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Famous People Who Tried to Become Major League Baseball Players

Baseball Movies, Bat Boy, Conway Twitty

Kevin Costner is an actor that seems to like making baseball movies, such as: Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, and For Love Of The Game. Of course he has also made a lot of cowboy movies, thus leading me to believe Kevin Costner either wanted to be a cowboy or a baseball player when he was a kid. He has indeed proclaimed in an interview or two that he did wish to become a major leaguer. Perhaps It did not pan out for Kevin Costner, but it made me wonder: What other celebrities seriously wanted to become major league baseball players? I decided it was a fun curiosity of a question to seek the answer to and these celebrities seem to be the most prolific and public with their sports love affair.

Kurt Russell began his acting career as a child in the 60s, but this did not stop him from pursuing a career as a professional sports player. During the 70s Kurt Russell actually made it into professional baseball at the minor league level. He was a second baseman in the California Angels system, playing in games for several of their teams and right before a devastating injury he was a league leader in batting average. Whether or not Kurt Russell would have had the stuff to get called up to the majors will never be truly known, because in 1973 he had to retire. He was hit in the shoulder and injured by a runner, a career ending injury. However, his focus went right back into the Hollywood acting game.

Macho Man Randy Savage was born as Randy Poffo and rose to fame with his stage name as a WWF wrestler who liked to “snap into a Slim Jim!” Before entering the wrestling ring with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage tried his hand at professional baseball, first having been signed up as a catcher for the Saint Louis Cardinals minor league system right out of high school. Savage bounced around though from positions and from teams, having played also in the minor leagues for the Reds and the White Sox. He played in 289 games before calling it quits in 1975.

George Clooney was offered the chance to play baseball for the Dayton Dragons in Ohio by a tv producer who owned the team. This was perchance meant to be an on air publicity stunt for a television show, but it also was a nod to Clooney’s past baseball ambitions. George Clooney tried out for a spot on the Cincinnati Reds baseball team roster, but did not make it beyond the first session of cuts. He went on to dabble in several odd jobs before acting took hold and he was getting B movie parts in horror movies and television shows. Of course we all know how big of a homerun he hit after landing the doctor gig on the show ER and subsequently the movie roles afterwards.

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Billy Crystal is a “City Slicker” baseball fan of the New York Yankees; even though his character wore a New York Mets cap during the movie. The Yankees baseball organization made one of his dreams come true involving playing professional sports by singing him to a one day minor league contract in 2008. Billy Crystal came up to bat in the game and managed to hit a foul ball before striking out against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Oddly enough, Billy Crystal is a partial owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, NOT the Yankees, and in 2001 he actually got a World Series ring when the Diamondbacks defeated the Yankees!

Garth Brooks is best known as a country singer and then for a little while he tried to pretend his name was Chris Gaines as a pop singer, but is he known as a baseball player? Garth Brooks has said it was a childhood dream of his to play baseball and the San Diego Padres helped him reach for that dream letting the already legendary crooner play for their team during spring training games. Garth Brooks used his six weeks of being considered a baseball player to help gain recognition for a charity of his, but eventually the thirty-seven year old left the team so real baseball players did not have him stealing their at bats.

Michael Jordan is considered by legions of basketball fans to have been the greatest NBA basketball player ever. Even if you don’t think he was “the best,” when he tried out for baseball his skills were definitely brought down to Earth and the athlete in him did not make the big league cut. When Michael Jordan retired from basketball he was only 31 years old, but in the world of sports, due to the wear and tear on one’s body, that is old. It had always been Jordan’s dream and supposedly that of his deceased father that he play professional baseball and so into the sport he threw himself and the Chicago White Sox signed him into their minor league system. His celebrity status drew a lot of attention and his baseball cards, even though he never made it to the big leagues, were worth a pretty penny at one time. The 1994 season was the only year Jordan would spend chasing baseball dreams and even though he had a miserable .202 batting average, he did hit 3 homers, get 51 RBIs, and steal 30 bases. His 11 errors though were not jewels in the accomplishment crown.

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M.C. Hammer was a performer at a young age and would often beatbox and dance at the stadium where the Oakland Athletics played baseball. He was discovered there at a young age and though accounts of what he became within the A’s organization are conflicting he for sure had a presence. Some say he was a bat boy, but apparently he rose to be more than that as a teen who would hang out with the executives and help with team related tasks while being called a “VP.” It is also said that he got his nickname of “Hammer” during this time because someone thought he looked like Hank Aaron; who had such a nickname. Eventually M.C. Hammer tried to make it on to a major league baseball roster by trying out for the San Francisco Giants. He did not make it, but the performer in him was “Too Legit To Quit” for sure.

John Elway was inducted into the pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and is widely known as having once been the star quarterback of the Denver Broncos. However, many may not realize he was not a one sport guy and actually gave baseball a small chance before taking on the pigskin full time. In 1979 Elway was drafted by the Kansas City Royals, but did not sign with them. Maybe he was holding out for a bigger market team, and two years later he got that when the New York Yankees drafted and signed him. He played 42 games for them in the minors and left with a .318 batting average.

Scott Patterson is the actor that Gilmore Girls fans will better know as Luke Hughes. He has also starred in other television shows and appears in the Saw movie franchise. Scott Patterson made a career out of professional baseball in the 80s, however, for seven years. He made it as far as a triple A affiliate team with the prestigious New York Yankees before switching professions. Scott Patterson was a pitcher and during his time playing baseball also played in the minors for the Atlanta Braves.

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Conway Twitty is a country music legend that beat Garth Brooks to the punch trying to play professional baseball, but then again Twitty’s heart seemed to be in other places because he gave up his chances to first serve in the military and then to his true passion of music. The Phillies are said to have been the team that saw some potential in young Twitty. Later in life Conway Twitty did invest in his own minor league baseball club.

Robert Ripley rounds out my not at all conclusive lists of famous people who wanted to play major league baseball. Baseball was the career of choice of Robert Ripley, these days known for presenting wild “Believe It or Not” factoids to the world. He worked his way through semi-pro ball, but never made it to the actual professional level, thanks in part to an injury.

A couple of other notable names who played semi-pro ball or are known to have played baseball with some degree of extra enthusiasm are George Thorogood the rock musician and Fidel Castro the leader of Cuba. The rocker played semi-pro ball and is a huge Mets fan, but the myths around the baseball career of Fidel Castro seem to be widely exaggerated and there doesn’t seem to be concrete proof he ever tried to get into the major leagues, though some feel that was his intent at a young age. And of course if you collect baseball cards or go to Rangers baseball games you know that the Bush family ala the Presidential one have an enjoyment and past playing a little baseball. Many boys dream, but few men make it to the big leagues. I guess for some becoming famous actors, musicians, stars in other sports, and leaders of countries will have to do.

Various biographies and news article sources were used in researching for this article:
www.baseball-reference.com
www.planetgarth.com
www.tampabay.com
www.latimes.com
www.sportsillustrated.com