Jobu lives on top of a piano these days, the same bottle of rum from 25 years ago in “Major League” sitting next to him, still with a cigar in his mouth, although some of it was gnawed off by a dog a few years back.
As “Major League” celebrates its 25th anniversary, there’s little reason for a “Where Are They Now?” As baseball movies of that era go, “Major League” had some decent-sized stars who are still visible 25 years later. We know what happened to Charlie Sheen in all too much detail, and we’ve seen Corbin Bernsen, Tom Berenger, Wesley Snipes and Dennis Haysbert in plenty of other roles.
But there is one fascinating “Where Are They Now?” story to tell from “Major League” and it doesn’t involve a real person. Rather, a rum-loving figure that Voodoo practicing slugger Pedro Cerrano thought could help him hit a curveball. We’re talking, of course, about Jobu.
Nobody involved in the making of “Major League” expected Jobu to become as popular as he did, or else there probably would have been Jobu action figures back in 1989. But the fact is, when you’re rattling off the top quotes from “Major League,” at least one of the top three has a reference to Jobu. Even 25 years after the movie hit theaters, there are tribute T-shirts, Jobu Twitter accounts and a person who figured out how to make his own Jobu doll.
There’s only one real Jobu, though. The lucky soul who happened to get handed Jobu one day has a one-of-a-kind piece of movie memorabilia. He’s entertained an offer of $35,000 from a potential buyer but turned it down, instead letting Jobu sit on his piano with his rum and his cigar.
Brian Robinson has one heck of a conversation starter.
“I have my own little piece of history,” Robinson says.
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Jobu was a part of “Major League” from the first script. Writer/director David S. Ward wanted something that represented baseball’s love for superstition.
“It was just something I made up,” Ward says. “Cerrano was a combination of a bunch of Latin ballplayers — the Alou brothers, Orlando Cepeda, who were known to be somewhat superstitious. I just pushed it a little bit and made him a devotee of Voodoo. Rather than a Voodoo doll, he had Jobu.”
There’s no spectacular story about the name Jobu. It just sounded good, Ward says. Once the movie was in production, he had the design department make several different prototypes of the Jobu character he dreamed up.
The winning Jobu was handmade, built out of clay, with a wire frame keeping his shape. Ward says he loved Jobu’s hair and the way the cigar fit in his mouth.
“I didn’t think Jobu would become as big a deal as he has to some people,” Ward says. “He’s Yoda-esque.”
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Many people on the set of “Major League” were hyper-aware about Jobu and his safety. There wasn’t a box of replacement Jobus in case something happened. There was one Jobu, and he needed to be watched over.
In an odd turn of events, Ward says actor Chelcie Ross, who played pitcher Eddie Harris, the guy who drank Jobu’s rum in the movie and who butted heads with Cerrano, was actually one of the actors who kept care of Jobu. He specifically recalls Ross taking care of Jobu during preparation for a scene near the end of the film where Harris has Jobu in the bullpen with him as he's warming up. Ross hovered over Jobu while everybody got ready for the shot, making sure nobody stepped on him.
Given the care people took with Jobu, it seems almost backward that nobody knew what happened to the Jobu figure at various times in the 25 years since the film.
“There was a time where he seemed to have disappeared,” Ward said. “I called Dennis [Haysbert, the actor who played Cerrano] and asked if he had him, and he said no.”
Thinking about it today, Haysbert said he’s not sure he’d want Jobu. Obviously, his character is most connected to the figure, but he says he studied a lot about Voodoo and Santeria before the film and wouldn’t feel comfortable having Jobu.
“Somebody took it before I could get it,” Haysbert says. “But when I think about it, I probably would not have kept it. I took it very seriously when I was doing the prayers and everything else. An actor has to make it look authentic. It was not something that I really wanted to mess with — it is a real religion, and I was very concerned about how it would affect me.”
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Jobu actually ended up back at the offices of Morgan Creek Productions, the company behind “Major League.” When Brian Robinson went to work there in 1991, two years after “Major League” hit theaters, he noticed a co-worker had Jobu on his desk.
He, of course, loved “Major League” and was fascinated by the figure. When his co-worker left the company, he gave Jobu to Robinson, knowing how much he liked it.
“It was my lucky day,” Robinson says. “He could have just walked out with it. It’s like Dorothy’s shoes in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ except better. This thing, there’s only one of them.”
Someone offered him $35,000 for it once. He declined. He said he’s grown quite attached to it.
“I don’t know, if someone offered me like a hundred grand,” he says. “I’d probably sell it.”
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He does take it to the outside world. Last year, for example, he took it to a screening of “Major League” in Southern California. A few of the actors were there, but it was Jobu, sitting on a table outside the movie theater, that Robinson says got the most attention. People fawned over him, snapping photos and treating this clay figure like a real celebrity.
Jobu has appeared in the three “Major League” films, even the regrettable third installment that wasn’t written by Ward and only had Bernsen and Haysbert from the original cast. That puts Jobu in exclusive company. If there’s another “Major League” movie — which is being talked about, so read about it in the next part of our series — then Robinson would want Jobu in that too.
For now, though, he’s perfectly happy with Jobu sitting on his piano, sparking the occasional mind-blowing moment when he has guests at his house.
“One guy was like, ‘Oh my God, is that what I think it is?’” Robinson recalls. “I thought he was going to bow in front of the thing.”
Nothing wrong with that. Plenty of “Major League” devotees would have.
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