Let's Go To The Video: Baseball Players' Greatest Hits On Television Sitcoms, Dramas
Sparky Anderson got fired in Cincinnati – again – as a sportscaster for WKRP In Cincinnati.
Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench switched uniforms in winter of 1971 – after winning the 1970 National League Most Valuable Player award – to play a military guard on TV's Mission: Impossible.
With the 2020 baseball season on hold – and everyone stuck at home watching TV – it's a good time for a lineup of big league players in prime-time roles on Mister Ed, Cheers, Bewitched, Everybody Loves Raymondand other TV hits.
Here's my roster:
SANDY KOUFAX on MISTER ED:
Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, baseball's greatest left-handed pitcher, was no match for TV's talking horse. Koufax also appeared in 77 Sunset Strip, Colt .45and Dennis the Menacein the 1960s, but his TV career highlight was a 1963 episode in which Mister Ed, through his owner (Alan Young), gave baseball tips to Leo Durocher, John Roseboro, Willie Davis and Koufax. Then he stepped to the plate and homered off Koufax.
FRANK ROBINSON on THE COSBY SHOW
It's not surprising that Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who started his career with the Reds, would appear on Bill Cosby's hit sitcom in 1991 as a former Negro League player with 1950s Dodgers-Reds reliever Joe Black. But in Robinson's other sitcom appearance, he was Hangin' With Mr. Cooper on Mark Curry's ABC sitcom with slugger Albert Belle in 1995.
WADE BOGGS on CHEERS
The 12-time All-Star has been one of the busiest ballplayers off the field. He appeared in Family Guy, The Simpsons, Psych(with Danny Glover) and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.His first TV gig in 1988 was the most memorable – when Norm, Cliff and Carla thought he was an imposter, chased him out of the Boston bar and stole his pants.
JOE MORGAN on MARRIED… WITH CHILDREN
During the 1994 baseball strike, Al Bundy organized a baseball league sponsored by strip clubs. Morgan was one of the baseball guest stars, along with Dave Winfield, Frank Thomas, Bred Saberhagen, Mike Piazza and Danny Tartabull.
JOHNNY BENCH on THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY
Both The Brady BunchandThe Partridge Familycame to Cincinnati to film episodes at Kings Island, but only one caught Bench. The two-time MVP played a poolside waiter at Kings Island Inn in 1973, two years after his Mission: Impossiblerole.
WARREN SPAHN on COMBAT!
As a kid, I remember seeing the Braves great lefthander as a German soldier in 1963 on Combat!,ABC's World War II drama. I met Spahn when he came to Cincinnati for the 1988 All-Star Game, and he told me how filming ran long and he arrived at Dodger Stadium still wearing his army uniform.
1969 METS on EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND
Ray and Robert Barone (Ray Romano, Brad Garrett) saw their childhood heroes at a 50th anniversary reunion of the Amazing Mets in 1999 with Jerry Grote, Tommy Agee, Bud Harrelson, Cleon Jones, Ed Kranepool, Tug McGraw, Art Shamsky and Ron Swoboda. Raymondfans know that Robert named his bulldog "Shamsky" after the outfielder who started his career with the Reds (1965-67).
JOEY VOTTO on THE CLEVELAND SHOW
Of all the shows on TV, Joey Votto's only prime-time TV series credit is The Cleveland Show,Fox's animated spin-off from Family Guy.The African-American family moved to Los Angeles in this 2013 episode, called "California Dreamin' (All The Cleves Are Brown)," where Cleveland becomes a baseball scout rebuffed by Votto, Matt Kemp, David Ortiz, Jimmy Rollins and Andre Either.
KEN GRIFFEY JR. on FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR
Will and Carlton (Will Smith, Alfonso Ribeiro) were volunteering at a carnival when Carlton invited a young man to step up and try to knock down a stack of milk bottles in November 1994. Junior, 25, taped the episode after winning his first home run title with 40.
WILLIE MAYS on BEWITCHED
The Giants centerfielder showed up on Bob Uecker’s Mr. Belvedere in 1989, twice on the popular Donna Reed Show in the 1960s and at a party of witches in the 1966 Halloween episode of Bewitched,from which he magically disappeared.
RYAN HOWARD on THE OFFICE
Philadelphia Phillies’ MVP Ryan Howard visited the fictional Dunder Mifflin plant in Scranton, Pa., during its final season on NBC in 2013.
BOB GIBSON on GENTLE BEN
Before embarking on his 1968 MVP season, Bob Gibson showed up in the Everglades on Dennis Weaver’s series to teach his son how to pitch.
"HOMER AT THE BAT" on THE SIMPSONS
The best team money can buy. Mr. Burns hired baseball’s greatest stars for the nuke plant baseball team's championship game to win a $1-million bet: Ken Griffey Jr., Boggs, Roger Clemens, Ozzie Smith, Don Mattingly, Darryl Strawberry, José Canseco, Mike Scioscia and Steve Sax.
