Yet another psychic blow for Cleveland: RIP Lou Brown

James Gammon as one of the most successful managers in Indians history, Lou Brown.

The city of Cleveland, already reeling from the losses of LeBron James and one of its most unique native sons, Harvey Pekar, suffered another psychic blow this past week: The loss of beloved former Indians manager Lou Brown.

Actually, it was the guy who played the Tribe’s gruff, kind-hearted, paternalistic manager in the two “Major League” films, James Gammon.

Gammon had a cool career as a rugged, rough-edged guy: TV Westerns, “Cool Hand Luke,” “Natural Born Killers,” Nash Bridges’ father. And on stage, he founded the Met Theatre in Los Angeles, and eventually became Sam Shepard’s go-to guy in several of his most notable plays:”Curse of the Starving Class,” “A Lie of the Mind,” “The Late Henry Moss” and a Tony-nominated star turn in “Buried Child.”

But as someone who was an Indians fan from the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s — including ’87, the year Sports Illustrated said the team would win the pennant, then they went out and lost 105 games — it warmed my heart to see a film where the Tribe went out and won the damn pennant, even if it was a far-fetched fantasy. (And it was equally heart-warming to hear X’s version of “Wild Thing” in the film.)

And Lou Brown was the guy who managed to turn the wackiest ship in the majors into the greatest rags-to-riches sports story of all time.

Who else could have put up with the superstitious, voodoo-practicing slugger Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert)? Or the vain third baseman, Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), who didn’t get the memo that his career was on the downside? Or the creaky-kneed catcher, Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), trying to coax one last season out of those knees? Or the no-hit, no-run speed diva, Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes)? Or the biggest headcase of the bunch — pitcher Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), straight out of the California correctional system, nicknamed “Wild Thing” with good reason? (Think “Juuuuuust a bit outside!”)

Lou Brown was the one person in baseball who could make these losers believe in themselves. (Well, him and the evil owner who deliberately put together the shittiest team in the history of baseball in the hopes she could move the Tribe out of Cleveland … to Miami …) And baseball/movie fans are a little richer for having had Gammon play that role so well. And the city of Cleveland is juuuuuust a bit poorer this week …


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