TWIB goes Hollywood
Billy Bob Thornton joins Jennie Finch at the All-Star Game
"This Week in Baseball" goes Hollywood this week when Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton and regular correspondent Jennie Finch co-host an All-Star episode of the long-running series.
The two were in Detroit all during All-Star weekend and taped segments and interviews during the All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game. Finch took the mound and served up some high-heat to a host of celebrities, as well as baseball legends such as Ozzie Smith, Dave Winfield, Tommy John, Mark Fydrich and Fred Lynn.
Thornton, who also played in the game with some of the young cast members of the remake of the classic sports film, "The Bad News Bears," grew up a baseball fan in his native Arkansas and has always been a fan of "This Week in Baseball."
"It goes back pretty far. I was a baseball fan since I was a little kid," said Thornton. "I was a Cardinal fan from the moment I was born. I was glued to the television set since way back. Mel Allen was the best.
"My earliest memories of baseball were playing catch with my dad," said Thornton. "He was a high school coach. He coached baseball and basketball. We threw the ball quite a bit and I became a pitcher in high school. It was all due to my dad. He used to put up a rubber tire to a rope to throw through, but my dad made it harder. He knew you had to keep the ball down, so he put the tire on the ground between a mattress and a tree and made me throw to that."
Thornton, who won his Oscar for his screenplay of the 1996 film "Sling Blade," takes pride that his home state has produced some great Major League players including Don Kessinger, Brooks Robinson and brother pitching duo Dizzy and Paul (Daffy) Dean.
"I would have loved to have pitched for the old Gas House Gang in St. Louis in the 1930's, said Thornton."With Dizzy and Paul Dean and Leo Durocher as our shortstop -- man, that would have been fun."
Thornton, who will turn 50 on Aug. 5th, takes over the role of "Morris Buttermaker" made famous in the original 1976 film by the late Walter Matthau. Thornton says he has no problem remaking the story of a drunken exterminator who coaches a Little League team of misfits and finds a little more meaning in his life when he's able to turn his underdogs into winners.
"It's such a great sports movie about growing up in sports," said Thornton. "The disappointments and heartaches of the game. A lot of the kids today don't know about the original movie. Baby boomers know the film, so I think it's a great opportunity to bring it into this age and update it a little bit, so kids of today will want to see it. We tried to make it as close as we can to the original in the tone of the film."
"Bad News Bears" opens nationwide July 22nd.
Other segments this week include:
Beyond the Fence: Tells stories of the 76th All-Star Game with exclusive behind-the-scenes footage from everything going on in Detroit.
From The Vaults: Recalls the 1971 All-Star Game in Detroit in which six Hall of Famers homered, highlighted by Reggie Jackson's mammoth home run in the third inning that almost went out of old Tigers Stadium.
How 'Bout That: Highlights the best moments of the first half, set to the sounds of the "Bad News Bears" theme.
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.