Today's American League playoff opener brings memories of the only time the Tampa Bay Rays (during their "Devil" days) and the Texas Rangers ever met in the movies.
Tampa Bay lost that game in 2002's The Rookie yet won the battle for moviegoers' hearts when pitcher Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) took the mound. At age 35, Morris became the oldest player to debut in the big leagues, striking out Rangers outfielder Royce Clayton. Chokes us up just thinking about it.
Other than that crowd pleaser, the Rays haven't seen much attention from Hollywood (although we've got dibs on Jamie Foxx's best actor Oscar for Ray). The Rangers made a cameo appearance in Oliver Stone's W. as George Bush's pre-presidential plaything, but that's about it.
Ah, but the real Texas Rangers, members of that fabled law enforcement agency, are a frequent cinematic subject, typically with the respect they deserve. Being Rays fans, we're not concerned with praising them right now. Instead, here are five actors in famous roles making Texas Rangers look foolish, at least until the final reel:
DENVER PYLE (Bonnie and Clyde, 1967): Texas Ranger Frank Hamer led the climactic ambush of bank robbers Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty). But that was payback after they forced him to pose for "friendly" photographs that were leaked to newspapers, soiling the lawman's reputation. Nothing like spraying folks with machine guns until they flop like marionettes to make things even.
GLEN CAMPBELL (True Grit, 1969): Even young Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) could stare down La Boeuf (no first name), a Texas Ranger with shimmering hair and a wistful title song on the sound track. La Boeuf was famous for allowing an outlaw to escape, killing his horse instead. "Fewer horses, fewer horse thieves," La Boeuf reasoned. Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) later delivered a well deserved rifle butt to his noggin.
DENNIS HOPPER (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, 1986): Once a Ranger, always a Ranger, even when he's too crazy to serve. Lefty Enright had grisly personal reasons to track down a cannibal family. His revenge involved a silly Star Wars-style fight with Leatherface using chain saws and inserting a power tool into a killer's very private place. That doesn't sound like proper police procedure.
JOHN WAYNE (The Comancheros, 1961): Funny that one of the few times anyone got the drop on the Duke, he was playing a Texas Ranger. Jake Cutter captured a fugitive gambler (Stuart Whitman), who did a Josh Hamilton on the lawman's face with a shovel and escaped.
CHUCK NORRIS (Walker, Texas Ranger, 1993-2001): Okay, it's a TV show, but it's Chuck Norris, who can turn your TV into a multiplex with one grunt. Cordell Walker kicked so much butt that he had to travel back in time for more, in a two-part episode about legendary Texas Ranger Hayes Cooper (Chuck Norris, of course). The gimmick would have been a jump-the-shark moment except that Chuck Norris ate the shark.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at tampabay.com/blogs/movies.