammerin’ Hank,” along with his military service and years of battling anti-Semitism as a Jewish player.

Greenburg is in the Hall of Fame. He hit 58 home runs in 1938.

9. “Moneyball” (2011) Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane watched as several of his top players signed with other teams before the 2002 season. Beane, played by Brad Pitt, accepts some radical ideas from Yale graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to refill the roster.

Tensions arise between Beane and his manager and scouts. After making even more moves during the season, the players Beane signed start to play well and the A’s win 20 consecutive games and a division title.

8. “Major League”(1989) A recently widowed owner wants the Cleveland Indians to perform so bad that she can move the team to Miami. She loads the roster with players no one has ever heard of and a tire store manager to be the skipper.

Hilarity ensues as the team comes together and, of course, the Indians win the pennant behind “Wild Thing,” Willie Mays Hayes and catcher Jake Taylor. Bob Uecker steals the show from the press box.

7. “A League of Their Own” (1992) Tom Hanks leads an all-star lineup in this movie about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that started during World War II.  It follows two sisters, Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty), as they travel to Chicago and try out for the Rockford Peaches.

The league actually lasted for 11 seasons and has its own exhibit in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

6. “The Pride of The Yankees” (1942) The movie chronicles the life of the “Iron Horse,” Lou Gehrig. He is beautifully played by Gary Cooper. Gehrig quickly rose to fame as Yankees’ fans were enamored with his will and determination. His career and life were cut well short after he was diagnosed with a rare disease that now bears his name.

Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games, a record that stood for 65 years until it was broken by Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles.

5. “61*” (2001) This movie never made it to the big screen, settling for the small one on HBO. Billy Crystal directed the picture about Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle’s chase of Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record in 1961.

Maris was not a popular Yankee. Fans did not want him to break the record and he was often chastised for his quiet, reserved demeanor. The record included an asterisk because Maris’ 61st homer was hit on the final day of the season. Maris played a 162-game season. Ruth played in 151 contests.

4. “The Bad News Bears” (1976) Walter Matthau plays a beer-swilling, former minor-league pitcher who is recruited by local officials to coach a new Little League team. It’s filled with players who are short on talent, but high on guts and attitude.

The team comes together and nearly wins the league championship. The movie wins one for “The Looper.”

3. “The Natural” (1984) The movie proves you can get a second chance to make a first impression. Robert Redford stars as Roy Hobbs, whose playing career was derailed after meeting a strange woman on a train. Nearly two decades later, he is signed by the New York Knights, hoping that the aging rookie will further hamper the team and allow the owner to get rid of manager Pop Fisher.

Along with his bat “Wonderboy,” Hobbs and the story hit a home run.

2. Bull Durham (1988) Bulls manager Joe Riggins was just trying to find a way to motivate his team—by scaring them.

“You lollygag the ball around the infield.”

“You lollygag your way down to first.”

“You lollygag in and out of the dugout.”

“Do you know what that makes you? Larry?”

Assistant manager Larry Hockett: “Lollygaggers!”

The movie never lollygags, not even for a second. It’s entertaining throughout. The Durham Bulls battle team shenanigans while navigating their minor league season. The veteran Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) wages his own battle with rookie pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh to get him to The Show.

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msparks@dailyindependent.com

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