The 2014 Major League Baseball season has begun and to kick it off here’s a look at the best baseball players and coaches at each position from the minds of the screenwriters, directors, and actors in Hollywood.
Roy Hobbs – Right Field, The Natural (1984)
This 35 year old rookie and former pitching phenom is the stand-out of stand-outs on our list. He alone has more talent than the rest of the list combined and his movie is considered a classic. Sure in the movie the 35-year-old Hobbs is played by 48-year-old Robert Redford (which make the scenes where a 19-year-old Hobbs has his baseball career delayed by psycho Barbara Hershey utterly ridiculous), but the actor’s well worn features just show us that over the 16 years in between getting shot on a train and joining the hapless New York Knights, Hobbs has seen some serious stuff. Hobbs and his bat literally hit the cover off the ball, destroy a massive stadium scoreboard clock, end the Great Depression, cure polio, and cause neighborhood blackouts. Hobbs rises above corrupt judges, tabloid writers, and shady gamblers; inspiring the Knights to take the pennant and help their manager (Wilford Brimley) stave off the diabetes. The Natural was nominated for four Academy Awards. It has an 82% fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com and a 7.6 rating on imdb.com
Willie Mays Hayes – Center Field, Major League (1989)
The non-roster uninvited speedster blazes his way onto the Cleveland Indians by outrunning veteran players in his bare feet and pajamas. He cockily declares that he “hits like Mays and runs like Hayes” and has purchased 100 pairs of batting gloves to use individually every time he steals a base. The gloves are a good purchase as Hayes has blazing speed but hits the ball into the air every time for an easy out, forcing his manager to tell him, “you may run like Hayes, but you hit like shit.” Even still, Hayes’ speed makes him a gold glove center fielder and deadly leadoff hitter. He is played by a then almost unknown Wesley Snipes whose credits until then included bit parts on TV and the role of “Ambulance Driver” in a Richard Pryor movie called Critical Condition which no one saw. This performance launches Snipes career and makes him a legitimate box office draw for the next ten years. He got so big he skipped out on reprising his role in the sequel 5 years later. After appearing in big budget action movies and making truckloads of cash, Snipes decided to not pay any taxes. So, while you can steal second base, you can’t steal from Uncle Sam. Snipes served 3 years in Federal prison for tax evasion. Major League holds an 81% fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com and a 7.2 rating on imdb.com
Kelly Leak – Left Field, The Bad News Bears (1976)
Kelly Leak was the most gifted baseball player in all of Southern California’s Little League, but a troubled childhood made him turn away from the game and into the delicious life of juvenile delinquency. He made a nice living hustling air hockey and as a loan shark, enough to afford a Harley Davidson and tickets to the Rolling Stones. Still, the love of the game kept Leak hanging around the ball fields, loitering in true rebel without a cause style and crashing his motorcycle into outfield fences during games. Using his raging hormones as an excuse to be recruited onto the hapless last place Bears, Leak becomes the offensive powerhouse the team was missing and propels them into the championship with his bat, arm, and unlimited supply of Marlboros. Leak is portrayed by Jackie Earle Haley in the original and its two sequels. The Bad News Bears has a 96% Fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com and a 7.3 rating on imdb.com
Roger Dorn – Third Base, Major League (1989)
Dorn is a former all-star who simply waits out the end of his contract, hoping to avoid injury so he can go free agent and then Hollywood afterwards. More interested in his stock portfolio than his batting average, when he discovers that he will be unceremoniously dumped at the end of the season along with everyone else on the team, Dorn regains his all-star form and becomes a defensive stalwart at third base, sacrificing his body and future marketing potential to anchor the Indians infield. Then in the playoff game against the Yankees, Dorn’s clutch hit starts a rally which allows the Indians to tie the game. Dorn is played by Corbin Bernsen who at the time was a massive TV star thanks to his role on the hit show L.A. Law. Bernsen would reprise the role of Roger Dorn in both Major League sequels.
Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez – Shortstop, The Sandlot (1993)
A player truly dedicated to the game. Nothing would stop this kid from playing baseball. Only have 8 players? No problem. Giant monstrous man-eating dog beyond left field? Fuhgeddaboudit! 112 degrees in the shade? No sweat! Not even the voluptuous lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn could distract him from the game. When a ball autographed by Babe Ruth goes over the fence and into the lair of the murderous English Mastiff living beyond, Benny has an acid trip visit from the ghost of the Babe and then laces up his PF Flyers to retrieve the ball and outrun the Beast. He parlays this into a Major League career showcasing his speed with a steal of home in a game for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Benny is played by Mike Vitar who would also portray Luis Mendoza in the two Mighty Ducks sequels and is now a Los Angeles firefighter. The Sandlot holds a 63% Fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com and a 7.8 rating on imdb.com
Mickey Dominguez – Second Base, Summer Catch (2001)
For some reason, baseball movies never focus on second base so Mickey Dominguez from Summer Catch wins by default. Keeping in the Hollywood baseball movie tradition of all but completely ignoring second base, his storyline has nothing to do with baseball and instead focuses on the fact that the woman (played by Beverly D’Angelo) who is giving him room and board (while he plays for the Chatham Athletics of the Cape Cod Summer League) is a sexual predator who seduces Dominguez with a bowl fruit and a cucumber. He is portrayed by Wilmer Valderrama in his first feature film. Up until then Valderrama was only known for his work on the sitcom That 70’s Show where he also played a character put into awkward sexual situations. Summer Catch was a God-awful horrible movie and thankfully no one tried to make a sequel, so we never know the ultimate fate of Dominguez or how many sexually transmitted diseases he ended up contracting. Marla Hooch from A League of Their Own could have qualified here (what a hitter!) but her character only played half a season and she left her team to get married. Summer Catch is the worst baseball movie ever made and rightfully holds an 8% Fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com and a generous 4.9 rating on imdb.com
Jack Elliot – First Base, Mr. Baseball (1992)
Jack Elliot is a former World Series MVP past his prime with bad knees and a worse attitude, who is traded from the New York Yankees to the Chunichi Dragons of the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan. Elliot is not happy about it at all; but can either honor the contract or retire, so he packs his bags and heads to the land of the Rising Sun where he promptly does everything he can to insult their culture and history by refusing to compromise on anything. Naturally, this makes every woman in Japan want to sleep with him and he begins a relationship with his public relations consultant (who also happens to be the daughter of the team’s manager). Elliot’s diminished skills are on full display as he goes into a prolonged slump until he and his manager get drunk together and Elliot decides to listen to people who are actually from Japan about how to survive living in Japan. Led by Elliot’s rediscovered swing and power, the Dragons win the pennant and save Tokyo from Godzilla. Elliot is played by a post-Magnum P.I. pre-Friends Tom Selleck. Mr. Baseball is actually a decent movie but was universally hated by everyone and their mother. It has a 13% Fresh rating on rottentomotoes.com and a 5.8 rating on imdb.com
Crash Davis – Catcher, Bull Durham (1988)
Crash Davis is a switch-hitting catcher with a baseball IQ off the charts. Sadly, he has pissed off Karma more than anyone in history and because of that he has spent 99% of his career in the minor leagues. A great power hitter, his baseball smarts have apparently always been his own worst enemy as his AAA contract is bought out so he can be sent down to the lowest level of minor league baseball in order to tutor a phenom hotshot pitcher. Davis has always been smarter than anyone else on the field and be it franchise politics or his own ego, something has always been keeping him out of the big time because his talent is major league stuff. Davis gets involved in a crazy love triangle with a bohemian baseball stalker/part-time English teacher, and the very pitcher he’s supposed to be mentoring. Once he’s finished showing the future superstar hurler how to actually be a ballplayer, the organization releases him outright because why would you want to keep a guy who’s that smart and can hit home runs from both sides of the plate on your team. Davis is played by Kevin Costner at the height of his box-office stardom, before all that Waterworld bullshit. Bull Durham has a 97% Fresh rating on rottentomoatoes.com and a 7.1 rating on imdb.com
Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn – Pitcher, Major League (1989)
Rick Vaughn is a former car thief with a 102mph fastball and 20/70 vision recruited from the California Penal league. Since being almost blind is a hindrance in baseball; his control suffers, turning his blazing fastball into a lethal weapon and sticking him with the moniker “Wild Thing.” In his major league debut against the Yankees, Vaughn walks the bases loaded on 12 pitches and gives up a grand slam. He then hits the next batter earning him his first ejection. His teammates discover his crappy vision and fit him with a pair of glasses they borrowed from Elvis Costello. Actually being able to see where the ball should go improves Vaughn’s control, he becomes the team’s staff ace and fan favorite. His troubles against the Yankees continue during the season so when the Indians are set to play New York in a one game playoff, Vaughn’s turn in the rotation is skipped and he comes out of the bullpen with enough testosterone and tiger blood to fill Lake Erie, then causes a small earthquake, sending sales of the 60’s hit Wild Thing through the roof. He strikes out the final Yankees batter giving the Indians the chance to win it in the bottom of the 9th, which they do. Winning! The Wild Thing is played by the Wilder Thing, Charlie Sheen.
Kit Keller – Pitcher, A League of Their Own (1992)
A fireball pitcher with a chip on her shoulder, Keller was always living in the shadow of her big sister (literally as her sister had about 5 inches on her) who was the star baseball player in the family. No slouch of talent herself, Keller loudly channeled that sibling rivalry frustration, turning it into pure bratty attitude and a Napoleon complex of the first order. Her talented arm and utter refusal to quit quickly made her the ace of the Rockford Peaches. However, her desire to be her sister’s equal (and penchant for voicing that desire through temper-tantrums), led them to trade her bitchy ass to the rival Racine Belles. Keller got her revenge on her sister and her old team as she pitched the Belles over the Peaches in the big championship game giving the audience one more reason to dislike her as the players they had been cheering for the whole movie came in second. A League of Their Own is a great movie and 4 of the characters could have easily swapped places with the guys I did put on this list. Kit Keller is portrayed by Lori Petty fresh off her role in Point Break and right before her performance in Free Willy, followed by falling off the face of the Earth. A League of Their Own holds a 77% Fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com and a 7.1 rating on imdb.com
Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh – Pitcher, Bull Durham (1988)
Ebby Calvin LaLoosh was the hotshot pitcher with “a million dollar arm and a ten cent head.” An absolute stud thrower, his problem of course was that he had the maturity of a 2-year-old, a libido the size of Texas, and the attention span of a cocaine addict on meth. LaLoosh takes his signing bonus as buys a Porsche 911 with a quadrophonic Blaupunkt, which he feels is enough to prove he can play in the big leagues. Quickly given the nickname “Nuclear Meltdown” which is shortened to “Nuke”, the organization brings in Crash Davis, the smartest catcher in baseball to mentor him and show him the focus needed to be the superstar he’s destined to become. Nuke however is also getting advice from Annie, a baseball stalker who beds one ballplayer a season with the justification that she is going to turn them into an all-star through the sheer power of her va-jay-jay. Nuke is somehow able to straddle the line between the advice he gets from Davis (mainly stop sleeping with Annie and learn to throw a curveball), and the advice he gets from Annie (wear my underwear while you pitch) to become the pitcher he is supposed to be and gets the call up to majors. Nuke LaLoosh is played by Tim Robbins who is currently on TV right now as it is law that The Shawshank Redemption must be played 24 hours a day over various channels lest we forget how awesome it is.
