5 films about baseball

1. THE BAD NEWS BEARS (Michael Ritchie; 1976) 3 stars

Spawning two sequels and a TV series that failed to live up to the original's charm, "The Bad News Bears" stars the delightfully cranky Walter Matthau as a reluctant Little League baseball coach leading a ragtag group of smart-mouthed youngsters. The pizza-stained and beer-chugging Matthau connects with the athletic misfits, making this underdog tale a guilty pleasure. (on video)

2. THE NATURAL (Barry Levinson; 1984) 3 1/2 stars

Director Levinson took creative license with Bernard Malamud's dark, more cynical novel of the same name, creating one of the most memorable endings in all of cinema. Robert Redford shines as Roy Hobbs, a middle-age slugger who rises from obscurity to play in the major leagues during the 1930s. With Robert Duvall, Winferd Brimley and Glen Close. (DVD/video)

3. PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (Sam Wood; 1942) 4 stars

Gary Cooper stars in this Lou Gehrig biopic, which follows the famed Yankee's rise to being one of baseball's most loved figures. Gehrig played 2,130 consecutive games before succumbing to the nerve disease that ended his career and life. Babe Ruth stars as himself, as do several other Yankees. Cooper delivers a touching performance. (DVD/video)

4. FIELD OF DREAMS (Phil Alden Robinson; 1989) 4 stars

Another sparkling baseball myth, this time based on W.P Kinsella's book "Shoeless Joe." The aphorism "Build it, and they will come" inspires Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) to build a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfield - where long-dead baseball stars come to play. With James Earl Jones and Ray Liotta. (DVD/video)

5. EIGHT MEN OUT (John Sayles; 1988) 3 1/2 stars

Sayles ("Lone Star") directs and appears as great baseball writer Ring Lardner in this story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox - dubbed the "Black Sox" for taking money to throw the World Series. John Cusack leads an ensemble cast in a humanistic, sensitive history of the events that robbed baseball of its innocence. (DVD/video)

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