From the moment the project was announced by Steven Soderbergh and Brad Pitt to the moment it was suffocated by a suspicious studio, we pretty much all had an inkling that "Moneyball" was probably not the best idea for a mainstream feature film. Now that the movie looks eternally sentenced to a Hollywood Petri dish, it got me to thinking about which other baseball movies would have been better off being killed before reaching our local movie houses.
So without further delay, here are my 10 suggestions for early euthanization. (Please note that I refuse to acknowledge any variation of "Major League" except for the original from 1989.)
The Fan (1996) It's pretty much sacrilege to suggest as much, but Robert De Niro has used his considerable acting powers to collect a lot of paychecks from people with awful movie ideas. After garnering critical acclaim as Neil McCauley and Ace Rothstein in "Heat" and "Casino," De Niro went straight to portraying a poetry-writing fan named Gil Renard who's obsessed with the life of Bobby Rayburn, an obvious Barry Bonds(notes)-type character played by Wesley Snipes. The movie ends with De Niro kidnapping Snipes' son in a plot that involves him dressing disguising himself as an evil Enrico Palazzo behind the plate in a monsoon-ravaged game and then calling Snipes out at home on an inside-the-park home run attempt when only a home run would save his kid's life. (If you're upset about that spoiler, I'll only say this: You're welcome.)
While it's true that this movie is so bad that it's almost good — think "Fear," the greatest film of that particular genre — seeing De Niro try to go Taxi Driver over a baseball star ultimately makes for 116 very depressing minutes. "Raging Bulll," this ain't.
Fever Pitch (2005) There was a commenter backlash the last time the Stew made fun of this Jimmy Fallon-Drew Barrymore vehicle, but I still stand by my belief that the Farrelly Bros. should try to strike this woeful adaptation of Hornby's classic fan lament from their record.
And, really, I'm frankly surprised that Red Sox Nation doesn't stand fully behind me on this one, if only because both Barrymore and Fallon were allowed to interject themselves in the on-field first-championship-in-86-years celebration at Busch Stadium in 2004.
Summer Catch (2001) Just as she did in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry," Jessica Biel and her lovely assets tricked me into seeing this movie, which is the tale of her
using multiple swimming sessions to seduce falling in love with a young Cape Cod baseball player. On the plus side, it finally gave us an answer to the eternal question "Is there anything worse than Freddie Prinze, Jr. pretending to be an actor?"
(Answer: Yes and it's Freddie Prinze, Jr. pretending to be a baseball player.)
Bad News Bears (2005) Considering it came on the heels of his wonderfully demented performance in "Bad Santa," I understand the impetus behind tabbing Billy Bob Thornton to give his own interpretation on baseball cinema's most deplorable manager, Morris Buttermaker. I even laughed at a few of the new jokes written for this one.
But just as no one could ever pull off Ferris Bueller better than Matthew Broderick — a remake of that movie is my worst film fear — how could you ever do better than Walter Matthau? Movies are often about the time and place they were released and there was no sense in resurrecting an idea after Matthau and a bunch of kids nailed it in 1976.
Mr. Destiny (1989) Not really a baseball movie in the truest sense, but as a Chicagoan, I'm required by Windy City law to be annoyed with anything Jim Belushi does.
Angels In The Outfield (1994) I generally left kid movies off this list because they're for, well, kids (and because I like movies like "Little Big League" and "Rookie of the Year.")
But I included the defining moment of Danny Glover's career mostly so I could link to this guy, who believes that Disney released the film so it could distribute subliminal messages about pedophilia. Michael Eisner, how dare you!
Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch (2002) OK, I lied about the kid movies, as this direct-to-video disaster served as "The Phantom Menace" to the previous masterpieces that were "Air Bud," "Air Bud: Golden Receiver" and "Air Bud: World Pup."
Ed (1996) When it comes to television actors being blinded by the glare of big picture money, this might be Exhibit A. Though it didn't get much bigger than "Friends" in 1996, Matt LeBlanc decided that life should imitate art and signed up for a paycheck involving a baseball-playing chimpanzee, much as Joey Tribbiani might have done. Sadly, it remains the most notable movie role of LeBlanc's career.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I have never seen this movie, nor, I suspect, have many of the other people who poke fun at it. However, I think the film's trailer gives us more than enough license to go ahead and do so.)
The Babe (1992) God bless John Goodman for his Walter Sobchak performance — the greatest role to never be nominated for an Oscar, methinks — but if my 13-year-old cynicism-free self didn't buy him as Babe Ruth back in 1992, he's not buying him now.
The Scout (1994) Look, I like Albert Brooks as much as the next guy and believe that he, Rick Moranis and Steve Guttenberg should be released from that weird circle of actors who aren't allowed to be in real movies anymore.
But the truth is that this movie concludes with Brendan Fraser's "Steve Nebraska" character throwing an 81-pitch, 27-strikeout perfect game — the most unlikely sports movie endings in the history of sports movie endings. (And that's really saying something, considering we've already covered movies where chimps and dogs played the sport).
To make matters worse, this film was released in September of 1994, making it one of our only baseball alternatives during a fall that was World Series-free.
Agree? Disagree? Want to add to the list? Tell us below.