Jake Taylor – Bench Coach, Major League II (1994)
After sort of being the main character in the first Major League movie (or the only one with more than two dimensions anyway); in the sequel, Major League II, Jake Taylor finds himself staring down the end of his career, and takes the job as the Indians bench coach in order to stay in the game he loves. He is quickly made interim manager after the team’s real manager suffers a heart attack while calling his squad a bunch of losers. Taylor is able to lead the team further down the standings into the cellar until manufacturing a bench clearing brawl on his own bench and the Indians beat each other to a pulp. After the cathartic fight club session, the team rallies around itself with Taylor leading them into the playoffs. Jake Taylor is played by Tom Berenger in both movies. Despite returning the entire cast (except Wesley Snipes) Major League II was nowhere near as fantastic as Major League and no one anywhere liked it. It scores an 5% Fresh rating on Rottentomatoes.com and a 5.4 rating on imdb.com
Larry Hockett – Pitching Coach, Bull Durham (1988)
Larry Hockett is the gum chomping pitching coach of the then Single A Durham Bulls given the organization’s prized possession – Ebby Calvin LaLoosh, who is destined to be an all-star he quickly realizes he is in over his head, so when his manager brings in veteran catcher Crash Davis to help teach the kid how to pitch, Larry doesn’t get his nose out of joint instead he welcomes the help. Hockett is actually a decent coach and the perfect wingman for his manager, helping him address the team of lollygaggers and listening to his star pitcher when he becomes unable to breathe out of his eyelids properly. Hockett’s shining moment comes when he interrupts an extremely long meeting on the mound and solves the big “what do we get Millie and Jimmy for their wedding present” dilemma. Hockett is played by Robert Wuhl who the next year appeared in a minor role in Tim Burton’s Batman where he didn’t solve anyone’s wedding issues.
Phil Brickma – Hitting Coach, Rookie of the Year (1993)
Phil Brickma is the hitting coach of the Chicago Cubs, a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1908. In a move that proves exactly why the Cubs haven’t won anything in nine decades, the team asks their hitting instructor to tutor their new pitching phenom – Henry Rowengarter, who happens to be a genetically altered 12-year-old whose tendons have tightened and can now throw 100+mph. Brickma (who shows off his hitting skills by repeatedly popping the ball into the air and onto his head) passes on such wisdom to Henry as “The key to being a big league pitcher is the 3 R’s: readiness, recuperation, and conditioning!” and shows the boy how to store leftovers in an air-sickness bag during their road trip charter flight. Brickma spends most of the movie in a running gag where he is trapped in small spaces, perhaps explaining his persona due to the prolonged exposure to situations that deprive him of adequate oxygen. Even with his complete ineptitude, he shows to be a genuine caring human being and delivers the movie’s most sage piece of wisdom, “Sometimes you just gotta put the pedal to the metal and live the fantasy! Rock and roll!” Brickma is played by Daniel Stern who turned his successful roles in Home Alone, Home Alone II, and City Slickers into box office gold with this role. That was sarcasm by the way. Rookie of the Year was not a good film and holds a 39% Fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com and a 5.8 rating on imdb.com
Jimmy Dugan – Manager, A League of Their Own (1992)
Jimmy Dugan is a former power hitting World Series hero who after blowing out his knee, crawls into a bottle to lament the early exit of his baseball career. After a series of managing failures he is given the job of managing the Rockford Peaches, one of the first women’s professional baseball teams because he still has name recognition. He approaches the job by deciding to soak up all of the misogyny in the greater Chicago area and then drenching it in bourbon chaser. Hung-over and giving zero f*cks, Dugan doesn’t even fill out a lineup card or bother to learn the player’s names. He spends the first part of the season completely bombed until in a rare moment of sobriety, he notices the team star player (who has been acting as de facto manager) signal for a squeeze bunt instead of letting their best hitter swing away. Realizing that the women around him can actually play baseball, Dugan starts to lead them and in doing so rediscovers the passion for the game that lay dormant inside him. Jimmy Dugan is portrayed by Tom Hanks who the very next year would win his first Academy Award.