In my opinion there is two ways to create a good movie soundtrack: 1) The music fits to the movie so well that you don’t pay attention to music at all, or 2) The music is so interesting and exciting that it has a role of its own. After listening to soundtracks from 25 of the top-rated baseball movies of all time, here are my top 5 picks.
1. Ballplayer: Pelotero (2013)
Number one on my list comes from the documentary, Ballplayer: Pelotero. It is story of two top baseball prospects in the Dominican Republic who face fierce competition and corruption as they chase their big league dreams.
The soundtrack of the movie is a superb journey through modern Latino music. Dominican rapper Lápiz Conciente ("Conscious Pen"), who refers to himself as "El Papa del Rap Dominicano" ("the father of Dominican rap"), has three songs on the soundtrack: Echate Pa'tra, Tan Atra and La Vaina.
Uproot Andy’s Brooklyn Cumbia is one of the funniest pieces that I have heard in a long time. It represents Neo-Cumbia, the updated version of the dance-music genre Cumbia, which is popular throughout Latin America. Another performer on the soundtrack is singer and guitarist Joan Soriana from the Dominican Republic. He blends modern and traditional bachata in a song entitled Mal Pensado.
The soundtrack included artists and genres that were new to me. The music of the movie made me want to do something that I usually don’t willingly do – dance. New territory indeed but not at all bad.
2. 42 (2013)
The movie 42 is based on Jackie Robinson’s life from his signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1945 through his historic 1947 rookie season when he broke the MLB’s color barrier.
42’s soundtrack earns the No. 2 spot in the rankings because it is a treasure for those interested in rhythm and blues from the 1940’s. If you don´t know much about this early form of R&B, this soundtrack is a perfect introduction. The playlist includes many hits of the era, starting with Duke Ellington’s jazz standard Don´t Get Around Much Anymore to Billie Holliday’s Lover Man (Where You Can Be) through to Straighten Up and Fly by The King Cole Trio.
One of the most significant songs from the soundtrack is Move It On Over by Hank Williams, recorded in 1947. The song is considered one of the earliest examples of rock and roll music. For gospel fans, Sister Wynona Carr’s The Ball Game is a bewitching end to the movie.
3. Hardball (2001)
Conor O'Neill is a gambler in debt with two bookies. To repay his debt he must coach a Little League team of troubled 10-11 year olds from a Chicago housing project.
Hardball’s soundtrack is filled with a wide variety of rap songs. This exciting combination lifts Hardball’s soundtrack to number three my list.
The title track is written by Lil’ Bow Wow. He recorded the song with other young rappers Lil' Wayne, Lil' Zane and Sammie. Another key song in the movie is Notorious B.I.G.’s Big Poppa, which can be heard throughout the movie. Big Poppa is especially important for the team’s pitcher. The song gives him his rhythm. He can’t pitch unless he's listening to it on his headphones.
The most lyrically heavy song in the soundtrack is R.L’s Ghetto. There is even a street version of Take Me out to the Ball Game performed by Da Brat entitled Ball Game.
4. Bull Durham (1988)
Bull Durham is a romantic comedy about a veteran catcher brought in to train a rookie pitcher and the baseball groupie that needs to decide between them.
The soundtrack lands at number four on my list. It is an interesting collection of bluesy rock mixed with jazz and French chanteuse. The blues are covered by George Thorogood & the Destroyers’ Born to Be Bad and Can't Tear It Up Enuff by The Fabulous Thunderbirds. Jazz is represented in the collaboration between saxophonist Bennie Wallace and Dr. John. French influence includes Edith Piaf’s songs La Vie en Rose and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.
This movie’s obligatory baseball song is the classic Centerfield by John Fogerty.
The romantic side of the movie, naturally, demands at least one ballad. Joe Cocker’s A Woman Loves a Man is almost mandatory in these instances. Ike & Tina Turner’s soul piece I Idolize You, is not that smooth but it is a great song and is well-suited to the movie’s theme.
5. Damn Yankees (1958)
Even though I am not a great fan of musicals, the oldies from the 50’s and 60’s have an undeniable charm. That’s why Damn Yankees makes my list at number five.
Damn Yankees is a modern version of the Faust story. A frustrated fan of a hopeless team makes a pact with the Devil to help his club win the league pennant.
One of the most popular songs from the movie is Whatever Lola Wants. It has been recorded tens of time over the years. Another cross over hit in the movie is Heart which was originally recorded by American entertainer Eddie Fisher in 1955. Six Months Out of Every Year, is a must listen for all baseball fans whose lives are divided in two parts: on- and off-season.
Music is an essential part of a movie. Ill-conceived soundtracks can completely ruin a movie but well-composed music lifts a movie to the next level by serving either the emotional side of the movie or by enhancing the storytelling.
What is you all time favorite baseball movie soundtrack? Let us know!