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Scott Hatteberg -- the real-life former Oakland Athletic portrayed by Chris Pratt in 'Moneyball' -- admits that there are some significant artistic licenses taken in the big-screen version of the story, in which Hatteberg plays a crucial role. Or, as the veteran of 14 major league seasons puts it, they "put a little hot sauce on some of it."
Some of that "hot sauce" involves the A's then-manager Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his refusal to play Hatteberg (Pratt), despite a direct order to do so from the team's general manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt). As the real Hatteberg explains, this isn't exactly the way it happened. "Art Howe was a huge supporter of mine. I never got the impression from him that I was not his first choice."
Moviefone spoke to the former catcher/first baseman/designated hitter about what it was like to meet a big-screen version of himself, other key differences between fact and fiction in the film, and the biggest home run of his life -- and how that home run eventually got him kicked out of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Hey, Scott. How are you?
I'm well, how are you?
I am good.
Actually, that's not true. I have a cold.
Oh, I'm sorry.
I have no idea why I just lied to you during our first meeting.
When you first met Chris Pratt, what was the experience like meeting yourself?
It's surreal. I mean, it was crazy. The first thing is, I came onto the set and I hadn't spoken with him. I really didn't know him other than we were fans of the show 'Parks and Recreation.' And my kids, I guess they were the greatest litmus test with how they would react: and they were blown away at the mannerisms. He had my uniform on with my name and they were running around, doing things in the field. And he just nailed the movements; he looked like me.
And he's a big guy. He looks like an athlete.
Oh, absolutely. You meet an actor and they always seem smaller, but he's a big dude. I mean, he's a load. It looks like he could have been a player.
I know he played football in high school.
I think he wrestled, too.
Did you guys get along?
We got along great. The guy is probably the nicest guy around -- not that I've met a whole lot of actors. He has an infectious personality and is really upbeat. My kids still talk about him.
When you were playing, what pitcher gave you the most problems?
There were a bunch. There was one guy who would come out of the bullpen, he was this lefty reliever who threw 82 miles per hour named Brian Shouse.
More nerve-wracking for you: Facing Brian Shouse or meeting Brad Pitt?
[Laughs] Well, you know, I was starting over with Brad Pitt and I knew I was going to make an out with Shouse, so probably meeting Brad was a little easier. But, holy surreal, that was crazy, too. But he kind of cuts through all that and he's really nice up front, too.
You know Billy Beane really well, obviously. What was stranger, watching Chris Pratt play you or watching Brad Pitt play Billy Beane?
Oh... good question. Jeeze. To see someone play yourself is one thing. And I know Billy so well and to have one of the greatest actors and most popular people playing you – that was the craziest thing. Because we'd talk about it and I'd be, "Man, Brad Pitt is playing you! I mean, how big is your head right now?" And Billy shunned it off pretty good. But it had to be pretty ego building.
When you were on set, was there any point you wanted to run on the field and say, "No, that's not the way it happened. Let me help."
It's funny, they were doing a scene in the dugout where Philip Seymour Hoffman and Brad Pitt were talking about the lineup. One wanted me in the lineup, one didn't want me in the lineup. So I'm watching these guys and they did this scene, I swear, for six hours. I mean, just did it over and over. They did it from every conceivable angle -- different things and they just kept changing the dialogue a little bit. And it's weird to hear those two people -- two great actors -- talking about you and throwing your name around. But that was beyond unbelievable.
An Oscar nominee and an Oscar winner.
I know! Are you kidding me?
Did Billy Beane really come to your house as it's depicted in the film?
I didn't actually get a visit from them. It was a phone discussion. I think it would be hard for Billy to run around and talk to everybody that he was trying to get. But it felt like he was in my home. He was calling me and it was over Christmas and I remember him telling me that if I have to put this to bed over Midnight Mass, we're going to do it. And with him talking about first base, I didn't have Ron Washington on speakerphone, but we had discussions later. So we kind of combined some different elements into one scene - an artistic license type of thing.
I feel the biggest change to your story from book-to-movie was your home run that won the A's 20th game in a row. In the movie, it leads a viewer to believe that you hadn't been playing and that manager Art Howe was finally giving you a shot. But that wasn't the case.
As far as Art Howe's feel toward me or my role on the team? In reality... I know Carlos Pena at the beginning, he was playing first base. But everyday I was the designated hitter. So I was playing -- everyday, offensively, I was in the lineup. There would be days I would not play maybe against a lefty, or whatever. But, yeah, I was pretty much an everyday contributor. You get the sense from the movie that I wasn't, but that wasn't necessarily the case. Art Howe was a huge supporter of mine. I never got the impression from him that I was not his first choice. I mean, he might not have wanted me to play first base -- which I thought was pretty obvious because he didn't play me at first base. And, to his credit, I sucked. So, I was a work in progress.
Do you feel it may not be fair to Art Howe the way he comes off in this movie? He does come off as being against your very likable character. Which, like you said, wasn't true.
Well, yeah. But as far as if he had a choice, I'm sure he was thinking, If we're going to keep one of these guys, I'm want to keep Carlos Pena. And it's a good choice. I mean, he's a great player. It is his job and he wants to put in his mind is the most capable team out there and he thought it was Carlos Pena. It's well documented the relationship between the two, Billy and him. So, I liked it. I thought it was good. I thought it was entertaining... and maybe put a little hot sauce on some of it. It's definitely what happened; there was that turbulent relationship.
OK, walk me through the big home run that won the 20th game in a row. It's not covered in the film, but you were using some sort of strange bat, right?
Here's the story. I wasn't playing because it was against a lefty. And we jumped out to a huge lead -- and I think it was the day that we just called up a bunch of guys, so we had all of these new kids in the dugout and we don't have very big dugouts. So during the game -- with the big lead -- I was upstairs watching the game on TV because there was no room in the dugout and the new guys were wanting to watch the game. And I was just enjoying coffee and we were going to win 20 games in a row! So things dwindled, they got a bunch of runs and our lead slipped. Next thing you know, I'm upstairs watching it on TV in the batting cage with me and Greg Myers, knowing one of us was going to be called out to pinch hit. The [Royals] score one more run, we rush down to the dugout.
At the time, I had a Louisville Slugger contract. But some garage guy had made these bats and he gave me one. I was using it in batting practice and I said, "Screw it, I'm using it." Jason Grimsley's coming in and he throws 96 mile-per-hour bowling balls. And I just know the last thing I'll be able to do is get the ball in the air because it just sinks so much, you can't help but beat it into the ground. So I take this other bat and they tell me, "You're going to pinch hit." My whole goal was not to hit a homerun. And, like I said, I have this new bat. I was just like maybe I can get something in the air -- maybe hit a double and get in scoring position. And one of the times he left the ball up and, you know, I hit it good. It jumped off that new bat.
Was the bat illegal in any way?
The bat wasn't illegal in any way, but when you have a Louisville contract and you hit the biggest home run of your life and it wasn't with Louisville... and Cooperstown asked for the bat. There becomes a dilemma there.
I'm sure Louisville Slugger was thrilled.
Well, Cooperstown was mad, too, because I felt so guilty and horrible, I sent a Louisville bat. And Cooperstown does not like when you give them non-authentic items. Once Michael Lewis got wind of it, it got in the book and Cooperstown sent the bat back. So, I was in and out of the Hall of Fame -- I might be the quickest one.
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For more on 'Moneyball,' check out our interview with author Michael Lewis.