When I started this project, I wanted to rewatch (or just watch) every significant baseball movie from the past 50 or so years with the goal of transcribing and categorizing every worthwhile one-liner and or poignant quote and produce the definitive list of the 154 best baseball-movie quotes (because 2023 will be MLB’s 154th season).
Think big, right?
MORE: The 10 best baseball movies of the ’90s, ranked
My editor, though, didn’t think that would be an efficient use of time, even during the baseball offseason, and I guess he’s right. Even if you limit the list to 50 or so movies, at roughly two hours each, that’s a lot of time for one story. So, I scaled back.
And here’s the result: The 25 best baseball-movie quotes of all-time. As you might know, I’ve done a lot of “research” into the world of baseball-movie quotes and scenes — Bull Durham, Major League, A League of Their Own, The Sandlot, Field of Dreams — and I do draw heavily on those pieces, though there is some variance in the rankings.
Truth is, there’s no definitive list, and a quote that might be No. 3 after one watching might feel like No. 1 next time. That’s true, over and over. If I did this list again in August, the ranking would probably be different. Anyway, let’s get started.
Spoiler: The isn’t anything from “Trouble With the Curve” in here. The baseball logic in that movie was an abomination and the quotes weren’t much better.
25. ‘Pride of the Yankees’: “Today I consider myself …”
The setup: You know the story. Gehrig was the indestructible player who was felled by an incurable disease. This scene depicts Gehrig’s speech in front of the fans and players at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939.
“I have been walking on ballfields for 16 years, and I have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. I have had the great honor to have played with these great veteran ballplayers on my left, Murderer’s Row, our championship team of 1927. I have had the further honor of living with and playing with these men on the right, the Bronx Bombers, the Yankees of today. I have been given fame and undeserved praise by the boys behind the wire in the press box, my friends the sportswriters. I have worked under the two greatest managers of all time, Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy. I have a mother and father who fought to give me health, and a solid backing in life. I have a wife, a companion for life, who has shown me more courage than I have. People all say that I’ve had a bad break, but today … today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Why it’s the best: Oh, and Babe Ruth himself was standing behind Gary Cooper, right in the frame at the start of the speech. That’s a really cool touch. This movie was produced in 1943, just two years after Gehrig died and four years after his iconic speech. So why isn’t it higher? Gehrig himself said it better, and nothing Cooper could have ever done would have matched it. And this is about movie quotes.
24. ‘Mr. Baseball’: “We’re not athletes. We’re baseball players.”
The setup: Jack Elliot, aging star player, has been traded from the Yankees to a club in Japan (let’s just pretend that could actually happen), and he’s finding the training part of baseball in Japan to be a bit of a shock. He’s doing a workout next to Max Dubois, another American on the team, and he says this …
Elliot: “We’re not athletes, we’re baseball players.”
Why it’s the best: John Kruk would be proud.
23. ‘Field of Dreams’: “You guys are guests in my corn!”
The setup: Shoeless Joe Jackson has just invited Terence Mann into the corn field beyond the outfield wall of Ray Kinsella’s baseball field. Kinsela wants to go, and he’s a bit upset.
Kinsella: “Wait a second, why him? I built this field! You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me.”
Mann: “I’m unattached. You have a family.”
Kinsella: “I know, but I want to know what’s out there. I want to see it!”
Jackson: “But you’re not invited.”
Kinsella: “Not invited? What do you mean, I’m not invited? That’s my corn out there! You guys are guests in my corn!”
Why it’s the best: I know it’s not in the top 10 most memorable or iconic moments in the movie, but the absurdity of that statement is amazing.
22. ‘61*’: “You’re right, don’t talk to them.”
The setup: Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle are deep into their chase of Babe Ruth’s hallowed single-season home-run mark of 60. Maris is frustrated because the New York baseball writers are turning on him, twisting his words into explosive headlines. He says maybe he should stop doing interviews, but Mantle tells him the secret is he’s got to give the writers something to write about.
Maris: “I don’t know what to talk about. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.”
Mantle: “I don’t know, Rog. I mean, I’ve been living with you most of the season and I don’t know nothing about you.”
Maris: “Well, I was raised in Fargo. I played baseball, basketball, football. I married my high school sweetheart. Chose baseball. I played in the minors, came up with Cleveland, traded to Kansas City and then I came here.”
