Thursday’s List of 13: My 13 favorite/best sports movies

13) The Rookie— Real-life story of a Texas high school baseball coach who makes the major leagues after agreeing to try out if his high school team made the playoffs. Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) got into 21 games over two seasons with Tampa Bay, as a lefty specialist.

The scene where the AAA manager tells Jim Morris is going up to the major leagues is one of my all-time favorite movie scenes.

12) Rocky— Very famous movie about a small-time boxer getting a rare chance to fight a heavy-weight champion in a bout in which his main goal is to go the distance, for his own self-respect.

Lot of sequels to this movie; Rocky III is my favorite of all of them, but the last fight scene in Rocky II, when Rocky wins the title, is really well done.

11) Brian’s Song— This was an ABC Tuesday Night Movie of the Week, a made-for-TV movie that became a huge hit. The movie tells the story of the real-life relationship between teammates Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers and the bond established when Piccolo discovers that he is dying.

I was 11 when I saw this for the first time; I’m pretty sure it was the first time I cried during a movie. When Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) gives a speech at the end of the movie, dedicating his award to Piccolo (James Caan), it is just a very, very touching scene.

10) Draft Day— GM of the Cleveland Browns has the opportunity to rebuild his team when he trades for the number one pick. He must decide what he’s willing to sacrifice on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men with NFL dreams.

NFL stumbled onto a gold mine because of this movie; they delayed the draft a couple weeks in 2014 to promote this movie, but then Radio City Music Hall wasn’t available for the new date, so they moved the draft to another city- they soon realized that this was a great idea, and now they do it every year.

9) Invincible— Based on the true story of Vince Papale (Mark Wahlberg), a 30-year-old bartender from south Philadelphia who overcame long odds to play for the Philadelphia Eagles for three years in the 70’s.

They take some liberties during the movie with the actually football scenes, but as the credits roll at the end, they show the actual plays as they unfolded.

8) Bull Durham— I waver constantly between this movie and Major League, as to which I like better, but I like both of them. Hard to believe they were both made over 30 years ago.

Kevin Costner plays an older minor league catcher whose job it is to home the talents of a young, hot-shot pitcher (Tim Robbins), while both of them try to win the heart of a baseball groupie (Susan Sarandon).

7) Major League— The new owner of the Cleveland Indians purposely puts together a horrible team, so they’ll lose, attendance will tank and she can move the team to Miami (why???), but the team starts winning just to spite her.

Bob Uecker is the Indians’ radio announcer in this movie, which was mostly filmed in Milwaukee, where Uecker works for the Brewers in real life. Uecker is so great as Harry Doyle, I’m only half-joking when I say he should’ve gotten an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

6) One on One— This movie came out when I was a senior in high school; I walked to the theater after school one day, and liked the movie so much I started running home, until I realized it was more than a mile away, so I wised up and walked home, but I loved this movie.

Henry Steele (Robby Benson) is a basketball phenom at his small town high school, but when he gets a scholarship to a D-I school in the big city, he soon realizes that he has few skills outside basketball, plus the coach hates how he plays.

Basketball scenes were filmed in Colorado State’s Moby Gymnasium, where the Rams still play their home games. GD Spradlin plays Coach Smith; he was also Tom Landry-type coach in North Dallas Forty.

5) Any Given Sunday— Al Pacino plays an aging pro football coach whose team struggles, which causes the new owner (Cameron Diaz) to make his life unpleasant.

Miami Sharks play four games in this movie; the opponents were all coached by NFL Hall of Famers; YA Tittle, Bob Sinclair, Dick Butkus, John Unitas. Barry Switzer, Oliver Stone are the TV announcers most of the time. Jim Brown, Lawrence Taylor are also in the movie.

4) For Love of the Game— Kevin Costner is an aging star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who finds out he is going to get traded, just before his last start of the season. A series of flashbacks follow during the game, where of course, he pitches a perfect game and gets the girl at the end.

John C Reilly is great as the Tigers’ catcher, who is basically Billy Chapel’s personal catcher as they both near retirement; JK Simmons plays the Tigers’ manager; he is a Tigers’ fan in real life.

3) Blue Chips— A college basketball coach (Nick Nolte) is forced to break the rules in order to get the players he needs to stay competitive. This movie was filmed in a high school gym in Indiana, which seats about 8,000 people. Guys who made the movie wanted to pay people to sit in the stands during the basketball scenes; they were quickly told that people would gladly do it for free.

Bob Cousy plays Western U’s athletic director; he has a scene in the beginning of the movie where he shoots free throws while he talks to Coach Bell (Nolte). Done in one take, Cousy makes ten free throws in a row, while in a shirt and tie, at age 65.

2) Fast Break— Gabe Kaplan plays the manager of a Manhattan deli who is a huge basketball fan and is offered the coaching job at a small Nevada college. He brings some players with him, giving him a talented nucleus— one of them is a young lady playing in disguise.

In order to get the job permanently, he has to beat the number one team in the country; there are couple scenes in this movie that wouldn’t fly today, not politically correct, but the basic idea of a guy who runs a deli becoming a big time hoop coach made this an excellent movie.

Besides, two of the players coach Greene brought to Cadwallader U were played by Bernard King and Michael Warren, two pretty good ballplayers in real life.

1) Moneyball— I’ve been an A’s fan since 1965; what did you expect?

Movie is an offshoot of Michael Lewis’ fine book, which describes Billy Beane’s successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a small budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.

I still remember when Miguel Tejada hit a walk-off homer for the A’s 18th consecutive win that year; I went out on the front lawn and did some weird kind of dance in celebration, as my dad stared at me in disbelief- I was deliriously happy. Every time they show Tejada’s homer in the movie, it brings me back to that moment, a pleasant memory.

TV highlight of the day: First round of the MLB Draft; too bad the geniuses can’t find a way to play baseball games. That would be a real highlight. 

Author: Armadillo Sports

I've been involved in sports my whole life, now just write about them. I like to travel, mostly to Las Vegas- they have gambling there.