The Set-Up

The Set-Up (1949)
This well-crafted boxing film stars Robert Ryan as a veteran boxer who dreams of the Big Win. Little does he know that his manager, who has no faith in his chances, has set him up for a fall this night. While his worried wife—who has come to his previous bouts-—instead waits in their nearby hotel room for him, he prepares for his fight with an up-and-comer. The sometimes brutal film action occurs in real time. I found the scenes between boxers preparing for their fights psychologically revealing.

Read The New York Times review or check out other boxing movies at the library.

Speed Racer

Speed Racer (2008) PG
Based on the animated TV series, Speed Racer may start out slow, but it soon becomes engrossing. Race car driver Speed Racer (Emilie Hirsch) loves driving – it’s in his blood (and it’s the family business). When he makes it to the big leagues, Speed learns about the dark side of the sport that took the life of his older brother.

Costarring Christina Ricci, John Goodman, Susan Sarandon, and Matthew Fox, Speed Racer is psychedelic fun for the whole family.

The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis (2006)
Read the incredible true story of Baltimore Ravens lineman Michael Oher (pronounced OAR). One of thirteen children born to a crack addict mother, Oher spent his formative years on the streets of Memphis – times where neither the state nor the schools had any record of his existence.

But through a chance meeting with the Tuohy family at Briarcrest Christian High School, Oher becomes part of a family, attends school regularly, plays sports – and gets a chance in life. It’s a powerful story with many great messages (although I did skim over the lengthy descriptions of the development of the left tackle in the NFL).

Listen to an interview with the author and read an excerpt from the book at Be sure to check out the YouTube video A Diamond in the Rough. And have you heard? The film of the same name has been nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Picture and Best Actress -- Sandra Bullock).

A League of Their Own

A League of Their Own (1992) PG
In 1943, with the men at war, baseball owners created a professional women’s league. Loosely based on a true story, A League of Their Own follows the inaugural season of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The movie stars Tom Hanks and Geena Davis (and features Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell) – and is so much fun to watch!

See what Roger Ebert thought about the movie.

Want more baseball? Check out our list of recommended baseball movies.

Hometown Legend

Hometown Legend (2001) PG
Athens, Alabama, was the capital of high school football. But when the coach’s son dies in a freak accident during the state championship game, things change. Twelve years later, the county has decided to close the high school and bus students to nearby Rock Hill. The coach comes out of retirement for one final season, to try to turn around a program that hasn’t seen a winning season in twelve years.

Follow the new kid in town (Nick Cornish) – an untrusting teenager from the foster care system; the girl (Lacey Chabert) dreaming of saving her hometown; and a coach (Terry O’Quinn) looking to make a difference. This uplifting story keeps you interested till the somewhat surprising ending.

The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball by Derek Zumsteg

The Cheater’s Guide to Baseball by Derek Zumsteg (2007)
Find out about the things baseball players and teams do to manipulate the game – some legal and some not. In the Metrodome, the Minnesota Twins have been accused of tweaking with fans in their ventilation system to help their batters hit better. In the 1960s, when the White Sox were awful, they’d freeze baseballs to prevent other teams from hitting the ball far. You can also learn about the antics used in the early days of baseball – like when they’d literally push players off the base and tag them out. The author includes these stories, plus a lot of fascinating others.

Get ready for the start of the 2009 season by learning about what goes on behind the scenes. Also visit the author's blog and read the Hardball Times' interview with the author.

The Soul of Baseball by Joe Posnanski

The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip through Buck O’Neill’s America by Joe Posnanski (2007)
Buck O’Neill is a famous player and manager from the Negro Leagues. The author accompanied O’Neill for a year as he traveled around the country promoting the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. O’Neill shared many anecdotes, some funny and some sad, from his life and from his time around baseball.

Read a PBS interview with Buck O'Neill and check out the blog dedicated to the memory of Buck O'Neill.


Miracle (2004) PG
Do you believe in miracles? Based on a true story, Miracle documents the months leading up to the 1980 Olympics and the unforgettable showdown between the American and Soviet hockey teams at Lake Placid. Despite knowing the ending, you’ll be on the edge of your seat till the very end.

