Athletes are, at heart, entertainers, which may explain why so many athletes try to break into acting and why actors line up to play in celebrity softball games. Baseball should be one of the easier sports for actors to master — there’s little running, the game is slow-paced, and physical contact is rare, after all — but many otherwise skilled actors are totally incapable of passing as players. In honor of the start of the 2009 major-league season, here are some actors who never would have made the varsity team.
Freddie Prinze, Jr. as Ryan Dunne in Summer Catch (2001)
As minor-league pitching prospect Dunne, Prinze gives us the Loch Ness Monster of bad baseball acting performances, as in: Consider yourself lucky if you actually see him pitching. The camera zooms in on Prinze’s face for nearly every pitch, and while the official explanation is probably that moviegoers can’t get enough of close-up after close-up of a pitcher’s sweaty mug, it’s more likely that this technique helped mask Prinze’s ridiculous throws. Fail.
Gary Busey as Chet Steadmen in Rookie of the Year (1983)
There’s no shortage of lackluster baseball playing in Rookie of the Year, but the worst offender is Busey’s Steadman, who should have stuck with a slow pitch softball league geared toward the 40-and-older set. Supposedly the Chicago Cubs’ grizzled veteran star, Steadman pokes around like the middle-aged man he is (Busey was 49 years old at the time). As a hitter and in the field, he’s more like your father playing in a pick-up game than an all-star pro.
Dwier Brown as John Kinsella in Field of Dreams (1989)
Everyone loves Field of Dreams, particularly its surreal climax, in which Ray (Kevin Costner) finally gets to play catch with the young ghost of his long-deceased, pro ballplayer father. Expectations are high at this point, so it’s more than a little jarring when you realize that Brown looks like he’s never thrown a baseball before. Brown’s entire part has about four lines, which begs the question: Why not find someone who had played at least a few years of Little League to deliver those words?
Brendan Fraser as Steve Nebraska in The Scout (1994)
In preparation for his role as screwball baseball savant Steve Nebraska (a character loosely based on an obscure real-life pitcher), it appears Fraser got in character by attending Dwier Brown’s baseball academy. Playing a once-in-a-lifetime talent, Fraser’s awkward pitching motion is matched only by his swing, which is, to put it nicely, forced. Poor Fraser is simply miscast as Nebraska, who, as a professional athlete, presumably has at least above-average coordination levels.
Thomas Ian Nicholas as Henry Rowengartner in Rookie of the Year (1983)
What is it with this movie? Playing a young star pitcher with a freakishly good arm, Rowengartner’s form is even more unbelievable than the movie’s plot:
He doesn’t pitch so much as he just heaves the ball by flinging his arm forward like a slingshot. His form is slightly improved when he starts throwing underhand at the urging of his mom, so perhaps he should have joined that softball league with his teammate Chet (see above).
Lori Petty as Kit Keller in A League of Their Own (1992)
A League of Their Own
is a surprisingly compelling movie, and at times it feels as if Geena
Davis’ superstar hitter Dottie could have really held her own against the men of her day. Lori Petty’s
Kit, on the other hand, throws like a girl. Not like a female professional
baseball player, either – more like a three-year-old girl whose
muscles and motor skills have yet to fully develop. It’s an
unfortunate phenomenon that, given the would-be inspirational subject matter, totally undermines the movie’s cred.
Tim Robbins as ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh in Bull Durham (1988)
Bull Durham features
the pinnacle and nadir of baseball acting. Kevin Costner is
widely considered to be the Babe Ruth of ballplayer actors, while Tim Robbins is the Mario Mendoza of the form (the man for
whom the Mendoza Line, the ultimate measure of baseball futility, was
named). Robbins is a baseball fan in a real life, so we’d like to give
him the benefit of the doubt, but it’s unclear whether he’s even
cracking 35 mph on the radar gun. As star pitcher LaLoosh, it’s hard to believe that wouldn’t have caused some concern.