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The Rookie Of The Year Cast Has Changed A Lot Since 1993

For any baseball fan, Wrigley Field is a magical place. From the ivy-covered back wall and bleachers, to cups of Old Style and hot dogs dragged through the garden, Wrigley exudes history from its every corner. Many generations of fans have come to see the Chicago Cubs play, getting their hopes lifted in April, and more often than not, seeing those hopes shattered by October. Before the Cubs finally won the World Series in 2016, it wasn't entirely out of the question that they might, say, call a pre-teen boy from the stands and have him play better than the grown men on the field.

The 1993 family comedy "Rookie of the Year" brought that fantasy to life, playing like a pint-sized "Major League" with a healthy dose of "Home Alone"-style wish fulfillment (and slapstick) added in for good measure. Thomas Ian Nicholas plays Henry Rowengartner, a 12-year-old little leaguer who becomes the team's unlikely new pitcher when an improperly healed broken arm imbues him with a 100-mile-an-hour fastball. Thrown into the very grown-up world of bullpens and locker rooms, Henry soon takes the struggling Cubbies from the bottom of the National League all the way to the World Series. 

The film was a hit when it opened, and has remained a millennial touchstone ever since. After nearly 30 years, its young cast is all grown up, many of its adults have gone on to do memorable work in film and television, and some unfortunately are no longer with us. Let's take a look at how the "Rookie of the Year" cast has changed since 1993.

Bruce Altman

The villain of "Rookie of the Year" isn't anyone Henry faces on the baseball diamond, but rather Jack, his mother Mary's (Amy Morton) obnoxious boyfriend played by Bruce Altman. When Henry discovers his incredible pitching ability, it's Jack who works to get him signed to the Cubs, acting as his manager. But when Mary starts getting a little too close to veteran pitcher Chet Steadman (Gary Busey), he arranges for Henry to be traded to the Yankees. Mary finally puts Jack in his place by kicking him out of hers.

Yale graduate Altman had appeared in just a few films and television shows before "Rookie of the Year," but in the decades since has amassed an impressive resume both in front of the camera and on stage. He has worked with film directors such as James Mangold ("Copland"), Ridley Scott ("Matchstick Men") and Nancy Myers ("It's Complicated"), while making TV appearances on "The Sopranos," "Law and Order," and "Orange is the New Black." In the 2010s he had recurring roles on the CBS cop drama "Blue Bloods," as well as "Mr. Robot," and "Power: Book II."

W. Earl Brown

Kentucky-born W. Earl Brown was a local Chicago actor when he was cast in the small role of the Cubs' bullpen catcher Billy Frick. He is most prominently seen in Henry's disastrous first game, helping Henry decipher the flailing signals of pitching coach Brickma (Daniel Stern, also the film's director).

Brown has made a name for himself as an actor, writer, and musician, as well as one of the few filmmakers to have written his own IMDb profile. After moving to Los Angeles following "Rookie of the Year," Brown found early success in the films of Wes Craven ("Scream") and the Farrelly brothers ("There's Something About Mary"). In 2004 he was cast as cowboy Dan Dority on HBO's Shakespearean Western "Deadwood," and in the 2010s had recurring roles on Season 2 of "True Detective" plus the first season of the ABC anthology series "American Crime." In 2020 he entered the world of "Star Wars," playing an alien bartender opposite his former "Deadwood" castmate Timothy Olyphant on "The Mandalorian"; he would reprise the role in 2022 for two episodes of "The Book of Boba Fett." In addition to his film and television work, Brown is lead singer of the country rock band Sacred Cowboys.

Gary Busey

Gary Busey had an entire career behind him when he was cast as Chet Steadman, the cranky over-the-hill Cubs pitcher who forms a fatherly bond with Henry (and a romantic bond with Henry's mom). Born in Texas but raised in Oklahoma, Busey got his start as an actor in exploitation flicks and biker movies in the late 1960s. After a decade in the trenches, he hit the big time in 1978, playing the title role in the musical biopic "The Buddy Holly Story" and earning Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for his performance. In the '80s and early '90s he played memorable villains in "Lethal Weapon" and "Under Siege."

