Warning: Videos may contain coarse language
We're already well into the for-the-love-of-god-please-stay-at-home stage of the ongoing international health crisis, which means you've no doubt burned through all the baseball movies you whip out in case of emergency. You've roared for Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn. You've tipped your hat to Scott Hatteberg. You've not cried with Tom Hanks.
As such, with Opening Day still at least six weeks away (and, in all likelihood, considerably farther off than that), we're going to have find creative ways to get our baseball fix for the next little while. And unless you want to watch "Bull Durham" for the billionth time, the following movies - which decidedly aren't about baseball but feature unforgettable scenes centered around baseball - may well have to satiate us until the game returns.
Baseball, like all other sports, is an exercise in escapism, and so it was in Richard Linklater's coming-of-age classic that famously launched the careers of Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck. For doomed Texas teen Mitch Kramer, an incoming high-school freshman and a Tim Lincecum doppelganger, his baseball game affords him a brief deferral of the beatdown that awaits him at the hands of the seniors, a sadistic bunch spiritedly led by Affleck.
Few films convey the unadulterated delight that is a big-league baseball game as effectively as this transcendent John Hughes romp, where Wrigley Field serves as the mecca of the titular character's hedonistic afternoon. If pleasure is your sole pursuit, the film tells us, you go to a ballgame.
I'm not going to pretend like baseball's brief cameo in the iconic, electrifying, 1950s-set musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John illustrates one of the game's arcane or oft-obscured virtues. I just think it's funny as hell watching the game's aesthetics and rituals get Travolta-fied amid Danny Zuko's misbegotten attempt to convince his beloved that he is, in fact, Good At Sports.
This unapologetically campy adaptation of the sequel to "Peter Pan," helmed by Steven Spielberg and starring Robin Williams, answers the age-old question: What would baseball look like if pirates were in charge? As it turns out, the game would be simultaneously hyperviolent and rife with tomfoolery, with minimal regard for player or fan safety, and every team would be nicknamed the "Pirates."
The mutual resentment between the two Chicago fanbases is so brilliantly captured in the opening scene of this romantic (?) comedy that pits Vince Vaughn against Jennifer Aniston, when Jon Favreau's character, a fearless White Sox fan, chortles with glee after the Cubs allow a pop-up to fall in for a base hit, then turns around to his section at Wrigley Field and mockingly applauds following a steal of second moments later. The White Sox aren't even playing this game. The Cubs are playing the Brewers! Still, for a denizen of the South Side, watching the Cubs fail - especially before 2016 - is almost as gratifying as watching the White Sox win, and this movie gets that.
Baseball's ability to incite spirited debate - and its knack for taking up an excessive amount of its fans' mental bandwidth - gets a head nod in the first installment of this Billy Crystal-led, fish-out-of-water trilogy, when two misfit cattle herders (portrayed by a pair of gifted character actors in Bruno Kirby and Daniel Stern) debate whether Roberto Clemente or Hank Aaron was the greatest right fielder of their generation. (It's Aaron, for the record, and it's not particularly close.)
Sure, it amounted to a self-indulgent preamble to a horrifically bloody murder, but Al Capone's (Robert De Niro) ruminations on the nature of baseball in Brian De Palma's gangster epic were still pretty incisive: As much as baseball is an individual sport, built to anoint singular heroes, even the greatest hitters of all time can lose some of their luster in the absence of team success.
Baseball is a source of comfort for so many of us, and its capacity to soothe was touchingly exemplified in Barry Levinson's poignant drama - which cleaned up at the 1988 Academy Awards - by Raymond (Dustin Hoffman), an autistic savant and baseball fan who recites Abbott and Costello's famous "Who's on first?" routine whenever he gets anxious.
The universal language of baseball plays a pivotal role in Gus Van Sant's tender portrait of an undiscovered genius languishing under the weight of trauma. In a breakthrough session with said genius - his most difficult patient, deftly played by Matt Damon - therapist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) recounts in vivid detail the sights and sounds of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, the night Carlton Fisk waved it fair, a game for which Sean and his pals had camped out on the sidewalk to get tickets. Will (Matt Damon), a fellow South Boston native, is mesmerized by Sean's account of the biggest game in Red Sox history. Except he wasn't there.
In Miloš Forman's indelible, award-winning adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel, baseball's utility as community-builder shines. In a rousing act of defiance against the tyrannical Nurse Ratched, who refused to turn on the World Series game, the irrepressible Randle McMurphy (Jack Nicholson, at the height of his powers) starts calling a fictional Fall Classic matchup between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees for his fellow patients at an Oregon mental hospital and sets the ward ablaze with his enthusiasm.
Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter @birenball.