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Sports movies in the last several years have evolved greatly. We’ve gone from movies like Air Bud to movies like Glory Road. If anyone’s taken notice, although they are all about sports, sports movies today are quite different than they used to be.
We’ve gone from fantasy movies (Little Big League, Angels In the Outfield, The 6th Man) to pretty much all biography films (Glory Road, We Are Marshall, Remember the Titans). Not that there is anything wrong with that but it’s hard to dream about something that’s already happened. Growing up, I always wanted to be Henry Rowengartner throwing heat for the Cubs or as Billy Heywood managing the Twins. Yes, now the movies seem somewhat ridiculous and outlandish but it let kids dream.
Many times with my friends we reminisce about the old movies that we used to love. They bring back awesome memories and are great movies. Often times these movies are forgotten in the shuffle of the new sports movies and the special effects block buster’s.
Let’s look at my top 5 sports movies of the Nickelodeon and T.G.I.F era :
Angels In the Outfield (1994) – This movie was a very touching and heartwarming story about two young Angels fans who are foster children (save the jokes Dodgers fans, I’ve already said ‘em all). Both have been through a lot of hardships in their young lives. They go to an Angels game and Roger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sees angels helping the Angels win their game, when the night before he prayed that the angels would win the pennant (since his dad said that’s when they’d be a family again). The boy goes to tell the manager of the Angels, played by Danny Glover, that angels are helping the team win games. Of course, who will listen to a 9 year old when he says that angels are helping your team win games. This was before the ADD/ADHD excuse began. Kids just used to be crazy and I’m sure that this crept into George Knox’s (Danny Glover) mind. Eventually he gets the team to believe in themselves and they win the pennant without the Angels. Danny Glover adopts the two boys and rides off into the sunset.
4. Little Giants (1994) – At this point in the 90’s…does it get much better than “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” vs. “Married With Children”? Rick Moranis’ character, Danny O’Shea and his brother Kevin (played by Ed O’neill) play rivals to each other on the football field. Danny’s daughter is cut from her team by her uncle Kevin. She wants her dad to coach a team except the only problem is that there can only be one team per town. So because of this, Danny must take on Kevin on the gridiron. Kevin’s team is the Pee-wee Cowboys and Danny’s team is the Little Giants. Like typical kids movies of these times, Danny’s team wins on a last second play and with part of the brothers’ bet, Danny got Kevin’s car dealership. This movie really showcased how sports can turn families against each other. O’Neill’s team was that team that we all have seen in our pee-wee days. The team that comes on the field with nice jerseys and team sponsored water bottles. While I’m sitting across the field with an old mountain dew 20 oz bottle filled with warm water and a jersey that’s been cut because it was too big for me. Definitely some funny moments in this movie and it made it a very watch-able movie. Rick Moranis was one of the more underrated comedy actors of this time.
3. Little Big League (1994) – Billy Heywood and his grandfather are very close with each other. Billy is the Jonathan Lipnicki ( big headed kid from Jerry McGuire) of baseball facts. One of my favorite parts of this movie comes at the beginning when three players end up on the same base. The managers all argue with the umpire and then the umpire turns to Billy and asks him what the ruling is. Had this movie been about the NBA, there’s a good chance that the umpire would have made the call which ever way would have gotten him the most money from the mob. Now there’s a kids movie for today’s kids! I love this movie the most because what kid doesn’t dream of managing a major league team at one point in his life. For all of us in Minnesota, it was a big deal because it was the Twins that he got to manage. My other favorite part was how mean and vicious they made Randy Johnson look like. You could almost see the sweat/grease dripping from his hair when he came out of the bullpen. Also included in this movie was type cast Dennis Farina as the always screaming and eventually fired coach. “Hey, a Bill Heywood has to do what a Bill Heywood has to do”
2. Mighty Ducks 1-3 (1992-1996) - Anyone who knows me may be surprised that I didn’t just put these as separate movies. In all honesty, D3 was not many people’s favorites, but I’m going to argue that it was a good movie. It showed that the kids had to face the trials of a new school and having to grow up without coach Bombay. It didn’t have the ‘knuckle puck’ or even the ‘bash brothers’ really but it finalized the story and showed that the team could rely on each other to succeed. ‘The Mighty Ducks’ was the movie that started it all. Gordon Bombay (Emilo Estevez) is pulled over for a DUI and is forced into coaching a pee-wee hockey team as community service. You can tell that he’s from Minnesota based on the fact that he drives onto the ice in a limousine like it’s concrete. The kids are misfits but he gets it all together and they beat his old coach in the championship game. Many will argue that Mighty Ducks 2 is the better of the 3 movies…I agree. You’ve got Gordon Bombay’s change from the “Minnesota Miracle Man” to the slick haired and slick talking “Captain Blood”, the introduction of the shot that kids around America really thought would work (Knuckle-puck) and showed that hockey in Los Angeles in the mid-90’s was apparently very popular in the projects. They beat the strong, steroid induced I’m sure of it, Icelandic team with coach Wolf “the dentist” Stanton. Who, according to Charlie Conway, punched out 2 teammates and his coach and was banned from the NHL. In today’s professional sports scene…he probably would be a terrible GM who would eventually someday become an even worse coach (see Isaiah Thomas).
1. The Sandlot (1993) – This is the true sports movie that I feel represents any kid in the early years of their baseball career and the true innocence of baseball. The movie chronicles the summer of 1962 with a boy named Scotty Smalls. He is the new kid on the block and spends most of his time inside playing with erector sets and other nerdy things that kids without friends do. He sees some of the kids in the neighborhood get together and play baseball one day and sneaks over to watch them. Scotty is terrible at baseball but the king of the neighborhood, Benny Rodriguez helps him become a mediocre baseball player. The boys go through a typical Southern California summer that includes hot days filled with baseball, cokes and the pool. The pool is where we see the BEST scene of the whole movie. Michael Palledorous, otherwise known to Sandlot fans as “Squints”, was in love with the wonderful and voluptuous Wendy Peffercorn. She was a lifeguard at the pool and Squints had been eyeing her for, what he says, “his whole life”. He kisses her and they are banned from the pool forever. But any male who has seen that movie will vouch that if it were them, it would be well worth it. The boys must also deal with “The beast”. No no no, Rosie O’Donnell doesn’t make a cameo, it’s just a huge dog that eats everything that passes over the fence. The boys continue to live out their summers but by the end, only Benny and Scotty are still close. Benny is a star for the hometown Dodgers and Scotty is the radio announcer. This movie is a clear cut number one for showing a true summer for young boys who love baseball, youth and cute lifeguards.
So there you have it, my top 5 sports movies for kids in the 90’s. I’ll be frank about it, I probably left some out. These are just my picks and I’m sure that there are some different picks out there. Let me know your top 5. I’ll leave you with this….
“Michael Squints Palledorous walked a little taller that day. And we had to tip our hats to him. What he'd done was sneaky, rotten, and low...and cool. Not another one among us would have ever in a million years not even for a million dollars have had the guts to put the moves on the lifeguard. He did. He had kissed a woman. And he kissed her long and good. We got banned from the pool forever that day. But every time we walked by after that, the lifeguard looked down from her tower, right over at Squints, and smiled.” (The Sandlot, 1993)