One List. Two Lou’s. Three Acceptable Options.

I’ve often wondered what my Mom and Dad did to pass the time during the day at work.  My stepfather and stepmother were a plumber and teacher respectively so they never really had the 9-5 challenge of staying awake and being productive.  Nowadays you can practically coast through 2/3’s of a given day on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Youtube, Foursquare (not sure why this one exists), various blogs, websites, Hulu, and on and on.  Honestly, how many times can you go to the bathroom?  How many times can you walk over to a co-worker’s desk (notice, not email or IM) and ask them to grab some coffee or visit the water cooler?  If I had to put up with that nowadays, I don’t know how I’d survive.

With the Internet we find out things instantly and we are able to communicate to others in an instant of finding out the news of the day.  Somehow it got by me yesterday that James Gammons passed away.  Now for many of you, chances are that by name alone, you don’t know who I’m talking about.  However, what if I say “None of this OH-LAY ********” or “Forget the curve ball, Ricky.  Give him the heater”.

Now do you know who I’m talking about?

Of course you do.

The actor that played Cleveland Indians manager, Lou Brown, in the film Major League passed away yesterday at the age of 70. Here is the article in the NYTimes.  In my opinion, James Gammon is responsible for giving us the best overall performance of a baseball manager in the history of film.  I loved his dry humor and the way he’d deliver his lines.  His voice could help you pick him out of a line-up all by itself, as it probably should be credited for landing him a number of roles that he played.  His performance was impeccable and unforgettable, proven by the fact that I still quote him over and over again even after a decade’s passing since the film came out.

It got me thinking about the greatest performances of all-time when it comes to depicting baseball managers.  As soon as I posted on Twitter upon hearing the news that I feel Gammon’s performance was my favorite and the best of all time, someone tweeted “Wilford Brimley is pissed at you right now”.  I know Brimley was the oatmeal guy and had a long respectable acting career.  I know he was likable and many think his performance in The Natural is the all-time best.  However, I disagree.  I respect Brimley’s performance and in fact I think it was the third best of all time.  Who comes in second?  Well, here is my list of the top five of all time starting with number 5:

5. William Devane in “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training”

While he can’t live up to Matthau’s performance and really, who can?..(not Billy Bob Thornton, that’s for sure)…he is responsible for coming through in the end for his son, Kelly Leak, and for his Bad News team against the mighty Houston Toros.  Watching Tanner run away from the umpires is my all-time favorite Bears moment, however, it’s the moment that happens right after Tanner starts yelling “The game’s not over, we’re not finished!” that really tugs at the heart strings.  The old guy with money to burn and a ten gallon hat jumps on board, then we as the audience do as the rest of the fans in the Astrodome do when the Bears’ manager, Kelly’s dad, runs on the field to support Tanner’s efforts in giving his guys a chance to win it all with a heartfelt “LET THEM PLAY!  LET THEM PLAY!”  TRY to watch that scene and not feel the absolute yanks on the heart strings while he convinces everyone in that stadium, the Astros included (in their old ugly uni’s, although to their credit they are the inspiration for the chant) to let the game go on.  A great moment and simply for that, he gets number 5 on the list.  Here is that moment:
4. Tom Hanks in “A League of Their Own”
It goes to show you how I feel about the other performances if Mr. Oscar himself is sitting in at number 4.  Hanks’ comedic chops and timing deliver a memorable performance of a washed up, alcoholic, has-been who is stuck managing in the lady bigs.  A guy’s guy, managing a bunch of women was probably the last thing Jimmy ever thought he’d be doing.  However once he comes around and realizes the heart his players have and decides to work along side his star player in Geena Davis, his story hits it’s arc and it’s a performance worthy of number 5 on this list.  And honestly, we all remember there’s no crying in baseball.  Why?  Because Tom Hanks said so.
3. Wilford Brimley in “The Natural”
The old guy just wanted to win.  He had nothing left for BS.  He had nothing left for politics.  He certainly didn’t have anything left to battle gambling that was starting to play an effect in outcomes of games.  When he found out his ‘new’ talent was an old outfielder and that he was expected to do something with what he viewed as never-was garbage, he was irate.  Yet it was this same talent, Roy Hobbs and his Wonderboy bat that saved the day and the pennant.  Brimley’s mustache helps him get the edge over Hanks in addition to the film itself being a classic.  Movies can’t achieve that status without it’s actors providing incredible performances like Wilford’s.
2. Walter Matthau in “The Bad News Bears”
Matthau starred in one of the raciest baseball scripts of it’s time as a little league baseball manager.  Although they way these kids talked and the way Matthau’s character behaved it easily could’ve been the Majors.  This was basically South Park before there was South Park.  All we needed was Lupus running around going “Oh My God, they killed Tanner!”  Matthau hates his life but has to continue his role as manager of this sorry group of kids.  As their season goes horribly and the kids are ready to give up, he’s afraid of seeing that part of him coming through in his kids and he gets under their skin to finally get them performing.  Swiggin beers and working with his new female pitcher (another role of a movie manager having a problem with a female player, interesting) and his new star outfielder in Kelly Leak, along with building a comraderie with Engelbert, the two kids who could only speak Engl
ish and his useless in the field, great at keeping score/taking a pitch team geek made Matthau and this team a bunch of guys you loved to root for.  A drunk little league manager doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of guy you’d like to root for, but in Matthau’s hands it was a lot of fun and one of the best ever.
1.  James Gammon as Lou Brown in “Major League”
The great thing about Lou Brown as a manager was the way he used the information he had on the owner’s wish of throwing the season to move to Miami as motivation to get his guys angry and play beyond expectations.  That’s something that a big league club needs.  A common goal and common enemy at times to get your team going as a team and picking up ground in the standings.  Gammon showed absolutely no interest in joining the club at first and then in the end of course, they get it done.  The rest of my thoughts on his performance are included above.  Thanks for all the quotes, James.  You da’ man buddy. Of course, not a lot of his quotes aren’t NSFW so here is a fun behind the scenes video for the film:
That aspect of being able to rally your team for a common goal is something I feel Piniella was always missing (and still is) with the Cubs.  Division titles in 07 and 08 were great, but you could tell he couldn’t get this team over the hump in being swept in the playoffs and not returning in ’09.  Lou announced he’ll retire after the 2010 season and I’d love to see him go out a winner.  I just don’t know that a cardboard cut out of Jim Hendry with removable pieces revealing more and more of his body is going to cut it with this squad.  (Maybe the Ricketts sister?  Or what about Sarah Spain perhaps?)  I appreciate what Lou has done with this team as it’s been one of the best tenures in Cubs history.  Just would’ve been great to see him win the big one with the Cubs knowing what it’d mean to him, the city and the organization and it’s fans.
Seeing that he’s out soon, here are the three possible replacements that I would actually be OK with:  Ryne Sandberg, Bobby Valentine and Alan Trammell.  More on that in another post.  For now, here is some information on the career Lou has compiled.
Going to watch the rest of the game now without typing through the whole thing.  Cubs down 6-0 in the fourth to the Astros currently.  Dempster on the mound.
Forget the curveball Ryan, give him the heater.
Go Cubs Go!