Fun theme. All four answers made me laugh. TIGERSTRIPE (45A: Michigan ballplayer's rubbish) might have been my favorite, though, because of the rubbish/tripe combo. Both great words. GIANTSQUID (20A: California ballplayer's pound?) was pretty nice, too. Bonus quasi-theme bonus material with BATSMAN (5D: Cricket player).
Clue of the day: 5A: Apple grower? (BEATLE) (!!) Needed at least four crosses before that clicked. Wait, it was definitely four, because I never would have gotten ERIQ (6D: La Salle of "Coming to America") or ATTU (7D: Aleutian island) on my own. And by the way, is Apple still a record label? or did it rot on the tree after those first growers called it quits?
I learned a little something about Chicago's airport with 51D: Airport named for a naval war hero (OHARE), so that's nice. 38D: One doing the lord's work (SERF) was pretty good, and I actually considered "Super-A" for 46D: Top-notch, before realizing that "Super-B" was a word that didn't need a hyphen. It's funny how the brain gets all tangled up sometimes. In the same vein, we had K_EE for "54D: Attack at close range, maybe" for a good long while before the N finally came to us. Couldn't the clue for RUTS (14A: Wagon trails have them) been "Wagon trails are them?" And I don't usually think of ARTHUR (15A: Boy who pulls the sword from the stone in "The Sword in the Stone") as a boy, but maybe that's referencing a specific cartoon or something. Of course, Arthur probably was pretty young when he did it anyway... and besides, every male under 35 is starting to look like a boy to me...
The hardest part for me was the West. I left D__T and A__EAN unfilled last night before going to sleep. This morning, Frannie filled them right in. At least I'm guessing those are the ones she figured out, since I don't think OLINS (37A: Actors Ken and Lena) or SLADE (41A: Band with the 1984 hit "My Oh My") were known by either of us.
All in all, a good Thursday.