Ranking fictional Twins players in ‘Little Big League’
When debating the finest baseball films of all time, movies like “Moneyball,” “A League of Their Own” and “Bull Durham” are certainly in the conversation. “Field of Dreams” is polarizing but has credibility. “The Sandlot” cast is still beloved to this day.
“Little Big League” doesn’t get enough love.
It’s the story of 12-year-old Billy Heywood, who inherits the Minnesota Twins franchise when his grandfather, Thomas Heywood, passes away. After clashing with manager George O’Farrell early in his ownership of the Twins, Heywood fires O’Farrell and hires himself, a preteen, as manager of a big-league roster. While Heywood quickly learns the business side of Major League Baseball, players rediscover their love for the game and find themselves in the middle of an unexpected playoff race.
Tragically, Rotten Tomatoes gives this flick a 31% grade. This is the same site that awarded Stuart Little 2 an 81% score. I’ve never seen Stuart Little 2, but a fictional mouse saving a friend from the talons of a villainous falcon can’t be 50% better than “Little Big League.”
One of the best parts of the movie, aside from the fact that it features the Metrodome (RIP Dome Dogs) and 1990s Valleyfair (when the Corkscrew was cool), is the cameos from MLB ballplayers. Notable ballplayers, we might add. Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Ivan Rodriguez all have plaques in the Hall of Fame. Rafael Palmeiro, Paul O’Neill and Sandy Alomar Jr. combined for 15 All-Star appearances. Aside from Space Jam featuring His Airness, is there a movie with more star power than “Little Big League”?
Anyway, the movie constructed a fictional Twins roster worthy of its own baseball-reference page. We ranked them below:
14) #15 Larry Hilbert, 3B (Troy Startoni)
In the top of the 12th of the Twins-Mariners elimination game, Hilbert made the error at third base that allowed Dave Magadan (another real MLB player) to bring in the go-ahead run. At least he’ll always have that diving catch in the “Runaround Sue” montage.
13) #34 Spencer Hamilton, CF (Wolfgang Bodison)
Wearing No. 34 as a Twins center fielder is a bold, bold move. I respect it.
12) #23 Leon Alexander, 1B (Leon “Bull” Durham)
Alexander got the start at first base when star Lou Collins was benched for a lack of concentration. He wasn’t great in the field, but always brought the bat as a DH. Actor Leon “Bull” Durham played 10 years in the big leagues and was a two-time All-Star for the Chicago Cubs from 1982-83, so that’s something.
11) #2 Pat Corning, SS (Kevin Elster)
Corning formed a snazzy middle infield with Mickey Scales but was also quick to take a jab at the second baseman. When Scales admitted he liked having Heywood as manager after receiving a compliment, Corning brilliantly said, “Of course you do. He’s the only guy in the world that thinks you can hit.” Actor Kevin Elster, by the way, played 940 games in the big leagues.
10) #11 Mickey Scales, 2B (Antonio Lewis Todd)
Heywood always trusted the light-hitting second baseman in big spots, and he finally delivered in the elimination game with a three-run shot in the seventh inning. Scales gets bonus points for being a water-balloon enthusiast.
9) #24 Lonnie Ritter, LF (Joseph Latimore)
Ritter was fined $500 for failing to hustle out a ground ball and struggled mightily during the Twins’ late-season slump. It was later brought to Heywood’s attention that Ritter was playing injured for the sake of the team. Respect. Ritter was always good for a funny throw-away line, like his “bite me” catchphrase or when he was talking to an investor: “Man, why’d you buy me this pizza bar? I love Chinese food!”
8) #12 Mark Hodges, C (John Minch)
Late in Heywood’s first game as manager, the youngster calls for a hit-and-run with Hodges at the plate. Hodges pretends to miss the sign to make Heywood look bad, prompting questions from reporters after the game. The next game, though, Hodges has a change of heart and supports Heywood when he tries to take John “Blackout” Gatling out of the game. It’s a big turning point of the movie — the players begin to respect Heywood’s knowledge of the game.
7) #5 Tucker Kain, RF (Michael Papajohn)
Kain is arguably the most underrated character. Midway through the film, he robbed O’Neill of an extra-base hit at Yankee Stadium with an acrobatic catch at the wall. And in the final regular-season series of the movie, Kain’s headfirst dive into home plate rivals Randy Bush’s slide in the 1987 World Series for the best in franchise history. Fun fact: Actor Michael Papajohn played college baseball for LSU.
6) #19 Mike McGrevey, SP (Scott Patterson)
Someone had to be the villain on the Twins, and McGrevey played it perfectly. There hasn’t been a movie character with that much anger toward a kid since Ms. Trunchbull from “Matilda.” Once McGrevey realized that tanking starts in a contract year probably wasn’t a great idea, he boarded the Heywood train the rest of the way.
5) #38 John “Blackout” Gatling, RP (Brad Lesley)
“Blackout” is probably the most memorable player on the Twins’ roster. His intimidating demeanor was initially a problem for Heywood until he realized Gatling was nothing but a grumpy reliever who hated fun and loved tobacco.
4) #19 Bill Wedman, SP
We don’t see Wedman until the final game against the Mariners, but we hear about him the entire movie. Heywood’s friend Joey is convinced Wedman can beat the Rangers and Yankees and Tigers despite having a 3-7 record. Heywood elected to give Wedman the start in the elimination game, and he looked like a genius until Griffey hit an absolute rocket to give Seattle the lead.
3) #31 Jerry Johnson, RF (Duane Davis)
Johnson played 11 (fictional) years with the Twins before being released by Heywood, who idolized the outfielder while growing up. It was ok, though, because a 12-year-old liked his baseball card. Johnson returned after the season to take over as hitting coach.
2) #4 Lou Collins, 1B (Timothy Busfield)
You thought Collins was going to be ranked No. 1? You thought wrong. As a first baseman who can hit for both average and power (although, spoiler alert, not enough power when it counts), he’d be a fan favorite if he played for the Twins, no doubt. But he’s far too flawed to be at the top of this list. In the bottom of the 12th inning of an elimination playoff game, he asked the mother of his manager to marry him. I mean, I’m admittedly a hopeless romantic, but c’mon. Read the room, Lou.
1) #48 Jim Bowers, RP (Jonathan Silverman)
Baseball movies always have a quirky, superstitious character in the clubhouse. In “Major League,” it’s Pedro Cerrano. In “Angels in the Outfield,” it’s Whitt Bass. And in “Little Big League,” it’s Bowers. A relief pitcher, Bowers used his extra time off the field to become an expert in the field of mathematics and water balloons. He also gets bonus points for taking the blame when Heywood ordered “Night Nurses from Jersey” 11 times in three days. I’ll never forget his riddle — “A cowboy rode into town on Friday, stayed three days, and left on Friday. How’d he do it?” And let’s not forget about his role in the trick pickoff play towards the end of the movie, which was definitely not a balk. The GOAT.