Baseball is like the peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the sports world. It may not be the cool thing to like anymore, but there’s something about it that never goes out of fashion and never lets you down.
Once America’s pastime, the game long ago lost that status to football. That’s certainly understandable. Football is all about guys smacking each other into the ground, and who doesn’t like watching men pummel each other on a regular basis? Meanwhile, baseball can move at a pace that makes a post office line feel like an Olympic 100-yard dash heat.
Still, that’s precisely why the game has such charm. Other team sports have strict time limits. Baseball operates without a clock, taking its own sweet time while respecting tradition and operating pretty much the same way now as it did 100 years ago. Hairlines and musical styles may change over the years, but baseball stays constant and you have to love it for its consistency if nothing else.
And if the game is as slow as its critics gripe that it is, how do you explain the fact that so many movies have been made about baseball and so many shows have featured episodes involving it as well? Nobody is going to do a film or a series about something boring (PBS documentaries on the history of mold notwithstanding). So, with Opening Day of the 2013 baseball season upon us, why not swing away at these Streampix movies and shows that highlight the good time that is our once and future national pastime?
When it comes to baseball movies, this one is…yes…a total home run. Set in the game’s golden age, “The Natural” is a ten times larger than life story of a bright young prospect (Robert Redford) whose career gets sidelined by unforeseen tragedy. Many years later, he’s mysteriously resurfaced and gets a shot at the major league career that eluded him in the past. This is a perfectly idealized look at the healing power of baseball and (spoiler alert) when this anti-Casey is at the bat in the final scene, no sport has ever seemed more inspiring.
There is no crying in baseball, but apparently there is laughing. At least if this lively Tom Hanks–Geena Davis comedy is any indication. A fond look back at the women who played professional baseball when many men went off to fight in World War II, this movie became a sensation when it was released in 1992. Women enjoyed it because it was empowering. Men made it a hit because it was about sports. And….men liked it because it had women in short skirts in it.
Okay, so this is more often referred to as “that Matt LeBlanc monkey movie” than it is “that Matt LeBlanc baseball movie.” That doesn’t mean it can’t be equally entertaining both ways as long as you approach it in the right frame of mind. As in, don’t take this story of a down-on-his-luck minor leaguer who ends up teammates with a ball playing primate very seriously. Think of it more as a little league game than a major league contest, something that’s designed for the kids to enjoy.
Tune into pretty much any football game ever and you’ll see people who under ordinary circumstances would be safely locked away in an institution. They strip to nearly nothing in freezing weather, spread body paint all over themselves, wear hats and other clothing that would get them fired were they to show up at work life that. Still, it’s football and people expect fans to act crazy. Baseball has always been thought of as a more genteel sport, with family-oriented fans. Whoever thinks that hasn’t seen this 1996 flick about a ballplayer (Wesley Snipes) who has to deal with a psychotic devotee (who else but Robert DeNiro?). The only thing in baseball crazier than DeNiro’s character may well be Chicago Cubs’ fans who think every year might be the year for their team.
Derek Jeter, “Saturday Night Live”
New York Yankee captain and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter hosted this episode of “Saturday Night Live” in late 2001, the only baseball player to ever earn that honor. He certainly distinguished himself with sketches like one where he showed up in drag to play a Yankee wife (something that I’m sure that came up once or twice afterward in the locker room). It made sense to have Jeter host this comedy series. First of all, he’s a legend in New York, just like “SNL.” And second, according to Red Sox fans anyway, playing for the Yankees is kind of a joke.