“Moneyball” the movie tells the amazing story of the 2002 Oakland A’s, and how manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and a forward-thinking number cruncher (Jonah Hill) turned a tiny budget into a team that pulled off a 20-game winning streak, an American League record.
The team was assembled via numbers and statistics, rather than traditional scouting methods. Part of the formula was outfielder David Justice, who, at 37, had been playing for the New York Yankees and was presumably on his way out.
Portraying Justice in the film is Stephen Bishop, a 6 foot, 4-inch lookalike with his own amazing story. Raised in Moraga, Bishop — recently in town to promote the film — played baseball from about the time he could walk.
One of his favorite games was “All Star,” in which he would go through the major league lineup, batting like each player. Of lefty Justice, Bishop says, “I idolized him. I looked like him. I wanted to play like him. He was the only poster I had on my wall.”
The playacting experience later allowed Bishop to quickly adapt to Justice’s style. “It was all about re-polishing. I hadn’t swung a bat left-handed in years,” Bishop says.
While attending the University of California at Riverside and playing ball there, Bishop, nicknamed “Baby Justice,” met his hero at Candlestick Park. The elder Justice gave the young player a pair of batting gloves, which Bishop subsequently wore during a 22-game hitting streak.
Eventually Bishop was signed to the Atlanta Braves’ minor league division, where he once again met Justice in the clubhouse.
“He thought I was stalking him or something,” Bishop laughs. “But he took me under his wing. He put his arm around me and walked me around the clubhouse and said, ‘This is my little brother. You treat him like you treat me.’”
A baseball career didn’t work out for Bishop, but while taking acting classes at Diablo Valley College he found his backup plan.
Bishop’s research for “Moneyball” consisted of a phone call. “I knew everything about him as a player. But I needed to know where his mindset was, so I could know how to interact with the other players.”
Although Bishop has two upcoming movies — “Safe House” with Denzel Washington and “Battleship” with Liam Neeson — for now “Moneyball” represents a satisfying full circle for him.
The best accolade, he says, came from Justice’s wife: “She was at the premiere with us, and she said, ‘You nailed it.’ That’s a good endorsement.”
Starring Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Stephen Bishop
Written by Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Bennett Miller
Running time 2 hours 13 minutes