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Smash! The 10 greatest film, TV baseball players

  • 'The Natural' premiered 30 years ago this week
  • Roy Hobbs joins two 'Major League' stars in our outfield
  • Youth movement: Kids from 'The Sandlot,' 'Bad News Bears' represent, too
Smash! The 10 greatest film, TV baseball players

Fantasy sports: The best teams that never played

Fantasy sports: The best teams that never played

The swelling, iconic music. The shattered tower lights. Roy Hobbs, bleeding from his gut, rounding the bases in the most dramatic home run trot in Hollywood history.

"The Natural" may be turning 30 this week, but that canonical baseball imagery is as timeless as spitballs and sunflower seeds.

No sport has left its mark on Hollywood like baseball and none have produced such unforgettable, make-believe stars. Enough, in fact, to field an entire All-Star team of TV and film's best ballplayers.

Or, absent abundant talent, at least its most memorable. Looking at you, Kenny Powers.

*taps home plate, knocks dirt off cleats*

So here is our starting lineup:

Catcher: Terence Mann (James Earl Jones), "Field of Dreams"

I know. Jones never actually suits up in "Field of Dreams". He had exactly the same amount of at-bats as all of us did in the film. But Jones' Mann possesses two of the most crucial components to the success of any catcher worth his arthritic knees: A very oversized glove and an encyclopedic knowledge of the game of baseball. His horse-whispering to Ray Kinsella about the Iowa farmer's supernatural connection to the game is no different than a catcher's instructive mound meetings with a struggling pitcher. Plus suspenders.

First base: Jack Elliot (Tom Selleck), "Mr. Baseball"

He may look unfamiliar with a baseball jersey replacing his Hawaiian shirt and a bat in his hands instead of a gun, but ahh, that signature 'stache is all we need to confirm that, yes, this is definitely Tom Selleck in a movie about Japanese baseball. A once-dominant big leaguer, Elliot and 'stache are shipped off to Japan for a last chance at glory. And unlike most actual fading U.S. ballplayers who make the same trip, Elliot's story had a happy ending, with him winning the pennant and earning a new shot in the majors.

Second base: Benny (The Jet) Rodriquez (Mike Vitar), "The Sandlot"

His greatest contribution to this classic film is clearly allowing Smalls to join the team. On the field, Benny was all sorts of heroic, too. Coaching up the new kid, literally hitting the cover off the ball and -- in one of the greatest feats of bravery ever committed to celluloid and appreciated the world over by any kid whose baseball ever landed somewhere it absolutely should not have -- scaling the fence and facing off against the Beast to retrieve that Babe Ruth-signed ball.


Third base: The Gashouse Gorillas, "Bugs Bunny"

Pick any of them. They were all identical anyway. Unshaven, cigar-chomping, menacing pear-shaped baseball monsters, rounding the bases in a literal conga line of excess success. How good were the Gorilla Clones? They had a 96-0 lead before Bugs Bunny popped up and one-man-teamed them into defeat. Assuming no rabbits under the field, we like our chances with these goons.


Shortstop: Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley), "Bad News Bears"

Where would the Chico's Bail Bonds Little League squad be without its chain-smoking, motorcycle-driving star? We also like the youthful double-play combo here he'd form with The Jet. The two may have very different approaches to the game (and life) but if there's one thing A-Rod and Derek Jeter taught us, it's that mismatched parts can still have on-field success. Still, Leak would've been so much better if he just quit smoking.

Outfield: Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), "Major League"

Yes, children. The tall man with the baritone voice selling you Allstate insurance on TV was once a really good movie actor. And he was never better than as the memorable idol-worshipping Cerrano, who burned incense in the locker room then torched pitchers on the field. A man of few words but thunderous actions, Cerrano would be a solid, unifying teammate on our motley roster here. So long as nobody touches Jobu.

via Fangraphs

Outfield: Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford), "The Natural"

Ah, the birthday boy himself. Perhaps the strongest statement that could be made to support Hobbs' fake greatness is that there is a real U.S. baseball league named for him. Best I can recall only Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken Jr. have ever received that honor and they are both actual human beings who played real baseball.

Hobbs' biggest moment also provided perhaps the most iconic scene and music of any player on this team. You can find them both right here, beginning at the 48-second mark. Standby for All Of The Chills.

Outfield: Willie "Mays" Hayes (Wesley Snipes), "Major League"

This is exactly the guy whose jersey you'd buy if he were on your team. The flashy, athletic outfielder with speed for days and a live bat. It's probably why fake American Express let him have the fake starring role in that fake commercial. His display of batting gloves nailed to the wall is still one of the best ways ever seen to display memorabilia. Take note, Cooperstown.

Starting pitcher: Henry Rowengartner (Thomas Ian Nicholas), "Rookie of the Year"

Every generation gets the ace it deserves and for us, it's Henry. He's the on-screen embodiment of several modern baseball tenets: Youth over experience, surgical arm reconstruction, straight-up power pitching and feeling bad for the Cubs. Nuke LaLoosh ("Bull Durham") and Billy Chapel ("For Love of the Game") were also strong contenders for our one starting pitching slot, but none of those guys ever struck out the ultimate baseball villain -- Barry Bonds -- like Henry, so he gets the nod.

Relief pitcher: Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), "Eastbound and Down"

The very worst human being on this, or any other, team. But Powers does provide one valuable, standard baseball commodity none of these other players can: a curly mullet.

Umpire: Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen), "The Naked Gun"



Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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