My friend Dan Ayer and I have been discussing this for a while — what would be the greatest team of fictional baseball players from movies ever? While my knowledge of baseball is limited to a lifetime of scoring games and watching Major League, Dan actually got far enough to play minor league baseball. I appreciate his help and I hope you’ll enjoy the team that I’ve put together.
I didn’t use any real-life people who were portrayed in a film, like any of the players in Eight Men Out or The Lou Gehrig Story. Some of these players were obviously based on real people, however.
NOTE: Where I could find credits for the awesome custom cards that illustrate this article, I’ve called them out. If I used one of yours without credit, please let me know and I’ll correct my error. Thanks!
Pitcher – Steve Nebaska, The Scout: Say what you will about this player’s mental status, but anyone that throws 81 straight strikes and retires all 27 batters for a perfect game in Game 1 of the World Series? That’s who I want pitching on my team.
Relief Pitcher – Ricky Vaughn, Major League: Look, I know that the Wild Thing is uncontrollable, but when it comes time to shutting down the other side, I want the best pitcher in the California Penal League, the man who struck out Jack Parkman when it truly counted.
Catcher – “Crash” Davis, Bull Durham: Kevin Costner could have been on this list twice!
Sure, he’s a twelve-year minor league vet, but Crash ends up setting the minor league record for most home runs by the end of the film. And he’s the man who is able to get Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh into shape, along with Annie Savoy, ready for the majors. I would have picked Jake Taylor from Major League, but honestly, I would probably just draft nearly every actor from that film if I could.
First Base – Jack Elliot, Mr. Baseball: Jack is nearing the end of his career when the Yankees trade him for first baseman Ricky Davis (Frank Thomas!) and only one team wants his contract: the Nagoya Chunichi Dragons of Japan! Luckily, Jack ends up turning around his career, wins the pennant, his coach’s respect (and his daughter) and then goes on to play for the Dodgers and coach the Tigers.
Second Base, Marla Hooch, A League of Their Own: #32 has the kind of hitting power many of the opposite sex only dream of. In my universe, she’s welcome to play with the guys.
Third Base, Roger Dorn, Major League: Dorn may care more for contract negotiations and reading The Wall Street Journal than going after ground balls, but when you can reach him, his experience and skills can win you games.
Shortstop – Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, The Sandlot: Of all the kids to play in that mythical sandlot, only one achieved his dream of playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He only had to challenge the Beast to make it happen.
Left Field – Darryl Palmer, The Slugger’s Wife: Look, there aren’t many left fielders in movies. That said, there’s only one that I know of that was played by the same man who was Danny in Caddyshack. If he can just get his relationship with Debby right, maybe he can keep setting home run records.
Center Field – Willie “Mays” Hayes, Major League: To be fair, I almost had Wesley Snipes on this list twice, using his character of Bobby Rayburn from The Fan.
However, Willie “Mays” Hayes gets in just for showing up at camp with no invite, waking up in his bed outside of the stadium and still out stealing every player while still in his pajamas. My brother would like me to mention that he feels that the Omar Epps version is the better ballplayer.
Right Field – Roy Hobbs, The Natural: While Hobbs plays left field in the Bernard Malamud novel, in the movie, he’s in right. After striking out Joe Don Baker, playing a legendary hitter named the Whammer, at a carnival, Hobbs is shot by a crazy fan and doesn’t make it to the majors until he’s 34. It takes the death of starter Bump Bailey before Pop Fisher puts him in as a starter for the New York Knights, then he and his bat Wonderboy to the National League pennant. In a 2001 ESPN.com column, Bill Simmons picked Hobbs as the best athlete in sports movie history.
Designated Hitter – Stan Ross, Mr. 3000: Sure, a clerical error may have kept Stan from really being Mr. 3000, but he becomes a great mentor to the younger players on the team like Rex “T-Rex” Pennebaker. His sacrifice bunt at the end of the film shows every player that there’s no I in team.
Dan called out something important. Every team needs a coaching staff to succeed. Here’s who he picked for this one.
Manager – Lou Brown from Major League: Determined to create the worst team in major league baseball, thus allowing the Indians to relocate to Miami, former showgirl Rachel Phelps moves manager Charlie Donovan (Charles Cyphers, who you may know as Sheriff Leigh Brackett from the Halloween films) to general manager and brings Lou, the coach of the Toledo Mud Hens, up to the big leagues. Lou’s an old school gruff take-no-nonsense guy who commands respect and somehow turns a ragtag team in an All-Star squad.
Coach – Pop Fisher from The Natural: Speaking of a gruff guy who you need to win over, they don’t come much tougher that Pop Fisher. Full of rough language and distrusting of Roy Hobbs, the oldest rookie ever — that said, Jim Morris played his first MLB game for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at 35 — he still comes around.
Coach – Morris Buttermaker from The Bad News Bears: Notice how all of Dan’s coach picks are the grumpiest ever? You should have had him coach you at kickball. Regardless, Morris is a great pick. Played by Walter Matthau in the original film, Jack Warden in the TV series and Billy Bob Thornton in the 2005 remake, Morris takes his major league pitching experience and uses it to lead a bunch of rough and tumble kids to greatness.
Dan also mentioned that I forgot Kelly Leak from The Bad News Bears, as he’s the best overall athlete in the film.
I guess I could always add two more pitchers, just so I have a nice rotation.
Pitcher – Monty Brewster from Brewster’s Millions: There have been seven different versions of this film, but I’ve picked the iconic Richard Pryor version here. Sure, he’s better at spending money than playing baseball, but hopefully that lets us have enough money to hire my last pick.
Pitcher – Kenny Powers from HBO’s Eastbound and Down: Yeah, I cheated and added a TV show character as my final player. I could have picked Sam Malone from Cheers. But for sheer entertainment value and unpredictability, you can’t go wrong with the man they call The Shelby Sensation. Or The Reverse Apache Master. They also call him The Man with the Golden Dick, La Flama Blanca and The Bulletproof Tiger.
Have your own team you’d like to match up against mine? Post it in the comments.
UPDATE: My friend Michael McBeth sent me a team of his own and it was too good not to share.
C: Dottie Henson – A League Of Their Own
1B: Clu Haywood – Major League
2B: Tony Micelli – Who’s the Boss
SS: David “The Rocket” Durango – The Sandlot 2
3B : Jimmy Dugan – A League Of Their Own (I don’t think they ever really said his position but I do know that the character was based off of Jimmie Fox who played both 1B and 3B and Dugan hit nearly 500 home runs including 58 in 1938, lol.)
LF: Thelonius Mertle – The Sandlot (He himself said that he played with Babe Ruth and was a better hitter until he took one to the head and went blind!)
CF: Rex “T-Rex” Pennebaker – Mr. 3000
RF: Pedro Cerrano – Major League
DH: Hamilton “The Great Hambino” Porter – The Sandlot
P: Hayley Goodfarier – The Sandlot 2 (Softball pitcher who had a better fastball than the males)
P: Amanda Whurlizer – Bad News Bears ( Workhorse and real star of the team not Kelly Leak)
P: Rigoberto Sanchez – Trouble With the Curve (Showed up the top pick in the draft and made him look like a fool. And was scouted by Clint Eastwood!)
Scout: Gus Lobel – Trouble With the Curve
Manager: Dutch Schnell – Bang the Drum Slowly (Vincent Gardenia!!!)
Coach: Red Blow – The Natural
Coach: Jake Taylor – Major League 2