Batter up!: The A.V. Club’s pop culture baseball all-star team
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With baseball season just around the corner, The A.V. Club has sports on the brain. Of course, we’re interested in more than just the crack of the bat and the thrill of lukewarm beer. The A.V. Club’s also been mentally cataloguing our favorite baseball movies, from The Bad News Bears to Mr. 3000, and our favorite fictional baseball players, from Mae “All The Way Mae” Mordabito to Major League’s diabolical team owner Rachel Phelps. As The A.V. Club doesn’t know how to celebrate a major event without some sort of arbitrary list, we’ve taken a poll and come up with our all-time roster of fictional baseball talent. These players might not have the best batting averages or on-base percentages, but they’ve got moxie, and that’s all that matters. Remember, it’s not whether you win, but how you fictionally play the game.
First base: Jack Elliot (Mr. Baseball)
Tom Selleck’s smug, over-the-hill slugger and first-baseman may not have been good enough for the Yankees, but he’s good enough for us. Mr. Baseball saw Selleck’s Jack Elliot traded to the Nagoya Chunichi Dragons (part of Japan’s Nippon League), where he brushes up against the niceties of Japanese culture (bowing, seriousness, different languages and toilet configurations, etc.). But that’s precisely the kind of globe-trotting experience we admire on a team already stacked with arrogant prima donnas and self-destructive drunks. Plus, he could make it more fun. You know, just like he did in Mr. Baseball?
Honorable mentions: Clu Haywood (Major League), Stan Ross (Mr. 3000), Lou Collins (Little Big League), Nat Goldberg (Take Me Out To The Ballgame)
There’s some major talent here, and another over-the-hill slugger in Bernie Mac’s Stan “Mr. 3000” Ross. But do any of these players boast a thick-cut, Selleck-grade cookie duster defining their upper lip? That’s the kind of brand-name facial hair that wins ball games.
Second base: Marla Hooch (A League of Their Own)
“How about Marla Hooch? What a hitter!” Raised like a boy by her father, and subject time and again to cruel jokes about her appearance, it’s painfully clear that she was begrudgingly chosen by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League only after two players who had both beauty and talent refused to play without her. We, however, heart Marla because she’s a powerhouse switch-hitting slugger who—after slapping on a dress and chugging a lot of liquor—found true love and, ultimately, confidence.
Honorable mention: Mickey “Domo” Dominguez (Summer Catch)
Third base: Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (The Sandlot)
Like all good nostalgia, that for baseball’s “golden era” is imbued with a certain kind of magic. In The Sandlot, Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez—star player, star teammate, and star human—embodies that same spirit of the game. Benny’s love of baseball is magical enough to warrant a visit from The Sultan Of Swat (albeit in a dream), to hit a ball directly into the glove of a kid like Scotty Smalls, to pickle the neighborhood beast, and, eventually to steal home in the pros. More than his innate knowledge of the game, more than his brand-new PF Flyers, it’s his attitude: “Man, this is baseball. You’ve got to stop thinking. Just have fun.” Who wouldn’t want this guy on their team?
Honorable mentions: Doris Murphy (A League Of Their Own), Ed (Ed), Roger Dorn (Major League)
Shortstop: Tanner Boyle (The Bad News Bears)
For brevity’s sake, we’ll skip over the TV and remake versions of the Bad News Bears’ shortstop (both portrayed by different actors) and start the OG Tanner Boyle played by Chris Barnes. This puny jerk faces a distinct height disadvantage and beats it back with profanity, reckless disregard for himself, and pit bull-tenacity that make him a valuable asset in an important position. It also means he’s a real asshole in the clubhouse.
Honorable mention: Kofi Evans (Hardball)
Despite lacking most of the basic skills essential to playing the position, Kofi Evans can cut to the bone with his well-crafted insults (“You suck ... like my girlfriend.”), which could be useful for hurting the feelings of opposing players.
Pitchers: Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Major League), Kenny Powers (Eastbound And Down), and Henry Rowengartner (Rookie Of The Year)
Sure, there’s a lot of volatility packed into these three mound assassins, but there’s also a lot of velocity and tenacity. Most teams would kill for one ace in their rotation, so this trio of arms should be considered deadly. They do have their drawbacks: Vaughn has control issues, Powers has a hell of a temper, and Rowengartner is young. But when they’re hitting the bull’s-eye, the power and intimidation of these pitchers is enough to make any batter question crowding the plate.
Honorable mentions: Montgomery Brewster (Brewster’s Millions), Mel Clark (Angels In The Outfield), Moonlight Graham (Field Of Dreams), Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh (Bull Durham), Eddie Harris (Major League), Chet “Rocket” Steadman (Rookie Of The Year), Jim Morris (The Rookie)
While there’s still some volatile youth in this group (LaLoosh), there’s plenty of veteran experience that could serve as stability for the three flamethrowers. Still, there’s a bit too much age between the likes of Harris, Graham, and Morris, relegating them here.
