Baseball’s biggest stars dazzle in movies, TV, music, awards shows
While today’s elite athletes train year-round, (see Manny Maxes-Out in Off Season) the winter months have always provided major leaguers with a much needed reprieve from the physical and mental challenges of 162 regular season games – not to mention the heightened emotions and stress of post-season playoffs.
So it isn’t surprising that many MLB players spend time between seasons on movie/TV sets, recording studios and sharing the stage with Hollywood’s elite at award ceremonies. After all, they are the biggest stars in America’s Game.
While Henry Aaron is known as one of the greatest gentlemen to ever play the game of baseball, his April 2002 appearance as himself (or rather Hank Aaron the 24th) on the outlandish cartoon comedy Futurama in an episode named “A Leela of Her Own” proved that he is without-a-doubt also one of the game’s best sports.
In 2001 Hank played himself scouting for the Atlanta Braves organization in “Summer Catch,” a story about a rich girl (Jessica Biel) whose family summers on Cape Cod, where she has a romance with a local poor boy (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) who hopes to become a major league baseball player. Other major leaguers, past and present, also had minor roles in the film, including fellow 500HRC member Ken Griffey, Jr.
Prior to that, he starred in the show "The Remarkable Journey" (2000), appeared on "Arli$$: The Real Thing (1997), showed up in an episode of "Mr. Belvedere" (1989), and helped save the day on "MacGyver" in 1987. Before that he appeared with “The Fonz” on Happy Days (1980) and Jimmy Carter at his Inaugural Gala (1977).
But his first TV appearance without a baseball bat in his hands came courtesy of "Captain Kangaroo" who invited “Hammerin’ Hank” to join him for a segment on July 20, 1957.
In 1932 George Herman “Babe” Ruth became the first baseball star to make the cross over to a mainstream movie star. Check out this month’s 700 Home Run Club article “Ruth Loved The Babes” to see the Sultan of Swat starring in a series of short films called “Fancy Curves.” Somehow Ruth is roped into teaching the basics of baseball to a group of sorority girls, in order to help them beat the frat guys on the opposing team.
The Bambino also appeared in a number of news reels, and even sang and danced his way through a 1937 movie entitled “Home Run on the Keys” – No Kidding!
Like his contemporaries, Babe Ruth was one of the most sought after spokespersons for products and services. Here’s a look at just some of the ads that his famous mug appeared in.
Ken Griffey, Jr.
Junior’s multi-faceted career has included starring in four Nintendo videogames: 1993's Ken Griffey Jr. Presents MLB and 1996's Ken Griffey Jr.'s Winning Run for the Super Nintendo, as well as the Nintendo 64 games MLB Featuring Ken Griffey, Jr. in 1998, and Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest in 1999. NIKE, Pepsi and other global advertisers clamored to have “The Kid” represent their brands. And he stole the show on TV series including: The Arsenio Hall Show, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Simpsons and Harry and the Hendersons. As for the big screen, Griff appeared in Little Big League and Summer Catch. He also collaborated with M.C. Hammer and recorded the song "The Way I Swing" with Kid Sensation. He even starred in a TV spot for his then (and again) team The Seattle Mariners
Is there anything this guy can’t do?
One of the most recognizable and beloved figures in America, “Say Hey” Willie Mays was sought after by entertainment producers and appeared on countless non-sports related TV shows, including:
The Colgate Comedy Hour
Tonight! - The Steve Allen Show
The NBC Comedy Hour
Toast of the Town
Home Run Derby - Hodges vs. Mays
What's My Line?
The Donna Reed Show
The Hollywood Palace
The Tonight Show w/ Johnny Carson
The Way It Was
My Two Dads
Willie also appeared with fellow 500 Home Run Club member Mickey Mantle on The Joe Namath Show on December 22, 1969.
The October 14, 1972 ABC Saturday Superstar Movie “Willie Mays and the Say-Hey Kid” featured a guardian angel who offers to help a cartoon Willie Mays win the National League Pennant if he agrees to take care of an orphan girl.
“The Commerce Comet” appeared in several TV ads for products ranging from Karo Syrup to Natural Light beer.
He also appeared in hundreds of product print ads for Colgate, Timex Watches, Haggar Slacks, Budweiser, Kodak Cameras, Fuji Film, Weller Power Tools, Big Yank clothing, and many more...
Although nowadays Barry Bonds tends to prefer staying off camera, there was a time when he enjoyed his celebrity as much as any other superstar. Barry had his own short-lived reality show called “Bonds on Bonds” that was on ESPN2. Barry twice appeared on the HBO series Arli$$, and he guest starred as a character named Barry Larson on Beverly Hills, 90210. Other guest gigs included appearing alongside Ray Romano on “Everybody Loves Raymond” and laughing it up on with the Wayan Brothers on “In Living Color.”
“Mr. October” has a list of TV and movie credits that is almost as long as his baseball achievements. Here are some of his most memorable:
Movies – “The Benchwarmers” (2006), “Ri¢hie Ri¢h (1994), The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! (1988)…TV - "Malcolm in the Middle" (2004)
"Suddenly Susan" (1999), "MacGyver" (1990), "Diff'rent Strokes" (1979), "Mr. Belvedere" (1989), "The Jeffersons" (1985) and "The Love Boat" (1979).
An avid sport fisherman, “Teddy Ballgame” hosted a television show on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) about fishing, and was inducted into the Fishing Hall of Fame. Years before, Williams got a taste for TV when he appeared in a 1954 episode of “What's My Line”
During his playing days, “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks entertained millions with his great skill and charismatic personality. So it’s no surprise that he went on to star on the big screen and television.
Among the movies that Ernie starred in were:
Bulworth with Warren Beatty and Halle Berry (1998),
Jury Duty (1995)
Steel Frontier (1995)
Jimmy Hollywood (1994),
Second Thoughts (1983)
The Black Godfather (1974)
Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes (1974)
Ernie also appeared on the following TV shows:
The Shield (2002)
Sister, Sistah (2002)
Steve Harvey Show (2001)
Last Dance (2001)
The X Files (1999)
ER (2 episodes, 1999)
Mystery Men (1999
L.A. Heat (2X 1999)
Suddenly Susan (1997)
Next Stop, Heaven (1997)
Most Wanted (1997)
NYPD Blue (1996)
Burnin' Love (1996)
Murder One (1996)
The Glass Shield (1994)
Dead Connection (1994)
The Sinbad Show (1994)
Red Shoe Diaries (1994)
The John Larroquette Show (1993)
The Jeffersons" (2X 1975-1983)
Laverne & Shirley (1982)
Walking Tall (1981)
Good Times (1974)