Baseball's passion lights up silver screen
Remember Lavonne "Pepper" Paire-Davis? Well, she died this week in Van Nuys, Calif. She was 88.
What? You've never heard of her? She spent 10 years playing catcher, shortstop and third base in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League for the Minneapolis Millerettes, the Fort Wayne Daisies, the Racine Belles and the Grand Rapids Chicks.
According to The New York Times, she was among the league's career leaders in RBIs with 400.
You still don't know her? What about "A League of Their Own," which has been added to the National Film Registry, with much help from the acting of Tom Hanks, Geena Davis and Madonna?
Paire-Davis has been mentioned in recent news reports as the inspiration for that aforementioned 1992 movie, and Geena Davis basically was Paire-Davis in the movie.
As for the essence of the movie, it highlighted the forgotten role of women playing baseball. It also produced a line that ranks with "Rosebud," "E.T. phone home" and "You had me at hello." You know the line ...
"There's no crying in baseball."
That said, courtesy of this ongoing recognition of Sams' contribution to cinema, I'm adjusting that line: While there's no crying in baseball, there's enough passion in baseball to inspire more movies of significance with a baseball theme than any other sport.
Baseball movies have feeling.
Well, many of them do.
Few scenes are more gripping than the one in "The Pride of the Yankees," when sick little Billy becomes healthy big Billy. At that point, he tells a disease-ravaged Lou Gehrig how much he helped his recovery years before by fulfilling the promise of hitting a home run in his honor.
There is Jimmy Stewart, limping along -- sometimes with deep anguish on his face and in his voice -- on a wooden leg as former Major League pitcher Monty Stratton in "The Stratton Story."
Nearly everything in "Bang The Drum Slowly" brings tears.
"The Fan." I love "The Fan." Even though it isn't a huge favorite of critics, it is as suspenseful as they get, especially with Robert De Niro displaying the worst traits of a diehard loyalist for his team.
What about The Speech? I mean, you tingle with every syllable from the rich voice of James Earl Jones when he delivers The Speech in "Field of Dreams." He plays reclusive author Terrence Mann, whose character declares at one point during The Speech, "The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball."
No question there. Given that baseball preceded football, basketball, hockey and all of the rest -- by a bunch -- as a professional sport in 1869, baseball has been around for the majority of the highs and lows of the United States since its founding in 1776.
World wars. Natural disasters. Civil unrest.
So laughter has been needed along the way, and baseball has provided fodder for some of the funniest movies ever made. I mean, if "Bull Durham" doesn't keep you in stitches for hours, "Major League" will -- with a mighty assist from Bob Uecker.
Speaking of hilarious ... "The Bad News Bears."
About 20 years after that movie, "The Sandlot" surfaced during the early 1990s to join "The Bad News Bears" in portraying youth baseball in a way to cause many to watch, laugh and nod.
You want history? No problem. That is, give or take a little (or, occasionally, a lot of) dramatic tinkering.
There is that peek at those involved with the 1919 Black Sox Scandal through "Eight Men Out." To study the likes of Josh and Satchel in the Negro Leagues, there is "Soul of the Game." Then, in recent years, "Moneyball" appeared to show how Billy Beane uses his analytical ways to keep the small-market Oakland Athletics vibrant.
There is "61*," reviving Roger Maris' memorable 1961 season, and there is "42" on the horizon to discuss Jackie Robinson.
Now consider this: This will be at least the second Jackie Robinson movie, because you can see the real Jackie Robinson in a movie from the early 1950s called "The Jackie Robinson Story."
That's opposed to "The Babe Ruth Story," without the man himself. Instead, there is William Bendix doing a brutal job of trying to imitate the Big Bambino with a bat.
The movie still works. It's baseball.
It's all of those other lines ...
"If you build it, he will come."
"Juuuust a bit outside."
"Pick me out a winner, Bobby."
"I believe in the church of baseball."
"You're killing me, Smalls."
"Is this heaven? ... It's Iowa."
"Throw some ground balls. It's more democratic."
This isn't to say other sports don't have their movies of yore. Let's start with "Knute Rockne All American," starring somebody who would become an American president -- Ronald Reagan.
"North Dallas Forty" is a classic. So is "Hoosiers."
The same goes for any of the "Rocky" movies, "Raging Bull," "Breaking Away" and "Caddyshack."
There are others, too, and they include more than a few box-office sensations such as "Jerry Maguire." There also are Emmy Award winners such as "Brian's Song." But, as a whole, none of those compare with the genre known as baseball movies.
And I haven't even mentioned "The Natural."
Guess I just did.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.