But it's also become a ritual of sorts for us, another of the annual rites of passage each year when winter becomes spring: Flowers and plants bloom, pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, John and Mel watching a bunch of baseball movies in a row.
In fact, it's gotten so serious over the years that when I had originally balked a little over going through with it again this year (due to, um, other pressing issues) the reception from my wife was not well. But last night, while watching the odd television viewing combination of the US getting knocked out of the World Baseball Classic/The Bible/Shipping Wars, the 4th annual 12 days of baseball movies list was finally arranged and finalized.
Quick rehash of the premise: There's not really much to it, only that here are the 12 baseball movies we are going to watch, a la "12 Days Of Christmas" style. We are starting at a date 13 days before the start of Opening Day in MLB, and ending with the final movie on the evening before it. (Kind of ruins things that the Rangers open the season in Houston this year, but such is life.) It isn't necessarily in an order of favorites but more in an order of convenience (example: Mel works until 7 Mondays through Wednesdays, so we'd be less susceptible to watching The Ten Commandments on one of those nights and probably more likely to watch Hot Tub Time Machine or something).
Ok, here we go.
3/19 - The Bad News Bears (original)
Billy Bob Thornton did a good enough job during the remake of this, but I thought he came off less like how Morris Buttermaker should be portrayed and more like a version of Bad Santa, heavy drinking and having sex all the time. Give me Walter Matthau.
3/20 - The Sandlot
Come on, say it with me now.
FILM FUN FACT: There were actually two sequels to this movie to come out for some reason: The Sandlot 2, and The Sandlot 3 which was called The Sandlot: Heading Home. That one also starred former 90210 great Luke Perry playing an arrogant Dodgers superstar named Tommy "Santa" Santorelli who gets beaned in the head DURING BATTING PRACTICE and finds himself back in the sandlot he grew up playing baseball in during the 1970's. Seriously, how do you get beaned in the head during batting practice? Is everybody blindfolded?
The kid who played "Squints" in the first one is also in this again. Also apparently so is John Kruk.
The other point I want to make about this is, I have never seen a movie starring a baseball player whose nickname is "Santa" to be anything other than an unmitigated disaster.
(Editor's note: I just realized how wrong looking that screencap from the part where Squints fakes drowning so he can kiss the lifeguard looks. Sorry. I feel bad about it but not bad enough to change it though.)
3/21 - Pride Of The Yankees
(Insert joke about how you thought John and Mel hated the Yankees.) FILM FUN FACT: As the story goes, the homerun that Babe Ruth hit for the kid in the hospital is said to have gone to center field. But when the ball is hit in the movie, its trajectory is towards right field yet the announcer says it's heading towards center field, so there is clearly no way the ball could have gone to center field and SO YEAH SUCK IT YANKEES!!
Long before Joseph Gordon-Levitt was infiltrating the subconscious dreams within peoples dreams that are within peoples dreams that are within peoples dreams that are also within peoples dreams, he was starring in this. Needless to say he's come a long, long way.
Mel and her two sisters all have this movie memorized verbatim. They could probably turn the movie on, close their eyes, mute it, and still recite all the dialogue from it word for word. I wasn't that way at first, but after four years of being married and 6 years of knowing her I'm almost the same way as well.
I've also often thought this movie had the most fake named baseball players in it than any that I've ever seen. To name a few: Whitt Bass. Danny Hemmerling. Triscuitt Messmer. Really? Triscuitt?
Kit "Hit Or Die" Kesey. That's an interesting one, because he didn't die after he strikes out. I wonder what went wrong there.
Ranch Wilder, and don't forget the two very generic and stereotypically named hispanic players on the team as well: Pablo Garcia and Jose Martinez. Can't leave them out.
3/23 - Moneyball
A new entry to our list this year, I used to like this movie a lot more until the Rangers crapped all over themselves at the end of last season and allowed the A's to sweep them. I still like it, except now every time I see it a little part of me dies inside knowing what Oakland is capable of.
3/24 - Baseball: The Tenth Inning
This is a little bit of a curveball (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! LOL LOL!!!!!!) since this a documentary and not a movie. But we'll allow it.
3/25 - The Rookie
This movie is in the pantheon of movies that I stop down to watch when they're on television even though we already own them along with Animal House, Pure Country, and Major League to name a few. Also, the scene where Dennis Quaid finds out he's making the big leagues and calls home to tell his son Angus T. Jones still gets me every time.
Plus we always love to watch this and point out the factual inaccuracies when Jimmy Morris shows up at the Ballpark In Arlington for the game and walks right in through the front gate. And NOBODY'S THERE! It's like 5 o'clock in the afternoon with a night game in a few hours and there's not a soul in sight! And not to mention the fact that he's warming up in the wrong bullpen!
But I still love this movie.
3/26 - Fever Pitch
What is with the mouth expression that Drew Barrymore is making in that picture? It's always bothered me.
Anyway, this movie is significant because Jimmy Fallon most accurately represents how we both feel about sports. Also, I think during the first or second year I had Rangers season tickets, I too tried to organize a group of friends who would be interested in going to games with me and did everything but set up a big poster board in my bedroom. The only problem was I had no friends. And the Rangers were terrible. I guess it helps if the team is actually good.
3/27 - A League Of Their Own
FILM FUN FACT (kinda): Does anybody remember the League Of Their Own TV series that ran on CBS in 1993? It didn't even make it through a full baseball season, lasting from April until only August. If it were to be on right now I know it would have at least two viewers. (Us.)
3/28 - Bull Durham
FILM FUN FACT: The above picture makes me crazy.
3/29 - Field Of Dreams
Whereas the Kirk Gibson walkoff homerun off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series really thrust my baseball mind into motion, this movie really got my baseball movie watching mind going in that same fashion. And nothing has been the same since.
Also, if you want to get my Dad to cry, show him this movie. It works every time.
Also, I've always thought that the way Kevin Costner is standing in this movie poster looks really uncomfortable.
3/30 - The Natural
That soundtrack. Few things are greater than the soundtrack to this movie. It pretty much is single-handedly the reason why I went and made a sports playlist on iTunes one day a few years ago. Sure it's gotten gummed down with the likes of AC/DC, Rock and Roll Part II, and other arena rock songs you'd hear at sporting events over the years. But this is what got it all started.
And on March 21st, 2009, we walked in to our wedding reception to it. At the Ballpark. After Chuck Morgan just announced our names as a newly married couple.
Pretty. Freaking. Awesome. Still.
Anyway, there you have it.
I think one of the most exciting parts about this annual yearly ritual of sorts is that soon we'll have another little branch of the family tree to share all of this with.
Screenings will be shown nightly at the Vittas residence unless otherwise noted, so if anybody would like to come and join us one night they are more than welcome to.
Just bring the popcorn.