Keys to the baseball movie kingdom

ByJim Caple Via <a Href="" Title="espn" Class="espn_sc_byline">espn </a>
May 16, 2014, 2:00 PM

&#151; -- Baseball's first golden age on the silver screen did not end with "A League of Their Own" in 1992. The next year brought the popular "Rookie of the Year" and "The Sandlot," while 1994 saw the release of five baseball movies: "Angels in the Outfield," "Major League 2," "Little Big League," "The Scout" and "Cobb."

And then came the 1994-95 strike that canceled the World Series.

Baseball attendance eventually returned to pre-strike levels at the ballpark, but not at the movie theater. While Hollywood released 10 baseball films from 1984 to 1994 that, according to IMDB, took in at least $30 million (adjusted for inflation), there have been only nine movies that did so in the two decades since -- and that's including the questionable "Benchwarmers." Only two baseball movies -- "The Rookie" in 2002 and "42" in 2013 -- have approached the $100 million mark (again, adjusted for inflation).

If Hollywood wants another big success with a baseball movie, here are the three keys:

Women: Chicks might dig the long ball (Glenn Close in "The Natural"), but they also enjoy seeing their own gender on the screen. Some of the most popular baseball movies prominently feature strong women. "A League of Their Own." "Bull Durham." "The Bad News Bears." And Lou Gehrig's wife plays a major role in "The Pride of the Yankees." So get a speed gun on Angelina Jolie.

Star power: Every baseball movie that grossed $100 million in inflation-adjusted revenue had at least one past or future Academy Award winner in the cast. Tom Hanks and Geena Davis in "A League of Their Own." Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones in "Field of Dreams." Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins in "Bull Durham." Robert Redford in "The Natural." Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal in "The Bad News Bears." And while there are no revenue figures available for "The Pride of the Yankees," it starred Gary Cooper.

"All of those people had talented people involved, and that's why they were successful," says "Bull Durham" writer/director Ron Shelton.

Is Denzel Washington too old to play Dwight Gooden?

A lovable loser: Sure, Roy Hobbs delivers the epic home run in "The Natural" and Cleveland wins its playoff against New York in "Major League," but the best sports movies feature a losing team. Or at least a non-winner. (There is no championship game in "Bull Durham" or "Field of Dreams.") The Rockford Peaches lose in the championship in "A League of Their Own." The White Sox lose/throw the World Series in "Eight Men Out." The Bad News Bears lose to the Yankees.

"The three best literary things probably about baseball ever are about losing," actor Robert Wuhl says. "[Bernard Malamud's novel of] 'The Natural,' where Roy Hobbs strikes out. 'Casey at the Bat,' where the guy strikes out. And 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame,' where it's one, two, three strikes you're out. Baseball is about dealing with losing and moving on with life."

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