Any movie that's based on a true story is tough to make. You have to do significant research to ensure every single quote, wardrobe piece, setting and reference is in harmony with the real events that the story depicts. Sports movies are even more challenging, because the games have changed so much through the ages. Although these aspects can be left open to creative interpretation, whether the movie is billing itself as an exact replication of real events or simply a fictional story that includes historical references, it is still imperative that filmmakers cross every "t" and dot every "i" to avoid egregious errors.
That being said, good luck finding a single movie, sports or non-sports, that nails every piece of factual information. With the concept of a helpless pursuit of perfection in mind, let's take a look at factual errors in some of the most well-known sports movies of the last few decades.
Rookie of the Year
After the second ball-on-ground-flipping-into-air incident, one in which Henry Rowengartner loses his mojo for the cannon arm, the youngster quickly realizes that he'll have to try a few unconventional tactics to record the final few outs for the Cubbies. One of those tactics was the hidden ball trick.
After handing the ball off to first baseman Stan Okie during a team meeting on the mound, Henry pretends to get ready to deliver a pitch while only holding the rosin bag in his glove. However, pitchers are not allowed to stand on the rubber without holding the ball. In reality, he should have been called for a balk after the umpires realized that Okie actually had the ball. Sorry Henry, but the runner moves into scoring position and it's a whole new ballgame.
Widely regarded as one of the best sports movies of all-time, Rudy is beloved by even the heaviest of Notre Dame haters, but that doesn't mean critics have allowed a handful of factual errors to slip through the cracks.
One of those errors comes when Rudy is in the stands watching a game. The film is set in the 1970's but the scoreboard during this game shows the Fighting Irish playing Penn State. Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions did not play their first game at Notre Dame Stadium until 1982.
Field of Dreams
Why were sports fans and movie buffs terribly concerned when the Field of Dreams property went up for sale a couple years ago? The emotional attachment for the Dyersville, Iowa, baseball field and accompanying house and cornfields is quite powerful for many folks who love the classic Kevin Costner-led baseball flick.
While the film is a fantastic ode to old-time baseball, one that does not infringe on the key elements of the stories it references, it also includes a few small factual errors. Among them is the batting and throwing preferences for Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson batted left-handed and threw right-handed in real life. Actor Ray Liotta played Jackson in the film and batted right-handed while throwing left-handed.
Tobey Maguire plays Seabiscuit jockey Red Pollard in the critically-acclaimed 2003 film. The film nails most factual pieces but misses on a few items, including the number on Maguire's sleeve indicating Seabiscuit's starting position in the final race: 9. The racehorse actually started in the No. 1 position during this race.
The Sandlot opened to mixed reviews in 1993, but the story of a curiously hilarious nine-man baseball team in suburban Los Angeles quickly became a classic sports movie. The film's narrator, Scott Smalls, discusses the trials and tribulations of the Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez-led group, and despite hitting most factual references from the 1960's, he strikes out on a couple items, one of which is glaring for baseball nerds.
During the voiceover narration, Smalls says Babe Ruth's "called shot" came in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3 in the 1932 World Series at Yankee Stadium. The legendary call actually came in the top of the fifth inning at Wrigley Field, but don't tell Smalls. He was already ridiculed enough as an awkward youngster.
Andrew Doughty is a writer for Next Impulse Sports