True story: I did not know that Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez was a fictional baseball player until I was 13 years old. "The Sandlot" was one of my favorite movies growing up. Squints, Yea Yea, Smalls, Ham and Benny - I wanted so badly to be one of those kids, and I think that my desire to be one of them eventually crossed over into what I perceived as reality. I thought that Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez was an actual Los Angeles Dodger. Not that this was so far fetched (a "Rodriguez" playing for a baseball team in Southern California? C'mon) but the seven levels of logic that is required for a thought to become a belief were bypassed that day I saw that movie. I automatically assumed that the protagonist of a Warner Bros film I watched where he snatches the ball from the mouth of a 200 pound dog and sprinted across the entire effing town with said animal chasing him was based on the real life of an actual baseball player. Thank God I grew up and don't believe in fake athletics anymore.
I always wanted a "Rodriguez #3" jersey. That is, until my childhood dreams were shattered and I found out he wasn't real. But ever undeterred, the thought of donning the garb worn by movie legend Benny The Jet gave me the idea to get jerseys based on famous (that word is in debate here) sports movie characters.
One of my favorite childhood movies is "The Mighty Ducks" starring the indomitable Emilio Estevez. I still don't know very much about hockey, but you bet your ass that what I do know, for better or for worse, comes from the 3 (yes, there were 3...all of them more glorious than the next) Disney movies.
True story: A couple friends and I went to a Boston College hockey game freshman year. Unbeknownst to us, there was such a thing as college hockey and even more significantly, the Eagles were downright dominant in it. Unlike our futile pursuit of the then Big East football crown, or our equally feeble NCAA Final Four tournament showings, Boston College Hockey was and is one of the best run programs in the country.
Out of sheer curiosity, boredom and of course, lack of alcohol, we marched our 19 year old behinds down to Conte Forum to catch a game. Not knowing what was going on and wanting to be generally obnoxious, my friends and I started calling out whatever hockey terms we knew; and naturally everything came back to The Mighty Ducks. After our 15th time yelling out "DO THE FLYING V", some girl told us to shut the fuck up. We still called for the knuckle puck every couple of minutes
However, that didn't stop me from pursuing and purchasing a personalized CONWAY #96 jersey.
Jerseys with fictional characters names on them are wonderful - a perfect way to wear another team's jersey without the scrutiny of saying you only wear a particular franchise's merchandise because you like the colors or you have some tangential, yet meaningless, connection to it. Have you ever been to Phoenix? Who cares, because that Rod Tidwell #85 jersey looks pretty sweet on you. What's that? You didn't even know that Cleveland had a baseball team? All you need to know is that Vaughn #99 jersey is rad.
So here it is. We here at MAMBINO HQ have painstakingly researched our favorite sports movies to come up with our Sports Movie Jersey Power Rankings.
The rules for these power rankings are as such:
1) The name on the jersey has to be distinct
ex. A Clark #5 jersey would bring back fond memories of Tony Danza in Angels in the Outfield. But if you rocked a Clark #5 jersey around, would people know what it was? Would a fan of even the film think "Did Will Clark play for the Angels?". The name on the jersey has to be distinct enough that it will raise a level of familiarity upon first sighting
2) The movie character has to be important enough where a jersey's production is warranted
3) The jersey has to be of a fictional movie character. If the movie is based on an actual person, then the jersey is disqualified
The rationale for this is that if the jersey is of real-life player, then you're just getting the jersey of that player, regardless if his production was/is far outmatched by his movie fame. The value and novelty is thus rendered meaningless. How selfish of you.
ex. RUETIGGER #45 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, PAPALE #83 Philadelphia Eagles, MORRIS #37 Tampa Bay Devil Rays jerseys are all memorable movie "characters", but they ultimately are all based on real life major leaguers, and are thus disqualified from these power rankings
4) The more clever the reference, the better the ranking
The top 10 could be ordered and re-ordered daily. Each one of these jerseys has a distinctive flavor to them, not just in the player's name, but also in the design of the jersey. The recognition factor that they will get will vary by generation of course, but for the purposes of these rankings, I'm judging based on the best and most prolific time for sports movies, my generation.
I've gone back and forth on how you would rank these beautiful garments against one another - how do you judge two character's jerseys as near and dear to you as say the immortal Charlie Conway or the fireballing Rick Vaughn?
When I was in college, I wore the Charlie Conway jersey to parties. Like all college males, I figured the more I stood out and the douchier I looked, the more chicks I would get. You can see how that worked out. I write my own blog. However, I would gauge how cool my jersey was by the amount of high fives I got at whatever party I was at. I couldn't think of a better measurement to judge a fictional movie character's jersey than high fives per hour, or HF/hr. And on we go.
