In search of a baseball fix? The next sports on film from ‘To Touchstone and Beyond’ is the 2004 baseball comedy Mr. 3000. The COVID-19 pandemic may rob us of organized sports, but this Touchstone Pictures film can fill that void.
Stan Ross, played by Bernie Mac, is the best player in Major League Baseball. On the cusp of his 3000th hit, Stan is the talk of Milwaukee as the fans pack the stadium to watch the celebrated ball player hit his career marking hit for the hometown crowd. The team is in the playoffs and looking to make a run at the World Series championship, but after the game Stan shows the team his true colors and quits. He didn’t think much of his team and now that he can call himself a member of the exclusive 3000 hit club, Stan is done with baseball.
Retired, we see Stan several years later as a successful businessman who owns an entire strip mall of stores. While he waits to be voted into the Hall of Fame, Stan agrees to return to the Milwaukee stadium for a ceremony to retire his number. The Brewers have fallen on hard times since Stan left the game. The ceremony is more a reminder about what type of person Stan Ross was to his teammates. Even his best friend Boca, played by Michael Rispoli, doesn’t have many good things to say about Stan Ross.
After the ceremony Stan learns there was an error in the statistics tabulation for his hits. He only has 2997 not the vaulted 3000 hits. The man who prides himself on being ‘the king of swing’ wants to reclaim his title of ‘Mr. 3000’. With the aid of Boca, Stan convinces the Milwaukee Brewers management led by Schiembri, played by Chris Noth, to bring him back into the lineup. For Schiembri, Milwaukee is in the bottom of the league, but Stan Ross draws a crowd which will benefit the team financially.
After spending a month with a team trainer, Stan is ready for the field. The team he returns to is not happy to see him. Ross referred to his fellow players as Little Leaguers, but to the Milwaukee Brewers players, the great Stan Ross is a joke. Humbled by his reception and by striking out at every single at bat for the first few games, the once great ‘king of swing’ is a laughingstock. Realizing how much of a fool he has been, Ross starts to connect with his teammates, even the star player, Rex ‘T-Rex’ Pennebaker, played by Brian White.
Pennebaker is a lot like Ross in his heyday. Having contempt for his teammates, the ace slugger wants nothing to do with the losing team or a has-been like Ross. In a moment of growth for the arrogant Ross, he and Pennebaker talk in the parking garage after a game. For Ross, he has seen the fading light of fame and knows he has made many mistakes. He doesn’t want Pennebaker to be like him. The Milwaukee Brewers need a leader and ‘T-Rex’ Pennebaker needs to step up.
Filled with a new lease on life, Ross starts to play the game like a teammate and not a superstar. He pays attention to how the pitchers are throwing the ball and continues building relationships with his teammates. Ross even apologizes to team manager Gus Panas, played by Paul Sorvino, for walking out on the team when they needed him. From the ball diamond to his social life Stan Ross starts to succeed. He reconnects with an old flame Maureen Simmons, played by Angela Bassett, and starts to hit the ball on the field. As fame’s spotlight starts to fade, Stan Ross must decide at bat for the last time if he will get his 3000th hit or will he stop thinking about himself and do something for his team.
Bernie Mac has the swagger and arrogance of a big-league ball player to make Stan Ross a legitimate addition to any baseball lineup. The entire film is riding on Bernie Mac’s shoulders. Much like the fans in the stadium, the viewer will route for Stan Ross. Bernie Mac plays the role of villain and hero so perfectly that viewers will believe that Stan Ross is ‘the king of swing’ even though he’s not real.
Angela Bassett’s Maureen Simmons is a strong independent woman who genuinely loves Stan but won’t sit by like a helpless woman. Bassett brings a confidence and strength to a character that is not often seen in sports films, and her strength does not dissipate as the film progresses. Maureen Simmons can take care of herself. She is a successful journalist at ESPN and doesn’t need Stan to add meaning to her life.
Michael Rispoli as Boca is the perfect vessel for Stan’s conscience. Boca and Ross are best friends and rather than being a supporting player to Ross as he navigates life back in the MLB, Boca stays out of the limelight. Boca has always been Stan’s friend and has regularly been trying to provide a meaningful friendship and offering advice on what to do with his life. It just takes Stan a little longer to listen to what Boca has been telling him.
The baseball scenes are fantastic. Miller Park comes alive with Bernie Mac and the Milwaukee Brewers on the field. Mr. 3000 is not the same as watching a regular baseball game, but fans of the sport will appreciate the film for what it does show. Mr. 3000 incorporates little nuances of baseball like Stan looking for signs of what the pitcher is going to throw, the trash talking between batter and catcher, the dugout banter between the team, and the race to first base after Stan gets his first hit. Bernie Mac is the star of the film, but baseball is the co-star.
Just as Stan is starting to grow as a person, when he is putting the game and his teammates above his own ambition, the script makes a detour when the climax of the story is close. Stan has called for an extra practice with the team before his last game and invites Maureen to interview the team. A last-minute invitation to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno causes Stan to skip the practice and subsequently bail on Maureen. In the span of a couple of scenes, Stan reverts to the jerk who was chasing fame and hyping himself up to the television audience. I understand why the script did this. The film shows us how easy the promise of fame can cause anyone to change and miss out on what’s important. Just because I understand why it was done, doesn’t mean I have to like it.
- Bernie Mac prepared for this role by training with the Chicago Cubs.
- The movie reunites original Law & Order partners Chris Noth and Paul Sorvino.
- Comedian Dane Cook plays the mascot that is always hassling Stan behind the scenes.
- Future MLB catcher Buster Posey appears in the film.
- At one point in the film development, Denzel Washington was supposed to play Stan Ross.
- Scenes for the film were shot at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Record crowds turned out to the games and between the innings of the real game, the movie shot their scenes.
- The opening bit to the film where Stan is filming his commercial was inspired by the Charles Barkley “I Am Not a Role Model” commercial of the 1990s.
- Paul Sorvino plays the manager of the team Gus Panas but only has one scene in the film where he speaks. For most of the film Panas is angry at Stan and doesn’t say a word to him because he is still angry at how Stan quit the team years before. The only time Sorvino has any dialogue in the movie is when he argues a call with an umpire who called Ross out when he was clearly safe at first base.
See It/Skip It?
See It! Mr. 3000 is a funny sports film about an aging ball player that needed nine years of retirement and the loss of his own manufactured identity to become a better person. Mr. 3000 is not a family film, but it will ease the loss of MLB games during this worldwide pandemic, and viewers will discover a hidden gem in the late Bernie Mac’s filmography.
Next week ‘To Touchstone and Beyond’ dives deep into the first video game adaptation by Hollywood Pictures, Super Mario Bros.
Director: Charles Stone III
Production Company: Touchstone Pictures
- Bernie Mac as Stan Ross
- Angela Bassett as Maureen Simmons
- Michael Rispoli as Boca
- Brian White as Rex Pennebaker
- Paul Sorvino as Gus Panas
- Chris Noth as Schiembri
Release Date: September 17, 2004
Budget: $30 million
Box Office Gross Domestic = $21,811,187
Worldwide Total = $21,839, 377