Hey, it’s the Christmas season and there’s no real baseball on TV. Nor is there any real baseball news, and I don’t want to discuss one more time whether the Twins are in rebuild or retool mode.
But it’s a wonderful life, and there are movies to watch. On a recent road trip with my son, we tried to come up with the starting lineup on the All-Time Baseball Movie team. These are the fictional guys. It would be too easy to insert Lou Gehrig from Pride of the Yankees and Babe Ruth from any number of films.
Here’s what we’ve got. Add your comments and rebuttals below.
Leading off and playing center field, we have to go with the speedster Willie Mays Hayes from Major League. The original version, not Major League II, III or whatever they’re up to by now. When you hit like Mays and run like Hayes, you gotta be in the lineup. Hayes is a tough call in center over Kelly Leake from Bad News Bears and Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez from The Sandlot, but you clearly gotta keep the latter on the roster as a pinch runner.
Batting second and playing left field will be Shoeless Joe. I know that I said this is fictional and Joe Jackson was real, but the movie is clearly a fantasy, and we’re talking about perhaps the best-known character in the genre. With that line drive back through the box off Ray, he’s clearly adept at going with the pitch, a skill we’re looking for in our No. 2 hitter.
Batting third, where we want one of our best hitters, we have to go with The Natural, Roy Hobbs. He plays rightfield and has the lineup’s best walk-up music. If you don’t believe that, just stay after any minor league game for the fireworks show and you’ll get a listen.
It’s not intentional to have worked our way around the outfield with top three spots in the order, but it came out that way. We’re kinda going to continue that by finding a way to get Major Leaguer Pedro Cerrano’s bat in the lineup, which we’ll do in the cleanup spot as the DH. Movies don’t tend to have the DH in a starring role, but Jobu hits the fastball very much. Oh, and don’t steal his rum.
Catcher is tough. Some of the genre’s best characters are behind the plate. I know I’m going to get flack for not choosing Crash Davis from Bull Durham, but the dude’s a career minor league. Stay tuned, I’ve got a spot for him. Similarly, Jake Taylor from Major League is a gamer, a masterful bunter and a great handler of a pitching staff. And then there’s Hamilton Porter from The Sandlot. I don’t think I can go with him, but we need him on the bench – there can’t be a better bench jockey and trash talker in the league.
But all those pale compare to the one who truly was in a League of her (Their) Own, Dottie Hinson. She’ll woman the backstop and bat fifth.
Following her in the lineup and batting sixth is her teammate. Playing second base, we have the window breaking slugger, Marla Hooch.
First base is a hitter’s spot, but it’s actually a little weak in the movies. Granted, Clu Heywood leads the Major League in most offensive categories, including nose hair, but we only want the good guys on our team, so we can’t use him. Similarly, Mr. 3000 is just such a bad movie that I’m not going to use Stan Ross. That leaves us with another aging slugger, back from Japan, Mr. Baseball Jack Eliot, and he’ll bat seventh.
Third base is another sparse one. The potentially obvious choice here is Roger Dorn, but he pretty much showed himself a clubhouse cancer throughout Major League, so we’ll have to pass. Instead, we’ll go with our third pick from League of Their Own, Doris Murphy. She can rub teammates the wrong way, as witnessed by her taking on Kit Hinson after a rough game, but she’s clearly a gamer, the kind of player who want as a spark batting near the bottom of the lineup at No. 8.
Finally, we need a shortstop. Amazingly with such a glamour position, I couldn’t come up with a good standout shortstop from a baseball movie. I mean, with his way of coaching up teammates, it seems likely that “The Jet” Rodriguez could pull out his inner Cesar Tovar and play there, but I don’t think he actually does in the movie.
But I’ve got an unnamed sleeper. Unnamed in that I couldn’t remember his name ever being used in the movie. But you need defense up the middle, and with that final play to come in and bare hand the tipped ball to preserve the perfecto at the end of “For Love of the Game,” this unnamed guy will play short and bat ninth.
By contrast, though it may seem that the lineup is a bit weak at the bottom, we’ve got a loaded rotation. He is, by definition, a Rookie (of the Year), but with the bionic arm, Henry Rowengartner is in the mix. I like to work young guys in slowly, so I’m going to start him at No. 5 in the rotation.
And speaking of youth, we’ll have another youngster in the No. 4 spot, Amanda Wurlitzer from the Bad News Bears. Despite her youth, she does have championship experience, leading the Bears to the title game. At No. 3, we’ll go with Bingo Long from his Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings. He’s based on Satchel Paige, so that’s impressive.
Picking between the top two spots were tough, but I had to go with experience. I like Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh’s million dollar arm in Bull Durham, but I don’t want someone with a five-cent head getting the start on opening day, so he’ll have to wait for game two.
Which means that our opening day starter will be Billy Chapel from For Love of the Game. When you wrap up your Hall of Fame career with a perfect game and demonstrate that “the cathedral that is Yankee Stadium belongs to a Chapel,” you’ve shown you have the moxie to get the Opening Day start.
