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Five baseball players who made TV and film appearances you probably forgot about

We're used to seeing baseball players on our TVs. After all, we invite them into our homes 162 days a year (or more, if they're on teams good enough to play into the postseason). But for some reason, networks have offered few of them starring roles in prestige dramas. (Just imagine how good "Young Pope" would be if it starred Manny Machado, for instance.)
Fortunately, baseball players often do make TV appearances, and today we're looking at five players whose screen work may have slipped from your memory. We'll rank each role based on acting performance, importance to the storyline and, of course, that certain je ne sais quoi. Naturally, we'll be grading them using Oscars … Oscar Gambles, of course. One Oscar is bad, five Oscars is grand.
Ken Griffey Jr. - "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"
Episode: Season 5, Episode 9 "Love Hurts"

Ken Griffey Jr. cameo on The Fresh Princeby 23city
Junior did it all. Home runs? Check. Robbed home runs? Check. Had his own chocolate bars? Yep, check. Dropped fire rap verses? Yeah, again, check.
But could the Kid act? While you surely remember his role as the villain that you couldn't help but root for in "Little Big League" and his swollen head in "The Simpsons," it was on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" where the center fielder had a chance to display his greatest range: Namely, the ability to throw baseballs and deliver B- putdowns at the same time.
Yes, this clip shows that Griffey can act, but maybe he shouldn't. Supposedly Griffey also appeared on two episodes of "Arli$," but considering I've never met someone that has ever seen an episode of the show, I have to assume it only exists in the same alternate universe as Sinbad's "Shazam." 
Jim Bouton - "The Long Goodbye"
After becoming a knuckleballer and releasing his classic book, "Ball Four," but before his comeback with the Braves at the age of 39, Bouton went to Hollywood. His screen debut came in 1973's "The Long Goodbye." Directed by Robert Altman, this was no light-hearted comedy looking to cash in with a cameo by a former big leaguer. Instead, Bouton played Terry Lennox, the best friend of Elliot Gould's detective Philip Marlowe.
Best of all? The surprisingly squeaky-voiced Bouton gets a climactic death scene. (Sorry for spoiling a 44-year-old movie.)


Bonus Jim Bouton
Of course, Bouton has an even better credit to his name: The short-lived 1976 sitcom, "Ball Four." After turning down offers of $25,000 for the naming rights alone, Bouton teamed up with Marv Kitman (Newsday's TV critic) and Vic Ziegel (a sportswriter for the New York Post) to help him write the show. 
While it should have everything you'd want in a sitcom -- baseball, jokes and a shirtless Bouton giggling in the opening credits -- the show was not daring like the book.

Instead, it was as cheesy as its Harry Chapin theme song and the umpire yelling "Ball Four!" at the end of the credits. Viewers seemed to agree. Only five episodes ever aired. 
Still, that intro is a work of art. 


Sparky Anderson - "WKRP In Cincinatti"
Episode: Season 2, Ep. 12 "Sparky"

This classic sitcom brought in their dream guest when it snagged Cincinnati Reds manager Sparky Anderson for a full episode. The show's staff even had help from him in  in the writer's room. The only problem? While the episode was being written, Anderson was fired by the Reds. 
Well, you know what they say: Art imitates life. In "Sparky," Anderson is hired to take over as the station's sports host during the offseason, but it doesn't really work out. While station manager Art Carlson is trying to get up the nerve to fire Anderson at the end of the episode, Sparky offers advice from his own experience in letting young dreamers go every year. "They think you're talking about life," Anderson says. "But all you're talking about is second base."
He had pretty great comedic timing, too. After being fired, Sparky thanks Carlson only to deadpan: "I'm thanking the man who fired me. I must be nuts. Every time I come into this town I get fired." If only Anderson wasn't beloved in the baseball world, perhaps he would have had a great career as an actor. 

Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker - "Magnum PI"
Episode: Season 4, Episode 8 "A Sense of Debt" 

Tom Magnum stops into a bar to lament the fact that his latest case made him miss the Tigers game, when Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker walk in and hear his sob story. But the mustachioed PI doesn't know that at first.
While some would judge Magnum's Tigers fandom for failing to recognize both players -- let's not forget, he's a private investigator who wears a Tigers cap as part of his "uniform" -- it's important to remember that baseball players always look weird in street clothes.
Plus, if Magnum did recognize them, would we get lines like, "You're sitting behind home and first. We'll be between first and third?" No, we wouldn't. And the world would be deprived of such great drama.

Hank Aaron - "MacGyver"
Episode: Season 3, Episode 3 "Back from the Dead"

OK, the overall plot of this episode is clearly the greatest story possible: A former mafia hitman becomes a Minor League manager. But when MacGyver sees his photo in the newspaper, he knows that the mob won't be far behind, so he rushes to the ballpark to protect him.
You know who else is at the ballpark? A 53-year-old Hank Aaron, who is taking some BP against the mobster-turned-manager's short-on-confidence ace. After Aaron homers on the first pitch he sees, the manager whispers some sage advice to his pitcher and Aaron goes down swinging. 
Sadly, while good for the young pitcher, Aaron's cameo ruins any sense of realism in the show. I know it's about a guy using a piece of tape and a screwdriver to protect the world, but I don't care how old Hammerin' Hank is -- he's not striking out in a "MacGyver" episode.