The Oscars take place this weekend, and while we marvel at the acting performances of Hollywood leading men and starlets, let us take a moment to recognize the untrained thespians. Baseball players have been appearing in Hollywood films ever since Babe Ruth appeared in The Pride of The Yankees. Even former Kansas City Royals players have been on the big screen. So today, let us look at the best performance in a motion picture by a Kansas City Royals player.
And the nominees are....
Vida Blue, Black Gunn
Blue pitched only briefly in Kansas City, towards the end of his career, and he is best known for introducing the Royals to cocaine. However in 1972, riding the fame of his MVP season with the Athletics, he was given fifth-billing in the blaxploitation film Black Gunn. Along with star Jim Brown, the movie featured many pro athletes including Dodgers outfielder Tommy Davis, and pro football players like Gene Washington and Deacon Jones. In the film, Blue plays "Sam Green", who runs the parking lot, and is confronted by some racist cops.
Holy cow, that is racist.
Johnny Damon, Fever Pitch
Damon found fame away from Kansas City, appearing in 2004's Fever Pitch, a movie pretty much every baseball fan outside of Boston (and many inside Boston) hated. Damon has just a brief cameo in the movie, as he is recognized by some Red Sox fans at a restaurant as he dines with teammates Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon. He has no speaking lines, and really doesn't have to act. Just chew your steak with your mouth closed, Johnny.
Al Hrabosky, The Slugger's Wife
The Slugger's Wife was a disaster among critics and at the box office, despite having the name of famed writer Neil Simon attached to it. Michael O'Keefe (best known for his work in Caddyshack) stars as Braves slugger Darryl Palmer, a man who goes on a home run rampage after meeting and falling in love with a rock star played by Rebecca DeMornay.
It is a fictional world where Mark Fidrych somehow pitches for the Houston Astros and movie producers somehow think Rebecca DeMornay can sing. Al Hrabosky also somehow finds his way onto the Astros rosters (he only played for the Braves, Cardinals, and Royals in his 13-year career) and he ends up giving up the home run to Palmer that breaks Roger Maris' home run record in a scene that has all the tension and excitement of a Saturday night at the bingo parlor.
Where is his trademark mustache?
Bo Jackson, The Chamber
Bo had already proven he could do baseball and football, so why not conquer acting as well? He had already acted in numerous Nike commercials, and had his own cartoon show, so it was not inconceivable to see the multi-talented Jackson on the silver screen. His biggest role came in The Chamber, a film adapted from a John Grisham novel. Jackson plays Sergeant Clyde Parker, who is called on to testify in the trial of a man on death row.
Pretty impressive performance considering that Bo Jackson grew up with a stutter so bad he was teased by his classmates. It is also impressive he was able to overcome his ill-fated cameo as "Reverend Cecil" in the disastrous comedy Fakin' Da Funk, starring Margaret Cho. That box office flop would have killed most careers, but Bo knows comebacks.
Wally Joyner, Little Big League
There was a spate of baseball movies in the 1990s ranging from the very good (Bull Durham) to the ridiculous (Ed). Little Big League lay squarely in the middle, a harmless movie aimed at kids crazy about baseball. The plot featured a 12-year old kid from a wealthy family who inherits the Minnesota Twins from his grandfather, and goes on a power-trip installing himself as General Manager, field manager, and first base coach, all without any kind of professional baseball experience. The kid has to convince a team down on their luck to adopt his unorthodox methods to win ballgames. The movie was re-booted over a decade later as Moneyball.
Anyway, Wally Joyner was one of about a dozen ballplayers who made a cameo in this movie, along with Carlos Baerga, Dave Magadan, Rafael Palmeiro, Randy Johnson, and Ken Griffey Jr. He even gets a line in the movie!
That's right, Royals pitchers were so bad in the 90s they couldn't even get Timothy Busfield out. The man was Poindexter in Revenge of the Nerds, for heaven's sake! By this movie, Busfield has become suave enough to play a veteran first baseman who would eventually seduce the owner's mom.
Bret Saberhagen, The Scout
The Scout was a quirky film starring Albert Brooks about a down-on-his-luck baseball scout who discovers a real diamond-in-the-rough in Steve Nebraska. The phenom can throw 109 miles per hour and hit monster home runs, but his eccentricities cause consternation to Brooks and allow wacky hijinks to ensue.
Saberhagen, along with former big leaguer Keith Hernandez, are brought into Yankee Stadium to showcase Steve Nebraska off for teams.
I sure hope you were, Sabes.
Others: Former Royals outfielder Lou Piniella played himself as manager of the Mariners in Little Big League. Third baseman Dean Palmer also appeared in the film. Former Royals Kelly Heath and Butch Davis appeared as teammates of Kevin Costner in Bull Durham. Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew played a VFW man in the 1990 film Pasttime. Current Royals pitching coach Dave Eiland was used as a body double for some of Kevin Costner's pitching scenes in the movie For Love of the Game. Former Royals catcher Brent Mayne served as an adviser to John C. Reilly, who played catcher Gus Sinski, on the film. Backup catcher Chad Kreuter played A's pitching coach Rick Peterson in the Oscar-nominated picture Moneyball. George Brett never appeared in a major motion picture, but he did make a cameo in the made-for-TV movie "Miracle on Ice" from 1980 playing - a Swedish hockey player of course.