As a screenwriter myself, the first thing I thought when I heard the Cubs were actually, for real, going to hire David Ross as their manager, was that maybe this would finally get that David Ross movie made.
You may recall that soon after the 2016 World Series it was reported that Ross’s memoir Teammate had been optioned to become a feature film. I pulled some strings and reached out to some of my friends in Hollywood, and was able to share some leaked pages from the screenplay. It was gripping stuff: Really capturing the way this backup catcher seized the narrative and guaranteed himself a post-playing career as a commentator and celebrity dance person. I encourage you to read those pages.
But in the 2+ years since, the film project has seemingly stalled. There has been some reported progress, including the hiring of a director and Ross telling last year’s Cubs Caravan that Joe Berenthal would be playing him in the movie. And yes, the film does have an IMDB page:
Some might bristle at the plot synopsis suggesting that Ross “lead” the Cubs to the World Series, but in the 108 years since their last championship, I challenge you to found anyone more responsible for the turnaround than a backup catcher who appeared in 139 games over two years.
At any rate, despite some potential casting and other hints of forward momentum, it’s pretty clear the film project has stalled. And that’s not unusual at all. Most film projects that go into the development pipeline never make it out the other end. I know - I’ve worked on several.
It’s especially common for a project like this: A true story optioned at the moment it’s peaking in the public eye. In the years it takes for development and production, sometimes those stories prove not to be as moving or memorable as they appeared in the moment. That’s almost certainly what happened here.
As the 2016 World Series bumper stickers wear and peel away, it’s possible the world just isn’t as interested in the story of a bench player who was on a team that won the World Series. It was always going to be a little too linear: Old player signs contract, sits on the bench a lot, plays occasionally, and then team wins the championship.
What this story always needed was for that big World Series celebration to be a false resolution... setting up a third act twist. With today’s news, we are finally on our way to what we need to make a real movie out of this thing.
So all the stuff from those leaked pages: That’s still in the movie. We still see Ross pushing Heyward aside to deliver the big rallying speech himself during the rain delay of Game 7. But that all culminates around the midpoint of the movie, and then in the 5th reel, things get a little more somber and we transition into something of a campfire sequence.
“Grandpa Rossy” is an enormous celebrity, winning Dancing With the Stars and launching the International Dance Craze “The Rossy.” He joins an ESPN broadcast team and turns weeknight baseball games into The #1 Rated TV Show in history, even if he doesn’t understand how batting order works.
But meanwhile, things with the Cubs are not so good.
Joe Maddon begins to lose his grip on the team from the combined effects of dementia and wine addiction. Javy Baez still makes really good tags on runners and Anthony Rizzo actually positions himself inside the batters box on bunt attempts... but it’s just not enough. By the end of the 2019 season, the Cubs fail to make the playoffs.
Theo Epstein comes to visit Ross in his mansion on the moon.
Ross tells Epstein he’s left that world behind. He’s happy with his life now as a best-selling author, A-list choreographer and CIA assassin. But Epstein reminds him of all the things he loves, like being in the clubhouse with the guys and inserting his personal narrative into the Chicago Cubs franchise for financial gain.
“Coming back to the team? Winning another World Series? That’s the kind of thing they make movies about,” Epstein says.
Ross mulls this over for a beat before he replies:
Epstein asks Ross to deliver a pretend speech to fire up the 2020 team, which is an actual thing that happened, but it’s a foregone conclusion: The job is his.
And from there, we launch into the 3rd act, which kicks off with a montage of Ross whipping the Cubs back into shape. They battle through the season, vanquish the Cardinals, and win another World Series.
When the Cubs record that final out, it’s not the players who celebrate on the field. Instead, they all rush to the dugout, where they lift their manager - David Ross - onto their shoulders. The film ends with the team parading Ross around the field, while he yells to the heavens “I am a GOD!!!”
...or at least, that’s what the Cubs hope will happen after hiring a former backup catcher with no managerial experience as their manager. I guess we’ll find out.