New beginnings start at Blair Field in the 2011 film “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt. In the film, Pitt plays Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics MLB team. With a small budget and frustration after another losing season, Beane works with Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) to assemble a team using computer analytics.
For eight days, Blair Field was rented out to film many well-known scenes in the movie. After two and a half days of setup, the field was transformed into the Athletics’ spring training facility in Arizona.
Former Blair Field manager Jim Yogi witnessed the film come to life during that duration.
“They did a lot of setup from the field to the Dirtbags’ locker room,” Yogi said. “Things were taken down and new banners were added. The field was not affected much, just many carts going back and forth.”
NCAA Division 1 and former MLB players filled the stadium as extras in the movie. Almost everyone, except for Chris Pratt who portrayed the A’s first baseman, played baseball in real life, according to Yogi.
“At the time, a lot of the staff I had were ex-baseball players, so they knew most of the players [cast as extras],” he said. “The interaction between the field crew and the baseball players was so good that we could go out there and play catch with them if we had to.”
Todd Christensen, the man responsible for bringing the film to Blair Field, distinctly remembers all that was filmed at Blair Field and how helpful the staff was the entire time.
“Blair Field fit the bill really well for the movie,” Christensen said. “I worked through Long Beach State [to get the location]. They were great, and I have a Dirtbags hat now too. We filmed a number of scenes at Blair Field—in the parking lot, on the field itself, and shot scenes in the locker room.”
Throughout the shoot, Yogi and his field staff were on standby in case the film crew needed any assistance in creating different looks on the field to ensure authenticity. He described that there was constant communication to assure the field looked good for certain innings and scrimmage games.
“The script was laid out with specific scores, outs and innings.” Yogi said. “It’s an example of things we would consult on.”
In addition to adapting Blair Field to fit the script’s needs, location manager Christensen also had to deal with the factor of bringing an A-List star to Long Beach.
“Because Brad Pitt was in the movie, we had to deal with the paparazzi a lot,” Christensen said. “The first thing that the paparazzi did was that they went to the [Recreation Park] golf course—it looks down on Blair Field. The paparazzi went and paid for a round of golf, rented clubs and a golf cart, and they went immediately to the 15th hole and started taking pictures [of Pitt and fellow “Moneyball” crew].”
Yogi also recalls the craze of seeing photographers and paparazzi attempting to get shots of Pitt entering and exiting the field.
“They were on the green with a tee box and camera shooting into Blair Field,” Yogi said. “Photographers were also in the trees by the outfield. It was quite amazing.”
Eventually, the paparazzi were kicked out of the golf course, but that didn’t stop them. Soon after, the film crew saw photographers walking into Recreation Park, surrounding Blair Field, with a 12-foot ladder. So Christensen worked with the Long Beach permit office to rent out Recreation Park during filming.
“I told the permit office, ‘I don’t care if people are there picnicking, driving through there, whatever they want to do, that’s fine, regular civilians can be there—all I want to do is to have the authority to kick out the paparazzi if they go in the park.”
The plan worked. Christensen had permitted both sides of Recreation Park and had the full backing of the city. As the paparazzi was setting up one day in the park, Christensen, along with the police officer assigned to the crew, told them to leave.
“It was so much fun,” Christensen said with a chuckle. “Brad [Pitt] and his security thought it was great.”
Christensen also worked with the Long Beach Port to shoot the scene where Beane would go to clear his head after experiencing the stress of managing the Oakland Athletics. There are multiple scenes where Beane is supposedly driving through Oakland, but it’s actually Long Beach.
According to Christensen, the “Moneyball” crew and the film’s director, Bennett Miller, were impressed by the way the scene captured on film, amidst the backdrop of the cranes and ships stationed at the Port of Long Beach.
“Brad [Pitt] was driving the car doing wheelies and donuts, with the sunset in the background, it was great,” Christensen said. “This was the money shot.”
Aside from “Moneyball,” Blair Field was and continues to be a popular Long Beach filming location. From the 1996 basketball movie “Space Jam,” starring Michael Jordan, to the ‘70s football movie “North Dallas Forty” and the 2009 romantic comedy “The Ugly Truth,” Yogi said the amount of movies filmed at Blair Field is substantial.
Yogi describes Blair Field to have an old-time look, and with its pivotal location, film companies can make it look different needed. With no palm trees, a Southern California staple in the area, it is easy to portray any location in America.
“Blair has got nostalgia to it,” he said. “It was a great experience for everybody, especially on our end.”