Disney sports movies are truly some of the greatest ever made. We’ve already told you about D2: The Mighty Ducks and its storied place in history. But now, with baseball season upon us, it is time to turn to another classic. In 1994, Angels in the Outfield hit theaters and we all started believing. Written by Holly Goldberg Sloan (who also wrote The Big Green), this movie captivated all of us who may have needed something to believe in and/or love baseball movies. If you haven’t seen this movie in a few years, go clear 103 minutes on your schedule right now and enjoy this masterpiece.
1. Cast of All-Stars
I hate to use the “All-Star” analogy for the cast of a sports movie, but this movie really did have an all-star cast. First and foremost, 13-year-old Joseph Gordon-Levitt is front and center as Roger, the die-hard Angels fan who just wants to get his family back together. JGL alone makes any movie better, but the actors around him take this movie from great to amazing. Christopher Lloyd, Tony Danza, Danny Glover, Neal McDonough (Dum Dum Dugan from Captain America), Dermot Mulroney, and four Oscar winners; Matthew McConaughey, Adrien Brody, Brenda Fricker, and Ben Johnson. This is the dream team of movie casts.
2. The Beauty of Pre-1996 Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum
If you are filming a baseball movie, you need a baseball stadium! When Disney started production on Angels in the Outfield in 1993, the obvious choice would be to film at Anaheim Stadium. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, that wasn’t possible. So Disney drove up Interstate 5 and filmed inside the beautiful Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. At the time, the stadium offered one of the best views in baseball, with the Oakland hills overlooking the stadium. Sadly, the 1996 renovation of the stadium brought extra seating to the stadium and blocked the scenery. Yet, this movie lives on as a reminder of what was once a prime stadium to watch a game … or film a movie.
3. It’s Really a Story About Family
Yes, this movie is filled with high sports drama and an epic pennant race, but at its core, Angels in the Outfield is a movie about family. Roger initially wishes for the Angels to win the pennant because his father told him that’s when they could be a family again. Throughout the movie, Roger and Angels manager George Knox develop a special bond that both have been missing in their lives, a father-son bond. When the Angels finally win, Roger gets the family he had been looking for with the father figure he deserve—when George adopts both he and J.P.
4. In a Season That Was Cut Short, We Were Allowed to Dream
Angels in the Outfield was released on July 15, 1994. Almost exactly one month later, the Major League Baseball season was cancelled. Fans everywhere had no team to cheer on anymore. But thanks to this perfectly timed film, the entire country could root root root for the California Angels and their quest to go from worst to first!
5. The Greatest Rally Signal Ever
Picture this: You are at a sporting event. Your team is losing and needs motivation. Make them believe. Flap your arms like wings. “You got an angel with you!” [Danny Glover voice.] There have been countless times I have seen fans at baseball games try and signal to their favorite players that an angel is with them, with varying success. I, myself, may or may not be guilty of participating as well.
6. It’s Quotable
Great movies stand on their own pretty well. But what takes a great movie and makes it a classic? It needs quotable moments and Angels in the Outfield is filled with them. When a friend challenges you on the odds of something happening: “It could happen!” When you see two people taking a picture and they don’t look particularly happy: “Looks like a prison photo.” And when your favorite athlete starts the decline of their career: “You used to be Mel Clark.”
7. The Moral of the Story
***20+ YEAR-OLD SPOILER ALERT*** At the end of the movie, Al explains to Roger that the angels can’t help win championships—an admirable rule if you ask me. The team is made to believe that they still have divine intervention on their side and perform amazing feats of athletic ability. The crowd continues to give them encouragement (see #5), and the Angels go on to win the pennant. Only after their victory do they learn that they achieved their goals without assistance. The ability and drive was within them the entire time. What a beautiful moral. If you truly believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything. The power is within us all.
8. This Kid
If you are anything like me, one of the moments that you became jealous of when you were little was the scene in which George Knox helps Roger and J.P. start a pickup baseball game in the local sandlot. It’s also the scene we got to meet Marvin Vincent Archer, the little boy who has never played any ball before. George Knox teaches Marvin how to hit the ball and coaches him while he stands on first base. After the next at bat, Knox tells Marvin to “run home,” and Marvin, following directions, runs back towards his house.
We were wondering what Marvin was up to, and luckily, a friend of a friend was the child who played Marvin! A bit older and a bit more familiar with baseball, Danny Walcoff says he is asked about his star-turning role constantly. “Ever since my kindergarten class went to the screening over 20 years ago, my childhood friends haven’t been able to keep this to themselves. It’s too funny. One friend even brought the DVD to my college dorm within weeks of me moving in. It’s funny how often it comes up, along with my annual 32-cent royalty checks. I still can’t believe how many people remember the scene. I’ll never be able to live it down!”
Keep your nose clean, your heart open, and remember to never stop believing!
Baseball season is here! Make sure to tune in to ESPN, ESPN2, WatchESPN, and the ESPN app starting April 3 at 1 p.m. (ET) for all the Opening Day action!