Today is Jackie Robinson Day and we're honoring the day by looking at cinema's all-time great movie sluggers. It was on this day in 1947 that the famed Brooklyn Dodger broke Major League Baseball's color barrier. Robinson made his debut at Ebbets Field, where he played before a crowd of 26,623 people. More than half of that crowd was Black. Today, while the population difference is more equal, on a cultural level we still have a long way to go.
Robinson's journey to break baseball's color barrier was depicted twice on the big screen. The first came in 1950 with "The Jackie Robinson Story." Robinson actually played himself in a movie that was very well-received in its day. Interestingly, it's now in the public domain (you can watch the full movie here). His story would be told once again in 2013, in the biopic "42" starring the late Chadwick Boseman.
Thankfully, unlike last year, this year we are able to celebrate Jackie Robinson Day by actually taking part in the National Pastime. We salute the man and his legacy with a look back at some of the all-time great movie sluggers.
Babe Ruth (as Himself) in "The Pride of the Yankees"
Arguably one of cinema's all-time greatest sports biopics, "Pride of the Yankees" features inarguably one of baseball's all-time greatest legends. Babe Ruth joins other real-life ballers, including Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig, and Bill Dickey, alongside Gary Cooper's Lou Gehrig. All were close friends of Gehrig's. Ruth had a falling out with Gehrig, but the two were able to make amends by the time of his famous Farewell.
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson (D.B. Sweeney), Hap Felsch (Charlie Sheen), and Buck Weaver (John Cusack) in "Eight Men Out"
These famed sluggers turned infamous after conspiring to throw the 1919 World Series. Interestingly, Charlie Sheen would follow this baseball classic up the next year with an even more classic ball film, "Major League."
Clu Haywood (Pete Vuckovich) in "Major League"
Speaking of "Major League," Sheen's Vaughn was an unstoppable "wild thing" on the mound. But it was Yankees' star slugger Clu Haywood who would give him his greatest challenge.
Stan Ross (Bernie Mac) in "Mr. 3000"
Due to a clerical error, hot shot Milwaukee Brewers slugger Stan Ross never really got those 3,000 hits. Sometimes life needs to sock it to you to teach you a lesson on how to be humble.
Jack Elliot (Tom Selleck) "Mr. Baseball"
Fish out of water Jack Elliot butts heads with his new coach Uchiyama (Ken Takakura) on the Nagoya Chunichi Dragons. He'll need to cool down a bit if he's going to take on Uchiyama's seven-game home run record.
Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes) in "The Fan"
Giants star slugger Bobby Rayburn is the favorite player of crazed super-fan Gil (Robert De Niro). And, there's no telling how far Gil will go to make sure Rayburn stays Number One.
Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley) in the "The Bad News Bears"
Kelly Leak maybe a Harley ridin' punk, but he's the best athlete in town. Coach Buttermaker better stay on Leak's good side though, because Leak on his way to becoming the ruthless vigilante Rorschach in "Watchmen."
Hamilton "Ham" Porter (Patrick Renna) in "The Sandlot"
Porter might be stocky, but he can sure knock them out of the lot. He's also quick with the comebacks. Someone should tell him about these 10 women and the one that appears later in the list. They'll school all those boys in baseball.
Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez (Mike Vitar) in "The Sandlot"
Porter's teammate Benny was destined for the Majors if his hat didn't already tell you. But, there was no greater foe he faced than The Beast.
Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger) in "Major League"
Catcher Jake Taylor may have two bad knees but that doesn't stop him from making our list of great movie sluggers. Taylor calls the shot and gives the Indians a taste of true cinematic glory. Although, maybe the Indians were playing fast and loose with the batting order to fix their chances.
Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), in "Major League II"
Pedro Cerrano is the right fielder and spiritual leader of the Indians. He might not have been a major player in the film, but he comes through in the clutch and hits a homer to tie up the game that secures their win.
"Crash" Davis (Kevin Costner) in "Bull Durham"
(Warning: this clip contains adult language)
Catcher Lawrence "Crash" Davis can get a hit if he can just get himself and Susan Sarandon out of his head.
Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) in "A League of Their Own"
Star catcher and Assistant Manager for the Rockford Peaches, Dottie Hinson, and her team, step up to the plate and prove that women are more than capable of giving America its pastime while the boys are overseas. Moreover, Hinson knows that there's no crying in baseball.
Willie "Mays" Hayes (Wesley Snipes) in "Major League"
(Warning: this clip contains adult language)
Not to knock Omar Epps, who takes on the role in the sequel, but Snipes was the original. Like his role later in "The Fan," Snipes really was the only one that could bring the flash and style needed as the Indians' star center fielder.
Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) in "The Natural"
Roy Hobbs is a true natural at the game and earns his rank among the all-time great movie sluggers. He gets his superpower from his mighty homemade bats, the "Wonderboy" and later the "Savoy Special." However, when he cracks a homer into the stadium lights, we just hope his team has good insurance.
"Moonlight" Graham (Burt Lancaster/Frank Whaley) in "Field of Dreams"
Thanks to Ray Kinsella building "it," the good doctor Archie "Moonlight" Graham came and got a second chance at-bat. He was certainly a great and legendary movie slugger, but he just shouldn't have winked.
George Herman "Babe" Ruth (John Goodman) in "The Babe"
Not to be confused with the similarly titled pig tale from 1995, "Babe" Ruth is portrayed perfectly by John Goodman. Ruth was the first ballplayer to make more than the President. And, Calvin Coolidge was probably the first President to deserve it. That'll do Babe, that'll do.
Gary Cooper (Lou Gehrig) in "The Pride of the Yankees"
We opened with the real Ruth, who played himself in this iconic biopic. But the real star is Gary Cooper as the legendary slugger and first baseman Lou Gehrig. The full text of Gehrig's real closing speech at Yankee Stadium was lost to time. But, the iconic line -- "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth" -- was said verbatim.
Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) in "42"
There are great movie sluggers and then there is Jackie Robinson. Before he was Marvel's King T'Challa, the late Chadwick Boseman took on the role of a real-life superhero. The real Robinson never broke down as depicted in this scene, but director Brian Helgeland felt it was important to put it in any way to show the emotional toll of the ugly abuse Robinson endured.
Jackie Robinson as himself in "The Jackie Robinson Story"
The greatness of Boseman aside, there really is only one Jackie Robinson. These days it may come across as flashy and egotistic for someone at the height of their career to play themselves in their own movie. But, if there was anyone that could do it -- and do it with gravitas -- it was Robinson himself.
About the Author
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.