The lives of athletes and actors can be similar. There are long hours of preparation, whether it’s learning lines, lifting weights, or making public appearances to promote a team, film, or TV show. Because the lifestyles are so alike, it may come as no surprise that actors have tried their hand at professional baseball, and that baseball players have appeared in TV shows and films. Here are some examples of actors and filmmakers who have spent time in professional baseball.
Scott Patterson may not be a name that sounds familiar, but Gilmore Girls fans know him as coffee shop owner Luke Danes. He will be reprising his most famous role for the Netflix revival of the show that premieres on November 25th. Patterson has also acted in over 40 TV shows and films. But did you know he was once a professional baseball player? He played in the Atlanta Braves system from 1980-1982 until he was traded to the New York Yankees for Bob Watson. His last season was in 1986 and he decided to try acting in 1988. Based on how beloved Luke Danes is, I think it worked out for him.
Superstar Kurt Russell has deep ties to professional baseball and acting. His dad was Bing Russell who played in the New York Yankees minor league system but was mainly known for westerns like Bonanza and The Magnificent Seven. Bing bought an independent Class A baseball team in the 70s called the Portland Mavericks which were in operation from 1973-1977. (There is a great Netflix documentary about it called The Battered Bastards of Baseball.) Kurt took after his dad and was both an actor and baseball player as well. Kurt began his acting career as a kid but put in on hold to play in the California Angels farm system from 1971-1973.
Writer/director Ron Shelton was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 39th round of the 1966 MLB draft. He played in their farm system from 1967-1971. He has had a successful career in Hollywood giving the world White Men Can’t Jump, Tin Cup, and the baseball classic Bull Durham.
Casey Bond was a minor leaguer in the San Francisco Giants organization for two years before being cut in 2009. He has since starred in 18 projects including I Saw the Light and his breakout role as Chad Bradford in Moneyball alongside Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.
Marc Abraham started his career in advertising working as a freelance sportswriter on the side. He has had two books published with Universal Press about the Olympics and was introduced to filmmaking while doing a documentary about Cuban baseball. He has continued his film career as a writer and director on two films but is better known as the producer on hit films like Children of Men, Dawn of The Dead, and Air Force One.
This one might be a bit of a stretch but Michael Jordan is technically a triple threat: basketball player, actor, and baseball player. He spent one season with the Birmingham Barons after retiring from basketball, and starred in the cinematic classic that is Space Jam.
Logan Miller is a relatively unknown name, but he was drafted by the Montreal Expos in both 1992 and in 1993. His time in baseball was short. Due to injuries, he only played during the 1996 season with the Dunedin Blue Jays (High A; Florida State League). He now writes and directs films alongside his brother Noah.
Chuck Connors, aka The Rifleman, is rare in that he has something in common with Michael Jordan. He played professional basketball, professional baseball, and acted. He originally played with the Boston Celtics in the late 40s before deciding to play baseball. He played for several minor league teams, eventually landing with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
In 1951, he joined the Chicago Cubs, appearing in 66 games. The next season he played for the Cubs top farm team, the Los Angeles Angels. That was his last season as a player, but he did become involved in baseball again as an intermediary between Dodgers management and pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax during their holdout in 1966. He got into acting after retiring from baseball in 1952 and became a character actor in shows like The Rifleman, Old Yeller, and Roots.
John Beradino was known as Johnny Berardino when he played professional baseball, but he changed his name when he started acting. He played from 1939-1952, making stops with the St. Louis Browns, the Cleveland Indians, and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He switched to acting with his first appearance as an extra in Suddenly, alongside Frank Sinatra. He was mainly known for B-movies and has 112 TV/film credits to his name.
And the baseball/acting phenomenon extends overseas as well. South Korean actor Yoon Hyun-min played professionally with the Hanwha Eagles and Doosan Bears in 2005 and 2006 respectively. However, he chose to quit playing baseball to become a professional actor. He has since acted in over a dozen TV shows, movies, and plays.
While these might have been the only actors with professional backgrounds, other celebrities have ties to America’s pastime. For example, did you know that George Clooney tried out for the Cincinnati Reds in 1977 when he was 16? Another fun fact is M.C. Hammer, aka Stanley Burrell, worked for the Oakland A’s in the 1970s.
Others have become owners of minor league teams. Kevin Costner, a man known for playing many fictional baseball players, was part owner of the Lake County Fielders (independent; North American League). The team was established in 2009 but disbanded in 2012. Bill Murray is a co-owner of the Charleston RiverDogs (Low A; Sally League), and his official title is Director of Fun. He’s also a big Cubs fan as evidenced by his clubhouse interviews after the team recently won the World Series.
Eliot Asinof played in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system with stops in Moultrie in 1940 and Wausau in 1941. He became a writer and wrote several successful books including Eight Men Out which was adapted into a movie starring John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, and Charlie Sheen.
Then we have the celebrities who have made cameos at spring training. Garth Brooks has made appearances in spring training games for three different teams. He played with the San Diego Padres in 1998 and 1999, the New York Mets in 2000, and the Kansas City Royals in 2004. Tom Selleck had one at-bat with the Tigers during spring training in 1991. Then comedian Billy Crystal had one at-bat in a spring training game with the Yankees in 2008. And who can forget Will Ferrell’s spring training experience back in 2015 where he played for the Oakland A’s, Seattle Mariners, the Los Angeles Angels, the Chicago Cubs, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago White Sox, the San Francisco Giants, the Padres, and the Los Angeles Dodgers all in one day!
Many players have made cameos in various TV shows and movies. A few of them include Derek Jeter in The Other Guys, Keith Hernandez in Seinfeld, Sparky Anderson on WKRP in Cincinnati, and Leo Durocher on Mister Ed, The Munsters, and The Beverly Hillbillies. Other examples include Bill Hall, Jeff Suppan, J.J. Hardy, and Chris Capuano on The Young and the Restless, Wade Boggs on Cheers, Jim Lefebvre on Batman and Gilligan’s Island, Mark McGwire on Mad About You, Sandy Koufax on Dennis The Menace, Don Drysdale on The Brady Bunch, Mike Piazza on Baywatch, Bob Uecker in Major League, and Joe Garagiola, who hosted several game shows in the 60s and 70s.