Least and Most Credible Baseball Movie Acting

Jimmy Piersall
Born: 11/14/1929 – Died: 06/03/2017
MLB: 1950, 1952-1967

R.I.P., Jimmy Piersall!

When Jimmy Piersall died on June 3, 2017 at the age of 87, I was afraid that something like this was going to happen. Instead of remembering him first as the distracting, pesky force he could be, my first thoughts would turn to that awful job that actor Tony Perkins did in the 1957 “Fear Strikes Out” movie portrayal of his disintegration into mental illness.

Had I been that tall, older, never-stopped-talking fan in the straw hat and red and black checkered shirt that sat  near us in one of our losing-cause games at Buff Stadium in the 1951 Dixie Series between our Houston Buffs and Piersall’s  Birmingham Barons, I might have expressed my frustrating admiration of Piersall in words like these:

“That Piersall fellow is like a rampaging climate of bad weather, just waiting for some baseball god of bad luck to blow it all over your best hopes for a great day at the park. Victory’s all there for a brief moment, and then, on the heels of a hard wind pushing himself unwanted around the corner onto your own sweet street of dreams, on his wicked way to your house, here comes all this Jimmy mess glop and it’s just nasty enough to wipe out all of your plans to celebrate a game you should’ve won.”

To Jimmy Piersall ~

At any rate, even if it sounds begrudging, it isn’t – Rest in Peace, Jimmy Piersall! – Some of us in the large world of baseball just missed out on having you as our rabid teammate during our shared lifetimes. You were damn-good at what you did.

At least, your demise again reminded some of us of poor Anthony Perkins playing you in the movie “Fear Strikes Out” back in 1957. Until yesterday, Perkins’ performance as you ranked at the top of my list as the “Least Credible Movie Role Portrayal of a Real or Fictional Baseball Player by a Hollywood Actor, All Time.

That evaluation changed yesterday when I serendipitously caught the chance to see John Goodman in a satellite re-broadcast of his Babe Ruth portrayal in the “The Babe” from 1992.

Where have I been? At least, Perkins could act! He may have thrown and caught the ball like a kindergarten girl, but he could still ACT! Goodman was nothing more than some fool’s casting director scheme idea that all they needed was a 40 year old fat man to play Babe Ruth from ages 15 to 35.

As a result, I had to bump Tony Perkins down from 1st to 2nd place on the “Least Credible” List and give the top spot to the absolutely horrible John Goodman. If any further discredit is extended, it should go to both the casting director and the script writer who wrote the screenplay after one short glance at a Ruth biography while taking a leak at old Yankee Stadium in the dead of winter.

My Latest List of the Top 5 “Least Credible” and “Most Credible” Performances by an Actor as a Real or Fictional Baseball Player are as follows:


No. Actor Pos. Player     Movie
1 John Goodman OF/P Babe Ruth The Babe
2 Tony Perkins CF Jimmy Piersall Fear Strikes Out
3 Jimmy Stewart P Monty Stratton The Stratton Story
4 Ronald Reagan P Pete Alexander The Winning Team
5 Dan Dailey P Dizzy Dean The Pride of St. Louis



No. Actor Pos. Player     Movie
1 Robert Redford RF “Roy Hobbs” The Natural
2 Kevin Costner P “Billy Chapel” For the Love of the Game
3 Dennis Quaid P Jimmy Morris The Rookie
4 Robert De Niro C “Bruce Pearson” Bang the Drum Slowly
5 Charlie Sheen P ‘Rickey Vaughn” Major League

“Name” = Fictional Character

Recusal Exception: Because I saw William Bendix in the 1948 version of “The Babe Ruth Story” at age of 10, the same year the real Babe Ruth died, I cannot pass fair judgment on either Bendix or that film for either category until some time beyond the Twelfth of Never. It still brings a movie end tear to my heart, even when I watch it now.


A Parting Handful of  Darker Humor Thoughts …

Had the Batesville Mummies ever made it to the big leagues,

  1. They would have played an all-home game schedule. Why? Ask Mama.
  2. The baseball club owning  Bates family  would have operated their own park-connected motel;
  3. Rival pitchers who got blasted to the showers at Batesville Park also never would have pitched again. Why? Because nobody ever could have found them again once they departed the game for the showers;
  4. All public bathrooms at all Batesville properties bore either one or another of these two labeled signs: Men/Norman or Women/Norma;
  5. The Batesville Mummies’ 1st and 3rd base coaches actually were taxidermy versions of Norman Bates’ father and uncle. Ironically, in spite of the missing vital dynamic that life normally brings to all decision-making jobs, neither dad nor his equivalently dead little brother ever make a mistake on the “stop” or “go” calls to base runners. Of course, they were only a Three I level minor league club and might not have done quite so well at the MLB level.

“Norman Bates? – Playing the outfield? – No way! – Why that nice young man wouldn’t even hurt a fly – let alone – actually go through the motions of trying to catch a fly ball!”



Bill McCurdy

Publisher, Editor, Writer

The Pecan Park Eagle







7 Responses to “Least and Most Credible Baseball Movie Acting”

  1. Larry Dierker Says:

    Piersall paragraph in italics is inspired.. Congrats.

    Worst are real people. Best fictive. No coincidence.

  2. Fred Soland Says:

    I like your picks Bill, but I also believe Kevin Costner’s portrayal of Crash Davis in “Bull Durham” and Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Jimmy Duggan in “A League of Their Own” were also pretty spot on.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Great additions to the list, Fred. I almost put Costner on the list for Bull Durham”, but gave it to him for the other role because “For the Love of the Game” required him to carry a larger part of the script on his own. – You are spot on about Tom Hanks in “League of their Own”. Tom simply buzzed by me without awakening my awareness while I was making the list. For that matter, Geena Davis, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell didn’t do too bad either, nor did tall bright, and funny Tim Robbins as Luke La Loosh, the passionate pitcher in “Bull Durham.” – In fact, I like Tim Robbins as the perfect casting to play Larry Dierker in a movie. That guy could be the broadcasting/managerial age Dierker in a perfect fit flash. Hawaiian shirts and all. Bill Murray could handle the Dierker role too, but, with Murray, we would all have to keep waiting for the time in the movie that Dierker abandons the Astros for the Cubs. 🙂

  3. Sam Says:

    Bill, you should consider renaming your list “Top Seven” most credible. Fred Soland’s suggestions are outstanding!

    Song titles would also be good, for starters: John Fogerty’s “Centerfield”, “Wild Thing”, Major League, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game – Jack Norworth’s 1908 classic.

  4. Jan Larson Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of John Goodman. That movie took two hours of my life that I will never get back.

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