Bill Murray really only wanted to play baseball and golf during the summer of 1978 and he was accomplishing one of those things playing for the Grays Harbor Loggers when the opportunity to star in Meatballs came his way.
Murray, who was known for Saturday Night Live but wasn’t yet a bonafide star, ended up spending five weeks with the minor league baseball team representing the twin cities of Aberdeen and Hoquiam, Washington and the team would go on to win a championship.
This odd chapter in minor league baseball and Bill Murray history is retold in great detail in an Oral History on Fox Sports.
In the piece, Meatballs director Ivan Reitman discusses the 1979 summer camp movie’s connection to the story.
We started shooting Meatballs in the first week of August. After working on Animal House, I knew we needed someone really funny, a real star, if the movie was going to work. I’d been trying to get Bill to do it, and he kept saying he just wanted to play baseball and golf all summer.
My partners and I owned the movie, which made it particularly risky when I didn’t know if I had a star. So we’re back and forth, negotiating, and finally the day before we’re supposed to start shooting, Bill’s lawyer says yes, he’ll show up. And he did show up on the second day of filming.
I said to him once, ‘Look, if this little movie does something, you’ll have used your summer wisely. And he kept saying, ‘I just wanted to play baseball.’ But once he was with us, he was with us to the end. Creatively, he was such a great partner, so funny. I quickly had a sense that we had something special there.
It’s safe to say Murray’s time was used wisely, after all as a film shot for less than $2 million remains a comedy classic that made Murray a star.