Steve Eighinger

Some baseball movies swing and miss

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 21, 2017 9:10 am

This is the time of year when most baseball fans sink their collective teeth into a discussion about the best baseball movie ever made.

These days, that debate usually boils down to "Field of Dreams" or "Bull Durham," but for every classic of that nature there have been some swings and misses. Normally, it's easy to dismiss the stinkers, but some were simply so bad they deserve their own special recognition.

When compiling any sort of list like this, there needs to be parameters. I limited my choices to major theatrical releases through the years, movies that targeted a widespread audience -- and bombed.

My picks for the worst baseball movies:

5. "Damn Yankees" (1958): I'll probably take some heat for this choice because the film actually was critically acclaimed and did well financially, but -- come on -- a baseball musical? Just when you think there's going to be some great baseball to appreciate, everyone starts singing. There's no crying in baseball, at least according to "A League of Their Own," and there should be no singing.

4. "Fear Strikes Out" (1957): The story of Jimmy Piersall and his mental illness is a compelling one, and if this movie had been made today, I'm certain it would have been able to carry a stronger and more accurate message. In a way, this film, which starred Anthony Perkins and Karl Malden, was way ahead of its time for its subject matter. But the movie leaves more questions than the answers it tries to provide.

3. "It Happens Every Spring" (1949): Unlike baseball musicals, I have absolutely nothing against a good baseball comedy -- unless it transcends silliness and enters into the realm of stupidity. This movie did. A college professor (Ray Milland) stumbles across a formula that if applied to a baseball causes it to automatically avoid contact with any wooden material. I require at least a thread of believability. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been Ray Milland singing.

2. "Major League II" (1994): Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) was not nearly as entertaining the second time around. There's a reason there has never been a "Field of Dreams II" or "Bull Durham II?" .

1. "The Babe Ruth Story" (1948): Everything that "Pride of the Yankees" was in 1942 when Gary Cooper gave us the Lou Gehrig story, this movie, starring William Bendix as Babe Ruth, is not. This movie insulted the intelligence of anyone who saw it. There is a scene where Babe "cures" a paraplegic boy just by saying "hello." There is another spotlighting a boy dealing with cancer showing signs of improvement after the Babe hits his "called shot" home run in the 1932 World Series against the Cubs. The Boston Globe and the Washington Times once referred to this film as "the worst movie ever made." I think they were right.