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03/18/2008 9:00 AM ET
Trading change-ups for close-ups
Many big league stars made the transition to matinee idol
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Real Yankee Bill Dickey, right, with Gary Cooper, center, as Lou Gherig in the 1950 classic, "The Jackie Robinson Story."  (AP photo)
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We've all seen Kevin Costner as Crash Davis, Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs, Charlie Sheen as Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn and Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig.

Hollywood actors have always been enthralled to live out childhood fantasies by putting on baseball uniforms, taking a few hacks in the cage, and trying to convince moviegoers that they look and act the part of a big leaguer.

But what happens when those roles are turned around -- when real-life baseball stars go in front of cameras to read lines in real movies? Here are a few choice examples:

Babe Ruth in "The Pride of the Yankees," 1942 This one wasn't such a stretch for the big lug. After all, in the film, George Herman "Babe" Ruth was playing, well, George Herman "Babe" Ruth, which was advertised clearly and prominently on the posters and in the newspapers. Other real Yankees in the movie, which garnered 11 Academy Award nominations, were Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig and Bill Dickey.

Jackie Robinson in "The Jackie Robinson Story," 1950 There's going to be another Jackie Robinson movie soon, with Redford producing and starring as Branch Rickey. We're not sure who will play Jackie -- although it wouldn't be a surprise if it was Jamie Foxx -- but he can't do a better job than Jackie himself, as was the case in this docudrama. This movie isn't the highest-budget film ever made, but just watching the real Jackie Robinson on film is something to savor and own on DVD.

Bob Uecker in "Major League," 1989 We won't even discuss "Major League II" and especially "Major League: Back to the Minors" (yes, there was a third movie in this series), because those two duds diminish Uecker's classic role of play-by-play man Harry Doyle in the original. Uecker got famous for the Miller Lite commercials in which he spoke lovingly and long-windedly about his mediocre Major League Baseball career, and the joke keeps going here with unforgettable lines such as, "Juuuuuuuust a bit outside," and "Remember, fans, Tuesday is 'Die Hard' Night. Free admission for anyone who was actually alive the last time the Indians won the pennant."

Reggie Jackson in "The Naked Gun," 1988 "The Straw that Stirs the Drink" wasn't exactly the straw that stirred this hilarious comedy from the makers of the "Airplane" series. That nod goes to Leslie Nielsen at Frank Drebin in a landslide. But Reggie had a key role in the plot of the film nonetheless. As the victim of the sensory-induced hypnosis brought forth by the villain, Vincent Ludwig, and his henchman, Papshmir, Reggie, in the movie a member of the Angels, was hypnotized into believing he had to murder the visiting Queen Elizabeth. Reggie's robotic, trance-like repeated line, "I ... must ... kill ... the ... queen," was delivered brilliantly, and the fact that he was brainwashed made him a victim, not a criminal. Reggie obviously impressed directors and producers. He was hired for later classics such as "BASEketball" and "Richie Rich."

Hank Aaron, "Summer Catch," 2001 In a harmless romantic comedy that showed off the cool Cape Cod summer league as well as the beautiful Jessica Biel, Hammerin' Hank provided one of the more memorable moments when he showed up right before the end of the movie in a cameo as a scout watching Freddie Prinze Jr.'s character, Ryan Dunne. Other current and active players, including Ken Griffey Jr., Mike Lieberthal, Dave Collins, Pat Burrell and Doug Glanville made appearances, but Aaron stole the show. Unfortunately for Hank, he had to watch Prinze pitch and actually pretend that he was looking at a Major League prospect.

Chuck Connors, too many to list Connors, famous for "The Rifleman" TV series in the late 1950s and early 1960s and many other programs throughout a long career, also starred in more than a handful of movies, including "Old Yeller," "The Big Country," "Geronimo," "Flipper," "Soylent Green" and "Airplane II: The Sequel." That probably qualifies him as more of a legitimate actor than any other baseball player. Connors' career in the big leagues lasted one at-bat with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 and 201 more for the Chicago Cubs in 1951, when he played in 66 games and hit .239 with two homers and 18 RBIs.

Mike Piazza, "Two Weeks Notice," 2002 Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant go to a Mets game against the Giants, and they're in the expensive seats when a foul pop heads right to them. Then-Mets catcher Mike Piazza goes after the ball but can't make the play when Bullock interferes in Steve Bartman fashion. Piazza, irked by the lost out, blurts out one of the funnier lines in the whole movie, saying, "Next time, go to a Yankees game."

Various Houston Astros, "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training," 1977 Bob Watson, Joe Ferguson, Enos Cabell, Ken Forsch, J.R. Richard, Cesar Cedeno and manager Bill Virdon all appeared in this sequel, which follows our lovable Bears to the Astrodome for a Little League game before the Astros play. It's fun to watch the Astros as they laugh at Tanner Boyle juking the umpires as everyone in the building shouts, "Let them play!" along with William Devane. And those uniforms ... oh, those uniforms. Worth the price of admission right there.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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