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Actors Playing Baseball in Movies? Your Scouting Reports Please!


Herman Bricks
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The other night I watched BULL DURHAM (1988) which features one of the most realistic (Kevin Costner) and one of the least realistic (Tim Robbins) attempts by an actor to play professional baseball on-screen.

In real-life professional baseball, players and prospects are rated on a scale of 20 to 80 for their abilities to hit, hit with power, run, field and throw.

20= terrible- no potential

30= well below average

40= "fringy"

50= average

60=above average

70= outstanding

80= top of the scale, like in today's MLB, Juan Soto might be an 80 Hit, Aaron Judge  an 80 hit with power. American League MVP Shohei Ohtani is 70 or 80 in every category

How would you rate actors/actresses as baseball players in movies? I will add a category- Looking good in a baseball uniform, because sometimes in baseball movies there is not much baseball action, but the actor should at least look like they could play.

My ratings from BULL DURHAM? 

Kevin Costner, hit 60, hit with power 70, run 50, field 70, throw 70, looking good in the uniform= 50. Overall about a 60. Although Costner flashed very good good baseball skills, I did not think he quite looked right in his baseball uniform.  He played a catcher, and catchers (especially 15 year veterans like Crash Davis) typically are bigger through the thighs and butt than Costner was. To me, that is the only flaw in his performance, though it is not his fault.

Bull Durham' turns 30: The Daily News catches up with the key players  behind the 1988 smash hit - New York Daily News

Tim Robbins, we only saw him throw (I give him a 20 for this pitching- well below average, not credible) but I give him credit for wearing the uniform well, and if I may add points for his playing Nuke LaLoosh as being very **** and semi-intellectual  (could be a plausible portrayal of a fringy athlete), I give him a 45 (not that bad).

Trevor Reviews Ron Shelton's Bull Durham [Criterion Collection Blu-ray  Review]

 One of my least favorite actors as a baseball player? Robert DeNiro, BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY (1973) Poor DeNiro looks like he weighs 145 pounds (he does not resemble an athlete in any type of sport). Why does he chew tobacco in his hotel room, but not on the field? And his pitiful Southern drawl? I give him a 20. Terrible, not credible.

Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) - IMDb

 

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I have no problem with any of your takes, Herman. Especially with DeNiro. 

I would suggest that Costner, in FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME (1999) looked the part of a real major league pitcher. I would give him a 70 in that one.

On the other hand, John C. Riley played Costner's catcher in that movie and he was DeNiro-esque. Definitely a 20 there.

I would add a couple other baseball turns, as well. Dennis Quaid was credible as a high school teacher who gets a shot at the big leagues in THE ROOKIE (2002). On your scale I'd give Quaid a 60. Above average.

As for THE NATURAL (1984) I never felt like Redford came off credibly as a baseball player. I fine movie but Redford was no better than a 40.

EIGHT MEN OUT (1988) had no serious looking ballplayers beyond 50 (average at best) D.B. Sweeney as Shoeless Joe Jackson. David Strathairn is fine actor but 30 as a ballplayer.

I know Charlie Sheen had some high school baseball experience and he had some credibility in the MAJOR LEAGUE franchise. I'd give him a 50.  

Some others. John Goodman in THE BABE(1992). Another actor in the DeNiro/Riley baseball category...ugh...another 20.

Going back farther. Jimmy Stewart played handicapped player Monty Stratton in THE STRATTON STORY (1949). Mediocre movie with sketchy baseball scenes. Stewart gets a generous 40 (fringy) from me.

And William Bendix in 1948's THE BABE RUTH STORY was a 30 (below average).

And finally, Gary Cooper's portrayal of Lou Gehrig in PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (1942) was 40...fringy at best.

Overall....Costner has the best baseball playing performances. 

