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Monday, July 19, 2010

James Gammon, played Lou Brown in 'Major League,' dies at 70


The funniest, crankiest and perhaps most-beloved manager in the history of the Cleveland Indians has died.

James Gammon, who played skipper Lou Brown in the film "Major League" and its first sequel, died in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Friday, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Also a resident of Ocala, Fla., Gammon was 70.

Via the Sentinel:

"He had cancer two and a half years ago," his wife, Nancy, said Saturday. "It came back aggressively about a month ago in his adrenal glands and liver, and he was very weak. They couldn't do surgery or chemotherapy. He decided he wanted to come home, and we did hospice."

So sad. Hopefully, with Gammon's suffering over, his spirit is in a better place.

The Sentinel hits the nail on the head by describing Gammon as a "superb character actor." He had a face and a voice that were perfect for westerns, cranky grandfather types and, of course, as manager of the most hopeless team in baseball.

Amid considerable hijinks, those fictional Indians (in case you missed it) won the old AL East despite their owner attempting to tank on purpose so she could move the team to Miami. (The movie, which premiered in 1989, predates the real Marlins.)

For fans, the movie's characters have stayed with us ever since. If you're like me, scenes pop into your head and quotes come out of your mouth. It's long become part of baseball's popular culture.

And we don't reference only Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn or Pedro Cerrano's voodoo god, Jo-Buu. Lou Brown was just as quotable:

"I think you can go get him now."

"Give 'em the heater, Ricky."

"You may run like Mays, but you hit like [bleep]."

"Don't give me this ole' bull[oney]."

"Lemme think it over, will ya, Charlie? I got a guy on the other line about some whitewalls. I'll talk to ya' later."

Even some of his other lines — such as "Tire World" and "Oh, I dunno" — still crack me up. It's a wonderfully nuanced performance. It wouldn't be the same movie without him.

The same goes for real life, too.

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