When I first started at Beckett many years ago one of our pet phrases (which drove many people crazy) was the term: “Topical Subset”. That meant, instead of working on completing sets or player collections, one went after a thematic grouping of cards. That could be as simple as finding cards of players who share your birthday (Joe Montana, Jose Reyes and Dave Cash are among the ones I share my day with) to the catchers of Nolan Ryan’s seven no-hitters.
I was thinking about that today as I was driving and heard former Heisman winner Eddie George was going to star on Broadway in the revival of the musical “Chicago”. I started thinking about the players past and present one could collect who have some connection to the entertainment world. And yes, there are plenty. While this is far from a comprehensive list, it will cover some of my favorite stories or players past and nearly to the present.
We’ll begin this tour with “Turkey” Mike Donlin, who in all honesty, might have been a Hall of Famer based on his talent but actually took off significant time during his career to be a vaudeville star. If you ever read GH Fleming’s fine work on baseball in 1908, The Unforgettable Season, you can realize just how important Donlin was to those New York Giants teams. Donlin was one of the first players to actually sit out significant time to go work on a secondary career. In his case, he ended up moving to Hollywood and appeared in many movies for the final 20 years of his life.
Donlin’s teammate Rube Marquard married vaudeville star Blossom Seeley and appeared with her on the stage. Their relationship was written about in a book titled: “Marquard and Seeley”.
Of course, one has to remember that until Marvin Miller came along, most players in all sports were woefully underpaid and therefore any way they could pick up extra money was a worthwhile adventure.
Such famed Hall of Famers as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson all appeared in movies. In fact, Babe Ruth not only appeared in a couple of 1920s movies designed to take advantage of his fame but also played himself (and no one since then has come close to accurately portraying the Babe) in the Pride of the Yankees.
Ed Marinaro, a College Football Hall of Famer and NFL running back, was a better actor, appearing for many years playing officer Joe Coffey on Hill Street Blues in the 1980s. Marinaro is on a few 1970s football cards.
Fred Dryer was a very good defensive end who became the star of the TV show Hunter and also appeared in many other roles. Dryer was almost a fixture on Topps cards from 1970 until the early 1980s.
For some players, it was just a cameo. Leo Durocher and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch both appeared on an episode of “The Munsters”. In that episode, you see a frightened catcher. The actor wearing the tools of ignorance was Ken Hunt who had a brief career with the Los Angeles Angels. Hunt was the stepdad of Butch Patrick, alias Eddie Munster.
Brett Favre, of course, had a role in Something About Mary. Joe Namath appeared in The Brady Bunch. Some of the 1960s LA Rams played headhunters on Gilligan’s Island. Durocher, Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale were on Mr. Ed as players and both went on to broadcasting careers after their playing days.
Another way for players to take advantage of their fame was to attempt to be singers. Lee Maye had a very nice second career leading a music group while others had more limited success. Did you know Tony Conigliaro released a few singles in the 1960s and while Denny McLain toured as an organist, even cutting an album. Mickey Mantle was no crooner but he is part of Teresa Brewer’s single “I love Mickey” with a brief speaking part and it’s a cheap vintage Mantle collectible. On the other hand, Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto did a spoken word recitation during Meat Loaf’s minor hit “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”.”
There are just a few of the stories off the top of my heard. There are plenty more and I’d love to hear some of your stories of interesting athletic and entertainment combinations.