More excellent baseball movies were made between 1984 and 1994 than in any other period: The Natural, Bull Durham, Eight Men Out, Field of Dreams, Major League, A League of their Own, Angels in the Outfield, The Scout, Cobb and Ken Burns’ Baseball.
Why didn’t this trend continue? My guess is that Major League Baseball lost the hearts of Americans during the MLB Strike of 1994-95. That Strike even forced cancellation of the entire postseason, including the 1994 World Series.
Before the Strike, my kitchen and auto radios were always tuned to the station that broadcast my favorite baseball team; those radios are tuned to NPR now. I was familiar with every regular player, starting pitcher and key reliever in the National League; I’m not any more. The Strike made me go cold turkey and killed my baseball habit.
By the measures of revenue and attendance, MLB has been even more successful since the strike, but I don’t believe that it is loved as much as before.
It was also a key time in American sports culture – as baseball was being eclipsed by soccer as a youth sport and by the NBA and NFL as a spectator sport. Baseball did not understand how vulnerable its place in American culture was.
Americans have been burned once – and severely burned – by baseball. We will go the ballpark as an entertainment event, but no longer from devotion to the sport and our favorite teams. That devotion – which so warmly received the baseball movies of 1984-1994 – is no longer there.