With another baseball season over, you'll be tempted to fill the void with anything even slightly baseball-related. Old Simpsons episodes, baseball cards, a Mr. Belvedere marathon or two, even bubble gum-flavored cardboard might be on the menu in the darkest days of winter.
One of the easiest ways to pass the time is to grab a bowl of popcorn and pop in a few baseball movies. Watching Jake Taylor call his shot or seeing Kelly Leak go ham on the Yankees will always get the blood pumping.
But be forewarned. Not all baseball movies are equal and, what's more, not all actors cast in baseball movies are equal. Like him or hate him, you at least know that a Kevin Costner movie is going to look like a baseball movie. The gait, the frame, the posture -- Ray Kinsella and Crash Davis look like they belong on a ballfield. Can you say the same for Stan Ross? Lou Collins? Even Nuke LaLoosh?
With that in mind, here is a list of 10 of the most physically miscast actors in a baseball movie, strictly a commentary on the actors' physical appearance on the ballfield. If he's the kind of guy where you might say "He's supposed to be a ballplayer?!", then you'll probably find him on this list.
Let's get started with my favorite example.
Bernie Mac, Stan Ross in Mr. 3000
The attitude is right, but Bernie Mac playing a ballplayer with 3,000 -- scratch that, 2,997 -- hits to his name? With those chicken legs?! I suppose the thought process was "Bernie Mac playing 'asshole Tony Gwynn'." It might have worked in theory, but then Mac stepped up to the plate on his ostrich legs and we all realized how crazy it really was.
Timothy Busfield, Lou Collins in Little Big League
Kindly Minnesota ballplayer that everyone wants as their new dad. Wait, is Joe Mauer a \ time-traveller? No, we're talking about Timothy Busfield's Little Big League character Lou Collins, the All-Star first-baseman who dates the mother of manager/owner/seventh-grader Billy Haywood. That's right. Puny Timothy Busfield, who walked through a ballgame in Field of Dreams and was barely bigger than the mound he passed, plays a slugging first baseman in a movie that was released while Frank Thomas was winning back-to-back MVP awards. Take a look at the gif above. The runner is Carlos Baerga, who was listed at 5'11" and 200 pounds in 1994. Busfield and Baerga might both be leaning over, but Busfield is a Cabbage Patch Kid compared to a real ballplayer.
Anthony Perkins, Jimmy Piersall in Fear Strikes Out
Okay, so I don't want to base these decisions on how poorly the actor plays baseball. A lack of athleticism can certainly ruin an actor's portrayal of a character, but this list is more specific than that. We're looking for actors who obviously have no place on the field, from their physical appearance alone. Perkins, as Red Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall, straddles the line. My initial impression was that Perkins' skills were terrible while his physique was fine. But look a little closer and you notice it's more than that. Perkins weighs approximately 73 pounds in this movie and his legs look about as thick as a bat. One thing he has going for him: that Psycho gaze would freak any pitcher out.
Robert De Niro, Bruce Pearson in Bang the Drum Slowly
The young Robert De Niro was a skinny little guy. It worked well for him in Taxi Driver, where the bony frame fit in perfectly with the shady, drug-stained world Travis Bickle lived in. As a major-league catcher, though? Not so much.
Gary Busey, Chet Steadman in Rookie of the Year
Gary Busey wasn't always crazy. He used to be able to pull off a fairly normal human being -- well, sort of. Busey's Steadman is a stretch no matter how you look at him (especially since he's playing an avuncular teammate) but his physical presence is the most questionable part. Is he wearing a girdle? Are those Frankenstein's arms?
Richard Pryor, Monty Brewster in Brewster's Millions
To be fair, Pryor plays a lousy independent-league pitcher who has no shot at the majors, so we shouldn't really sweat it. He's not meant to be realistic. Still, it's Richard Pryor playing baseball and that's quite the visual.
William Bendix, Babe Ruth in The Babe Ruth Story
I haven't actually seen this movie before; having just watched that clip, I'm grateful for that. Forget for a second that Bendix is supposed to be Babe Ruth and just look at him. That's one awkward-looking man pretending to belong on a baseball diamond. Combine that awkwardness with Ruth's star power and Bendix's awfulness rockets off the screen.
David Strathairn, Eddie Cicotte in Eight Men Out
When we think back on 1920s America, one of the first things we think of is men walking around in suits and hats and maybe a bit of a mustache. David Strathairn fits this image better than probably any actor alive today. It's the only reason I can imagine someone could have for casting him as the old knuckleballer.
Chelcie Ross, Eddie Harris in Major League
You know Ross as the Vaseline-using, rum-stealing, god-fearing old guy from Major League. His Eddie Harris should be a no-brainer for this list, with his sagging arms and graying hair -- but then you remember that Gaylord Perry was a Hall of Fame pitcher who looked exactly like this only five years earlier, and you wonder. If Perry can be a superstar major leaguer, maybe Harris can, too.
Adrien Brody, Denny Hemmerling inin the Outfield
There are two things Angels in the Outfield taught us about a young Adrien Brody. One, he needed to learn how to pick better movies. And two, he didn't know how to run. At all. I'm not so sure he ever learned how to pick out the right movies (he followed up his Oscar performance with King Kong, The Village, and Predators), so I really hope he finally got that whole "running" thing down.
Pablo Vitar, (Older) Benny Rodriguez in The Sandlot
If we're talking about the major leagues of mustaches, Vitar would fit right in. That's a nearly Hall of Fame-level soup strainer right there. But even then, I'd still want Vin Scully in the booth at Dodger Stadium instead of Benny's childhood pal. I mean, what gives?! You're killing me, Smalls.
Other actors who almost made the cut
Tim Robbins - Tall and lanky, I can buy. But that windup?
John C. Reilly / John Candy / Tony Longo - Hahaha. Catchers are fat and stupid!
Dennis Quaid - The guy from Enemy Mine can throw 96 mph?
Barry Pepper - He looked like Roger Maris, I suppose.
Michael Madsen - Does Madsen ever look natural in anything?
Frank Whaley - I know, I know: Archie Graham was only a kid!
Air Bud - Just look at him! He's a football player, for crying out loud!