The game of baseball has been around for 150 some-odd years — longer than football or basketball, longer than many countries have existed. It infiltrates every part of our culture: books, music and, most notably, movies. And sometimes, even when a movie isn’t about baseball, baseball still slips into the script — making for a memorable cameo.
We combed through some of the best baseball scenes from non-baseball films and came up with our favorites below. Have a movie we missed? Please, feel free to yell at me on Twitter.
Some might call it the greatest non-baseball movie with a baseball scene, while others, like this writer, might call it the greatest movie period. You could almost classify the first Naked Gun movie as a baseball movie since the entire last quarter of it takes place during a Mariners-Angels game. Reggie Jackson is an assassin, a young Joe West makes an appearance and Leslie Nielsen calls balls and strikes like Cotton-Eye Joe just came on at a wedding.
Most people agree that the bench scene won Robin Williams his Academy Award, but watching two near-strangers jump into each other’s arms while cursing and crying over a Red Sox game that happened 20 years before has to be some of the best few minutes in Good Will Hunting. And as it’s wrapping up, it ends up not really being about baseball. There are surprisingly more important things in life.
Watch the clip here. (Warning: Graphic language)
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
There isn’t a ballpark, player or any real form of baseball actually played in this scene from Milos Forman’s 1975 classic, but it’s one of the best on the list. The impossibly evil Nurse Ratched won’t allow Randle McMurphy and the other mental hospital inmates to watch the 1963 World Series. So, McMurphy, played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson, decides to just imagine he’s watching it. As he announces Tom Tresh and Mickey Mantle homering off Sandy Koufax, it’s hard not to smile watching his wide-eyed friends making their way back out into the room to see what all the commotion is about. (Unfortunately for McMurphy, that’s not exactly how the ’63 Series went).
Watch the clip here (Warning: Graphic language)
4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Ferris Bueller reaffirms everything we’d do if we played hooky from school: Steal your best friend’s dad’s sports car, impersonate The Sausage King of Chicago at a really nice restaurant and, of course, go a baseball game. The scene has everything, from beautiful shots of Wrigley Field to Harry Caray to Principal Rooney at perhaps his most pathetic.
This is the shortest baseball cameo of the bunch and it’s also the weirdest. Near the end of Men in Black, Edgar, the alien bug, is trying to get back to his home planet. He takes off using the top of one of the World Expo Observatory Towers in Flushing, Queens. As he’s attempting to leave Earth’s atmosphere, he passes over Shea Stadium, right as a fly ball is headed in Mets right fielder Bernard Gilkey’s direction. Bernard, as you might expect, has some trouble assessing the situation.
Like Ken Griffey and Bobby Bonds, Peter Pan’s son somehow turned out better than he did at baseball. Sure, Pan could fly, but young Jack could hit dingers. He also does it on a moving pirate ship with Captain Hook watching and Smee, a poor man’s Luis Tiant, on the mound.
Traffic is a violent, heart-stopping movie about the drug trade. But the final scene, set to Brian Eno’s score, is anything but. Earlier in the film, Benicio Del Torro’s character tells the DEA that he’d give up the whereabouts of his drug kingpin boss if they would simply put lights on a Little League baseball field in his hometown in Mexico. Eventually, Del Torro keeps his end of the deal, but we’re not sure about the DEA. And then, just before the credits roll, we have our answer: The sounds of bats hitting balls, a dusty ballfield late at night, kids yelling and Del Torro smiling on from the stands.
8. Captain America: The First Avenger
Unlike any of the other movies on this list, the Avengers’ baseball scene serves as an important clue to the main character figuring out what’s happening. Captain America, a superhero who exists in the 1940s, wakes up in a strange room with an old transistor radio broadcasting a Dodgers-Phillies game — a real Dodgers-Phillies game — from 1941. A woman comes in and tells him he’s in a recovery room in New York City, but Steve Rogers knows his baseball and remembers he was at that exact Dodgers game in ’41. How could it be playing now? He blasts his way through the walls of his room and discovers he’s been sleeping for 70 years. He’s in modern-day Times Square.
9. The Marx Brothers: A Night at the Opera
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” somehow starts playing during the opera and the Marx Brothers do what you think the Marx Brothers might do: They pull out a baseball and use a violin as a bat.
10. Back to the Future Part II
Another extremely short baseball scene, but notable because it pretty much predicted a future nobody thought would ever happen: The Cubs winning the World Series. Marty McFly travels forward in time from 1985 to 2015 to find hoverboards, people dressed in tinfoil body armor and the long-suffering Cubbies crowned world champs. And then, in the real-life version of 2015, Chicago nearly lived up to the prophecy. The Cubs finally did win it all the next season, making the movie miss by one year but making a certain movie star lose his mind.