Since "Rookie of the Year," Busey has continued turning up in television and low budget film. In the 2010s, however, his career took an unexpected turn thanks to appearances as himself on the celebrity editions of reality shows like "The Apprentice," "Big Brother," and "Celebrity Rehab." His disheveled, wild-eyed looks and erratic behavior, possibly due to a traumatic brain injury he suffered in the 1990s, have turned him into more meme than man in recent years. For his part, Busey has leaned into this public perception of him as a crazy person, as seen in his recent gig as "Gary Busey: Pet Judge" for Amazon Prime.

Neil Flynn

Lanky comic actor Neil Flynn was already a veteran of pro baseball comedies featuring the dedicated fans of a losing club, having made his film debut as a trash-talking Cleveland longshoreman in 1987's "Major League." Here, as Cubs first baseman Okie, he is not a fan of Henry being part of the team, seeing him as just a gimmick — a gimmick who sits in other players' lucky seats in the bullpen.

Flynn spent the rest of the '90s as a film and TV journeyman, often playing police officers, as in "The Fugitive" and on episodes of "Seinfeld" and the Fox sci-fi series "Sliders." Flynn's big break and arguably his most famous role came in 2001 when he was cast as the unnamed, possibly imaginary Janitor on the hit NBC (and later ABC) hospital sitcom "Scrubs." He stayed on the show for eight seasons, and in 2009 starred in the ABC family comedy "The Middle" as middle-class family patriarch Mike Heck alongside Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond"). In addition to his on-camera roles, Flynn has lent his signature Northern Illinois drawl to animation, voicing characters on "Clone High," "Kim Possible," and most recently, the Netflix series "Chicago Party Aunt."

Robert Hy Gorman

In "Rookie of the Year," Robert Hy Gorman plays Clark, one of Henry's two best friends and his tether to life as a normal kid, which threatens to irrevocably snap as Henry becomes more and more of a celebrity. Gorman spent his most formative years in front of the camera, appearing in "The Accidental Tourist" and on episodes of "Designing Women" and "My Sister Sam" as early as age eight. He had a recurring role on the primetime soap opera "Falcon Crest," and is perhaps best remembered as one of Christina Applegate's younger siblings in the 1991 cable TV mainstay "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead."

Gorman continued to work as a child actor after "Rookie of the Year," appearing in the first film of the "Leprechaun" series and on short-lived sitcoms "Joe's Life" and "The Home Court," but as he reached college age he mostly left acting behind. His most recent on-camera roles were in 2008 and 2009, small roles in George Clooney's "Leatherheads" and an episode of the CW drama "One Tree Hill," as well as the regional American Revolution docudrama "All for Liberty." These days he is a wealth management advisor based in South Carolina.

Albert Hall

Longtime character actor Albert Hall plays Sal Martinella, the Cubs' manager and a man who is chronically unable to pronounce Henry's name correctly. The Alabama-born Hall got his start in the late 1960s on the soap opera "One Life to Live," and would return to soaps off and on throughout his career. In 1979 Hall landed perhaps his most recognizable part as Chief Phillips, one of the soldiers taking Martin Sheen upriver in Francis Ford Coppola's Vietnam epic "Apocalypse Now."

The '80s and '90s saw Hall book recurring roles on "Matlock" and "The Practice," playing a district attorney and a judge, respectively; Hall would reprise his "Practice" role on David E. Kelley's other legal series of the era, "Ally McBeal." He performed opposite Denzel Washington twice in the early '90s, first in Spike Lee's "Malcom X" and then in Carl Franklin's "Devil in a Blue Dress." In the 2000s he worked with notable directors Michael Mann (in "Ali") and John Sayles (in "Honeydripper"). His last role to date was a recurring part in the TNT series "Men of a Certain Age" starring Ray Romano, Andre Braugher, and Scott Bakula, which ran from 2009 to 2011.

Dan Hedaya

In addition to Jack, the film's other villain is Larry "Fish" Fisher, played by Dan Hedaya, the Cubs company man who is making a play to take over the team. He hones in on Henry as a gimmick that will sell tickets, and then when he doesn't need the kid anymore, he arranges for the Yankees to buy his contract. He's an easy character to hate in theory, but in practice Hedaya is just too good for you to dislike him entirely.

