VOLUME SEVEN: IT AINT SPRING WITHOUT BASEBALL

You smell that? Fresh mowed grass, stretched out smooth and green over a perfect ball field. You hear that? The youth restoring crack of a finely honed piece of ashwood against the firm leather hide of a brand new ball, the sound of metal cleats across the blacktop walkway leading to the dugout. Yeah, more than anything else in nature that occurs to herald the onset of spring, for me, the beginning of the baseball season is the surest sign. Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved baseball. In those days my brother Clay and I, and our friends in the neighborhood couldn’t play it enough. Not only did we always play on little league teams, but we had all day into the night marathon games with our buddies on our own homemade diamond in the huge field behind our house. I remember the cool, crisp spring mornings Clay and I would get up early, grab our mower and some of Dad’s lime powder, head down over the bluff behind the house to the area we would soon turn into the best neighborhood ball field around. Carefully mowing out the diamond and the outfield, building up the pitcher’s mound, and laying down the lime baselines and batters boxes, we would construct a backyard dream machine. Heroes were going to be made here, dreams were going to be lived, it was going to be the bottom of the ninth with three men on and two outs, down by two runs as many times a day as we liked. And we’d be there, all day, game after game, until the sun snuck off behind the top of the bluff, and Mom yelled down that our dinner was getting cold. Yeah, that’s Spring, and that’s why I’d like to share with you some of the great baseball flicks that can really put you in the game.

1.) Field Of Dreams (1989) – If you can watch the end of this film without your tearducts filling up, than better check and see if there are gears where your heart should be!
2.) The Natural (1984) – A baseball fairytale that we all wish we could live. The Randy Newman score perfectly captures the triumphant nature of this story.
3.) The Rookie (2002) – Dennis Quaid in a real life version of The Natural. This is a great story about a middle age guy who finally gets to live his baseball dream.
4.) 61* (2001 TV) – The “made for HBO” film about the home run race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Marris during the original Yankees heyday.
5.) The Sandlot (1993) – This movie reminds me so much of my younger days with my buddies it’s scary! It’s also a hilarious tale of friends, growing up and baseball.
6.) It Happens Every Spring (1949) – Here’s one I bet you never heard of. Ray Milland stars as a nemish college professor who accidently invents a solution that repels wood. Well, he figures that if he puts it on a baseball, well……..you get the rest of the idea!
7.) Bull Durham (1988) – Funny, sexy, dramatic and heartwarming. This movie has it all, and I guess it started Kevin Costner's run of baseball films.
8.) Baseball (1994) – a film by Ken Burns – If you like baseball, or even if you don’t, there has never been a more informative and interesting and moving documentary about America’s favorite pastime. 10 discs though, you need to watch this over several nights.
9.) Major League (1989) – A hoot from beginning to end with a great ensemble cast. The story of a losing team of misfit ball players who rise to the call of baseball greatness to foil the plans of an unscrupulous owner.
10.) Pride of the Yankees (1942) – Gary Cooper stars as Lou Gerhig in the old school Hollywood semi-documentary tale.
11.) Eight Men Out (1988) – The true story of the infamous Chicago “Black” Sox and the fixed World Series of 1919.
12.) For Love of the Game (1999) – Another Costner baseball film detailing the final game of aging pitcher Billy Chapel. It may spend a little too much time on the romance between Costner and Kelly Preston, but its a pretty good film that gives a lot of insight into the mental discipline of a pro ball player.
13.) Damn Yankees! (1958) – For me, one of the best movies because it was about the Washington Senator's, and I was a BIG Senators fan when I was a kid. This award winning musical stars Tab Hunter, Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston as the ol' Devil himself in a fairy tale story of a old fan who sells his soul to help the Senators win the pennant. It's got some great music and old school schmaltz performaces. A must see!

FURTHER VIEWING: Bad News Bears, Fear Strikes Out, Angels in the Outfield, A League of their Own, Rookie of the Year

So get your peanuts and Cracker Jack, pull up a bleacher seat along the third baseline, grab your glove, and settle in for some films that’ll convince you that Spring and baseball are inseperable!

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