In honor of Will Ferrell's stunt of playing every position for 10 teams in one day, here's our all-time celebrity baseball team. For consideration, the celebrities had to be better known for non-baseball feats (Bob Uecker, for example, is disqualified).
C -- Kevin Costner
Costner looked the part of Crash Davis in "Bull Durham" because he had real baseball skills. A fan of the Koufax-Drysdale Dodgers as a kid, he tried out for the Cal State Fullerton team in college, although he failed to make it. But in filming the movie, some of the home runs he hit were legit. Now, about Tim Robbins' pitching ...
1B -- Chuck Connors
The star of "The Rifleman," which aired on ABC for five seasons and 168 episodes from 1958-63, Connors played one game in the majors with Brooklyn in 1949 and 66 for the Cubs in 1951, hitting .239 with two home runs. Before that, Connors played with the Boston Celtics in their 1946-47 inaugural season (leaving the team in February to head to spring training with the Dodgers), making him one of 10 athletes to play in both the majors and the NBA. While in the Cubs organization, Connors played for the Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast League and received some acting work after the 1951 season. From his SABR bio:
He played the 1952 season with the Los Angles Angels, where he is best remembered for his showboating than his playing ability. For example, after hitting one home run, he slid into second base, cart wheeled to third base, then crawled to home plate. These antics added to his "screwball" reputation, where at various times in his minor-league career he threw raw hamburger to rowdy fans at a road game and taunted umpires with Shakespearean quotes.
He retired from baseball in 1953 and pursued acting on a full-time basis. Sounds like that was a good idea.
2B -- Kurt Russell
A child actor who appeared in several TV series and movies in the '60s, Russell signed with the Angels in 1971 and played parts of three seasons in the minors with them, reaching Double-A for six games. He was a switch-hitter and looked like he could hit a little, batting .292 with a .380 OBP, but he had just two home runs in 356 at-bats. His career ended when he tore his rotator cuff. At least he had the acting thing to fall back on.
3B -- Ron Shelton
Why did "Bull Durham" feel so real? Shelton, who wrote and directed it, played five seasons of minor league ball, reaching Triple-A. He hit .251 in his minor league career (mostly playing second base) and stole 90 bases.
SS -- Johnny Berardino
An 11-year big leaguer from 1939-52, he was a starter for the St. Louis Browns for three seasons before settling into a utility infielder role. As an actor, he played Dr. Steve Hardy on "General Hospital" from 1963 until his death in 1996 (as John Beradino).
OF -- Tom Selleck
He played basketball at USC but he had me convinced in "Mr. Baseball" that he could play baseball. He prepared for the role by taking batting practice with big leaguers and proved he could hit it out of the park. In spring training, Sparky Anderson of his beloved Tigers let him pinch hit in a game. Apparently, it came near the end of spring training, so Selleck wasn't receiving any batting practice fastballs to hit like Ferrell did. Here's very grainy video of that at-bat from an appearance on David Letterman (skip ahead to 7:20). I can't quite make out the pitcher for the Reds. He's wearing No. 43, but no No. 43 actually appeared in the regular season for the Reds. Selleck apparently fouled off several pitches before striking out on a knuckle-curve.
OF -- Robert Redford
Speaking of Drysdale, Redford graduated from Van Nuys High School the same year as Drysdale (1954), and legend says they were teammates, with Redford then reportedly receiving a baseball scholarship from the University of Colorado. This Los Angeles Times blog spills the truth -- Redford didn't play on the Van Nuys baseball team and didn't exactly receive a baseball scholarship to Colorado. The scholarship was apparently under the guise that if he performed well he'd get one after the fact, but Redford soon left the team and eventually dropped out of school to pursue acting. Nonetheless, as we saw in "The Natural," the baseball skills were real.
OF -- Zane Grey
Hey, he was a big deal a hundred years ago! The best-selling author of Western novels (he wrote some baseball books as well), Grey is best known for "Riders of the Purple Sage," published in 1912. Grey's depictions of the Old West helped shape the myths of that era, which still remain to this day. Before becoming a writer, he was a dentist ... and a minor league ballplayer for a couple of years.
P -- Scott Patterson
He played diner owner Luke Danes for seven seasons on "Gilmore Girls." No, I didn't know that. Patterson pitched seven years in the minors, winning 63 games and reaching Triple-A for parts of five seasons, but never reached the majors.
P -- Charley Pride
The country music star pitched in the Negro Leagues in 1952 and signed with the Yankees in 1953 but apparently got injured. He returned to the Negro Leagues and later pitched briefly for a couple minor league teams.
P -- Charlie Sheen
The star of "Major League" looked legitimate -- unlike, say, third baseman Corbin Bernsen -- because he was. Sheen pitched and played shortstop for Santa Monica High School in the '80s and threw in the low- to mid-80s. "He did have post-high school abilities," Ken Rizzo, an instructor at the Mickey Owen Baseball School told ESPN.com several years ago. "There's no doubt he could have played in college. Maybe even at a lower level Division 1 school. He had baseball skills. But he wasn't going to be playing at Arizona State, or Stanford, or UCLA."
As for the worst baseball-playing actor? Gotta go with Robert De Niro in "Bang the Drum Slowly." No skills whatsoever. Or the dad in "Field of Dreams." Dude has one line and they couldn't find an actor who could throw a baseball with better form?