"Charming sleazeball" has long been Hedaya's stock character. The Brooklyn-born actor got his start in the mid-1970s, but his first breakout role was as Carla's slimy ex-husband Nick Tortelli on "Cheers"; the character was popular enough to gain his own short-lived spinoff, "The Tortellis," in 1987. Since then Hedaya has brought his particular charm to over a hundred film and TV roles, playing villains in Barry Sonnenfeld's adaptation of "The Addams Family" and the Norman Jewison sports biopic "The Hurricane," among many others. He also stole scenes in Bryan Singer's "The Usual Suspects," the Coen Brothers' "Blood Simple" and W.D. Richter's cult classic "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension." In recent years, his prodigious output has slowed down, but he is still very much in front of the camera, appearing in a three-episode arc of the CBS cop show "Blue Bloods" in 2019 and starring with his former "Cheers" castmate Kelsey Grammer in the 2021 medical drama "The God Committee."

Colombe Jacobsen-Derstine

Chicago-born actress Colombe Jabobsen-Derstine made her film debut in "Rookie of the Year" as Becky, the junior high object of Henry's affections. Jacobsen-Derstine would go on to star in the second and third "Mighty Ducks" films for Disney and had a small role in "Men in Black II." As she got older she appeared in some more mature films, such as the sexual assault drama "Descent" starring Rosario Dawson, and made an uncredited cameo in Jon Favreau's 2014 foodie film "Chef," but by then she had found a new career path: culinary arts.

Jacobsen-Derstine graduated from the Natural Gourmet Cooking School and was working as a personal chef when she appeared on Season 3 of "The Next Food Network Star" in 2007. Since then, she has made appearances on TV cooking segments and started her own cooking, catering, and consulting business called Colombe du Jour. Speaking to Sports Illustrated in 2016, these days she finds cooking far more gratifying than acting. "Sometimes being an actor can feel like playing the lottery," she said. "In cooking, you can put effort in and really see the results."

Patrick LaBrecque

If nothing else, "Rookie of the Year" gifted young actor Patrick LaBrecque with the immortal line, "Did he say funky buttloving?" LaBrecque's character George is Henry's other best friend, along with Rober Hy Gorman's Clark, and the one whose feelings are hurt the most when Henry's pro ball player lifestyle gets in the way of their friendship.

LaBrecque was a busy young actor in the first half of the 1990s, appearing as a bully in the first "Beethoven" film and as a boy who can hear the thoughts of dogs in an episode of the Joe Dante cult kids' show "Eerie, Indiana." He had a small role in the Ben Stiller-starring 1995 fat camp comedy "Heavyweights," but after appearing in the 1996 horror sequel "Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace," he stopped working in front of the camera. Since then LaBrecque has mostly kept a low profile. His social media pages were active up until around 2019, and feature what appear to be new headshots, but no additional credits other than his child acting roles are listed. His Backstage page also lists training in skip tracing and private investigation in 2000.

Amy Morton

More so than Becky or Clark or George, Henry's mother Mary is his best friend. A single mom thrust into the strange world of professional baseball, Mary just wants to protect her son, and Henry likewise wants to protect her — especially from creeps like Jack. Amy Morton's no-nonsense performance grounds the film in real emotions and stakes, although she is not afraid to go big when the scene demands it, as when sends Jack packing via a haymaker to the face.

Morton is, simply, Chicago acting royalty. An ensemble member of Steppenwolf Theatre, she was in the original production of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning play "August: Osage County," and her fearsome image still towers over the city, visible from the Brown line trains coming to and from the Loop. On film, she appeared in the 1992 Dolly Parton talk radio comedy "Straight Talk," and played George Clooney's sister in Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air." For television viewers, she is likely best known as Desk Sgt. Trudy Platt on the NBC procedural "Chicago P.D.," part of Dick Wolf's "One Chicago" franchise of shows, which she has been a beloved presence on since 2014.

Thomas Ian Nicholas

Thomas Ian Nicholas only had one previous film, the 1992 drama "Radio Flyer," and a few TV credits when he was cast as the lead in "Rookie of the Year." It's a very good performance, in large part because Henry can be pretty annoying, and the film allows the grown-ups around him, and by extension the audience, to be annoyed with him. In short, he's allowed to be a kid, for better or worse, whether it's pestering Chet for an autograph on his first day or pouting after getting into a fight with his friends.

