It has certainly been a wild ride in the world of baseball in the state of Iowa recently. From a wildly exciting high school regular season to a picture perfect Field of Dreams game, there’s been plenty of baseball fun. In honor of all of that, we’ve combined the great worlds of baseball and movies together. From the greatest sport on earth to the some of the greatest moments in cinema, we merge it all together in IAbaseball’s Baseball Movie Bracket Challenge. A challenge that will post up some of the most iconic depictions of the sport on the brightest of lights up against each other.
In total, 16 movies have been selected to go head-to-head in a bracket style tournament where the winner will be determined by you. Four groups of four movies will battle it out to determine what movie is the last standing on the bump. First, instead of just jumping right in, we will start off this epic challenge by taking a look at our four top seeds that will look to stand alone as they hurl that final pitch.
Bull Durham (1988)
Set in the backdrop of Durham North Carolina, this timeless classic follows a literary baseball groupie (Susan Sarandon) as she romances a pitcher (Tim Robbins) and catcher (Kevin Costner) on a minor league team. It’s been scored 97 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and for good reason. Costner plays a journeyman catcher with more playing days behind him than in front of him and he’s vying for his big shot. One of his final tasks is getting stud arm Ebby Calvin Laloosh prepped for the Majors. Meanwhile Surandon’s Annie Savoy (the early saber metric savant) takes both pitcher and catcher under her wings, creating a love triangle that shines just as much light on relationships as it does minor league baseball.
This movie hits a lot of what you might want in a sports movie. There’s action on the field, drama, and real world excitement. It has been claimed as one of (if not the number one) baseball move Costner has ever been involved in. This film has a strong case for the top movie in the bracket as it the passion and madness of baseball perhaps better than any baseball movie ever has with an all-star cast. Sports Illustrated didn’t call it “the best sports movie” for nothing.
The first real deep dive into the analytics that changed the game of baseball to what it is today. Moneyball, staring Brad Pitt as Billy Beane and Jonah Hill as Ivy League graduate Peter Brand, is a movie challenging the old norms of baseball and establishing a new identity. It follows Beane as he spearheads the efforts for the Oakland Athletics and all the changes that seem crazy at first, but end up wonderful. It’s arguably the greatest baseball movie produced in the last decade. After all, it did gross $134 million at the box office making it the highest earning baseball movie of the decade and fourth most of all time. That’s quite ironic as the movie itself (based on the book by Michael Lewis) moves away from the norm of big money to big time players and more towards budget friendly, data driven players.
“Your goal shouldn’t be to buy players. Your goal should be to buy wins. In order buy wins, you need to buy runs.”
Ultimately, this movie takes you into a whole new perspective of baseball that doesn’t circle the comedy wagon. It puts the viewer more directly into the GM’s role and what that may look like and the craziness that can go into wins and losses. It’s almost as educational as it is dramatic and still captures the essence of why we love the game.
Field of Dreams (1989)
If you were to name the top-five most quoted movies in all of sports, let alone baseball, chances are more times than not Field of Dreams would be on that list. Trust us on this one, there’s no recency bias here with the game between the White Sox and Yankees still fresh in our minds, it’s truly a movie that deserves a top spot. It’s the type of fairy-tale like movie baseball fans would not just be ok with, but happy about. Located out of Dyersville Iowa, Field of Dreams basically puts the dreams of many baseball fans as close to reality as possible and rightfully so is extremely popular amongst the hometown crowd. The thing is though, the popularity extends beyond the boarder of the Hawkeye state as evidence by the $186 million box office mark that has kept the film as the second-highest crossing baseball movie of all time.
Inspired by the 1982 W.P. Kinsella book Shoeless Joe, the story follows an Iowa farmer as the goes from hearing the famed words “if you build it, he will come,” to creating the legendary field. From there, the legends of baseball past come to play the game they love. Even with the storyline and all, there’s more legendary elements to this movie including the cast which included James Earl Jones, the famed voice of Darth Vader from Star Wars. It almost didn’t have Costner in the mix as he just came out of the movie Bull Durham (another baseball movie) a year prior. There was even another movie Costner was set to star in but it had to be delayed because the Field of Dreams movie had one BIG living element to contend with, the corn, which needed its proper height. It even had now Hollywood stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as extras!
Ultimately, this is a movie that can and has been watched and rewatched (but not by Ray Liotta) by thousands of baseball fans. To many the iconic line “Is this heaven, No it’s Iowa” is not just a movie quote, but a true-blue reality, all thanks to the film.
A League of Their Own (1992)
Now it’s time for the baseball movie that truly can be called the same as its title, “A League of Their Own”. The classic film starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis became the highest grossing baseball film of all time with $209 million. It follows the story of the little known All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Film in part on the campus of the University of Southern California, it was a film destined to be popular. After all, nearly 2,000 girls auditioned for a part in the movie. If you haven’t seen the film yet though, get out from under that rock and don’t worry. Every girl who was casted had to make sure they knew the game well…to the tune of eight hours a day, six days a week for over seven months participating in baseball training.
The film was more than just another interpretation of the game, but a look into the exciting world of Girls Professional Baseball and what it truly meant during the hard times of World War II. This is also perhaps one of the most quoted sports movies in history with the most notable of the bunch being “There’s no crying in baseball!”
This film truly belongs at the top based on overall popularity and just the nature of the story where everyone, regardless of background or gender, can do anything.