Director Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" is favored to win Best Picture at the Oscars on Sunday night, and if it does, it will be the biggest win for the Houston Astros since the 2005 NLCS. That's because Linklater included a great scene in "Boyhood" in which Ethan Hawke takes his kids to see an Astros game where Roger Clemens pitches and Jason Lane homers.
No surprise there. Linklater played baseball in college, included a youth baseball scene in his classic "Dazed and Confused" and directed the remake of "The Bad News Bears."
The Astros "Boyhood" scene isn't the only memorable baseball scene in a movie that isn't about baseball, though. There are actually quite a few -- Glen Macnow and Ray Didinger have a side chapter on sporting references in non-sports movies in "The Ultimate Book of Sports Movies" -- such as Hyman Roth telling Michael Corleone in "The Godfather: Part II" that he's loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the 1919 World Series.
After narrowing down a long list of Oscar winners and less-honored films (for instance, the vampires playing baseball in the awful "Twilight"), here are the 10 other best baseball scenes in non-baseball movies apart from "Boyhood."
10. "The Town"
Ben Affleck (a huge Red Sox fan in real life) has a violent shootout at Fenway Park against FBI agent Jon Hamm (a huge Cardinals fan in real life) after attempting to steal $3.5 million in gate and concession revenue in this scene, which Macnow reminded me of. Really? Just $3.5 million? That would cover about a couple weekend tickets and Fenway Franks. Still, it's a little more exciting and believable a scene than when Mark Wahlberg's teddy bear climbs a light tower on the Green Monster in "Ted."
9. "Ferris Bueller's Day Off"
Michael J. Fox learning that the Cubs won the 2015 World Series in "Back to the Future Part II" just missed this top 10, but the Cubs do get represented here when Ferris and friends -- "Swing, batta, batta, swinnnnnnggggg!!!!" -- go to Wrigley, thereby proving that former manager Dallas Green was right when he said most Cubs fans are at Wrigley because they are unemployed or playing hooky.
8. "The Odd Couple"
New York sportswriter Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) misses Bill Mazeroski hitting into a game-ending triple play against the Mets while taking a phone call about dinner from Felix Unger (Jack Lemmon). If this was filmed today, Oscar would have missed the play simply because he had his head buried in his computer like most sportswriters do now.
7. "City Slickers"
This is a great scene in which the slickers sit around and discuss who was a better right fielder (Hank Aaron or Roberto Clemente) and baseball's role in their lives. What remains unclear, however, is why noted Yankees fan Billy Crystal wears a Mets cap in this movie.
6. "Woman of the Year"
New York columnist and world affairs writer Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) begins a relationship with sportswriter Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy), who takes her to the Yankee Stadium press box for a game.
As soon as she walks in, another sportswriter complains, "No women in the press box -- it's a rule as old as baseball," and that this is the "worst scandal since the Black Sox!"
Fortunately, we've made progress in the 73 years since this movie was released, though it took until 2012 before the Baseball Writers' Association of America had a female president (the excellent Susan Slusser).
5. "The Untouchables"
At a fancy dinner with his underlings, Al Capone (Robert DeNiro) walks around the table with a baseball bat while talking about his love of the sport and the importance of teamwork. Then he takes the bat and bashes in the skull of one of his disloyal henchmen. And you thought Matt Williams was a little tough on Bryce Harper?
(By the way, there is a similar baseball bat scene in "Inglourious Basterds," but it's a little too much about the head-bashing and not enough about the baseball.)
4. "Rain Man"
Raymond Babbitt (Dustin Hoffman) is an autistic savant who lives in Cincinnati, is a huge Reds fan and recites "Who's On First" whenever he gets nervous. When his younger brother Charlie (Tom Cruise) tries to get him to go to Los Angeles by saying they could see Fernando Valenzuela pitch, Rain Man dismisses him by saying that, "Fernando Valenzuela pitched Saturday. Not scheduled to pitch until Wednesday."
Here's the weird thing about that scene: As I wrote in this piece, Rain Man is an autistic genius capable of instantly counting 246 toothpicks spilled on the floor or calculating the square root of 2,130 (Lou Gehrig's then-record playing streak). But he wasn't able to figure out that, with a five-man rotation, Fernando wouldn't pitch until Thursday (or Friday because of the off-day), not Wednesday? He must have been too focused on counting how many minutes until Judge Wapner was on TV or figuring out who was on first. Or possibly calculating Ted Kluszewski's career WAR.
3. "The Naked Gun"
Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) hilariously impersonates the plate umpire at an Angels-Mariners game in an attempt to find the player who has been brainwashed into trying to kill visiting Queen Elizabeth. The only more unrealistic plot than that would be if the scene occurred while Nielsen was umping a Mariners World Series game.
2. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest"
Mental health patient Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) asks Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) to let the group watch the 1963 Dodgers-Yankees World Series game on TV, but she refuses (she must have rooted for the Giants or Red Sox). So he creates his own play-by-play.
"Koufax kicks. He delivers. It's up the middle. It's a base hit. Richardson's rounding first! He's going for second! The ball's in to deep right-center! Davis, over in the corner, cuts the ball off! Here comes the throw. Richardson's around the dirt! He slides. He's in there. He's safe! It's a double! He's in there, Martini! Look at Richardson, he's on second base. Koufax is in big f---ing trouble!"
Too bad he never was in the World Series TV booth with Joe Buck.
1. "Good Will Hunting"
Matt Damon's character is talking to his therapist (Robin Williams), who describes meeting his wife in Boston the night of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Williams had a ticket to the game but slid the ticket across the table and told his friends, "Sorry guys. I gotta see about a girl."
When Damon asks how he could do such a thing, how he could give up going to see one of the most famous games in baseball history, Williams emphatically tells him that meeting his wife was far more important than any baseball game. Although, he adds, "I didn't know Pudge was going to hit a home run."
Oh, well. At least he didn't go to Fenway when Affleck and Hamm were shooting the ballpark to smithereens in "The Town."