The best (and worst) baseball commercials

CLIOs all around!

January 7th, 2023
Design by Cate Nolan

Commercials: They remind us to pester our doctors about medications we just learned about, give us time to run to the bathroom and, when they star big leaguers in ridiculous settings, provide us with far more joy than any advertising executive this side of Don Draper ever thought possible.

That's right, today we're doing our very baseball-centric version of The Clios and are bringing you the greatest baseball commercials in TV history. Inspired by a recent online retweeting frenzy around the only commercial to combine Don Mattingly, Ken Griffey Jr. and a geography lesson all in one, today let's look at 10 more of the greatest 30-second sponcon short films in the sport's history.

We'll be restricting the list to just one from each player -- otherwise we could probably just write about Griffey the whole time.

1. Bo Knows

Bo Jackson retired from baseball in 1994 and 27 years later the phrase "Bo Knows" is the most well-known two-word phrase in history. Walk up to someone and say "Bo Knows," and you'll be entered into a contractually binding 30-minute conversation about all the wondrous things Jackson could do.

Hearing Jackson put on a classic SoCal surfer's accent for this spot makes it all the better:

2. Griffey for President

Red, blue, rich, poor? The last time the American electorate all came behind one candidate so enthusiastically was in 1996 when "The Kid" promised to erase every "no pepper" in the country.

The only question I have is this: Was the Mariner Moose his running partner? And are mascots even allowed to be Veep?

3. Jim Palmer's underpants

Palmer spent 20 years hawking underpants for Jockey, becoming a sex symbol along the way. (Meanwhile, Cal Ripken Jr. has to remain fully clothed in this ad.)

But in a different world, it would be Steve Garvey's hairy legs we'd have been gazing at. As Palmer wrote in his book, "Nine Innings to Success," "They took [Garvey and me] around to shopping malls and counted the number of people who showed up. And they conducted popularity tests to see who scored highest. Finally, they had us both do a photo shoot with famed photographer Harold Krieger at his New York studio. Krieger was a real pro who had shot covers for Life and Look magazines. When Jockey's executives analyzed all the information, they decided I was the right man for the job."

But when you see just how well this man can hold a pair of the whitest tighty whiteys you've ever seen, there's no debate. Palmer is a Hall of Fame pitchman, too.

4. Steve Garvey is a hunk

Don't feel too bad for Garvey, though. He got to do a Geritol ad that opens with a moment that's so steamy it could be the cover of a romance novel. It's probably still too sexually charged to be shown on the Hallmark Channel.

5. The celeb-stuffed softball game

Bob Uecker's in this one -- though you may miss him if you blink. So is John Madden. Rodney Dangerfield comes out in the bullpen cart and, well, if you know your 1970s minor celebs, this one is just stuffed to the gills.

People say "The Avengers" was the first time so many stars came together for one project. I say it's this beer ad:

6. Randy Johnson takes his hacks

Forget the very famous (and misogynistic) "Chicks dig the long ball" ad, because there's a much better commercial featuring pitchers taking hacks out there: Then D-backs ace and potential human stringbean Randy Johnson stepped into the cage and showed that, yeah, hitting really is hard.

7. Yogi Berra's throwing strikes

I was not alive in the 1970s. However, based on this one commercial, I have a sense of what it was like: Comb-overs, polyester clothing and bowling -- everywhere, bowling!

It's remarkable that Berra's incredibly tame "Yay!" after throwing a strike hasn't become a meme.

8. Tony Gwynn is a baseball card fiend

When Gwynn wasn't thinking about Denny's holographic cards (which he admitted in another ad), he was apparently keeping tabs on the exploding baseball card market and being the "Well, actually" guy to all his teammates.

The best part of this ad is that Bip Roberts signed up to do it, knowing he was going to be the butt of the joke.

9. Marvelous Marv Throneberry

No, this commercial isn't great. However, what elevates it is that Throneberry -- who became famous as perhaps the personification of the lovable loser 1962 Mets -- was the pitchman for the brand at all.

As Throneberry says at the end, "If I do for Lite what I did for baseball, I'm afraid their sales will go down."

10. Fred McGriff for the back-to-back AAU champions

Ask any person who grew up watching ESPN in the '90s and they can likely recite this ad front to back with more ease than they do the alphabet. Fred McGriff's puffy #Dadhat will likely inspire fashion trends for the next 50 years.