ROB DIBBLE on BACK IN THE GAME
Former Reds reliever Rob Dibble was working for Fox Sports Radio in 2013 when he appeared in the short-lived ABC sitcom starring James Caan as a former minor league baseball coach. Dibble played a character called "Senseless Paul."
NEW YORK YANKEES on THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW
Whitey Ford, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra and Gil McDougald posed as Yankees owners when Sgt. Ernie Bilko (Silvers) wanted to sell a promising pitcher (young Dick Van Dyke) to the team on Oct. 1, 1957, on the eve of the Yankees-Braves World Series.
ERIC DAVIS on THE PARKERS
For the 100th episode of Mo’Nique’s UPN sitcom in 2003, producers enlisted the former Reds star as a ringer for an annual softball grudge match.
ROGER CLEMENS on HOPE & FAITH
Before the seven-time Cy Young Award winner helped Mythbustersexamine the science of baseball, Clemens ended up in a clubhouse whirlpool tub with Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford, who played Ohio sisters on ABC's Hope & Faithsitcom (2003-2006).
MICKEY MANTLE on THE WHITE SHADOW
The Bronx bomber did only three scripted TV shows: Bob Uecker’s Mr. Belvedere in 1989, Pierce Brosnan's Remington Steele in 1984; and Ken Howard's CBS drama about a former basketball player coaching basketball at an inner-city high school in 1980.
NOLAN RYAN on RYAN'S HOPE
After throwing his fourth (of seven) no-hitters, baseball's all-time strikeout leader did a three-day stint as himself on ABC's daytime Ryan's Hopesoap opera while pitching for the Angels in 1975. Did the ABC marketing exec who thought this up get a bonus?
NICK SWISHER ON HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER
Of all the stars on the 2009 World Champion Yankees – Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada – it was right fielder Nick Swisher who appeared on CBS' How I Met Your Mothersitcom on Feb. 1, 2010.
KEITH HERNANDEZ on SEINFELD
The Mets former baseman made perhaps the most famous baseball guest role on Seinfeldin 1992 when Kramer and Newman explained how Hernandez spit on them in flashbacks similar to home movies of the Kennedy assassination.
PETE ROSE on BABE RUTH
Shortly after being released from federal prison in 1991 for tax evasion, baseball's all-time hit king played Ty Cobb, whose record he had broken, in a NBC TV movie starring Stephen Lang (Avatar) as the Babino. Pete's first TV appearance after jail was taped at Marge Schott's mansion for the short-lived Good Sportssitcom starring Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal that aired on May 27, 1991.
DON DRYSDALE on DONNA REED SHOW
Handsome Dodgers pitcher Don Drysale was in great demand in Hollywood. The Hall of Famer, who had a long run as a Dodgers broadcaster, appeared in Leave It To Beaver, The Brady Bunch, The Flying Nun, The Greatest American Hero, The Rifleman, Then Came Bronson, Lucas Tanner, Lawmanand four times on the Donna Reed Show.Here's a clip from a 1963 Donna Reed:
JIM LEFEBVRE on GILLIGAN'S ISLAND
The Los Angeles native and 1965 rookie of the year cashed in on his eight-year Dodgers career perhaps better than any Major League Baseball player. The future Mariners, Cubs and Brewers manager and Reds hitting coach (2002) first appeared as a "native" on Gilligan's Islandand "Across" with the Riddler on Batmanin 1967. After finishing his playing career in Japan, Lefebvre returned home to appear in M*A*S*H, Alice, St. Elsewhere, Partners In Crime, Knight Rider, Grandand Santa Barbara.
JOHNNY BENCH ON HEE HAW
The Reds MVP catcher took a break from his syndicated Johnny Bench Showto sing on the weekly country music variety show. On the Jan. 20, 1973, show with Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, Bench was surrounded by the Hee Haw Honeys while singing Jim Croce's "Don’t Mess Around With Jim.”
HANK AARON on HAPPY DAYS
Hall of Famer Hank Aaron made his sitcom debut in 1980 on ABC's hit set in Milwaukee – where Aaron started his career with the Braves – in a TV commercial for Richie's dad: "Hammering Hank wouldn't buy his hammer any place but Cunningham's Hardware!" Aaron also appeared in ABC's original MacGyver(1987), former teammate Bob Uecker's Mr. Belvedere(1989) and Touched By An Angel(2001).
SPARKY ANDERSON on WKRP In Cincinnati
A year after his Cincinnati firing, Sparky Anderson returned to town as a sports interviewer in 1979 as station manager Arthur "The Big Guy" Carlson dreamed of his favorite Red hosting a national show from WKRP. When Carlson reluctantly yanked Capt. Hook, Sparky said: "I must be nuts. Every time I come into this town I get fired."
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