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MLB Players Make Memorable Appearances on TV Shows

Hollywood has tapped the charisma of big league baseball players ever since the cameras started rolling. Occasionally a player, such as first baseman Chuck Conners in "The Rifleman" and catcher Bob Uecker in "Mr. Belvedere," become actors with their own television shows. But more often baseball players are not asked to test their acting chops on the silver screen and are merely cast as themselves. Here are five TV shows that featured memorable guest appearances by MLB players.

"Beverly Hillbillies"

"Beverly Hillbillies"

Leo Durocher was a scrappy shortstop who became associated with show business figures, notably Frank Sinatra, while playing in New York City with both the Dodgers and Yankees and as manager of the Giants. In the 1960s and 1970s whenever a television plot called for a baseball tie-in requiring a coach, Durocher would get the call. He played himself trying to recruit Herman Munster from "The Munsters" to be a big-hitting outfielder for the Dodgers and took batting tips for the team from Mister Ed, the talking horse in "Mr. Ed." When "The Beverly Hillbillies" was the most popular show on television, millionaire Jed Clampett and his nephew Jethro Bodine meet Leo Durocher on the golf course. Hilarity ensues and Durocher attempts to sign Jethro as a pitcher for the Dodgers but apparently the strapping youth can only hurl a baseball when it is smeared with possum fat. Durocher later discovers that cousin Elly Mae Clampett can throw just as hard as Jethro, sending the baseball manager into the cement pond with one of her fastballs.

"Brady Bunch"

"Brady Bunch"

After the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, its players immediately attracted the attention of Hollywood. None was more in demand than Don Drysdale, a tall flame-throwing pitcher destined for the Hall of Fame. Drysdale made four appearances on the "Donna Reed Show" as himself, including an episode with his wife and daughter. In 1970, in the second season of the iconic family TV show, "The Brady Bunch," Drysdale plays a pivotal role in "The Dropout" after oldest son Greg Brady finds success on the baseball field. Greg begins to neglect his school work while assuming his future will be as an MLB star. Don Drysdale is called on to restore reality to Greg's world.

"Cheers"

"Cheers"

The classic television comedy "Cheers" told the tale of Sam Malone, a washed-up Boston Red Sox relief pitcher who opens a bar. It was inevitable that a real-life Red Sox star would work his way into the storyline at some point, and it happened in season six in 1988. After the gang at Cheers has endured a long-running battle with a rival bar, peace is apparently waged in the episode entitled "Bar Wars." The nemesis bar owner sends over American League batting champion Wade Boggs to sign autographs as an apology. Although he looks and sounds like the real Boggs, the Cheers regulars cannot be convinced he is not a fake, treat him rudely, and dismiss their beloved hero from the bar.

"Seinfeld"

"Seinfeld"

First baseman and former Most Valuable Player Keith Hernandez creates one of television's most memorable baseball player moments when he plays himself in a two-part story arc on the sitcom "Seinfeld" in 1992, in an episode called "The Boyfriend." Hernandez guest stars as the romantic interest of female lead Elaine Benes. But other characters believe they have a history with Hernandez the ballplayer, dating back to a post-game spitting incident several years before. The re-enactment of the encounter spoofs the conspiracy surrounding the assassination of President John Kennedy. Hernandez would also make an appearance on the show's final episode in 1998.

"The Simpsons"

"The Simpsons"

"The Simpsons" is the longest running comedy show in television history with over 500 episodes. In that rich catalog there is one episode that stands out for baseball fans. "Homer at the Bat" aired in the third season in 1992. The plot follows the exploits of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team that is nearing a championship season. To make sure that happens, however, plant owner Charles Montgomery Burns, casts aside his employees and then sets out to recruit MLB players and gives them token jobs at the plant to qualify for the big game. Nine big league stars provide appearances as their animated selves in the episode.

Hollywood long ago discovered that appearances by real-life baseball players were box office gold. Babe Ruth was cast as himself in short films as early as 1920 in his first season as a New York Yankee. He would play himself nine times over the years. When MLB players show up on popular TV shows as themselves, the acting may not be Oscar-quality, but the results are always memorable.

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