The former tribe: Paul Gleason

The Former Tribe Tales

Growing up around Cleveland during the ’70s and ’80s was not the best place to learn about baseball—unless you assumed that most teams had trouble making payroll and regularly traded players as if they were the farm team for various clubs that could make payroll.

But it was those times that drew my interest to what happened to the “Former Tribe.” Who knew it one would lead to a John Hughes movie?

In The Breakfast Club, Principal Richard Vernon was played by veteran actor Paul Gleason, a character actor that seemed to battle with William Atherton to play every creeping, sleazy, hated character in the 1980s.*

* Sharing the screen in Die Hard, the definitive ’80s Christmas movie.

Acting was just the tip of an interesting life for Gleason. After high school, Spud Chandler of the Cleveland Indians signed the 18 year old. He toiled in the D minors in 1959 and 1960 before the weak-hitting Gleason left for Florida State University. At FSU, he played football with Burt Reynolds and Robert Urich.

After college he ended up in New York, hanging around with the likes of Jack Kerouac*. Then, he claims, while watching Splendor in the Grass with Kerouac, he decided to become an actor.

* Sadly, I have never found any writing by either of them on their conversations about baseball. Without a doubt, they talked baseball. This is a missing unwritten masterpiece. Okay, maybe not. Still would have been cool.

His acting career went much better than his baseball career, and the former Indians farmhand would soon be hated as Richard Vernon, Dwayne T. Robinson, Wayne Hisler and many others.

Thanks to Baseball Reference for the link to Paul Gleason’s minor leagues stats.

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  1. Steve Treder said...

    Interesting stuff.

    Gleason was terrific.  Another character actor who specialized in those sleazy-white-collar roles in the ‘80s and ‘90s was the late great J.T. Walsh.

  2. Mat Kovach said...

    @Steve Yep, Sgt. Major Dickerson! But I didn’t want to start a THT 80’s character actor discussion. Well, at least not yet.

    But Paul Gleason had an interesting life. I didn’t find about about his minor league career until shortly before his death. I was really hoping to talk to him about baseball and Kerouac.

  3. Steve Treder said...

    OK then, how about a THT discussion of pro baseball players who also acted in movies/TV?

    - Paul Gleason
    – Kurt Russell
    – Chuck Connors
    – Johnny Berardino
    – Wes Parker

    Who else?

  4. Michael Caragliano said...

    And, now that I think about it, Gleason and Atherton shared time on Die Hard with ‘90’s villain go-to Alan Rickman.

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