Mantle: “You’re right, don’t talk to them.”
Why it’s the best: It’s a movie worth a rewatch, if it’s been a minute since you’ve seen it.
21. ‘Bull Durham’: “I’m just happy to be here.”
The setup: Nuke Laloosh is like a little puppy, so happy to be experiencing success — finally — and happy to be on a winning streak. He hops up to Crash Davis’ seat on the bus.
Nuke: “I love winning, man! I f—ing love winning! You know what I’m saying? It’s, like, better than losing. Teach me something new, man. I need to learn.”
Crash: “You got something to write with? Good. It’s time to work on your interviews.”
Nuke: “My interviews? What do I got to do?”
Crash: “You’re gonna have to learn your cliches. You’re going to have to study them. You’re going to have to know them. They’re your friends. Write this down. We’ve got to play them one day at a time.”
Nuke: “Got to play … that’s pretty boring, you know?”
Crash: “Of course it’s boring. That’s the point. Write it down!”
Nuke: “One day at a time …”
Crash: “I’m just happy to be here. Hope I can help the ball club. I know. Write it down. I just want to give it my best shot, and the good Lord willing, things will work out.”
Nuke: “Good Lord willing …”
Crash: “Things will work out.”
Why it’s the best: Look, this list isn’t just about the best one-liners (hey, another idea!); we’re looking at the best run of quotes in the best scenes, too. With a movie like “Bull Durham,” with a damn near perfect script, it’s impossible to break it down to individual lines, and this is one of the most iconic scenes ever in a baseball movie.
20. ‘Million Dollar Arm’: “Baseball is very hard.”
The setup: The two kids from India won a contest and are in Southern California trying to refine their pitching skills to the point where they can get a tryout with an MLB team. But they’d never even played baseball until a few months ago, and it’s been a challenge. In a moment of honesty with Ms. Brenda, as they call her, Dinesh Patel says …
Dinesh: “Baseball is very hard.”
Why it’s the best: The movie has its moments, good and bad. More good than bad, though, and this is one of the good ones.
19. ‘Major League’: “Win the whole f—in’ thing.”
The setup: Manager Lou Brown has just told the team that the owner, Rachel Phelps, picked this team because she thought it would be awful, and that the players would all be released or traded after the season. The clubhouse is deflated. Hope is on the precipice of being lost. Jake Taylor, the veteran catcher, stands up.
Taylor: “Well, then, I guess there’s only one thing left to do.”
Roger Dorn: “What’s that?”
Taylor: “Win the whole f—in’ thing.”
Why it’s the best: Makes you want to run through a brick wall, doesn’t it?
18. ‘Eight Men Out’: “Damn, if you don’t feel like you’re going to live forever.”
The setup: The Black Sox trial is happening, and it’s close to the end. Buck Weaver’s walking down the street after court and a couple kids ask him what’s going to happen. Buck’s clearly contemplated the potential of the verdict going against him and his teammates.
“I still get such a bang out of it, playing ball. Same as I did when I first come up. You get out there and the stands are full and everybody’s cheering. It’s like everybody in the world has come to see you. Inside that, there’s players, and they’re yakking it up. The pitcher throws and you look for that pill and suddenly there’s nothing else in the ballpark but you and him. And sometimes, when you’re feeling right, there’s a groove there and the bat just eases into it and meets that ball. And when the bat meets that ball and you can feel the ball just give, you know it’s going to go a long way. Damn, if you don’t feel like you’re going to live forever. I couldn’t give that up. Not for nothing.”
Why it’s the best: Narrator: Buck did have to give it up. But that’s one hell of a speech.
17. ‘Rookie of the Year’: “Pitcher’s got a big butt!”
The setup: As you know, 12-year-old Henry Runamucker … Rulenfurter … Rowengartner is in the bigs with the Cubs because his broken arm healed in a way that gave him an unhittable fastball. He’s on first base, taunting the Dodgers’ hurler.
Henry: “Hey, pitcher pitcher pitcher pitcher …”
(Pitcher looks over, annoyed)
Henry: “Pitcher’s got a big butt! Pitcher’s got a big butt! Pitcher’s got a big butt!”
