Jake Taylor. Ham Porter. Crash Davis.
If it’s a baseball movie we love, chances are pretty good that our favorite character is the catcher. With his involvement in every pitch of the game, and with the natural interaction provided at home plate during the at-bat, I suppose it’s only natural that Hollywood would focus on the backstop in so many films. If a left-fielder is talking on screen during a game, the conversation is bound to be a little one-sided. Besides, catchers tend to be fat, and nothing’s funnier than a fat guy. (This was pioneered in the original Bad News Bears, with Engelberg.)
The catcher provides many roles in baseball movies – from the superstar (Dottie Hinson) to the mentor (Crash Davis) to the best friend (Gus Sinski) and, finally, to the straight comic relief (Ham Porter). They’re always at their best, though, when they’re busy razzing the batter. Below are the top six exchanges I could find between the catcher and the batter. This isn’t a list of best overall quotes from a movie, so “Strikeouts are fascist!” and “Pick me out a winner, Bobby” aren’t going to make the cut. I’m just looking for the funniest banter between the batter and the catcher. If I haven’t explained myself clear enough, you’ll see what I mean.
I expected it to be pretty easy to flesh this thing out to at least 10 quotes, but I ran dry a little quicker than I expected. In some cases, it’s because they never really cut to the catcher while he was behind the dish (Bad News Bears and For Love of the Game, for example), while in others the catchers just were never strong enough characters to warrant a scene like that (Angels in the Outfield). If you can think of any that I missed, and I’m pretty confident you can, please feel free to leave it in the comments.
The Best Movie Quotes by a Catcher
#6. Crash Davis, Bull Durham
“Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well.”
This is ranked low on the list only because it isn’t exactly what I was looking for. It is a conversation between the batter and catcher, but it’s not the insult/banter that the rest are. Still, it’s a great quote and needed to be included.
(Click “Read More” to continue reading.)
#5. Chick Gandil & Swede Risberg, Field of Dreams
Gandil: “Hey Knuckles, what’d you throw at the kid for?”
Cicotte: “He-he winked at me.”
Gandil: “Don’t wink, kid.”
Swede Risberg: “Good thing for you he didn’t throw the fastball.”
Archie: “Let’s see that fastball.”
Again, this is ranked lower because it’s not exactly what I was looking for. It’s much more banter-like, though, and Gandil is certainly razzing Archie here.
NOTE: Seems I pictured the scene wrong in my head, and Gandil wasn’t playing catcher. I just re-watched the scene, and Gandil is on the bench at the time. Swede Risberg is behind the plate. Again, this isn’t perfect, but it’s close enough.
#4. Rube Baker, Major League 2
“Mr. Parkman, you’re a good ball player, but I want to say, that you’re standing on the tracks and the train’s is about to come through, butthead.”
This is the movie I’ve seen the least on this list, but everyone seems to love Rube and his slow, country ways, so I had to include him here.
#3. Spike Nolan, Brewster’s Millions
Spike: “Say, Ken Dixon, man. It’s a pleasure to be on the same field with you, Mr. Dixon. I admire your work. You’re a great hitter.”
Dixon: “That pitcher of yours sure thinks he’s cute, don’t he?”
Spike: “He sure does. Hey, you had a great season this year Mr. Dixon. I saw that game in Boston, back in June was it?”
Dixon: “You saw that game?”
Spike: “Yeah, I saw that game. [strike 1] Boy, I tell ya, great game! Two home runs, a triple, six ribbies all told. I can’t believe you didn’t make the all-star team.”
Dixon: “I can’t believe it either.” [huge foul ball]
Spike: “Hey Dixon! I saw your wife on television too. Yeah, she sure is an ugly bitch.” [strike 3]
New Batter: “One word out of you, fat boy, and you eat your mask. You ain’t gonna talk to me the way you did Dixon.”
Spike: “Can I help it if a guy can’t take a joke? Besides, have you ever seen his wife?”
“Yeah. Ugly bitch.” [home run robbed at wall]
I’ve always had a soft spot for this movie, and John Candy’s turn as the super-independent league catcher Spike Nolan has to be one of the main reasons. Candy’s just hysterical to begin with, and casting him as a loud-mouth catcher was a brilliant choice. I’m glad I was able to find the movie on YouTube (shhh!) because otherwise I never would have been able to get this exchange. (His other exchange, from the beginning of the movie, was great too: “Ah, foul ball! Ah, you almost had that! I bet you feel like a big piece of shit, don’t you?”)
#2. Jake Taylor, Major League
“Hell of a situation we got here. Two on, two out, your team down by one in the ninth. You got a chance to be a hero on national television… if you don’t blow it. By the way, saw your wife last night, hell of a dancer, you must be very, very proud. I mean that guy she was with, I’m sure he’s a close personal friend and all. But tell me, what was he doing wearing her panties on his head.”
[Rexman pops the ball straight up]
“Uh-oh, Rexy, I don’t think this one’s got the distance.”
The absolute perfect example of the trash-talking catcher-as-team-leader, it’s impossible not to love Jake Taylor. As the movie’s main character, he had a lot going for him throughout the film. This exchange is pitch-perfect, though.
#1. Ham Porter, The Sandlot
Ham: “PLAY BALL! Hurry up, batter. This better be a short game, I gotta get home for lunch. … Haha, that’s one. [new pitch] You know, if my dog was as ugly as you. I’d shave his butt and tell him to walk backwards. [new pitch] … Is that your sister out there in left field, naked? She’s naked?
Phillips: “SHUT UP PORTER! “
Ham: “Hey, hey, hey, I’m just trying to start a friendly conversation, come on. … Think she’ll go out with me?”
Jake Taylor may be the quintessential team leader, and Engelbert may have pioneered the fat-smart-mouthed-kid-as-catcher, but it’s Ham Porter who is the best example yet of this kind of character. The fact that he was a 12-year-old kid and 20th Century Fox still gave him a scene where he asks the batter if his sister is naked out there is brilliant. I doubt we could get that scene in a movie today, but it doesn’t matter because Ham Porter did it 17 years ago. If anyone can come up with a better example of the catcher-distracting-the-batter-with-insults scene, I’d love to see it.
(Bonus) Jack Elliot, Mr. Baseball
“Got any naked pictures of your wife?… Wanna see some?”
Jack Elliot was a first-baseman, so he doesn’t technically meet the requirements for this list. But, because I didn’t initially realize this quote came from Mr. Baseball and not some other movie, and because I think the banter/insult fits the spirit of the game, I decided to include it as a bonus.
Like I said above, if you have any other examples of insults/banter between a catcher and a batter in a movie (or between a first-baseman and runner, I suppose), I’d love to hear them. It seems criminal that we don’t yet have a repository for these kinds of putdowns. Let’s help each other out.