If you were a Hollywood studio chief, wouldn't you greenlight a movie based on the only major leaguer alive to acknowledge he's gay over one about a general manager who used sabermetric principles to bring undervalued ballplayers to his small-market team that went on to collect wins but no pennants?
Go figure: the seemingly less cinematic Moneyball, which has Brad Pitt playing Oakland A's GM Billy Beane, is in theaters now, while pride of Santa Ana High School Billy Bean is busy explaining to folks he's not Billy Beane.
William Daro "Billy" Bean, who was born in Santa Ana, made his Major League debut with Detroit in 1987 and spent eight seasons in the Bigs with the Tigers, Dodgers and Padres, writes about the confusion on Outsports.com, explaining that he has even had to inform close friends that he is not the subject of the lead character in Moneyball, which is based on Michael Lewis' dense book.
Adding to the confusion: both were born in Southern California (Beane went to Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego), had dark hair and quarterbacked their high school football teams. You want confusion? Billy Bean and Billy Beane played in the same outfield with the Toledo Mud Hens, Detroit's Triple A club (and Klinger's beloved team on TV's M*A*S*H). Bean was in center and Beane in left. The field announcer should have earned more battle pay than Klinger.
Beane struggled terribly through that season in our dismal ballpark on a last place team. On the field he seemed miserable, but in our clubhouse he was The Mayor. He would imitate Axl Rose to perfection when the hit song "Sweet Child of Mine" would play on MTV. He was "the ring leader of anarchy" among the players, and everybody loved him.
Later, when Bean joined the Padres, "at every home game people would yell from the stands, 'Hey Billy, remember me from high school?'" He often had to explain while signing autographs after those games that he was not a San Diegan's former classmate. "Sometimes it just seemed easier not to embarrass them, so I'd go along with it," he writes. He still receives Billy Beane baseball cards in the mail from fans seeking autographs.
Bean concedes that after he came out in 1999, he felt sorry for Beane, figuring he was being subjected to the same similar-name conflusion.
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At the time, as I was becoming more and more recognized as a member of the LGBT community, I was sure that Billy was getting the short end of the stick. It was OK for me to be confused with a general manager of a Major League Baseball team, but I wasn't so sure how he felt about people thinking that he was "the gay baseball player." He's a straight Republican, who's married with kids, and I'm a gay Democrat with two Jack Russell Terriers.
As is the case now with Moneyball in theaters, Bean was constantly hit up for reaction last year when it was revealed Brad Pitt would be playing him on screen. You sense Bean hated bursting the bubble for an excited LGBT community. At the same time, he is happy for the success of Moneyball, calling it "great," singling out Pitt's performance for praise and congratulating Beane in the thoughtful Outsports piece.
And Bean reveals there actually is a movie based on his life somewhere in the development process. The Showtime Network bought the rights to his book, Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life In and Out of Major League Baseball. A screenplay was written. "Who's going to play Billy Bean?" has floated around dinner parties.
I've been asked that question so many times that I've lost count, and truth be told, I was pretty anxious to find out as well. I have learned that patience is a virtue when waiting for a film to be made. Promises mean very little, and feelings get hurt often. I read that Moneyball has taken more than eight years to come to the silver screen, so I'll keep waiting for my turn.