Granillo: Roger Ebert at the baseball movies

Editor’s note: Legendary film critic Roger Ebert died of cancer at age 70 on April 4, 2013. In January 2012, SABR member Larry Granillo compiled a list of Ebert’s baseball film reviews at

The foremost movie critic of the last thirty-plus years has, of course, been Roger Ebert. He’s been reviewing movies for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and has been synonymous with film for nearly my entire life. Thanks to this wonderful internet-age that we all live in, his entire collection of movie reviews can be found online at his website, Using that as a resource, I went through and found Ebert’s reviews of a few of the most popular baseball films of the last three decades. How did he see them at the time? Are our memories and feelings tinted with years of nostalgia, or were these movies just as good when they were new? What did people think of them with a “fresh” pair of eyes?

The Bad News Bears (1976)

It’s been so long since The Bad New Bears was released, and so many movies, tv shows, etc. have tried to copy its formula, that it’s hard to realize just how new and unique it was when it came out. This is what Ebert had to say about it:

The movie’s about a team that’s surely one of the worst ever assembled (although I once played right field for one that wasn’t much better). The kids are uncoordinated and demoralized and afraid of the ball, and wouldn’t be playing at all except that a liberal city councilman has made them a test case. The members include a black, a couple of Mexicans, various other minority group members and, eventually, a girl.

All of this is pretty much as we’d expect it, and there are obligatory scenes in which the Bears finally get their uniforms, Matthau finally shaves, the boys say they won’t wear their athletic supporters until Amanda wears one, too . . . and the team wins its first game. But beneath this entertaining surface stuff, there’s something else going on. We begin to sense how important, how really crucial, Little League is to the adults involved in it. How much emphasis they place on winning.

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Originally published: April 4, 2013. Last Updated: April 4, 2013.