Dodgers scout has bit role in 'Moneyball'

Dodgers scout has bit role in 'Moneyball'

LOS ANGELES -- Friends and family -- from as far away as Turkey and as close as Los Angeles -- started calling longtime Dodgers scout Artie Harris months ago as soon as they saw the trailer for the feature film "Moneyball," starring Brad Pitt.

Sure, they noticed the movie star, but they also noticed the scout. Harris plays "Scout Artie" in the film. He's in two scenes and even got a line in the trailer.

"I still think I woke up from a dream," said Harris of the whole experience.

The 73-year-old, who grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from Fairfax High and played baseball at UCLA, has been a beloved scout for the Dodgers since 1987. One of the major aspects of his job these days is preparing the war room for the annual First-Year Player Draft.

Last year, Harris' friend Ken Medlock -- a former Minor Leaguer who played for the Rookie League Ogden Dodgers in 1967, managed by Tommy Lasorda -- told his scout buddy that he wanted to become the technical advisor for "Moneyball."

Medlock had heard that Sony Pictures was going to turn the impactful Michael Lewis book about the Oakland A's modernized approach of using sabermetrics and analysis to build a baseball team to compete against big-market teams into a movie. The main figure in the book is Oakland general manager Billy Beane, whom Pitt was tabbed to play.

Medlock asked Harris if he would join him for a meeting with the film's director Bennett Miller to lend baseball credibility to his case of becoming a technical advisor. In the meeting, Harris ended up hitting it off with Miller. And Miller had the part of a scout in mind for Harris to play.

"Bennett basically took the part of Billy Beane. He sat across the table from us and started arguing with us about the statistical approach vs. the old-fashioned scouting approach," said Harris. "We sat with him for an hour, maybe longer, and he knew his business. ... He got up and Bennett said, 'Hey, that was great. I want you to be part of this.' [I told him], 'Bennett, I'm not an actor.'"

Miller, Harris explained, didn't care. Harris fashions himself as an old-fashioned scout, and that's just the type of character Miller needed for the film to play off Pitt characterizing Beane's new-age approach.

Harris went through a couple of auditions and landed the role. Last November, he filmed his parts, still contending to Miller that he was no actor. Yet Harris was given a script and was on a movie set. Harris recalls spending days with Pitt, one of Hollywood's biggest movie stars.

"I didn't know what to expect," said Harris. "The man is obviously a superstar in his world, but he could not have been nicer, a very significantly professional person. He wanted it done very, very well. Anytime it didn't satisfy him, 'Hey, let's do that again. Let's start from here. Let's make sure it works.' Bottom line is, he wanted it to be a good production, and he was as nice to all of us as anybody could be."

Harris recalls sitting on a chair one day on set, his head down and Pitt walking past him. Pitt looked back and affably asked Harris, "Don't you say 'Good morning?'" Harris smiled, acknowledging he was caught up in learning lines. Yet, once they started filming, Pitt and Harris ad-libbed many of the lines that actually appear in the movie. Miller trusted that Harris was a baseball man, and he knew how to speak the language of the game.

"Artie was a gem. He was a sweetheart, and he can deliver a line," said Pitt. "He was trying to memorize a line, because that's what you think you've got to do, and I'd say, 'Artie, just say it however you say it.' And he gave some zingers."

Harris got to see the movie for the first time on Saturday -- six days before the nationwide release -- at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif.

"I think the baseball's very credible," said Harris. "There were some things that were very, very accurate and enough humor to make it enjoyable for any person. They kept it light enough for the average person to enjoy, and they kept the baseball to the point where a real baseball person would say, 'Yeah, that works.'"

Two days after the screening, Harris got the star treatment at Dodger Stadium. Unbeknownst to him, a surprise party had been in the works for weeks to celebrate Harris. A tongue-in-cheek company-wide e-mail circulated, referring to Harris as the star of the movie and Pitt as his sidekick.

On Monday, Dodgers coordinator of Minor League administration Adriana Urzua lured Harris away from his desk and took him to lunch. Harris has repeatedly said that Urzua has had the most fun with the scout's star turn. When she found out her friend and co-worker of 10 years was going to be in the movie, she printed out a yellow star with Harris' name in the center and put it above his cubicle. She also bought a red bath mat and placed it in front of his area in baseball operations, making a humorous nod to a red carpet.

"We love Artie so much," she said. "He's a great guy. We had fun teasing him."

When the pair returned from lunch, they reached some double-glass doors that led to baseball operations. Urzua halted Harris for a second and told him, "You know, I'd never do anything to upset you."

Harris then hesitantly walked through the doors and into his portion of the office where he saw a long line of Dodgers employees waiting for him. They all clapped as he walked in, and he was ushered to a table with a "Moneyball" movie poster behind it. On the table were pictures of Harris and Pitt together in a scene from the movie and pens next to the photos for Harris to autograph for his adoring fans.

Continuing to tease Harris, Urzua said he no longer refers to his "Moneyball" co-star as Pitt.

"Now it's just Brad," she said.

Harris went with the flow and enjoyed every minute of the surprise party. His wife, Tanis, and granddaughters Justine and Dani came to the celebration as an added surprise.

"I think it's great. He's having a ball, and we're just enjoying the ride," said Tanis. Then she joked, "I'm going to have to live with him now."

Away from all the joking, Harris takes a lot of pride in the work. He said Dodger general manager Ned Colletti, who was also present at the party, made him feel like it wasn't just an important thing for Harris, but for the Dodgers organization. Harris said there have been agents who have contacted him about being a character actor since his work in "Moneyball." For now, with his feet back on the ground, he'll concentrate on something else.

"I'm going to go back to doing regular baseball," he said.

Cary Osborne is a contributor to Dodgers.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.