Nicholas would don a baseball uniform again two years later for Disney's Mark Twain adaptation "A Kid in King Arthur's Court" and its direct-to-video sequel "A Kid in Aladdin's Palace." In the late '90s and early '00s he handled the transition from child actor to teen and young adult well, scoring a lead role in the smash hit sex comedy "American Pie" and its sequels, as well as a recurring role on the Fox drama "Party of Five." He has worked consistently over the decades as an actor, producer, and musician, but the role of Henry is never far from his heart. In 2015, he threw out the first pitch at a Cubs-Cardinals game, dressed in a Rowengartner jersey. 

Daniel Stern

"Rookie of the Year" was the directorial debut of actor Daniel Stern, who pulled double duty by also playing the Cubs' ball-addled, sunflower seed-addicted pitching coach Phil Brickma. Brickma is on hand mostly as a vessel for "Home Alone"-style slapstick humor and kid-friendly mugging that feels somewhat out of place in the film, especially in comparison to the down-to-earth work being done by Morton and Busey. That isn't to say, however, that Stern is anything but adept at that style of comedy. As "Home Alone" fans surely know, the erstwhile Wet Bandit can take a fall – or get stuck between two hotel doors – with the best of them.

Though he built a career on his kid-friendly image from "Home Alone" and "The Wonder Years" for a few years, most notably in the 1995 wilderness adventure "Bushwhacked," he never let that define him, appearing in very adult fare like 1998's "Very Bad Things" and the Aidy Bryant series "Shrill" — and of course, making a name for himself in the 1982 Barry Levinson classic "Diner." In 2012 he returned to his Christmas comedy roots in "A Christmas Story 2," taking over for Darren McGavin as Ralphie's dad. In 2016 he resurrected Coach Brickma on his YouTube channel, just in time to help the Cubs go all the way — and angle for a return gig as their pitching coach.

Eddie Bracken

Some members of the cast, unfortunately, are no longer with us. Veteran stage and screen actor Eddie Bracken plays the Cubs' maybe-not-all-there owner Bob Carson, whose nephew Larry (Hedaya) is plotting to steal the team. "Rookie of the Year" was part of a career resurgence for Bracken, who had been delighting audiences since the 1930s.

Born in 1915 in New York, Bracken performed on Broadway before making the leap to films. In this first leg of his career he had a fruitful collaboration with director Preston Sturgess, starring in his 1944 films "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" and "Hail the Conquering Hero." By 1953 he had largely left Hollywood behind, concentrating on television and stage productions. Bracken appeared on Broadway in "The Seven Year Itch," "The Odd Couple," and "Hello, Dolly!" during this period, and guest starred on shows like "Rawhide" and "The New Dick Van Dyke Show." In 1983 he was cast in "National Lampoon's Vacation" as Roy Walley, the Disney-esque owner of Walley World. After that film's success he found a new audience in films, appearing in "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" and "Baby's Day Out." In 2002, Bracken died due to complications from a recent surgery.

John Candy

For the role of Cliff Murdoch, the voice of the Cubs on the radio and the film's unofficial Greek chorus, Daniel Stern called in a ringer: Canadian funnyman and fellow "Home Alone" castmate John Candy. By 1993, Candy was a beloved comedian and an established movie star and could elevate even a small part behind a microphone.

Born in 1950 in Toronto, Candy got his start on stage at The Second City Toronto at age 19, and was an original cast member of the famed sketch show "SCTV" from 1976 to 1983. During that time he took small parts in films like Steven Spielberg's war comedy "1941," "The Blues Brothers," and the animated sci-fi anthology "Heavy Metal." Candy was a great screen partner, holding his own against Tom Hanks, Richard Pryor, and Steve Martin, but could also carry a film all on his own, as seen in "Uncle Buck" and "Delirious." In the early '90s he began to expand into more dramatic work with the Chris Columbus romance "Only the Lonely" and a scene-stealing turn in Oliver Stone's "JFK." Sadly, Candy was never able to develop that side of his persona; he died in 1994 at age 43 while filming the Western comedy "Wagons East!" in Mexico.