All around baseball, teams have an official Spring Training report date for pitchers and catchers. They all fall between February 13th and February 18th, with the bulk of teams asking their pitchers and catchers to report to camp on February 14th this year. In appreciation for pitchers and catchers reporting, here’s a complete pitching staff made up of the best pitchers from the movies. I’ve even thrown in a handful of movie catchers for good measure. First, the starting pitchers:
Eddie Cicotte, Eight Men Out
I suppose it’s cheating a bit to include Cicotte since David Strathairn was portraying an actual Major League player from the early 20th century. But what better way to honor a member of the Black Sox than by cheating to include him? And what a pitcher Cicotte was. He won 209 games in his career, including 29 in 1919 (one win shy of the 30 that would have earned him a bonus, as explained in the film). Cicotte also racked up a 2.38 ERA, and was the best pitcher in the game by several measures in 1917. So what if he took the fall in a couple of World Series games? I won’t hold it against him.
Grover Cleveland Alexander, The Winning Team
When Ronald Reagan wasn’t on the campaign trail comparing hippies to monkeys, or acting alongside monkeys himself, he starred in a film about Hall of Famer Grover Cleveland Alexander. The pitcher with the presidential name (and portrayer) amassed 373 wins in his career and won the pitcher’s triple crown three times. For good measure, he finished 3rd in MVP voting in his rookie year and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1938, his third year of eligibility.
“Opposing Pitcher”, Cobb
There was a Philadelphia A’s pitcher in this film who possessed a menacing temperament, amazing command, and some serious quéso. He looked a whole lot like Roger Clemens. In fact, his entire repertoire was a lot like Clemens’ repertoire. He’s listed in the credits only as “Opposing Pitcher”. The guy gets a spot on my pitching staff, without a doubt.
Billy Chapel, For Love of the Game
A once-solid starter who now uses gumption and guile to get hitters out, Chapel still possessed enough in his arm to roll out a perfect game. I have faith that Chapel could win on the right team (e.g. NOT the late 1990’s Detroit Tigers). Bonus points go to the people who made the film for finding someone who actually looked like a baseball player in Kevin Costner. And that’s with good reason- Costner played college baseball at Cal State Fullerton under legendary college coach Augie Garrido.
Eddie Harris, Major League
Not-so-subtly based on Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry, Harris was notorious for doctoring pitches. This was famously noted by Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker), who would point out when Harris was throwing illegal pitches like his bread and butter pitch, the “Vaseline ball”. Although a potential clubhouse distraction with his massive disrespect for the beliefs of teammates, Harris would be a nice addition as someone who could eat innings, avoid walks, and let his defense and run support do his work for him.
Now, the bullpen:
Henry Wiggen, Bang the Drum Slowly
Wiggen’s ability to start is evident in the film, and he has enough star power to make serious contract demands. However, the team’s apprehension about caving to those demands leave me a little bit worried that he could handle being in the rotation throughout the season. He’d be the perfect antidote as a swing man/6th starter type who could easily be spackled into the rotation when Chapel and Harris have their inevitable bumps and bruises and need time on the disabled list.
Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh, Bull Durham
LaLoosh’s age and erratic arm make him too much of a liability in a Major League rotation, but he’d be a perfect weapon as a right-handed setup man. Of course, this is only a temporary assignment until he avoids injuries and successfully learns to breathe through his eyelids competently at the Major League level.
Jim Morris, The Rookie
As a die-hard fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I’m routinely exposed to the Tony LaRussa Orgy of Late Game Pitching Matchups™, wherein the entire win-or-loss verdict hinges upon some wily veteran LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) and his ability to retire left-handed hitters. And why not play the platoon advantage late in a game? Morris fills the role perfectly.
Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, Major League
It took Vaughn a few months to channel his energies appropriately. Once he did so, he had success both as a starter and a reliever. It’s his power arm (and not the repertoire of garbage secondary pitches that we all saw in Major League II) that makes him my closer. He even has successful Postseason Experience™, the magical mystical pixie dust force that baseball pundits attribute to small sample size success in the biggest games of the season. Give ’em the heater, Ricky.
Satchel Paige, Soul of the Game
I’m cheating again by including an actual pitcher on the list who’s been portrayed in film. This time, I have several reasons. First and foremost, Satchel Paige was an amazing pitcher who was robbed of his proper place in baseball lore because of bunch of racist assholes. Second, I feel obligated to give a little love to this movie, which is one of my all-time favorite baseball movies. HBO did it up right in the mid-1990’s. And third, the real-life Paige would be perfect for this pitching staff. He had a rubber arm and could gobble up four innings at a time, day after day after day. And since I’m opting for an unheard of 10-man staff, those innings are extremely valuable. Besides, someone needs to provide some stability and wisdom to the kids like Vaughn and LaLoosh.
And finally, the catchers…
Jake Taylor, Major League
Nobody could call a game quite like Jake Taylor, even if I do question his managerial acumen. Taylor’s steady presence behind the plate was an integral piece of the Indians’ meteoric rise from also-ran to American League East champions. Admittedly, his bat left a little to be desired, but (as we’ll see in a moment) that’s a weakness that can be addressed from the backup catcher’s position.
Lawrence “Crash” Davis, Bull Durham
Finally, Davis gets more than a cup of coffee. His power at the plate serves perfectly to balance Taylor’s weaknesses, and he possesses many of the same characteristics behind the plate that make Taylor such a perfect choice as a starter to begin with.