To hear Richard Schiff, the actor who played Toby on The West Wing, tell it, one day he went to Aaron Sorkin and said, “Hey, if we ever do an episode where Toby is trying to figure something out that’s fairly important, I have this image of him sitting in the office bouncing a ball. I think we should do an ode to Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.”
That is, apparently, a common impulse. From The Simpsons to House to My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and beyond, the baseball bounced by “the Cooler King” has since bounced its way into more movies and TV shows than you may realize. And if these abundant examples are any indication, it’ll probably keep bouncing for the foreseeable future.