The most dramatic moment in "Moneyball,'' the much-anticipated, long-delayed flick that opens Friday, is so corny and improbable it seems like another example of Hollywood overdramatizing sports reality.
Except that it's true.
I will steer clear of a spoiler here -- assuming you can spoil an event that actually occurred -- but suffice to say, the Athletics' attempt at a 20th straight win in 2002 was an all-timer.
The telling thing, though, is that that scene stands out for being one of the few in which "Moneyball'' resembles a traditional sports movie.
It is far from that, and the daunting filmmaking task was clear from the start of the effort to turn Michael Lewis' 2003 book into a theatrical release.
In short: How do you entice a broad audience to pay to watch people discuss on-base percentage? It remains to be seen whether the film can meet that marketing challenge, even with Brad Pitt playing Athletics general manager Billy Beane.
But "Moneyball'' does do as well as could reasonably be expected given the writing challenge, with a script that evolved radically after the project was halted in 2009.
As with all based-in-truth sports films, fans will search for inaccuracies, and find some. But more than untruths, the movie for dramatic purposes emphasizes conflict and sharpens gray areas into black and white.
Paul DePodesta understood that reality, and it led the Mets vice president of player development and amateur scouting to ask the filmmakers to take his name out of the final script.
Unlike every other major character, for whom real names are used, DePodesta morphed into a fictional person, played by Jonah Hill, who serves as Beane's right-hand man.
DePodesta, who plans to see the film this week, said Monday he had reservations as soon as he heard movie rights had been sold. "I remember thinking at the time, 'Geez, I don't know about having somebody portray me to the rest of the world, for better or worse,' '' he said. "It was an unsettling spot and I could never really get past that.''
DePodesta knew that as in the book, "certain things were heightened or highlighted and other things were left in the background.''
In his case, that meant being cast as a Harvard-educated stats geek. In reality, he considers himself a well-rounded baseball man.
Sony and director Bennett Miller were under no obligation to honor DePodesta's request, but they did, and he was grateful. "Hopefully, it's a reminder to everybody that it's just fiction,'' he said. "I hope nobody ended up taking this all too seriously or too literally.''
Hill said Monday he heard the buzz that DePodesta was "upset'' because Hill does not resemble him, and because his background is in comedic roles. "It definitely hurt my feelings,'' Hill said. "A bunch of people were making up an assumption, and a hurtful one.''
When the two spoke before filming began, DePodesta assured Hill the actor had nothing to do with his decision. They hit it off, and Hill said DePodesta was "completely open and giving with his experiences.''
Hill said he asked DePodesta why he did not head to Wall Street. Recalled Hill: "I said, 'You could be a billionaire in the stock market; you could be anything you want, so why move to Cleveland at 23?' He said, 'Because I love baseball.' ''
Whatever his reservations about the film, that is what DePodesta hoped the actors would tap into. "One of the last things I said to Jonah was, 'I hope you guys have a lot of fun making this movie, because we had a lot of fun,' '' DePodesta said. "We certainly never took ourselves too seriously when we were going through it.''