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03/18/2008 9:00 AM ET
Diamond sparkles on silver screen
Baseball's place in the race for best sports films
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Kevin Costner, seen here at an All-Star Celebrity hitting challenge at Fenway Park, starred in "Bull Durham," a regular top-scorer on Greatest Sports Films lists. (Gail Oskin/AP)
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When running down the long list of great sports films over the years, baseball has some stiff competition, but the grand old game more than holds its own and by some accounts, is at the top of the list.

First, let's look into the industry's highest ranking system, the Academy Awards.

The sport of boxing leads the way with four Academy Award nominees for Best Picture ("The Champ" in 1930, "Rocky" in 1976, "Raging Bull" in 1980 and "Million Dollar Baby" in 2004), and "Rocky" and "Million Dollar Baby" won those Oscars. The only other sports film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture was the track and field drama "Chariots of Fire" in 1981.

But of the rest of the nominees for Oscar's top prize, baseball has two ("The Pride of the Yankees" in 1942 and "Field of Dreams" in 1989, tying it with football ("Heaven Can Wait," 1978, and "Jerry Maguire," 1996). The only other sports movies to be honored with Best Picture nominations are the 1979 cycling movie "Breaking Away" and 2003's horse racing saga, "Seabiscuit."

As every filmgoer knows, however, the Academy Awards are just one opinion. And a look at the historical rankings of sports movies from several respected news outlets and film review publications, baseball is indeed the best sport on the silver screen.

Moviefone.com recently ranked its top 25 all-time sports flicks, and baseball led the way with seven of those 25, a hefty 28 percent, plus two in the top five ("Bull Durham" at No. 3 and "The Natural" at No. 5) and one more in the top 10 ("Field of Dreams" at No. 7). The rest of the list was "The Pride of the Yankees" at No. 13, the original "The Bad News Bears" at No. 20, "Bang the Drum Slowly" at No. 22 and "A League of Their Own" at No. 24.

The sport with the next most amount of spots in Moviefone's Top 25 was football with five ("Friday Night Lights," "Brian's Song," "Jerry Maguire," "Rudy" and "Remember the Titans"). Boxing was next with four ("Rocky," "Raging Bull," "The Set-Up" and "When We Were Kings").

In ESPN Page 2's top 20 all-time sports movies, baseball once again does very well with five slots (25 percent), including the coveted No. 1 film.

"Bull Durham" leads the way, with "The Natural" at No. 6, "Field of Dreams" at No. 7, the original "The Bad News Bears" at No. 16 and "Eight Men Out" at No. 19. And in the other 10 movies that received votes, baseball claimed the first three, with "The Pride of the Yankees" ranking 21st, "A League of Their Own" at No. 22 and "Bang the Drum Slowly" checking in at No. 23.

In Sports Illustrated's Top 50, baseball maintains a strong presence, leading all sports with 11 selections (22 percent), including, once again, "Bull Durham" at No. 1. The other baseball movies in the list are "Bang The Drum Slowly" at No. 11, "A League Of Their Own" at No. 13, the original "The Bad News Bears" at No. 26, "Eight Men Out" at No. 28, "The Rookie" at No. 30, Ken Burns' "Baseball" at No. 31, "Field of Dreams" at No. 38, "The Pride of the Yankees" at No. 42, "It Happens Every Spring" at No. 47 and "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings" at No. 48.

And in a 2005 list of the 30 best sports movies on DVD, Entertainment Weekly magazine again honored baseball as much as any other sport. Baseball films accounted for seven of the 30 selections (23.3 percent), tying it with boxing for the most-represented sport. "Bull Durham" ranked highest at No. 5, followed by the original "The Bad News Bears" (No. 8), "The Pride of the Yankees" (No. 11), "Eight Men Out" (No. 15), "Field of Dreams" (No. 17), "The Rookie" (No. 21) and "The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Movie Kings (No. 25).

The Rotten Tomatoes all-time best sports movies list, which has 53 films on it, awards 10 spots to baseball (18.9 percent), making it, once again, the top-ranking sport.

"Bull Durham" takes the top overall spot on the list, with documentary "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg" next at No. 9. The original "The Bad News Bears" rounds out the top 10, and is followed by "Bang the Drum Slowly" (No. 12), "Field of Dreams" (No. 19), "Eight Men Out" (No. 25), "The Natural" (No. 31), "Major League" (No. 32), "A League of Their Own" (No. 34) and "The Rookie" (No. 35).

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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