From Ferris Bueller catching a foul ball on the North side, to Julia Roberts serving drinks on the South side, Chicago and baseball seem to go together in the movies. And why not? Baseball in this town pre-dates the movies, and the city that can be all things to all people on-screen can surely put a few baseball tales on celluloid. Some of these tales you may already know, and some you may not. But with baseball set to make an appearance on Oscar night, it’s worth taking a trip through Chicago’s baseball past.
The Blues Brothers may be the quintessential movie filmed in Chicago, and in one of the scenes Elwood admits he put down his address as 1060 West Addison Street. Have any other ballpark addresses ever turned up in a movie? I can’t think of any.
The Naked Gun, which was the first of a series of movies based on the old TV show Police Squad, has a Wrigley Field reference that, unless you’re looking for it, might be missed. At the opening of the baseball scene, which is essentially the final part of the movie, a voiceover indicates that the Queen will be attending a baseball game in Los Angeles (the Angels were playing the Mariners, if it matters). But as the voiceover is heard, the camera pans across Wrigley Field instead. Watch for it and you’ll see. And former White Sox and Cubs player Jay Johnstone is the first player to bat in the game, too.
Rookie of the Year, which was filmed in Chicago in the 1990s, was ostensibly about the Cubs, but has a connection to the South Side, as well. I know this because I was at the game when they filmed some of the movie’s final scenes. The Cubs were supposed to go to New York to play the Mets, but apparently there was no budget for New York filming, and so Comiskey Park (the second version) stood in for “New York.”
Major League, a film that was all about the Cleveland Indians, has a scene that was filmed in the Chicago area. In the scene where Jake (played by Tom Berenger) and Lynn (Rene Russo) are talking in the library, the scene begins in the Special Collections department of Northwestern’s Deering Library, and continues into the reading room, where Lynn goes through a door and ends the scene. Having worked at that library, I can tell you that she actually went into a little-used storage area, but one that at least served a purpose for that scene.
Field of Dreams, the last baseball movie to be nominated for Best Picture, has a Chicago angle, as well. Don’t know what that is? Think about what team Joe Jackson played for, and maybe it will come to you.
I don’t think that Moneyball, Brad Pitt, or Jonah Hill will win Oscars this year, but the fact that they’re nominated in the first place suggests that baseball movies are alive and well.