It’s that time of year — for classic baseball movies

America's Pastime

“The Pride of the Yankees”

With the baseball playoffs in full swing and the World Series next week, it’s time to celebrate “America’s Pastime” with a queue of classic movies from in and around the diamond.

And none is more classic than “The Pride of the Yankees.” Director Sam Wood’s 1942 biographical drama tells the heroic but ultimately tragic story of Lou Gehrig, the slugging first baseman who helped lead the New York Yankees to multiple World Series titles before being forced into retirement in 1939 by ALS, the disease that would end his life two years later.

Played by Gary Cooper, Gehrig was the strong, silent type, who eschewed the hard-partying ways of teammates such as Babe Ruth (who made a cameo appearance) for a quiet life with wife Eleanor (Teresa Wright). And the closing scene of a dying Gehrig calling himself “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” in a farewell ceremony at Yankee Stadium ranks as one of filmdom’s greatest and most moving quotes.

“The Pride of the Yankees” can be streamed on Amazon, Tubi and the Roku Channel.

Other Retro Rewinds:

“Field of Dreams” (Saturday, Oct. 23, on Ovation; streaming on Peacock):

Speaking of lump-in-the-throat moments, there is the end of director Phil Alden Robinson’s 1989 fantasy drama about Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), an Iowa farmer who plows under his cornfield at the behest of a disembodied voice to give members of the 1919 Black Sox and other deceased ballplayers a place to play. One of those players turns to be the father (Dwier Brown) from whom Ray was estranged — and their reconciliation over a game of catch is the perfect payoff.

“Eight Men Out” (Streaming on HBO Max and Spectrum):

The Black Sox are also front and center of director John Sayles’ 1988 drama, which effectively places the blame on team ownership for underpaying the eight Chicago White Sox who accepted money to throw the 1919 World Series, a transgression that got them banned from the game.

“42” (Streaming on HBO Max):

Stellar performances by Harrison Ford and Chadwick Boseman make writer/director Brian Helgeland’s 2013 drama about Jackie Robinson’s breaking baseball’s color barrier a cut above other baseball biographical movies. Ford, especially, does a fine job shedding his dashing movie persona to disappear into the skin of irascible, rumpled Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, who was instrumental in getting Robinson (Boseman) to the majors.

“A League of Their Own” (Streaming on Spectrum and Starz Play):

The little-known story of the World War II-era All-American Girls Professional Baseball League gets light-hearted but respectful treatment in Penny Marshall’s superb 1992 comedy/drama. Outstanding performances come from all around, from Tom Hanks as a besotted ex-star-turned-manager to Madonna as a randy outfielder and Geena Davis as her team’s star catcher and the film’s central character. And the closing scene at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y., gives the film an added poignancy.

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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