Honorable Mentions: MOXON #4 West Canaan High School Coyotes, SHUTTLESWORTH #34 Lincoln High, RODRIGUEZ #3 Los Angeles Dodgers, BEAMEN #13, Miami Sharks, CLARK #5 California Angels, LALOOSH #37 Durham Bulls, POWERS, #55, Atlanta Braves
While it pains me to exclude the majority of these from the illustrious top 10 rankings, each simply didn't make the cut for different reasons. CLARK #5 and RODRIGUEZ #3 were simply victims of having too common of names to be interpreted as movie tributes first, rather than a possible real-life counterpart. MOXON #4, BEAMEN #13 and SHUTTLEWORTH #34 are excellent choices, great characters and iconic names, but ultimately, the jerseys are too plain and uninspiring to advance. LALOOSH #37 was a difficult cut here, but sacrifices have to be made in the name of excellence. Kenny Powers couldn't get enough love here because while the reference is somewhat obscure (there have only been 13 episodes in two seasons), it's an ongoing series and doesn't have a lot of heritage. Basically, it's too culturally relevant to be cool. This is all tempered by the fact that I could yell "You're fucking out!" every 7 seconds when wearing POWERS #55.
10. GOLDBERG #98, Anaheim Mighty Ducks
I’m not sure if Greg Goldberg is getting knocked down here because he is fat and I am one of the beautiful people. But the goalie for one of the greatest champions in the history of Minneapolis Pee Wee Hockey has to be recognized.
9. MCGAVIN Caddy's smock
I would love to put Shooter McGavin or Happy Gilmore on this list, but unfortunately, golf professionals don’t really have jerseys. The fact that we have to lower the bar down to a caddy’s smock (because, seriously, who cares about caddys?) lowers their rankings. Still, it would be awesome to say “SHOOTAH”.
HF/hr: 3.2, but raised because who else wears a caddy’s smock?
8. ICEBOX #56, New York Giants
Ever wonder if Becky “Icebox” O’Shea got hot? Question answered. Hotzah matzah. Even my rampant misogyny and sexism couldn’t keep Icebox out of my top 10. (On a sidenote, if I had been 6 years older when this movie came out, I probably would’ve wondered why the writers of “Little Giants” would give Becky O’Shea such a cruel nickname. That’s messed up guys)
HF/hr: 6, but zero in New England.
7. VAUGHN #99, Cleveland Indians
I’ve got to admit, not only did Charlie Sheen’s recent media outbursts really hamper his earning potential in Hollywood, but also his standings in these rankings. Even his classic character Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn from Major League couldn't escape the over-exposed stink of Emilio’s brother.
HF/hr: 6.5, but sinking
5. FINKLE #6, Miami Dolphins
Finkle and Einhorn. Einhorn and Finkle. Einhorn…is Finkle! Einhorn is a man!
5. ROWENGARTNER #1, Chicago Cubs
An egregious omit from my first draft of these Fictional Sports Movie Jersey Power Rankings. I dissapoint myself and my shame is eternal.
Henry Rowengartner was a 13 year old boy, who in a freak accident on the baseball field, had his elbow completely torn to shreds. As the doctors reset his tattered limb, they found that the tendons had healed in a way that he could now throw a baseball at not just a Major League level, but at an elite Major League level. Fast forward half the movie, Rowengartner is signed by the Cubs, becomes their star reliever and eventually wins them a pennant. Throwing away the physical impossibilities of such a medical anomaly actually happening, every single kid who saw this movie thought they could become Henry Rowengartner.
4. TIDWELL #85, Arizona Cardinals
Since there are about 3 recognizable Cardinals players (pretty much ever), this one is going to stand out. The success and popularity of Jerry Maguire is only going to help the HF/hr. And plus, this is 20x better than a “Snow Dogs” jacket.
3. CERRANO #13, Cleveland Indians
Extra plus points if you bring around a Jobu totem doll with you. Cerrano ranks higher than Rick Vaughn or any other Cleveland Indian from Major League because of the distinctness of his last name, and how large his package looked in that locker room. Not that I care about those sort of things. But it was impressive. What?
2. CONWAY #96, Anaheim Mighty Ducks
The Captain Charlie Conway not only gets props because he led his Mighty Ducks to the 1992 Minneapolis Pee Wee Ice Hockey championship crown, but also because unlike a lot of the other contenders, the jersey is distinct (this Ducks jersey is no longer used) and the movie is immortal.
HF/hr: 13 (actual count)
1. GUMP #44, University of Alabama Crimson Tide
How could this not be number one? Forrest Gump is the most critically hailed movie mentioned on this list, and thus gets a special bump for being one of the only sports movies ever to take home Best Picture at the Oscars. The name sticks out, the jersey sticks out, everything about it is perfect. Roll tide.
There it is. Our top 10. If you agree, disagree, vehemently disagree, chime in. We are an equal opportunity monarchy here at MAMBINO HQ.