Baseball's pennant race through the movie class of 1994

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By ALEX PUTTERMAN
College Contributor Network

In honor of the 20th anniversary of 1994, the best year in movie history, and of also the nearing end to the baseball season, I'll compare 1994's best films (or at least the ones I've seen) to 2014's best baseball teams.

Washington Nationals: "Pulp Fiction"

For my money the best of the year.

Washington's franchise, like Quentin Tarantino, had some out-of-the-blue success two years earlier -- the 2012 Nationals won 98 games and made the playoffs, while 1992's "Reservoir Dogs" received wide critical praise -- but this was the true explosion to the top of their field.

Two years after that initial breakthrough, no one was doubting "Pulp Fiction" or this year's Nationals. Washington had been one of the most popular World Series picks since before the season, and "Pulp Fiction" topped the box office its first weekend.

Both "Pulp" and the 'Nats are energetic, fun to watch and suggestive of future success for those involved.

Los Angeles Angels: The Shawshank Redemption

Neither was expected to do much, but each became a strong candidate for their respective top prizes.

Both the Angels and "Shawshank" spent some big money with initially disappointing results: "Shawshank" bombed at the box office, and Los Angeles missed the playoffs two years in a row after signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, then Josh Hamilton.

But eventually, thanks to stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, "Shawshank" became a classic with impressive home-rental figures, while Mike Trout has helped the Angels soar to baseball's best record in 2014.

And in perhaps the most notable similarity between "Shawshank" and the Angels, both have fairly ridiculous names, with the movie's title often derided and the baseball franchise officially dubbed the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Tempting as it was to compare the Angels to fellow-1994 feature "Angels in the Outfield," I'm better than that.

Los Angeles Dodgers: "Forrest Gump"

They get all the headlines, but do they deserve them?

Let's start with the stars, the best at their respective trades in the given year: the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and "Forrest Gump's" Tom Hanks. Both are acclaimed performers at their peaks during the time in question. Hanks deservedly won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in "Gump," Kershaw will justly win the Cy Young Award and maybe MVP for his 2014 season.

But, Kershaw's stats become slightly less impressive when accounting for Dodger Stadium and the current low run-scoring climate, and Hanks' portrayal of mentally challenged Forrest rubbed some the wrong way.

Despite the attention, many people think the Dodgers and Gump are overrated. Gump's Best Picture win sparked controversy, and the Dodgers may not be quite as good as the big names at the top of their roster imply.

Detroit Tigers: "The Lion King"

Ok fine, this comparison is mostly inspired by the feline names.

But there's some commonality if you dig deep: both the Tigers and Disney had recently emerged from somewhat of a down period to have some recent success. For Detroit, that meant World Series berths in 2006 and 2012 and AL Central crowns each of the last three seasons. For Disney, the comeback was driven by "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aladdin."

"The Lion King" became the most memorable of that generation of Disney animated features. Time will tell if the 2014 Tigers emerge as the most successful of the franchise's recent teams.

Kansas City Royals: "Hoop Dreams"

Not quite as famous or popular as the others, but both are captivating stories about overcoming years of hardship to escape from the bottom of the barrel and move up in society.

"Hoop Dreams" is somewhat of a cult-classic, absolutely adored by critics (fine, unlike the Royals) but without the widespread fame of 1994's other great films. If you love "Hoop Dreams," it's not just because everyone else it doing it. Likewise, if you've remained loyal to the Royals after almost 30 years of missing the playoffs, you're a true fan.

And who can resist the parallel between Arthur Agee and William Gates, poor kids from urban Chicago who've never had much and the Royals, perhaps baseball's most laughable franchise?

"Hoop Dreams" scored only one Academy Award nomination, in film editing, and was somehow snubbed from the Best Documentary category. Hopefully the Royals do better in October, but when up against these other prodigious foes, it's far from a sure bet.

Alex Putterman is a junior Journalism major at Northwestern University and sports editor of the Daily Northwestern student newspaper. He has fairly eclectic interests but loves baseball above all. Follow him on Twitter: @AlexPutt02

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