(Pitcher throws over, but it’s wild, and Henry runs to second base)
Why it’s the best: Every kid who played little league baseball did some sort of sing-songy chant on the field, and, yeah, it’s fun to see in a big league game, even in a movie.
16. ‘Field of Dreams’: “People will come, Ray.”
The setup: Ray Kinsela is facing foreclosure on his farm, with his super annoying brother-in-law Mark, trying to force him to sign papers. Terence Mann is about to give a speech, which is here (I cut out the Mark dialogue because screw that guy).
Mann: “Ray, people will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.
“Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,” you’ll say. “It’s only twenty dollars per person.” They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it. For it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.
“People will come, Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game — it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.
“Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
Why it’s the best: I swear, the crunch of the gravel as Mann walks out toward the field during his speech, combined with the swelling and slowly rising music … chills every friggin’ time.
MORE: The 10 most-inspiring sports-movie soundtracks of all time
15. ‘Moneyball’: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
The setup: Analytics guru Peter Brand is showing A’s GM Billy Beane video of 240-pound catcher Jeremy Brown hitting a home run, but stumbling over first base. He didn’t know the ball went 60 feet over the fence.
Brand: “He’d hit a home run, and he didn’t even realize it.”
Beane watches the video again, as opposing players cheer on Brown and he pumps his fist as he gets near home plate.
Beane: “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”
Why it’s the best: It’s not even that the scene itself is amazing, but that line? Every baseball fan has watched something magical happen on the field, either in the stands or at home, and felt that same thing. Indeed, how can you not be romantic about baseball?
14. ‘For Love of the Game’: “… give us one more day of summer.”
The setup: Billy Chapel is deep into his perfect game. Vin Scully is on the play-by-play call, and he’s brilliant, as always.
“You know, Steve, you get the feeling that Billy Chapel isn’t pitching against left-handers, he isn’t pitching against pinch-hitters, he isn’t pitching against the Yankees. He’s pitching against time. He’s pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending. And tonight, I think he might be able to use that aching old arm one more time, to push the sun back up in the sky and give us one more day of summer.”
Why it’s the best: I got chills typing this out. People love to hate this movie, for some reason, but it’s pretty solid. Scully puts it over the top.
13. ‘The Natural’: “God, I love baseball.”
The setup: Do you really need any? I mean, the would-be hero who had baseball taken away from him says …
Hobbs: “God, I love baseball.”
Why it’s the best: Because, y’know, we love baseball.
12. ‘The Rookie’: “You tell me right now, Jimmy Morris.”
The setup: High school baseball coach-turned-minor league pitcher Jim Morris is in the minor leagues, and it’s been an up-and-down experience. Being apart from his family and his town (Big Lake, Texas) has been tough, on the pitcher and his family. But then, he got the news he was being called up to the majors and was meeting the team in Arlington to play the Rangers. That led to the phone call he’d waited a long time to make, one with his wife, Lorri.
Jim: “Do you know that blue sport coat that i never wear.”
Lorri: “Hang on a sec, hon, I’m boiling over. Now, what about the blue sport coat you never wear?”
Jim: “Would you mind bringing it to Arlington tomorrow.”
Lorri: “Arlington? I thought you were — You tell me right now, Jimmy Morris.”
Jim: “Apparently, there’s a dress code in the major leagues. Lorri?”
Lorri: “Yeah, I’m here (laughs).”
Jim: “They’re flying me out in an hour. Can you tell everybody?”
Lorri: “Sure, there’s just one person you have to tell first.”
Why it’s the best: When Lorris pauses, then spits out, “You tell me right now, Jimmy Morris” and he gets to tell her his dream’s coming true, well that just tugs at all the heartstrings. Then when he tells his boy and has to explain what a Devil Ray is, yeah, that’s the good stuff.
11. ‘The Bad News Bears’: “Hey Yankees, take your apology …”
The setup: The Yankees have won the championship, but in a show of sportsmanship, they apologize for being jerks to the Bears all year and give them a cheer. It’s bordering on a touching moment for a movie without much of that.
Tanner Boyle: “Hey Yankees! You can take your apology and your trophy and shove is straight up your ass!”
Timmy Lupus: “And another thing, just wait ’til next year.”
Why it’s the best: Defiant — and resilient — to the very end. A perfect encapsulation of Coach Buttermaker’s Bears.
