Gittell on Baseball in the Movies

In Noah Gittell’s debut book, “Baseball: The Movie,” film and baseball converge in a deep reflection on the American experience.

Published May 24, 2024 1:18 AM
2 min read



In Noah Gittell’s debut book, “Baseball: The Movie,” film and baseball converge in a deep reflection on the American experience.

Gittell, a film critic at The Rye Record — not to mention “The Atlantic,” “GQ,” “Esquire,” and the “Los Angeles Review of Books” — stepped into the spotlight at the Rye Free Reading Room on May 11 to discuss his book’s themes and influences, as well as his storytelling process.

A Rye Country Day School graduate, Gittel shared a selection of passages with his audience of literature enthusiasts and friends, highlighting iconic films like “Rookie of the Year” and “A League of Their Own.”

He addressed a juxtaposition these classic movies tend to feature: elements of the fantastic and nostalgic with the prevalence of late-1980s “latchkey kids,” who often found father figures in baseball.

The book also tackles the long-debated question: Did Dottie purposely drop the ball in “A League of Their Own”?

Gittell said the question really should be why the film needs her to do so. In the end, he concludes, Dottie had to drop the ball to let go of baseball both physically and metaphorically, to return to her “rightful” place as Bob’s wife despite her love for the game.

In a similar way, he said, Bull Durham’s Annie is relegated to “wife of,” though she is a beloved, strong, and vibrant main character, to give the film a happy resolution. Gittell discussed how this type of misogyny was surreptitiously woven into films, their reception, and how the conversations and criticisms around them have evolved.

So what movie does Gittel consider the best of the genre? “A League of Their Own.” And who are the best players of all time? He strongly believes Shohei Ohtani has the potential to be the latter.

Gittell pointed out that baseball is “inherently cinematic,” because the sport’s confrontational nature and slow pace allow for more humor and reasoning. That mix creates the perfect playing field for nuanced stories, where wins on the field sometime involve tradeoffs, such as when desegregation advanced social justice but also ended black-owned teams and their rich culture.

He said it has been frustrating to see films that depict those difficult subjects fail to find an audience. The complexity of baseball movies, and their reception are part of make them a compelling and fundamental exhibit of American cultural, economic, and political history, he said.

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