It's baseball season again. And what better way to get in the spirit — aside from watching an actual game — than by checking out a baseball-themed DVD? Of course, no matter how much you love line-drive classics like "Field of Dreams," "Pride of the Yankees," "The Natural" or even "Major League," you can only watch them so many times without craving something a little different.
With that in mind, here's a lineup of nine worthy but less frequently seen DVDs — one for every inning of the game, and each one connected to the national pastime — that will take you out to the ball game without having to leave the living room.
"The Bad News Bears" (2005): Yes, the 1975 original starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O'Neal is the undisputed classic. But Richard Linklater's remake manages to do admirably rebellious justice to the story of a perpetually soused coach (Billy Bob Thornton) and his team of little leaguers with bad attitudes.
Ken Burns' " Baseball" : Got 18 hours to kill? Spend them with the 10-DVD set that captures the acclaimed documentarian's entire 1994 PBS series, still considered by many to be the definitive history of the game.
"Sugar": Released last fall on DVD, the portrait of a young pitcher from the Dominican Republic trying to play his way into the major leagues and adjust to life on American soil is beautifully photographed. Even better, it's a baseball story told with the kind of quiet grace and authenticity we rarely see from Hollywood fare.
"The Stratton Story": It doesn't get much better than watching one of the most beloved actors in American cinema, Jimmy Stewart, playing America's game. In this drama — which won an Academy Award for its screenplay, based on real-life Chicago White Sox pitcher Monty Stratton — Stewart stars as a major league star who loses a leg after a hunting accident and, with the support of his wife (June Allyson), eventually returns to the mound. A tad corny? Maybe. But effective and undeniably well-acted.
"The Naked Gun": The climactic final 20 minutes of this beyond broad 1988 slapstick mystery — in which Detective Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) attempts to prevent Queen Elizabeth from being assassinated during a Calfornia Angels/Seattle Mariners match-up — delivers some of the most ridiculous sporting event moments in comedy history.
"A League of Their Own": OK, so this is hardly an obscure baseball movie. But I had to include "League" because it's one of the few that shows us women can play the game, too. Other factors that make Penny Marshall's look at the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League worth seeing: it's one of the rare decent entries on Madonna's acting resume, and it boasts what has become one of the most quoted lines in sports-cinema history: "There's no crying in baseball."
"Homer at the Bat" episode of "The Simpsons": Plenty of TV shows have devoted episodes to the ol' ball game. But this one — found on "The Complete Third Season" DVD set, and featuring cameos by nine Major Leaguers who become ringers for the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant's team — may be the most brilliant.
"Fantastic Mr. Fox": You could force your kids to sit through less-than-stellar family baseball fare like Matt LeBlanc's "Ed." Or you could all enjoy Wes Anderson's quirky stop-motion gem, recently released on DVD and Blu-ray, that introduces audiences to a potential new national pastime: whack-bat, a sport that vaguely resembles baseball but involves flaming pinecones, grabbers, taggers and, obviously, knocking the cedar stick off the cross rock.
The World Series Collector's Editions: Why watch this season's games when you can revisit the ones in which you already know your favorite team won? A&E Home Entertainment has issued DVD sets that capture every game in numerous memorable World Series match-ups.