Written by Ron Backer, Baseball Goes to the Movies (Applause Theatre & Cinema Books) is a look at the sport in film going all the way back to beginning of when motion pictures didn’t have any sound.
There have been some other books to examine baseball and film but most of those were released over 20 years ago. Given the number of baseball films released since the early 1990s, an update feels necessary. In this decade alone, we have seen the release of four baseball movies: Moneyball (2011), Trouble with the Curve (2012), 42 (2013), and Million Dollar Arm (2014). All in all, Backer examines 74 films that originally played in theaters.
During baseball’s offseason, you might find many of these films playing on the MLB Network. It’s hard thinking of baseball and cinema without thinking of films like Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, The Sandlot, Little Big League, The Pride of the Yankees, A League of Their Own, Eight Men Out, and The Babe. Some of these are classics, some of them aren’t. I don’t include Cobb as the his biographer is rumored to have fabricated information in the book it’s based on.
Backer places a strong emphasis on the baseball aspect of a film as he examines films categorized under Major League Baseball, Major League Dreams, Youth Baseball, Baseball Biographies, Fantasy Baseball, Young Fans and Real Players, Baseball Romances, Baseball Comedies, Baseball Musicals, and Baseball in Diverse Cultures.
In his introduction, Backer writes:
In the movies, however, baseball has always been our national sport, as well as our national pastime. From the beginning of cinema in the silent era and continuing to this day, there have always been substantially more significant movies about baseball than football. In fact, there have been more memorable movies about baseball than any other sport. There have been baseball dramas, comedies, musicals, biographical films, family movies, and films about major leaguers, minor leaguers, and Little Leaguers, plus a few mysteries and love stories thrown in. Surprisingly, even as football became more popular than baseball in the 1970s, the number of movies about baseball actually increased over the subsequent decades. Baseball is surely America’s cinematic pastime as well as its national pastime.
While Backer makes known that this book is intended for the cinema lover, given how he comments on things such as the story, acting, and directing, it’s also for baseball fans as well. Just going off the list of films included, I’ve seen 29 of them so I’ve got a lot of work to do.
If you have some time this summer to do some reading, this would be a great choice. Published by Applause Theatre & Cinema Books on June 13, 2017, the book is available in paperback.