He can talk for an hour about the subtle mechanics of hitting and fielding. Patient, low-key and vigilant in his role as reality expert to Sayles, Berry is the one who's called on to hit hard liners at Cusack or make hard throws from off-camera that are timed to just nip batters at first base.
Surprisingly, though Berry has high praise for Cusack, Sheen and Sweeney's baseball skills, he ranks David Strathairn (the sheriff in "Matewan" who's cast as Sox pitching ace Eddie Cicotte, who deliberately lost two Series games) as the best natural athlete among the actors. "If you picked out one guy who could do just about everything, he's the guy. Yet he never played past high school. He's really got a lot on the ball--he can catch, he can run and he's a good-looking batter."
Of his actor/players, whom he always addresses by their baseball names, he says: "These guys are--like anybody else who gets in the game--a little ego-oriented and they want to hit the ball out of the park. We're not here to hit it out of the park. We're here to hit it hard."
After he finishes "Eight Men Out," Sayles plans to return to writing fiction for about a year, as well as the occasional for-hire screenplay. As for his own films, "I've got some vague ideas, but I think they'll be smaller, more contemporary movies. Some day I'm sure I'll do a movie with basketball in it. That's really the game I'm most familiar with and still play."
Basketball is actually Sayles' game. He played in high school--he was a varsity four-letter man (football, baseball and track too)--and he can be seen on the court in the basketball scenes in "Return of the Secaucus Seven."
Thus it was with some trepidation that a reporter tells Sayles of the only criticism of him of any kind heard on the set in three days.
According to the otherwise admiring Cusack, who had been in several pick-up basketball games with Sayles, the director played well on offense--he could shoot from outside and was hard to block out under the boards. But Cusack reported that "Sayles played no D"--no defense.
Sayles retreats a half-step from the blow of such serious slander.
"No D?" he yowls (smiling broadly but unable to hide the hurt). "I had already played about five one-on-one games before he showed up, and I wasn't about to play any D with the light going down!"
With its big stars, ambitious production values and--for him--big budget, "Eight Men Out," Sayles says with a laugh, is "probably the pinnacle" of his Hollywood career: "It's all downhill from here."
He's not going Hollywood, though: "I went Hollywood and I came back. I went as far Hollywood as I'm ever gonna go, I think."