There’s several noteworthy candidates to fill out the staff while pitching out of the bullpen, including Kit Hinson from League of the Their and Eddie Harris from Major League, but we know that it will be the Wild Thing, Ricky Vaughn from Major League, marching out of the bullpen to close games after a stellar career in the California Penal League. The team’s top pitching prospect is the newly signed Rigo (“Peanut Boy”) Sanchez from Trouble with the Curve.
So there’s the roster. But before we get away, we have to recognize that it takes more than players to run a team. You need a coaching staff, for example, and baseball movies have given us a few. Because they formed the best manager/coach duo, our team will be led by Pop Fisher and Red Blow from The Natural. There are other noteworthy coach/managers who can fill out the coaching staff, namely Frank Perry (For Love of the Game), Jimmy Dugan (League of Their Own) and Lou Brown (Major League). I’m big on character, so it’s against my better judgment, but I did save a spot for Morris Buttermaker from the Bad News Bears. Also in the dugout will young Bobby Savoy (The Natural) as our batboy.
Billy Heywood from Little Big League was a choice for the coaching staff, but I realized that he has to be the team owner, since several other of the team owners portrayed are dirtbags. Think of Rachel Phelps from Major League and The Judge from The Natural. Heywood’s more seasoned ownership partners include Gary Wheeler (For Love of the Game) and candy bar mogul Walter Harvey (League of Their Own).
Also in the team’s administration is GM Ira Lowenstein (League of Their Own). He oversees a scouting staff that includes by Gus Lobel (Trouble with the Curve) and Ernie Capadino (A League of Their Own). The latter is known for his skill in negotiating contracts, as demonstrated in signing the Hinson sisters. For astutely observing how much better Pete Taylor has been playing since his parents came to visit, Pete Klein (Trouble with the Curve) will head the team’s analytics department. Heading the scouting staff, and likely working her way up to GM on her own, is Mickey Lobel from Trouble with the Curve.
With such a varied range of experience on our team, there are bound to be injuries, and we’ve got the best possible medical staff in place. Heading the group is Doc Archibald (Moonlight) Graham from Field of Dreams. Assisting him, with specializations in providing CPR and overseeing the pool at the training facility is Wendy Peffercorn from The Sandlot.
A team like this needs a place to play, and fortunately they have stadium architect extraordinaire Ray Kinsella (Field of Dreams). As noted above, I do have a backup plan for Crash Davis. He’ll assist Ray as groundskeeper, with particular expertise in managing the irrigation system. Also of note in game day management is Frank Drummond (Naked Gun), who will serve as stadium security. He’s also been known to fill in for Enrico Polazzo in singing the National Anthem.
A team like this certainly deserves media coverage. Again, there’s lots to choose from in the broadcasting department, since using an announcer is often part of what helps the plot flow in sports movies. They’re playing themselves, so our rules keep us from naming John Gordon (Little Big League), Vin Scully (For Love of the Game) and Curt Gowdy, Jim Palmer, Tim McCarver, Mel Allen, Dick Enberg and Dick Vitale, all from Naked Gun. But even if that rule didn’t apply, the broadcasting gig would still have to go to Harry Doyle from Major League.
And finally, we need someone to wax eloquent and write Roger Angell-like essays. The clear choice for that would be Terrance Mann.
So, how’d I do? Who’d I miss?
Despite my one-more-year campaign Joe Mauer decided to retire after the 2018 season. After the surprise appearance as a catcher in the final 2018 season game, he packed up all his gear after it had been authenticated and handed the bag to the Twins curator, Clyde Doepner, so it could be shared with fans. Clyde hadn't decided quite what to do with the bag until he found out there would be a special white-glove tour with Joe auctioned off for Twinsfest. He decided to have Joe unpack the bag and take the group through what each item was and talk about his career. We didn't know this when we bid on the tour and I suspect had folks known, it would have gone higher.
This flickr album has all the photos with detailed descriptions. I wasn't supposed to video anything but recorded a few before I was scolded. The lady next to me took a bunch more so if you know her, you can hear more. I recommend looking at the album on a laptop or a tablet since the descriptions are more easily viewed on a full size browser. They explain many of the markings in or on his equipment and give the details he shared about each piece. The bat and batting gloves are from his 2000th hit. I was at Target Field that night so it was special to get to hold them. He talked through how he chose his bats and explained how he listened to the sound a bat makes when tapped on the barrel. The higher the pitch the better. The 2000th hit bat had a pretty high pitch.
After holding the bat and lowering it to tap his shoes, as we've seen him do thousands of times, he explained the pre-at bat ritual of raking the dirt with his cleats then tapping his shoes. It was so he was able to see precisely where his feet went during a plate appearance. It gave him an immediate visual clue if something was off. He also raked the dirt in front of home place as a catcher to prevent a bad hop on a ball in the dirt. Same for the semi-circles while waiting on batters at first base. His process was all about doing every little thing he could to prevent as many 1-in-a-1000 events that might negatively impact his ability to make the play or get a hit.
Joe has given some less than engaging post game interviews over the years, but he talked with ease Friday night and seems to be genuinely at peace with deciding to retire. I'm still in denial he won't take the field on opening day, but really enjoyed the hour hearing him talk about baseball. I'm so going to miss watching him play.