When Jonah Hill’s “Moneyball” character Peter Brand — loosely based on Billy Beane’s one-time executive assistant, Harvard grad Paul DePodesta — is derisively dubbed “Google Boy”, the movie’s writers are taking considerable license — it wasn’t until DePodesta ascended to the position of Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager that the (alleged) egghead was disparaged in such terms, quite often, in fact, by the LA Times’ Bill Plaschke (above). Fast forward to 2011, and after a quick dismissal at Chavez Ravine, a brief stop in San Diego and current employment by the rebuilding New York Mets, DePodesta again finds himself being chased by Plaschke, who presumably thinks he’ll get getting some lunch money when and if he finally shoves Sandy Alderson’s assistant’s head into a toilet. Of Johan Hill’s widely discussed semi-portrayal of DePodesta, Plaschke — he of the matinee idol good looks and brooding charisma — cannot resist sneering, “Hill nails his shy mannerisms, his uncomfortable silences, his awkwardness in sharing his newfangled theories with old men spitting tobacco into cups, his fear in dealing with players.”
At the time of the filming Hill was a little stouter than the rail-thin DePodesta, but everything else fits, everything else I remember exactly, from the odd dress to the innovative mind to the unwavering determination in beliefs that could only be shared in darkened film rooms or back hallways.
“I saw a lot of myself in Paul in a completely different way,” said Hill in a phone interview. “I see a quiet rebelliousness in Paul, and I see him finding great difficulty in being defined by strangers.”
Contrary to the gossip, DePodesta confirmed he had decided to remove his name from the film long before Hill became attached. DePodesta actually hung out in a group of people, including Hill, for a day before the filming, which was apparently enough for the kid to catch his vibe.
“I talked with [director] Bennett [Miller] about portraying a guy who blends into the wall until suddenly a light shines upon him,” Hill said.
That was DePodesta when he took over the Dodgers in February 2004, a 31-year-old prodigy occupying a seat once held by Branch Rickey and Al Campanis. That light made him blink, and he wasn’t the only one.