Baseball may be the national pastime, but Hollywood usually strikes out when it tries to make classic movies about the sport.
Few actors have the athletic skills to pull off a lead role as a ballplayer. Even fewer screenwriters have spent enough time in a clubhouse to understand and provide a realistic representation of the game's inner workings.
But Oscar week is here, so it's time to present our best and worst from the dozens of baseball flicks we've seen over the years.
Best movie: "The Bad News Bears." Its politically incorrect script about a rowdy bunch of Little Leaguers and their alcoholic coach still holds up well after 28 years.
Worst movie: "Field of Dreams." An overrated valentine to baseball that tries to wax poetic but winds up being silly and sappy at the same time.
Best actor: Walter Matthau, "The Bad News Bears." Remember when Little League coaches were just regular Joes instead of drill sergeants? Matthau was made for the role of boozing coach Morris Buttermaker.
Worst actor: Kevin Costner, "For Love of the Game." Costner was likable as downtrodden catcher Crash Davis in "Bull Durham," but now he plays the same basic character in every film.
Best supporting actor: John Cusack, "Eight Men Out." Cusack gave a solid performance as White Sox third baseman Buck Weaver, and he actually looked like he could play the hot corner.
Worst supporting actor: Corbin Bernsen, "Major League." There's a good reason Bernsen has disappeared from view since this wooden performance as sleazy ballplayer Roger Dorn.
Best baseball cameo: Babe Ruth, "Pride of the Yankees." He looked like a natural in the Lou Gehrig biopic, a corny classic from the 1940s.
Worst baseball cameo: George Steinbrenner, "The Scout." The Boss appears to have taken method-acting lessons from Donald Trump.
Best announcer: Bob Uecker, "Major League." It doesn't get any better than Uecker's Harry Doyle bellowing, "Juuuuuuuuust a bit outside."
Worst announcer: Bob Costas, "The Scout." Why would one of the best baseball announcers agree to perform as himself after reading this inane script? Only Costas knows.
Best manager/coach: Matthau, "The Bad News Bears." Old-school cool. Buttermaker probably could outmanage Arizona's Bob Brenly.
Worst manager/coach: Danny Glover, "Angels in the Outfield." No one could have made his character work in this awful Disney film.
Best pitcher: Charlie Sheen, "Major League." Sheen's classic turn as "Wild Thing" edges out Tatum O'Neal's hilarious role as Amanda Whurlizer in "The Bad News Bears."
Worst pitcher: Brendan Fraser, "The Scout." Fraser wins the Triple Crown of baseball movies: Can't act. Can't play. No charisma.
Best sportswriter: John Sayles, "Eight Men Out." Perfect blend of sarcasm and cynicism playing Ring Lardner.
Worst sportswriter: Walter Brennan, "Pride of the Yankees." Fictional baseball writer Sam Blake as the best friend of superstar Lou Gehrig? Imagine Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds hanging out with baseball writers in their spare time.
Best player portrayal: Tommy Lee Jones, "Cobb." Great performance in a surprisingly dull film about a talented but supremely flawed character.
Worst player portrayal: Anthony Perkins, "Fear Strikes Out." Choosing Perkins to play Jimmy Piersall is akin to hiring Andy Dick to play Mark McGwire.
Best screwball portrayal: Tim Robbins, "Bull Durham." Nuke LaLoosh steals the movie from Costner. The scene in which Costner gives Robbins a list of cliches spawned a generation of boring clubhouse quotes.
Worst screwball portrayal: Perkins, "Fear Strikes Out." Still waiting for the remake. Sean Penn would make a perfect Piersall if he could play . . . and climb a backstop.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times