I was the last writer to nab a spot in our staff fictional player draft, and lucked out in that I saw the last call go out right before the plane I had just boarded was due to depart. Life, of course, is a zero-sum game, so this was everyone else’s collective misfortune as I clearly crushed them all in this completely random, arbitrary and subjective exercise. No matter what happens when we post the bracket for voting, I won’t be convinced otherwise. It’s 2019, we’re allowed to make up our own facts. Anyway, here’s the blow-by-blow on the construction my championship squad.
Round 1: “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, OF, Eight Men Out
I didn’t necessarily go into the draft with this or any other sort of plan, but half of my picks wound up being real baseball players who featured in works of fiction, including my first selection. It’s tough to argue with one of the greatest players of the dead ball era as a starting point. Jackson’s expulsion from the game, and the continued refusal of Major League Baseball to reinstate him, is a travesty of justice. Seriously, the dude set a record for hits in that World Series, how are you gonna kick him out for supposedly taking a dive?
Round 2: Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, SP, Major League
Even though pitchers tend to get a lot of attention in baseball movies (which means there’s a large pool to draw from), I wanted to grab an arm early, and who better than the California Penal League’s finest? Vaughn bounced between the rotation and the bullpen in the film, but I felt comfortable making him the ace of my staff. Because actor Charlie Sheen actually knew how to pitch, it’s arguable that no purely fictional pitcher had a more realistic motion. And when it comes to style, attitude and velocity, I’d put him up against anyone.
Round 3: Hamilton “The Great Hambino” Porter, C, The Sandlot
There was no way I was going to put together a team without a player from this movie. Porter may ultimately have grown up to become a professional wrestler rather than a professional baseball player, and Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez was clearly the most talented of this bunch, but Ham was the team’s heart and soul, and unquestionably one of the all-time great trash talkers.
Round 4: Ozzie “The Wizard” Smith, SS, The Simpsons
Hall of Fame shortstop from one of the best episodes of a Hall of Fame show. If only he hadn’t gone to the Springfield Mystery Spot before the game…
Round 5: Lou Gehrig, 1B, Pride of the Yankees
The beloved, Hall of Fame athlete portrayed by one of the biggest names in early Hollywood slots in as my big middle-of-the-order bat.
Round 6: Mel Clark, SP, Angels in the Outfield
Dude threw 160 pitches (!!!) in a do-or-die game and he had cancer. Enough said.
Round 7: Tim “Rock” Raines, DH, Little Big League
One of the great all-time leadoff men in the seventh round? I’ll take that any day. Raines was a pretty lousy defensive player, though, so he’ll slot in as my DH.
Round 8: Wade “The Chicken Man” Boggs, 3B, The Simpsons
I went back to “Homer at the Bat” well with this pick, since there weren’t a ton of third basemen left on the board. Plus, Boggs is a team player, unlike Don Mattingly with those damn sideburns.
Round 9: Hiroshi “Kamikaze” Tanaka, OF, Major League II
Terrible sequel to a movie that didn’t need one (and got another after this, somehow), but Tanaka is a highlight for his fearless play in the field. Along with Shoeless Joe and my next pick, there aren’t going to many balls dropping in my outfield.
Round 10: Kelly Leak, OF, The Bad News Bears
I have no idea how he fell this far, but Leak was a no-brainer pick. Along with Amanda Wurlitzer, he turned the Bears from a laughingstock into a contender, even if he made the final out in the championship game trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park grand slam. Also, he’s got some pretty sick moves on a dirt bike.
Round 11: Billy “The Duke” Duke, RP, Major League
He led the league in saves, and wouldn’t have been saddled with the loss in the film’s climactic game if his third baseman had been a better and/or more aware fielder. As awesome as the “call your shot and then bunt” play is, you can’t throw out a catcher with two garbage knees? C’mon, son.
Round 12: Mark Ellis, 2B, Moneyball
Second base is not an especially robust position in terms of fictional representation. I considered going with What from Abbott and Costello’s famous “Who’s on First?” routine, but felt that would have been a bit too cute. Instead, I went with Ellis, who had the best season of his career during the season depicted in Moneyball.
(Photo by Justin Paradis)
I have a great foundation up the middle, tons of attitude and mental toughness, multiple Hall of Famers and clearly the best collection of nicknames. What more do you need?
(Main photo by Justin Paradis)