After months without sports during the pandemic, our national pastime is finally back.
Thursday is Opening Day for Major League Baseball, as the Washington Nationals host the New York Yankees before the Baltimore Orioles visit the Boston Red Sox on Friday.
To celebrate baseball’s return, I’ve compiled an all-star roster of baseball movie players.
Baseball Movie Roster
General Manager: Billy Beane (“Moneyball”)
Brad Pitt’s portrayal of real-life Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane was an instant classic thanks to Jonah Hill’s support and a script by Aaron Sorkin and Steve Zaillian.
Manager: Jimmy Dugan (“A League of Their Own”)
So what if he’s drunk on the job? Tom Hanks delivered an iconic performance coaching the all-women Rockford Peaches and teaching us all that “there’s no crying in baseball.”
First Base Coach: Lou Brown (“Major League”)
“Now we’re rolling boys!” The late James Gammon was absolutely hilarious spitting sarcastic zingers under his mustache: “He may run like Mays, but he hits like sh**.”
Third Base Coach: Morris Buttermaker (“The Bad News Bears”)
There would be no “Mighty Ducks” without “The Bad News Bears,” as Walter Matthau coached a little league team in a role that was later reprised by Billy Bob Thornton.
Bench Coach: George Knox (“Angels in the Outfield”)
If our team ever gets down on its luck, we’ll turn to George Knox (Danny Glover) for his belief in miracles, joining the fans to wave his arms like wings for an angelic assist.
Left Field: Shoeless Joe Jackson (“Field of Dreams”)
A year before “Goodfellas,” Ray Liotta delivered a haunting performance as the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson, purging his gambling sins by playing ball in an Iowa cornfield.
Center Field: Willie “Mays” Hayes (“Major League”)
Before “Blade,” Wesley Snipes gave us Willie “Mays” Hayes, robbing home runs and stealing bases. In case of injury, Snipes is his own backup as Bobby Rayburn in “The Fan.” Third on the depth chart: Anthony Perkins’ Jimmy Piersall in “Fear Strikes Out.”
Right Field: Roy Hobbs (“The Natural”)
Robert Redford may have struck out The Whammer as a pitcher, but he later moved to the outfield for the New York Knights. He deserves a roster spot for his clutch heroics with his mythical bat Wonderboy, exploding the stadium lights to Thomas Newman’s music.
First Base: Lou Gehrig (“The Pride of the Yankees”)
“Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” Gary Cooper was iconic as The Iron Horse struck down by the illness that would ultimately bear his name, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, today known as ALS. “Is it three strikes, doc?” “It’s three strikes.”
Second Base: Jackie Robinson (“42″)
Next to Gary Cooper’s Lou Gehrig we have Chadwick Boseman’s Jackie Robinson, who endured vicious racism to break baseball’s color barrier in 1947. It was the first of several Black biopics from James Brown (“Get On Up”) to Thurgood Marshall (“Marshall”) that ultimately landed Boseman his career role as the superhero T’Challa in “Black Panther.”
Short Stop: Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez (“The Sandlot”)
Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez became the stuff of childhood legend when he outran The Beast in his PF Flyers to retrieve a ball signed by Babe Ruth. If The Beast somehow catches him, our backup short stop is John Cusack’s Buck Weaver (“Eight Men Out”), the only player in the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal not to take the gamblers’ money.
Third Base: Roger Dorn (“Major League”)
Sure, he became a whiner in “Major League II,” but Roger Dorn began as a solid third baseman played by Corbin Bernsen at the height of his TV fame on “L.A. Law.” In the end, Dorn proved he could set aside off-the-field jealousy for the good of the team.
Designated Hitter: Jack Elliot (“Mr. Baseball”)
After “Magnum P.I.,” Tom Selleck played slugger Jack Elliot who begrudgingly moves to Japan. Selleck should give us one good Kirk Gibson swing before subbing in Dennis Haysbert’s Pedro Cerrano (“Major League”) and Bernie Mac’s Stan Ross (“Mr. 3,000”).
