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Sports flicks that deserve recognition

By Anthony Rhoads

ESPN has released its top 25 movies over the last 25 years and that inspired me to come up with my own top-10 list of the greatest sports movies of all time.

Here they are:

1. A River Runs Through It. A flyfishing movie at No. 1? If ESPN can include Searching for Bobby Fischer in its top 25, I can definitely include A River Runs Through It in mine. A River Runs Through It, based on the Norman Maclean novella, is a haunting, almost poetic story about two brothers and their minister father and how they connect through flyfishing. The writing, acting and direction are superb and the cinematography is breathtaking at times.

2. Field of Dreams. Who doesn't get choked up during the scene where the Kevin Costner character plays catch with his long-dead father? No other baseball movie better illustrates how the game connects fathers and sons.

3. Rocky. It's a boxing movie but it's more about the journey of a man seeking redemption and self-worth. One of my favorite scenes is where Rocky is talking to his girlfriend Adrian about what he wants to accomplish from his title fight with Apollo Creed; he wants to go the distance and prove he isn't just another bum from the neighborhood.

4. 61*. Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane give brilliant performances as Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, who are chasing Babe Ruth's single-season home run record.

5. The Bad News Bears. It's been redone several different times in movies like The Mighty Ducks, Hardball and Little Giants but none come close to The Bad News Bears, a story of a rag-tag group of kids playing youth-league baseball.

6. Eight Men Out. "Say it ain't so, Joe," a heart-broken kid says to ?Shoeless' Joe Jackson, who was a member of the Chicago White Sox, which threw the 1919 World Series. Sports can be a rotten business sometimes and this is a brilliant illustration of how gamblers and other shady characters corrupted the national pastime.

7. Hoosiers. Hoosiers contains a bunch of sports cliches but the performances are what make this movie especially Gene Hackman as the head coach and Dennis Hopper as Shooter, the alcoholic father of one of the players. Hoosiers also does a great job in capturing the spirit of small-town high school sports.

8. Bang the Drum Slowly. This is an incredibly sad movie about a fictional big-league catcher (played by Robert DeNiro) who gets Hodgkins Disease.

9. The Sandlot. Sometimes youth baseball needs to go back to the old days when a bunch of kids would go off onto a sandlot or an empty field and play pick-up games. No adults, no umpires, no crowds, no parents; just kids playing baseball.

10. Beyond the Mat. ?Rasslin' ain't real but it makes for a compelling documentary. The film focuses on a bunch of professional wrestling personalities including Terry Funk and Mick Foley but the best scenes are the ones dealing with former NWA and WWF superstar Jake ?The Snake' Roberts who is now a drug-addicted has-been on the low-budget wrestling circuit.

Honorable Mentions: Any Given Sunday, Bend It Like Beckham, Breaking Away, Brian's Song, Bull Durham, Caddyshack, Cobb, The Great White Hope, Jerry Maguire, The Junction Boys, The Last American Hero, A League of Their Own, The Natural, North Dallas 40, Raging Bull, Remember the Titans, Slap Shot and Varsity Blues.

Sports movies that might be classics but I can't include them on my list because I haven't seen them: Ali, Chariots of Fire, Hoop Dreams, Miracle, The Rookie, Rudy and When We Were Kings.

Worst sports movies: American Anthem, The Cutting Edge, Joe Torre: Curveballs Along the Way, Major League 3, Rocky IV and V, A Season on the Brink, The Slugger's Wife, Summer Catch and Swimfan.

Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at arhoads@news-daily.com.