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Bernie Mac in Mr. 3000 (2004) 

hitting -- 65 -- The cast trained with big leaguers to be able to make their efforts look as real as possible. Looks like Bernie is a little stiff. That is likely due to both his actual age and the age of the back-from-retirement character he plays. Raw score on hitting might be more like a 50, but he does a credible job of showing his character's improvement as the film moves along, so I'm adding points for that.

hitting with power -- 55 -- Bernie lacks some range of motion here, so followthrough is not very good. Looks like his hips and low back are incapable of enough rotation.

running -- 45 -- Bernie pretty much lumbers and seems stiff. Again, this is likely a combination of a 44 year old actor playing a 47 year old character. 

fielding -- 50

throwing -- 50

looking good in a uniform -- going with a 75 here because Bernie had the stature, carriage, and swagger to really pull this off. And Bernie loved baseball. He was a South Sider, a die-hard White Sox fan. Bernie played baseball in high school. He was a dedicated student of the game.

average = 57

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7 hours ago, cinemaman said:

How  about  Tab  Hunter  in  Damn  Yankees  1958  ,   Anthony  Perkins  in  Fear  Strikes  Out  1957   and  Kevin  Costner/  Ray  Liotta   in  Field  of  Dreams  1989

I really liked FEAR STIKES OUT but never for a second thought of Perkins as a bona fide baseball player. As for Liotta in FOD, he barely had any scenes where he actually played, I think he caught a couple fly balls and that's about it. I will give him a 70 however for his character portrayal. Though Joe Jackson was described as illiterate, Liotta made him seem authentic.

I might give D.B Sweeney more credit for a more historically accurate portrayal of Jackson in EIGHT MEN OUT.  

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On 4/10/2022 at 5:18 PM, MrMagoo said:

And finally, Gary Cooper's portrayal of Lou Gehrig in PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (1942) was 40...fringy at best.

I agree that Cooper did not possess the skills. That's why I find it sort of funny that he looks about as good in Pride of the Yankees (1942) as he does in the imaginary baseball game he pitches in a hotel room in Meet John Doe (1941). Cooper goes with a sidearm delivery as John Doe, but it looks less like a physiological peculiarity and more like a guy who hadn't seen very much baseball. I wonder if he even dabbled in the game as a kid. Walter Brennan, on the other hand, doesn't look all that bad as the imaginary catcher. He seems to have an ease, even grace, about his movements and understanding the space his body is in. For Meet John Doe, I'd give Coop a generous 38, and Brennan a 42.

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Here  is  an  pair  of  movies  about  pitchers  , The  Pride  of  St.  Louis  1952   with  Dan  Dailey   as  Dizzy  Dean    and   The  Winning  Team   1952    with  Ronald  Reagan  as  Grover  Cleveland  Alexander.

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I've seen both but don't remember the Dailey turn enough to pass judgement. My guess is it's average at best. I did see the Ronald Reagan portrayal of Grover Cleveland Alexander and thought it was silly. Reagan was a 30, below average as a HOF baseball pitcher.

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My comments on some of the analyses above...

Dennis Quaid was fairly credible in THE ROOKIE, but did not look like a guy throwing 97MPH! Not even 77 (which, close-up, could appear fast!). So I go with a 50.

Robert Redford in THE NATURAL has an very good throwing motion! Authentic-looking enough. His hitting is less impressive, his swing is just not likely to generate the power for the roof-top homeruns in the movie. He looks nice in his uniform. Certain mannerisms were good, like his between pitch routine and the way he ran on and off the field. I'll go with a 55.

As for THE STRATTON STORY, Mr. Magoo yer right Jimmy Stewart was fringy, I give him a 40, tops. June Allyson however, caught well, threw the ball harder than Stewart does, and filled out her wardrobe convincingly! She rates a 65!

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Bo Gentry and Joe Massingill in Trouble with the Curve (2012)

This guy, Joe Massingill, played the hitting phenom who was the scouting target of Clint Eastwood's and Justin Timberlake's characters in TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE  (2012). Though he looked the part he was not particularly credible as a big time hitter...maybe a 40. I liked TWTC. It was a passably decent baseball themed movie.

I actually thought Chris Platt in MONEYBALL (2011) looked halfway decent fielding a couple grounders...a 50. Though, like Liotta in FIELD OF DREAMS, neither actually played much baseball in their respective movies.

 

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