September 25, 2011
Former Oakland Athletics manager Art Howe (above, right) hasn't seen "Moneyball" yet, but he's talked with people who have and he says he isn't thrilled with the way he's portrayed in the film.
One scene has Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) and the Paul DePodesta character (Jonah Hill) making fun of Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman) for getting credit in the media. Another has him insisting on starting Carlos Pena in that day's lineup because he's unaware Beane has traded him. Though he manages the team Beane assembled, he's characterized as an enemy, a human roadblock to Beane's introduction and employment of sabermetric principles.
If you've read the "Moneyball" book by Michael Lewis — which Howe said he has — you know that he doesn't get the fairest shake in those pages, either. One anonymous player is quoted as saying the team wouldn't notice if Howe wasn't in the dugout and his overall contributions are almost completely marginalized as Beane's methods get top billing.
The overall picture has Howe — who played in the bigs for 11 seasons and managed the Astros, A's and Mets for another 14 — concerned that his lasting legacy will be tarnished.
Quite understandably, he does not want to be remembered this way.
"Considering the book wasn't real favorable to me to start with I figured it would be something like this but to be honest with you it is very disappointing to know that you spent seven years in an organization and gave your heart and soul to it and helped them go to the postseason your last three years there and win over 100 games your last two seasons and this is the way evidently your boss [Beane] feels about you.
"They never called me to get my slant on things as far as the movie was concerned. So, I mean, it's coming from someone. I don't know who it is but maybe it is Hollywood to make it sell, I guess. I don't know. It's disappointing. I spent my whole career trying to build a good reputation and I think I did that but this movie certainly doesn't help it. And it is definitely unfair and untrue. If you ask any player that ever played for me they would say that they never saw this side of me, ever. "
And what about his portrayal in the book?
"[Lewis] came in my office for about 10 minutes one day and that's all the time he spent with me. And put yourself in my position. He's asking me about my boss. Now, what can you say? [laughs] He ran some things by me and I verified some things and gave my slant to different things but they never got into the book, my slants."
Howe isn't the first coach or manager to bristle at the way their personalities were twisted by Hollywood for added drama and conflict. Late Notre Dame coach Dan Devine always took issue with the way he was cast as the enemy in "Rudy," serving as the movie's main antagonist after Ara Parseghian, Devine's predecessor, promised Rudy that he could play in one game his senior season. (The reality, as Devine wrote in in his autobiography, was that it was his idea that Rudy dress for the game and that he proudly announced it in practice the week before the game.)
Howe, however, can take comfort that he's not the only one who gets the short end of the "Moneyball" screen play. The positive pitching contributions of Barry Zito(notes), Tim Hudson(notes) and Mark Mulder are virtually passed over, while Oakland's scouts are cartoonishly portrayed as bumbling imbeciles.
Grady Fuson, the team's head of scouting back then, is even fired in a memorable scene that he said "took my wife aback." It's interesting to note, however, that Fuson — who is currently back with the A's as an advisor after an eight-year absence — doesn't take issue with his role. He actually liked the movie, in fact.
"That firing scene got to me a little bit," Fuson said one day after attending the movie's premiere in Oakland. "It's Hollywood and that part of it I have to get over with. I actually enjoyed the movie. I knew I would be the guy that argued [against Beane]. I knew I would be cast as the villain."
But Howe doesn't see it quite the same way.
"The thing that bothers me about the movie is that, you know, I think everybody in baseball knows who I am but so many people who are going to be seeing this movie really don't know me. This is their impression of me probably the rest of my life so that's disappointing."