10. ‘The Natural’: “Pick me out a winner, Bobby.”
The setup: Two strikes. Thunder and lightning in the background. Game on the line. An 0-2 count. Worst of all, Roy Hobbs’ bat, Wonderboy, just shattered on a long foul ball. The batboy picks up the pieces and hands them to Hobbs, who looks devastated. He regroups, sets his resolve and says …
Hobbs: “Go pick me out a winner, Bobby.”
Why it’s the best: Bobby picks up the Savoy Special and runs it back to home plate. Hobbs grabs some dirt, grips the bat and, well, you know what happens. The batboy smiles as Hobbs rounds the bases. Job well done, kiddo.
9. ‘Field of Dreams’: “Hey dad? You wanna have a catch?”
The setup: Ray Kinsela and his father, John, are talking after the game. Everyone else is gone. John’s return, from the corn field, is what this movie has been building toward. John asks if this is heaven. Ray tells him it’s Iowa. They talk about everything other than what actually matters to Ray, that moment of connection with a father he battled his whole life, both while he was alive and after he died. They shake hands and John walks back toward the cornfield. Rays says, “Goodnight, John.” Will the unresolved stay unresolved?
Ray: “Hey dad? You wanna have a catch?”
John: “I’d like that.”
Why it’s the best: Go call your dad. Right damn now.
8. ‘Bull Durham’: “… the Church of Baseball.”
The setup: Annie Savoy’s narration at the beginning of the movie is just fantastic. Brilliant, even. Sets the stage for the next couple of hours.
Annie, voiceover: “I’ve tried them all, I really have. And the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in and day out, is the church of baseball.”
Why it’s the best: This line’s my favorite from Annie’s opening voiceover.
7. ‘A League of Their Own’: “There’s no crying in baseball!”
The setup: Manager Jimmy Dugan finally starting to care about winning again, but he’s still pretty rough around the edges as a manager, dealing with the players. A throwing mistake by one of his outfielders, Evelyn Gardner, got under his skin.
Jimmy: “Say, Evelyn. Can I ask you a question? You got a moment? Which team do you play for?”
Evelyn: “Well, I’m a Peach.”
Jimmy: “Well, I was just wondering. Because I couldn’t figure out why you would throw home when we’ve got a two-run lead. You let the tying run get on second and we lost the lead because of you. Now you start using your head. That’s the lump that’s three feet above your ass.”
(Evelyn starts crying)
Jimmy: “Are you crying?”
Evelyn: “No.” (crying)
Jimmy: “Are you crying?”
Evelyn: “There’s no crying! There’s no crying in baseball!”
Doris Murphy: “Why don’t you leave her alone, Jimmy?”
Jimmy: “Oh, you zip it Doris. Rogers Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pig s—, and that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry?”
Evelyn: “No, no.”
Jimmy: “No. No. And you know why?”
Jimmy: “Because there’s no crying in baseball. There’s no crying in baseball. No crying!”
Why it’s the best: Honestly, if I did this again next month, this might be No. 1.
6. ‘Major League’: “This guy here is dead.”
The setup: In the conference room, front-office types in suits are looking over the list of spring training invitees handed out by owner Rachel Phelps.
Executive: “This guy here is dead.”
Phelps: “Cross him off, then.”
Why it’s the best: Pretty much anytime anything has needed to be crossed off any list since I first saw this movie, I said it just like Rachel Phelps. Also, the other great line from this scene:
Executive: “I’ve never heard of half of these guys, and the ones I do know are way past their prime.”
GM Charlie Donovan: “Most of these guys never had a prime.”
5. ‘Moneyball’: “It’s incredibly hard.”
The setup: Oakland GM Billy Beane visits free agent Scott Hatteberg, bringing coach Ron Washington with him. Hatteberg’s shoulder is shot, and the market for a catcher who can’t throw the baseball is not, as you can imagine, strong. But Hatteberg represents an opportunity for Beane to find offensive value where other teams are not looking.
Beane: “The good news is, we want you at first. We want you to play first base for the Oakland A’s.”
Hatteberg: “OK, well … I’ve only ever played catcher.”
Beane: “Scott, you’re not a catcher anymore. If you were, our call wouldn’t have been the only call you got when your contract expired.”
