In the first installment, free to all readers, we looked at how Billy Bob began his career, as well as his current and planned activities, including the upcoming Paramount movie, The Bad News Bears, which opens July 22.
In this second installment, Billy Bob discusses how he became a Cardinals fan, which Cardinals from the past he'd like to meet and why, and explains how he would make Three Nights in August into a movie.
How did you first become a Cardinals fan?
The Cardinals had their Double-A club at Little Rock, Arkansas, near where I grew up. There, we really don't have a pro team, so everybody roots for the Cardinals. So, I have been a fan of the Cardinals since I was aware of baseball.
When was that?
I go back to the early, early days. The first (World) Series I saw was in '64 - the Yankees versus the Cardinals. Then, '67 against the Red Sox, which we won. '68 was one of my worst years ever sports-wise when the Tigers beat us and Lolich won three games. So, I was keeping up with it way back as a kid.
Bob Gibson was my hero growing up. I was a pitcher growing up in school. Gibson was my guy.
I've been a little geographically-challenged, but I am a little but like what Jack Nicholson is for the Lakers. I am always preaching about the Cardinals and everything. Believe me, if I lived in St. Louis, I'd be at the park every night.
You have two boys approaching teenage years. Have they become Cardinals fans, too?
Absolutely, that is their team. The Cardinals. They are always playing, doing their own thing. I can't get them to sit down and watch a game very often. But, in the playoffs, they will watch a Cardinal game with me.
Which of the Cardinals past or present that you haven't met would you like to meet?
Well, let's see. There are so many of them. I just got to meet Tim McCarver. I guess I'd like to meet (Orlando) Cepeda. I hope I am not mentioning anyone who has passed away… Not that he is a Cardinal now, but I've always wanted to meet Joe Torre. I have always had a lot of respect for Torre. I'd certainly like to meet him someday.
But, frankly, any of those Cardinals from those teams back in the day when I was coming up. Dal Maxvill, Julian Javier, Curt Flood, Lou Brock; all those guys.
Have you met Mike Shannon yet?
Oh, yeah, I did. He was great. He was a character. Terrific. And, I got to meet Jack Buck, bless his soul. I've gotten to meet a lot of them over the years, but I didn't get to meet Albert Pujols at the All-Star Game. Somehow, we missed each other all the time. I met the rest of them, but I'd like to meet him.
Any Cardinal I can meet would be fine. Musial. That would be the one that I guess I'd really love to meet. That would be a thrill.
Have you read Buzz Bissinger's latest book, Three Nights in August and if so, what are your impressions?
I love that book. What is great about it, having been a baseball player, I know that there is a lot of thinking going on. There is a huge mind game and a lot of strategy that goes into baseball. As a matter of fact, I am always in arguments with people who say "baseball is boring". I say, "I'll tell you what. You go and be a baseball manager for a few nights and see how boring it is."
Even as much as I did know about it, I learned so much more about what guys do in the dugout. It is such a game of strategy and such a cat-and-mouse game. Being able to get inside of Tony La Russa's head that way was a great thrill for me, because I look up to him so much. I think he is the best manager in baseball.
And also, you get into Dusty Baker's head to an extent, too, which was a real interesting thing. I think Buzz did an amazing job on that book.
If it were ever made into a film, would you consider playing La Russa?
Well, gosh, I don't know if could play Tony La Russa or not. I think the guy is way more charismatic than I am and probably more handsome than I am. They might have to get somebody else. (laughs)
I would love to play a baseball manager, but I am not sure I would want to play Tony La Russa.
Who do you think would fit that role?
I don't really know. Honestly, I can't think of anybody right offhand. Believe me; I would love to have the opportunity to do it.
Last time I discussed it with Tony, he said he wasn't interested in seeing it made into a movie, but at the same time, he left the door open that if someone came bearing a large check for ARF, that he'd have to consider it.
If I were directing the movie, if I were the producer or director, I tell you who I would cast. I would cast HIM. I wouldn't make a whole movie about his career, when he was younger and everything like that. I would concentrate on these past few years, kind of like what the book did.
Maybe concentrate on that series and do a movie about that. Right out of the book. And I would just use him in the movie.
That would be a tough sell to get La Russa to take the time to focus on it. He's all baseball all the time.
I know. But, I'd tell him that I'd get him in and out in about six or seven weeks. Maybe he could do it.
This interview will conclude Tuesday for www.thestlcardinals.com subscribers.
In part three, Thornton shares his view of the 2004 World Series, his 2005 outlook, his experiences at the All-Star Game including a hilarious meeting with Ozzie Smith, his workout with Jeff Suppan during Bad News Bears filming and names his Cardinals idols.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.