Catcher: Dottie Hinson (“A League of Their Own”)
Geena Davis showed guts as pioneering Rockford Peaches catcher Dottie Hinson. If her sister takes her out in a home-plate collision, backups are Kevin Costner’s Crash Davis (“Bull Durham”), Tom Berenger’s Jake Taylor (“Major League”), Robert De Niro’s Bruce Pearson (“Bang the Drum Slowly”) and Patrick Renna’s Ham Porter (“The Sandlot”).
Starting Pitcher #1: Nuke LaLoosh (“Bull Durham”)
Before playing Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption,” Tim Robbins shined as pitcher Nuke LaLoosh in “Bull Durham,” romancing real-life-wife Susan Sarandon with sports cliches: “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains.”
Starting Pitcher #2: Amanda Whurlitzer (“The Bad News Bears”)
The second starter in our pitching rotation is child prodigy Amanda Whurtlizer, who struck out the boys in an awesome turn by Tatum O’Neal after her Oscar for “Paper Moon.”
Starting Pitcher #3: Henry Rowengartner (“Rookie of the Year”)
The third starter in our pitching rotation is Thomas Ian Nicholas’ little leaguer Henry Rowengartner, who breaks his arm to gain a magical ability to throw “high stinky cheese” fastballs under the tutelage of Gary Busey’s seasoned veteran Chet Steadman.
Starting Pitcher #4: Bingo Long (“Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings”)
In between “Brian’s Song” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” Billy Dee Williams starred as Negro League pitcher Bingo Long with James Earl Jones as his catcher and Richard Pryor as his right fielder. Talk about hilarious conversations in the dugout.
Starting Pitcher #5: Steve Nebraska (“The Scout”)
The fifth and final starter in our pitching rotation is Brendan Fraser’s pitching prospect Steve Nebraska, discovered by Yankees scout Al Percolo in a witty turn by Albert Brooks.
Relief Pitcher #1: Mel Clark (“Angels in the Outfield”)
Our bullpen has to include Tony Danza’s Mel Clark, who goes from washed-up has-been to overdue champion. It can’t hurt to have a reliever with a little help from above.
Relief Pitcher #2: Eddie Cicotte (“Eight Men Out”)
Before his iconic role as Edward R. Murrow in “Good Night and Good Luck,” David Strathairn played pitcher Eddie Cicotte in “Eight Men Out,” but is he on the up and up?
Relief Pitcher #3: Billy Chapel (“For the Love of the Game”)
After a pair of classics in “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner returned to the genre in this tale of Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel, who debates giving up his sports passion of 19 years when he learns his girlfriend is moving to London for a job.
Relief Pitcher #4: Jim Morris (“The Rookie”)
Dennis Quaid inspired as Texas chemistry teacher Jim Morris, who agrees to try out for the major leagues if his high school team makes the playoffs. Sure enough, he makes the Tampa Bay Rays in an inspirational underdog tale that deserves a spot on our roster.
Closing Pitcher: Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (“Major League”)
Before becoming a tabloid maniac, Charlie Sheen was an ’80s superstar from “Platoon” to “Wall Street.” His best role was Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, donning black-rimmed glasses and a zig-zag haircut to run onto the field for a “Wild Thing” entrance in the 9th.
Umpire: Frank Drebin (“The Naked Gun”)
Calling balls and strikes behind the plate, we have Leslie Nielsen’s Frank Drebin for his comic relief and sweet dance moves. He just might prevent a Reggie Jackson assassin.
Team Mascot: Al (“Angels in the Outfield”)
Flying around the stands to inspire the fans is head angel Christopher Lloyd, who uses the American League’s “AL” logo on a ballcap to come up with his human alias “Al.”
Team Doctor: Moonlight Graham (“Field of Dreams”)
If there’s one medical professional you want on your staff it’s Burt Lancaster, who gave up his dream of playing in order to save a child from choking on a ballpark hotdog.
Broadcaster: Bob Uecker (“Major League”)
In the booth, Bob Uecker’s Harry Doyle will do the play by play with signature calls like, “Juuuuust a bit outside!” Just don’t let his assistant take over: “Fly ball. Caught.”
Sports Writer: Terence Mann (“Field of Dreams”)
Finally, our club must include James Earl Jones’ sports writer Terence Mann: “America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.”