Catcher: Hamilton Porter, a.k.a. Ham (The Sandlot)
To excel behind the plate, catchers do need a varied skill set. But, while all of that stuff about “hand signals” and “game strategy” is probably great, the smart money’s on a catcher who knows how to talk some trash. In this category, Ham reigns supreme in The Sandlot. When it comes to sticking up for the home team, maximum points go to Ham for creativity (“If my dog were as ugly as you, I’d shave his butt and tell him to walk backwards,”) and poignancy (“Is that your sister out in left field, naked? … She’s naked.”). Bonus points awarded for his ultra-authoritative s’more-making lessons.
Honorable mentions: Crash Davis (Bull Durham), Spike Nolan (Brewster’s Millions), Dottie Hinson (A League Of Their Own)
Outfield: Roy Hobbs (The Natural), the brainwashed Angels’ right fielder played by Reggie Jackson (Naked Gun), Al The Boss Angel (Angels In The Outfield)
Hobbs may be a veteran, but he’s a wily one with the power of Wonderbat and clutch timing. As for Reggie Jackson, even when he’s brainwashed, he’s still Hall Of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson. Plus, with the mind control, there won’t be any disagreements with management making for a consistent season emotionally, at least. Lastly, Christopher Lloyd’s character in Angels is, well, an angel. Every winning team needs talent and luck on their side and surely having God, too, can’t hurt.
Honorable mentions: Willie Mays Hayes (Major League), Pedro Cerrano (Major League), Kelly Leak (Bad News Bears), Mae “All The Way Mae” Mordabito (A League Of Their Own)
Consistency is important in baseball, something you won’t get from Cerrano, Hayes, or Leak. And while Mordabito and Hayes have speed on their side, they lack the mystique or divine intervention the starters have.
Coach: Lou Brown (Major League)
For baseball purists, Lou Brown is everything a coach should be—gruff, no nonsense, and to the point. As the coach of the worst-to-first Cleveland Indians, Brown has the skills to work with both losers and winners, as well as the general bad-assery necessary to deal with player drama. Brown knows how to handle difficult situations with aplomb. Is one player’s desire to kill a chicken in the clubhouse weirding out the rest of the team? This coach has a workaround that will satisfy everyone.
Honorable mentions: Ernie “Coach” Pantusso (Cheers), Billy Heywood (Little Big League), Pop Fisher (The Natural), Phil Brickma (Rookie Of The Year)
It’s probably okay to throw Brickma in our bullpen to mentor Henry Rowengartner, but there’s no way we’d trust him with the whole gang. Fisher and Pantusso have the years, but neither really inspire the confidence that Brown does, and Heywood, well, he’s in middle school, so that decision is a gimme.
Announcer: Harry Doyle (Major League)
Nothing brings a baseball game to life quite like an experienced, slightly inebriated radio announcer, and no one fits that bill better than Major League’s Harry Doyle. As played by legendary Milwaukee Brewers announcer Bob Uecker, Doyle embodies the encyclopedic knowledge of a play-by-play pro (“Juuuust a bit outside!”) as well as the base frustration of a foul-mouthed fan (“One hit? That’s all we got, one goddamn hit?”) It’s that everyman quality that makes Doyle/Uecker a shoo-in for our spot in the booth, along with the fact that he was savvy enough to make only a perfunctory appearance in the Scott Bakula-starring Major League: Back To The Minors.
Mascot: Dancin’ Homer (The Simpsons)
Homer Simpson’s held down a lot of jobs: Nuclear safety inspector, country music agent, bootlegger, pin monkey, clown impersonator, founder and junior vice president of Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net, astronaut, and probably 200 more. But with the potential exception of pin monkey, he’s never quite shone in a job like he did when working as Dancin’ Homer, mascot for the Springfield Isotopes ball club and, later, for the Capital City Capitals. Decked out in a red cape, suspenders, and ball cap, Dancin’ Homer whipped crowds into a frenzy to the staid tune of “Baby Elephant Walk,” giving even the celebrated Capital City Goofball a run for his money.
National Anthem singer/umpire: Detective Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Naked Gun)
You can keep your bombastic Whitney Houston and Roseanne renditions of our national anthem; when it comes to true star-spangled inspiration, we’ll take the vocal sylings of Frank Drebin—in the guise of “internationally renowned opera star” Enrico Palazzo—any day. Ever the utility man, Drebin also serves as our home plate umpire. His fast and loose approach to the rules of baseball may be unorthodox (the Queen’s life is at stake, dammit!) but he certainly knows how to give the crowd exactly what they want (“Strike?”). He’s also not afraid to frisk players on the field, interfere with routine pop-ups, and clean home plate with a Dustbuster, all to the delightfully ridiculous sounds of Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”
Spiritual advisor: Jobu (Major League)
The A.V. Club isn’t exactly a spiritual organization, but we do believe that clubhouse mojo can be tainted by some bad juju. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary that we bring on Major League’s Jobu to ward away evil spirits and keep our team’s bats from being deathly afraid of curveballs. Not only is Jobu helpful for voodoo practitioners, he can also help settle down other notoriously superstitious baseball players. Plus, he looks pretty cool with his cigar and little cup of rum.