There are a lot of TV shows out there and in this golden age of TV streaming, the choices have never been greater. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic? Well, we’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, greatest and unforgettable shows through the years.
For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best sport-themed TV shows, our attention this time turns to baseball. From off-season backstage politics to crude comedies, baseball’s influence is broad on both sides of the planet. We hope you enjoy our list!
Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favourites, feel free to comment below and we’ll get them added on!
Hot Stove League
Baseball is huge in Korea but it’s also a sport with a lot more going on under the hood. Much like the American film Moneyball, Stove League is a show that hones in on what makes the business-side of this sport so fascinating, delivering a dramatic character-driven series in the process. It’s also a series that’s won a fair amount of awards too.
At the heart of this story lies a team in complete disarray – Dreams. From power struggles and bickering in the board-room through to divided hierarchies and a megalomaniac star player, Dreams finish the league in bottom place. Watching from afar is Seung-Soo, a man brought in to change the fortunes of this team.
It may have a few slow episodes along the way, but when it hits its stride Stove League knocks it out the park and bows out with a perfectly satisfying finale at the end too.
Eastbound and Down
Eastbound and Down is a slow burn comedy that gets better as it goes along across the four seasons available. The story revolves around a burned-out major league ballplayer called Kenny Powers. He reluctantly moves in with his brother and tries to pick up the pieces of his life and start again, turning to teaching Physical Education at his old middle school.
It’s a decent enough set-up and one that paves way for a lot of hilarious scenes to ensue along the way. The show constantly flirts with the idea of Kenny jumping back into baseball too, giving this comedy enough legs to never grow tired over its four season run.
One of the biggest problems with a lot of the sport dramas out there is their intense focus on male competitors. Well, thankfully Pitch bucks that trend and sets its sights on a young female pitcher who makes history by becoming the first female to play in Major League Baseball.
Of course, with this uncharted territory comes a wave of sexism and a much broader commentary about acceptance and the cost of talent. While it only ran for 1 season, Pitch is a distinctly different drama than the others on this list, bringing a feminine touch to an otherwise male-dominated sport.
Ace Of Diamond
Ace Of Diamond is an anime that blends outright sports action with slice of life drama. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, for some that may be enough to detract from checking this one out. That would be a shame because Ace Of Diamond has a lot of redeeming features.
The story follows the life of Eijun Sawamura, a gifted baseball player who has an extraordinary talent at pitching. His goal is simple – become the ace of Seidou High School and ignite his team in a blaze of glory along the way.
It’s a simple set-up but one that’s matched by some exciting sport action, a compelling hook and some well-rounded characters that grow and evolve over time.
While we’re on the subject of baseball anime, Big Windup! is another great underdog story that hones in on its characters while using baseball as a crux for our protagonist to grow over time.
That main character who evolves and grows into his role is Ren Mihashi, a man with serious self-esteem problems. He joins Nishiura baseball team as their pitcher. What follows is a story of acceptance and growth, helped considerably by the supporting characters who all join with their own problems and issues.
The art style is pretty good too, although do be aware that early on it can be tricky to remember out who everyone is on the team. If you can go in with some patience though, this one definitely rewards your time with a satisfying sport anime.
Running for four seasons, Brockmire is a pretty funny series that blends lewd, crude, laugh out loud moments with a more melodramatic storyline. It includes all the absurdity and big dramatic set pieces one may expect from a show like this but pulls it off in a pretty compelling way.
At its core, the show revolves around a famed major league baseball announcer called Jim Brockmire. When he discovers his wife is a serial cheater, Jim snaps and suffers a very embarrassing, very public meltdown live on-air. With his career and love life a mess, Jim heads back to commentate minor league baseball in a small town.
While the first few seasons are chock full of great comedy, seasons 3 and 4 do lose some of the edge that make those early episodes so memorable. Still, there’s enough here to make for a really enjoyable comedy nonetheless.
Mix: Meisei Story
There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking or outstanding about Mix but that doesn’t really matter. Mix: Meisei story is a confident, well-written anime that’s certainly worth checking out.
The story revolves around Meisei Academy High School, an establishment well-known for its strong baseball team. 26 years after its former glory however, the school is a shadow of what it once was. Two stepbrothers, Souichirou and Touma Tachibana arrive and decide to revive this flailing baseball team and propel it back into the big-time again. Their big goal though immediately turns to that of the National High School Baseball Championship.
It’s simple, effective storytelling and mixed with some compelling art work, makes for a really easy to watch drama.
There’s something endlessly fascinating about prison dramas. From Oz and Wentworth to Orange is the New Black, this genre certainly doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon. Never one to miss a trick, Prison Playbook is essentially the k-drama version of a conventional prison drama.
Only, instead of leaning in on the melodrama and soapy elements, Playbook instead doubles down on the comedy to give it much more of a campy real-world version of an anime. Oh and its main character is also a former professional baseball player too.
There’s some really memorable characters introduced along the way and the script is chock full of significant moments that’ll stick you for a long while.
Don’t be fooled by the comedy though, there’s some serious emotional hammer blows along the way. Whether it be heartbreak, tension or dark comedy, Prison Playbook expertly moves between all three states across its 90+ minute long episodes. This is certainly not one to miss.
Baseball: The Tenth Inning
You can’t really go wrong with a Ken Burns documentary series. Away from the excellent War documentaries he’s most famous for, this documentarian turns his attention to the history of baseball. Because of how broad this topic is, some liberties are taken over the nitty gritty details of the time, but as a broad overview of the sport and the big stories of the time, you’re unlikely to find something better in this field.
The documentary series tackles almost every major topic, including the inclusion of Afro-American players to the sport, the relationship between player and team owners, as well as plenty of tense and defining matches on the field. This is about as good a documentary series as you’ll find outside a more conventional film set-up.
Bronx Is Burning
Based on Jonathan Mahler’s book “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning,” Bronx Is Burning is a gritty, politically charged show that intentionally steers away from the feel-good elements a lot of these sport dramas portray. Instead, Bronx Is Burning leans into its player issues and ensuing drama backstage, front-loading that into a story depicting the New York Yankees during the turbulent 1977 World Series.
Armed with great music and an eclectic cast, Burning is Bronx perfectly captures the tone and mood of the time to deliver a really compelling series that’s definitely worth checking out.
So, there we have it, our pick for the best TV shows through the years about baseball!
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!