From the Field to the Studio: the Top 5 TV Appearances by Professional Athletes

Contrary to what Ken Griffey’s guest spot on “The Fresh Prince” or Reggie Theus’ general performance on TNBC’s “Hang Time” would have you believe, some athletes have had great TV appearances throughout the years. Sure they weren’t all stellar acting jobs, but if a pro athlete can manage to participate in a funny story and not completely ruin it, that’s called a win. Here are the top 5 TV appearances by professional athletes.

5 Jim Abbott – Boy Meets World

On an early episode of “Boy Meets World,” Corey decides to give up on his dreams of being a professional baseball player because “Guys like him don’t make it to the majors.” Then, in a completely normal reaction his father does what any good father would; he harasses Jim Abbott with letters until he comes to their house. The pitcher then gives Corey a pep talk that essentially says, “I’m not sure what your reasons are for being so pessimistic, but I’ve got one friggin’ hand, so suck it up.” Well put Mr. Abbott.

4 Paul O’Neill – Seinfeld

Larry David, baseball player, blah, blah, blah. You get it. Former Yankee Paul O’Neill gave a great performance on a hilarious 1995 episode of Seinfeld where Kramer promises a sick boy in the hospital that O’Neill will hit two home runs for him. The result is a priceless scene in the Yankee locker room where Kramer breaks the news to the right-fielder, who responds by telling him how hard it is to hit home runs and then asks “How the heck did you get in here anyway?” It was one of the best Yankee-centric episodes in the stretch on the show that George worked for the Bombers, and O’Neill proved to surprisingly have a little comedic pop in his bat.

3 Keith Hernandez – Seinfeld

Another baseball player on another Larry David show, it’s a formula that works. The former Mets first baseman proved to be a serviceable actor and took part in some of the shows most memorable scenes, including serving as the scapegoat in Kramer and Newman’s classic JFK-esque spit story. Though his best moment had to be when he was sitting in the car after a date with Elaine, struggling with his own awkward inner monologue, “Gosh, should I kiss her goodnight?… Go ahead, kiss her. I’m a baseball player, damn it…”

2 Bill Buckner – Curb Your Enthusiasm

Playing himself on an episode of Larry David’s HBO show, Buckner showed he has no problem making light of the ground ball that changed his life forever. He spends the majority of the episode getting ragged on by complete strangers who claim he ruined their lives, then drops an autographed Mookie Wilson baseball out a window and blames it on Larry David’s “horse s#!% throw.” Buckner certainly didn’t bring the house down with his acting, but he played the affable nice guy to a tee and helped make the scenes he was in truly hilarious.

1 Bob Uecker – Mr. Belvedere

The one time catcher turned broadcaster turned fake Major League broadcaster and many time guest of Johnny Carson, Bob Uecker, did more with his acting career than any other professional athlete in history. But “Mr. Baseball” makes this particular list for his performance as George Owens on the 1985 sitcom “Mr. Belvedere.” It’s a series described as “The humorous adventures of an English housekeeper working for an American family.” Sounds hilarious, right? Well, no, it doesn’t. But this show lasted five years thanks to Bob Uecker stealing the show and offering more comedic relief than Mr. Lynn Aloysius Belvedere could serve up on a fancy silver platter.

There you have it, the top five TV appearances by professional athletes. You probably noticed, much like we did, that they all wound up being baseball players. Is it a coincidence? Maybe. But it also seems like yet another testament to the fact that professional basketball players need to stop trying to act. For the love of God, just stop!

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