Hatteberg: “Yeah, hey, listen, no, I appreciate it.”
Beane: “You’re welcome.”
Hatteberg: “But the thing is, uh …”
Beane: “You don’t know how to play first base.”
Hatteberg: “That’s right.”
Scott, it’s not that hard, Scott. Tell him, Wash.”
Washington: “It’s incredibly hard.”
Beane: “Hey, anything worth doing is. And we’re going to teach you.”
Hatteberg: “Wait a minute here, I mean, what about …”
Beane: “Jason’s gone, Scott.”
Hatteberg: “You want me to take Giambi’s spot at first base?”
Hatteberg: “What about the fans?”
Washington: “Yeah, maybe I can teach one of them.”
Beane: “Good one. The fans don’t run my ballclub.”
Why it’s the best: I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched this scene on YouTube, and I laugh out loud every single time when Wash said, “Yeah, maybe I can teach one of them.” It’s the one of the best deadpan deliveries I’ve ever seen in a movie.
4. ‘The Sandlot’: “You’re killing me, Smalls!”
The setup: The boys are having a campout in the tree house to tell Smalls the story of The Beast. But first, a kid’s gotta eat.
Ham: “Hey, you want a S’more?”
Smalls: “Some more what?”
Ham: “No, no. You want a S’more?”
Smalls: “I haven’t had anything yet, so how can I have some more of nothing?”
Ham: “You’re killing me, Smalls!”
Why it’s the best: This might have made the list just for the S’mores exchange, but it’s No. 1 because it’s the first — and best — time that iconic line, “You’re killing me, Smalls!” is uttered. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve used that line, I could buy all the 98-cent baseballs I wanted.
3. ‘Major League’: “Juuuust a bit outside.”
The setup: Ricky Vaughn makes his big league debut, and the team’s play-by-play announcer, Harry Doyle, is there for the narration.
Doyle: “Vaughn into the wind up, and his first offering … juuuust a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.”
Doyle: “Ball four.”
Doyle: “Ball eight.”
Doyle: “Low, and Vaughn has walked the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches. Boy, how can these guys lay off pitches that close?”
Why it’s the best: The “juuuust a bit outside” part is probably the most iconic line in the entire movie. To me, though? It’s the “tried the corner and missed” part — on a pitch that was about three feet off the plate — that’s makes it a contender for No. 1.
2. ‘Bull Durham’: “Lollygaggers!”
The setup: The Bulls are playing crummy baseball. Crash Davis tells the manager that the way to get the players’ attention is to scare ’em. They’re just kids. So Skip throws a bunch of baseball bats into the shower and screams at everyone to get in there.
Skip: “You guy, you lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Larry?”
Skip: “Lollygaggers! What’s our record, Larry?”
Larry: “Eight and 16.”
Skip: “Eight and 16. How’d we ever win eight?”
Larry: “It’s a miracle.”
Skip: “It’s a miracle. This is a simple game. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it. Now we have got a 12-day road trip starting tomorrow. Bus leaves six in the morning.”
Why it’s the best: Oh, man. So many classic lines in one short scene. Lollygaggers! It’s a simple game! It’s a miracle! Watch/repeat. Just like the whole entire movie.
1. ‘A League of Their Own’: “The hard is what makes it great.”
The setup: Star catcher Dottie Hinson’s husband is back from the war, and she’s leaving right before the start of the World Series. Jimmy Dugan, the manager, isn’t happy.
Jimmy: “You know, I really thought you were a ballplayer.”
Dottie: “Well, you were wrong.”
Jimmy: “Was I?”
Dottie: “Yeah. It is only a game, Jimmy. It’s only a game, and I don’t need this. I have Bob, I don’t need this. I don’t.”
Jimmy: “I gave away five years at the end of my career to drinking. Five years. And now there isn’t anything I wouldn’t give to get back any one day of it.”
Dottie: “Well, we’re different.”
Jimmy: “That’s chicken-shit, Dottie. You want to go back home to Oregon and make 100 babies, great, I’m in no position to tell anyone how to live. But sneaking out like this, quitting? You’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It’s what lights you up. You can’t deny that.”
Dottie: “It just got too hard.”
Jimmy: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Why it’s the best: The hard, indeed, is what makes it great.