NEW YORK - Anyone who's watched Jon Hamm on AMC's Mad Men over the past seven years is used to seeing the actor sitting around a conference room table in a suit, pitching his product to a captive audience.
The 43-year-old St. Louis native certainly looked like his Don Draper character when he sat down for a roundtable with a handful of media members Friday morning, but instead of selling Lucky Strike or Samsonite, he was happy to extol the virtues of various players from the mid '80s Cardinals teams he grew up rooting for.
"We played this different kind of ballgame and drafted for it," Hamm said. "We brought guys up for it with Vince Coleman and Willie McGee, Tommy Herr, Lonnie Smith and Ozzie Smith. These guys were just burners. Vince Coleman would get a walk and end up on third base in three pitches."
Hamm's lifelong fascination with baseball, which started at Cardinals games with his dad in the 1970s, has come full circle in his new film Million Dollar Arm, which opens nationwide next weekend. The biographical story features Hamm as sports agent J.B. Bernstein, who discovered two future Pittsburgh Pirates prospects in India after staging a reality show there.
In addition to the film, Hamm talked about his own baseball fandom, Mad Men and more. Here are some of the key things we learned.
1) His best friend's dad was a major-league catcher
"My best friend growing up was a kid named John Simmons. His dad happened to be a man named Ted Simmons, who played catcher for the Cardinals in the late '60 and '70s and was traded in 1981 to the Milwaukee Brewers. Harvey's Wallbangers. There's another team – they were really good. Cardinals and Brewers meet in the World Series in 1982. My favorite baseball memory is my best friend's baseball disaster. The bond was forged in the heat of that World Series then. To this day, that's my best baseball memory."
2) Stan Musial was the greatest Cardinal ever
"When he died last year and you read all the obituaries and posthumous things about him, it read like fiction. It read like something out of a little kid's 'this is what baseball players should be.' Not only his numbers, just his contributions to the team, the city, the league, the country. The guy went to war. It doesn't exist anymore."
3) Don Draper would never be a Yankee fan
"For Don specifically, the Mets are great. They're brand new. They represent nothing but possibility. They had this crazy year (1969) where they upset the whole apple cart. It's a perfect team for Don Draper to root for. Don would never be a Yankee fan. That's a frontrunner. He's an underdog guy if he's anything."
4) He's ready for Mad Men to be over
"I'll take off my suit at the end of that last shot and probably open a beer and pour a little out and say goodbye. I'll miss the people on the cast and the crew. But that's why God invented texting and why there's parties. We'll still be friends. It's time."
5) He's not as confident in his hometown's other pro sports teams
"I saw that the Rams had two picks in the first round. I'm sure that they will both be horrible busts. The Blues teach us how to be extremely confident in the regular season and utter disasters in the playoffs. There's always next year. I texted my friend after the Blues flameout this time, which was identical to the season before when they lost to the Kings and I was in India shooting the movie watching on my iPad through NHL Gamecenter. I texted my friend and said 'I think this is as close as I'll ever get to feeling like a Cubs fan.'"
6) It's a matter of time before baseball gets huge in India
"We watched it happen with Japan. When Ichiro came over and Matsui came over, the press room tripled. Everyone from NHK is over here because they're crazy for it over there. They would stay up and watch their heroes. It's an investment. Like all investments, it's not an immediate return. But if you look at Major League Baseball and what they've done in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, starting those academies and putting talent down there and nurturing it. Athletes are athletes as this movie and whole experiment proves."