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MONEYBALL

On The Field
Even as Moneyball explores a seismic shift in an American institution, it also flirts with the enduring romance American has had with baseball for over a century. Baseball's devotees have always gone beyond simply watching and debating the games – they believe in the sport as a kind of mirror to American culture, of where it's been and perhaps now, where it's going. That fascination begins with the ballparks themselves which, across the nation, even with all the ups and downs of the business, remain potent symbols of the aspirations of the towns they represent.

Moneyball shot at five different baseball parks, including Dodger Stadium and Fenway Park, as well as Blair Field at California State University Long Beach and Stengel Field at Glendale Community College. But the showpiece was filming at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home to both the Oakland A's as well as football's Oakland Raiders. The 60,000 seat stadium was used to film the majority of scenes from the A's 2002 season games, including their historic 20-game streak.

Says cinematographer Wally Pfister, "The Oakland Coliseum is really a character in the movie, this old soul, or old battleship, that's hosted so many of these games and is a centerpiece of our story. There is a respect you feel when you walk onto the field, walking across the footsteps of Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter. It feels like sacred ground.”

For veterans of the A's, it was a thrill to go back into time. Says Billy Beane: "Seeing the movie, I was able to get caught up again in the streak and the crowds in the Coliseum. I've always thought we have an incredibly creative crowd here, going back to the 70s, with what they wear and the signs they put up, so it was great to see that recreated the way they did it in the movie.”

David Rinetti, who was there during the 2002 season recalls: "It was amazing to see these guys walk on the field. They did a great job casting because when the actors walked by I'd go, that's David Justice, that's Scott Hatteberg, that's Barry Zito. They looked just like the real guys going by.”

Author Michael Lewis also was moved by his visit to the Coliseum set. "Everything is a little different now, so to have it all brought back with all the players from 2002 was a little eerie,” he confesses. "My first trip to the set was when they were shooting Scott Hatteberg's homerun. It was by far the most incredible, spine-tingling moment I experienced in my work in the book and to see it recreated was almost spooky. The chance to relive what was a thrilling reportorial experience was a gas.”

Even the music was the same, as virtuoso electric guitarist and Bay Area local Joe Satriani came in to play the same version of the National Anthem that he played for the Oakland A's 2002 opening day game – using the original chrome prototype of the Ibanez guitar he played in 2002.

Responding to a local call for extras, over 1000 Bay Area residents showed up each day to portray Athletics' fans and provide high-energy crowd feedback for the game reenactments, as well as to play players' wives, media and stadium vendors.

Cast and crew were also joined on this occasion, as well as several additional shoots throughout production, by staff from MLB acting as on-set advisors, scrutinizing the tiniest details for historical accuracy.

It all added up to a galvanizing impact for everyone involved, pulling them into the heart of the story. Sums up Chris Pratt: "It was almost a spiritual experience walking out onto the field in the full uniform with that perfectly manicured grass and this classic stadium and you sense all the work that has gone into it, from guys in the front office to the guys cleaning the place. It's an amazing feeling.”

For Billy Beane, that feeling remains an integral part of his everyday experience, as he continues to serve as General Manager and minority owner of the Oakland Athletics, albeit surrounded by never-ending controversy and debate. Still, says the director Bennett Miller, Moneyball is a film for any kind of fan. "It's a film that respects and appreciates what the game is. The film honors the science and mystery of this thing that will never be fully cracked,” he says. "There will never be a formula that will distill this game down to the completely comprehensible. There will always be a human, inexplicable, mysterious component to the game.”

Michael Lewis agrees: "The reason there's so much emotion attached to this game is because it is really associated with the very elemental bonds you have as a young child. It has a powerful grip on the culture, especially when there have been opportunities for underdogs.”

The fortunes of the A's have gone up and down in the last decade, and the tensions between the past and the future continue to roil – and yet, there is no doubt that every day the influence of what happened in 2002 is felt in bullpens across America and in a "moneyball” revolution that has people in all areas of life asking: "What is my value?”

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