Next to being at Yankee Stadium, my favorite thing in the world is being on a movie set. I have been blessed to of done approximately a dozen films. Four of them were baseball oriented films. The last one being Bottom of the 9th.
This film stars Joe Manganiello and Sofia Vergara.
This film has shocked the industry because even though it wasn’t such a large budget film, the quality of the progress in making the film would tell you otherwise.
The script is really well done by Bronx native Robert Bruzio and the story behind it told me that it was very personal. When Anthony Rinaldo an early in the process film consultant came to me about getting involved in the film because of my life of redemption in baseball, I told him that I had to think about it. It wasn’t until Anthony showed up at Yankee Stadium with Rocky and Creed producer Bill Chartoff that I agreed to do it. I must add that it did also help that Bruzio actually had me spend an afternoon with the original director of the film, Academy Award winner John Avildson.
The three of us drove all around the Bronx and the whole time John asked me about my life with the great George Steinbrenner and how he was so intrigued with such a wonderful and unusual relationship. He had read my book and said that it had the potential of being a great film. A film that he would want to do. I have to admit that I was extremely flattered. What was shocking to me was that John actually filmed our whole time together with a secret camera that Bruzio knew was on but didn’t tell me. Avildson actually made a little documentary out of it.
I was extremely saddened that John would die four months later. I don’t know of the couse. He was 81.
The terrific director Raymond Defelitta took over the reigns as director and did a wonderful job in Bottom of the 9th.
Bill Chartoff and his partner Lynn Hendee asked me to become the associate producer and Bruzio was insistent that with my experience as a baseball man and as an actor that I perform as coach Negrón in the film.
As the associate producer, I had the opportunity to hire a lot of ex players to play the roles of Manganiello’s teammates and opponents. I even got to slip in some friends that looked like players but had no idea how to put on a glove. It was a wonderful time on the set and I was able to bring on Robert Molloy, Mr. Stienbrenner’s grand son and a film producer of several movies,to help me with all baseball scenarios. He was also an associate producer.
Gene Michael and Tom “T-bone” Giordano two of the greatest scouts in the history of the game were also supposed to of been in the film but they to also died during the shooting. If you noticed during the scouting scene a couple of seats were left empty in honor of these two great men. Raymond Defelitta actually played the part of the scout.
Michael Rispoli was terrific as the Empire manager.
You get to see a lot of Billy Martin in Rispoli and former Mets coach Rob Dromerhauser schooled the heck out of Rispoli. Former Yanks bullpen coach and Adelphi University head coach Dom Scala was very funny on the set because I had to continuously explain that this is Hollywood not real life. However he kept scolding the actors for not making certain plays.
I think Dom’s insistence in perfection may of made the actors overachieve as players.
One of my big thrills was to work with one of Hollywood’s greatest cinematographers Barry Markowitz. There isn’t an angle that this man wouldn’t shoot from. I also love the fact that he is now a lifelong friend. The same can be said about make up head Scott Hersh who has been there for me during the productions of my play BATBOY.
I want to thank all the actors/players who made my job very easy during production. Pat Stoffer Bryan Dromerhauser Bryan & Jimi Giles Jon-Erik Negron Cesar Presbott. Just to many to mention them all. I must add that Larry Travolta Davis did a fine job as the opposing manager.
All in all it was a great film to work on. The people on the set were fantastic and I must add that one of the highlights of the film was when Brian Cashman and Bernie Williams made their cameo appearance on the film. It truly was a wow moment.
Kudos to former big leaguer Brian Wilson who was so convincing in playing himself. Exactly what that is you will have to find out for yourself.
After writing this article I now understand why this film has been number one for three weeks. It really is a fun film to watch.
Special thanks to the Manganiello brothers for believing in this project. Also to Robert Bruzio because your dream helped put a lot of people to work including me.