COMMENTARY | New York Yankees pitchers and catchers are set to report to spring training on February 12. If you're not a basketball fan, getting through these dark days can be mind-numbing.
Until then, if YES Network specials aren't cutting it for you, I suggest updating your Netflix queue or dusting off your VCR and watching these top 10 Yankee-centric movies:- Pride of the Yankees (1942). Arguably one of the best sports films ever made. Based on the life of "The Iron Horse," Lou Gehrig, the film earned 11 Oscar nominations, including Best Actor (Gary Cooper) and Best Actress (Teresa Wright). Look for cameo appearances by Gehrig teammates Babe Ruth, Bill Dickey, Bob Meusel, and Mark Koenig -- who play themselves.
- Major League (1989). While the film focuses on the Cleveland Indians, its climactic ending pits the team against a Yankees squad powered by "Clu Haywood," portrayed by former American League Cy Young winner Pete Vuckovich, who sports a very un-Yankee-like Fu Manchu mustache. Tom Berenger earned top billing for this formulaic flick; Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes save it.
- Bang the Drum Slowly (1973). Robert DeNiro when he was, well, Robert DeNiro -- not the caricature of his former self that he's often asked to play. Critic Roger Ebert went so far as to call this film "the ultimate baseball movie." Technically, the heroes in this drama are the "New York Mammoths," but the team's pinstriped duds look an awful lot like Yankee uniforms. Game scenes were shot at both Shea Stadium and Yankees Stadium, but the Mammoths are shown wearing both their home whites and road grays at both fields.
- 61* (2001). This HBO made-for-TV production, which earned 12 Emmy nominations, chronicles Mickey Mantle's and Roger Maris' 1961 chase to break Ruth's single-season home-run record. Interestingly, director Billy Crystal's labor of love was filmed at Tiger Stadium, where seats were painted green to redress it as Yankee Stadium. Listen for Yankees great Bob Sheppard, as well as former Yankees and current Padres broadcaster Jerry Coleman.
- Nine Innings From Ground Zero (2004). Another HBO made-for-TV venture, this documentary examines the closing weeks of the 2001 season, including the New York Mets-Atlanta Braves game that brought New York City back to normal and the Yankees' postseason run. The film recalls the events that, in some small degree, helped a city heal, like Liza Minnelli's rendition of "New York, New York" at Shea Stadium and Derek Jeter's "Mr. November" moment in the Bronx.
- The Scout (1994). Albert Brooks co-wrote the screenplay to this generally forgettable movie about a scout (Brooks) who finds a flame-throwing pitcher played by Brendan Fraser and lands him a contract with the Yankees. For Yankee fans, though, there are a few redeeming scenes. Look/listen for cameos by Bobby Murcer and Sheppard, as well as Bob Tewksbury. Of course, nothing tops George Steinbrenner, whose acting range shows why this movie marked his only motion picture appearance.
- Damn Yankees (1958). Film version of George Abbott 's Tony award-winning Broadway hit about a Washington Senators fan who makes a deal with the devil to help his favorite team win the pennant. Look for footage of Yankee greats Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and Bill "Moose" Skowron, who later played for the hapless 1964 Senators.
- The Babe Ruth Story (1948). The affable William Bendix plays The Bambino in this lighthearted look at Ruth's life. Look/listen for cameos by Koening (who played for the Yankees from 1925-1929), Bucky Harris (who managed the 1947 Yankees to a World Series title), and announcer Mel Allen.
- The Babe (1992). At some point, someone will make a Ruth biopic that doesn't come across as schmaltzy and overdone. Until then, we have this John Goodman portrayal that at least outshines Bendix's, despite the overdone makeup.
- Mr. Baseball (1992). A post-Magnum, P.I., pre-Blue Bloods Tom Selleck portrays Jack Elliott, a one-time MVP for the Yankees, who trade him a Japanese club. I'd have made the same move as the "rookie" the Yankees want to replace Elliott with is Frank Thomas.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
- Arts & Entertainment
- Babe Ruth
- The Babe
- New York Yankees
- Yankee Stadium