Roy Hobbs is a fictional baseball player from the 1952 Bernard Malamud novel The Natural, made into the 1984 movie in which Hobbs was played by Robert Redford. Hobbs was shot en route to a baseball tryout as a teenager and never made it to the majors until he was 34 years old. He joined the New York Knights and, after the death of the starter, Bump Baily, took over in the outfield (left in the book; right in the movie) and led them to a playoff - the results of which differ in the book and the movie.
Hobbs' shooting is based on 1950s baseball player Eddie Waitkus who was shot by a deranged fan, but survived to continue his baseball career. (With or without a silver bullet, Waitkus was no Hobbs, but he did score over 100 runs one year in his career.) Other elements of Hobbs' character appear to be based on Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe Jackson, Bob Feller and Sal Maglie.
In a 2001 ESPN.com column, Bill Simmons was asked who the best fantasy sports player from a movie would be. His response was Hobbs, and he went on to write that "the question, 'What were Roy Hobbs' stats during his one season for the New York Knights?' has to rank among the most mindless-yet-fun sports movie arguments."
Here was Simmons' thought process when estimating Hobbs' numbers:
- "The Knights called Hobbs up to the majors after the season started; once he joined the team, Pop buried him on the bench for the first few weeks behind Bump Bailey [sic], even barring him from batting practice. So that cost Hobbs at least a month of the season before Bump Bailey's [idem] tragic death pushed him into the starting lineup." (The book specifies that Hobbs arrived on Memorial Day and enters his first game on the Summer Solstice.)
- "If you want to pinpoint an exact date for Hobbs' first game, following his four-homer barrage in Chicago - when Hobbs reunited with Glenn Close's character and snapped out of a long slump - the movie showed one of those highlight-newspaper clip montage scenes, and one of the papers said "July 5" on it. Since he'd been in the lineup for a few weeks, that means Hobbs probably didn't start playing every day until mid-May at the earliest."
- "We also need to factor in his late-June slump (when he started dating Kim Basinger)."
- "The movie showed at least 17-20 Hobbs home runs during the season. Warrants mentioning."
- "Without any protection hitting behind him in the Knights' lineup, Hobbs probably drew a ton of walks (like Barry Bonds this season)."
- "Redford was painfully slow as Hobbs, so he didn't beat out many leg hits (think Ted Williams in the late-'50s)."
- "If he were hitting over .400 near the end of the season, they probably would have alluded to it in the movie."
- "Hobbs missed three games in the final week with abdominal pains. And since baseball only played 154-game seasons back in the 1940s, that means Hobbs lost out on another eight possible games."
Taking everything into account, Simmons imagined Hobbs' stats would look something like this:
- In what Robert Redford has said was a nod to Ted Williams, Hobbs wore No. 9 for the Knights in the movie. Hobbs wore No. 45 in the book.
- Rob Edelman: "Eddie Waitkus and The Natural: What Is Assumption? What Is Fact?", in Morris Levin, ed.: From Swampoodle to South Philly: Baseball in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, The National Pastime, SABR, 2013, pp. 86-91.