If you want to learn more about the “miracle on ice,” check out Wayne Coffey’s 2005 book, The Boys of Winter. Also look at the cover and article from the March 3, 1980, issue of Sports Illustrated and an article from ESPN Classic. Want to see the original team? Do You Believe in Miracles? is an HBO documentary featuring footage of and interviews with the 1980 hockey team.

Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings (1993) PG
This movie is loosely based on a true story of a Jamaican bobsled team. When the Olympic trials for sprinters become a disaster, a group of young men from Jamaica enter the 1988 Olympics as a bobsled team. John Candy is the coach who must redeem himself. While the world watches, the team and coach become the laughingstock of the Olympic Games. Then they become an inspiration. The movie has a great soundtrack.

Bleachers by John Grisham

Bleachers by John Grisham (2003)
Former football players have come to sit in the bleachers of the stadium named for their former coach. The coach is now dying. Neely Crenshaw was one of the coach’s finest players. Crenshaw sits and reminisces about his senior year. He has to forgive his coach for the past, but he can’t forgive himself.

Chicago Bulls: the 1990s

Chicago Bulls: the 1990s (2003)
Are you excited about the NBA draft on June 26? With the #1 pick, do you think the Bulls will choose Michael Beasley or Chicago native Derrick Rose? But before we begin a new season, relive the glory days with this four-disc set about the Bulls’ six championships from 1991 to 1998. With highlights from each of the six seasons, you can reminisce about Michael beating Magic, Paxson hitting the three against Phoenix, the record-setting 72 victories, and Jordan’s last shot as a Bull. The set also contains six games as they were originally broadcast – one from each finals appearance.

Includes a history of the Chicago Bulls.

The Game of My Life by Jason “J-Mac” McElwain

The Game of My Life: a true story of challenge, triumph, and growing up autistic by Jason “J-Mac” McElwain with Daniel PaisnerHis friends call him J-Mac. His mom prefers Jason. Sounds like your typical teenager, right? Not quite.

Jason “J-Mac” McElwain is considered a high functioning autistic. And in February 2006, J-Mac accomplished something that any “normal” person would have difficulty accomplishing: he scored 20 points – including six 3s – in the last FOUR minutes of a high school basketball game.

Read this inspirational story of a boy who didn’t talk till he was five. Read about how he became practically obsessed with basketball and how he was the team manager for three years. Read about how the coach let him dress for Senior Night – and how his unimaginable feat made him an instant celebrity across the country.

Sox and the City by Richard Roeper

Sox and the City: A Fan’s Love Affair with the White Sox from the Heartbreak of ’67 to the Wizards of Oz by Richard Roeper (2006)
From one White Sox fan to another, Roeper details his love of the White Sox and of baseball. His wry sense of humor takes you from his childhood in the 1960s through the championship season of 2005. It’s part memoir, part Sox history, and part baseball nostalgia. You don’t have to be a Sox fan to enjoy this book – and you can’t help but appreciate the movie and television trivia scattered throughout.

Get ready for Opening Day 2008 (March 31: Cubs vs. Milwaukee and the Sox at Cleveland) by checking out this book and others on our Chicago Baseball list. You can read about the Cubs and Sox in the World Series, look back at the history of Wrigley Field, and much more.

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand (2001)
Laura Hillenbrand makes horseracing fans out of everyone. More than simply a biography of a horse, this book portrays the spirit of a sport as it tells the tale of an owner, a jockey and a thoroughbred champion that captivated the nation.

Check out the 2003 movie based on the book and the PBS website that features original radio broadcasts, an interview with Hillenbrand, and more.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb (2004)
They said that the four minute mile could never be broken, that it just was not physically possible. Three athletes competing from separate corners of the globe raced against the clock and each other to prove them wrong.

Listen to an interview with the author and Roger Bannister (NPR) or watch the memorable races from May 6, 1954 (BBC) and August 7, 1954 (CBC).