I always have loved baseball and anything to do with the trivia of the game. While looking through some archives, I came across a list of celebrities that played the game at one time or another. Today, baseball players are all celebrities, but there are some that aren’t particularly known for their prowess on the diamond. For one reason or another, the following list of five players looked to other areas to gain their fame. There are more people out there who loved the game of baseball but found celebrity in their chosen fields. Feel free to add any others that you may find to the list.
Zane Grey (U.S . Author)
Zane Grey is most famous for his novels about the American frontier and the old west. Grey attended the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship, where he studied dentistry and joined Sigma Nu fraternity; he graduated in 1896. The Ivy League was highly competitive and an excellent training ground for future pro baseball players. He was a solid hitter and an excellent pitcher who relied on a sharply dropping curve ball; however, when the distance from the pitcher’s mound to the plate was lengthened by ten feet in 1894, the effectiveness of his pitching suffered and he was re-positioned to the outfield. He was an indifferent scholar. During that time, while playing ‘summer nines’ in Delphos, Ohio, Grey was charged with, and quietly settled, a paternity suit involving a ‘belle of Delphos’, foreshadowing future womanizing behavior. His father paid the $133.40 cost and Grey resumed playing summer baseball in Delphos, and managed to conceal the episode when he returned to Penn. Grey went on to play minor league baseball with a team in Newark, New Jersey and also with the Orange Athletic Club for several years. Additionally, his brother, Romer Carl “R. C.” Grey, played briefly in 1903 for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Roy Acuff (U.S. Country Singer, Fiddler, and Promoter)
Known as the “King of Country Music,” Acuff is often credited with moving the genre from its early string band and “hoedown” format to the star singer-based format that helped make it internationally successful. Acuff began his music career in the 1930s, and gained regional fame as the singer and fiddler for his group, the Smoky Mountain Boys. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1938, and although his popularity as a musician waned in the late 1940s, he remained one of the Opry’s key figures and promoters for nearly four decades. In 1942, Acuff co-founded the first major Nashville-based country music publishing company— Acuff-Rose Music— which signed acts such as Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, and The Everly Brothers. In 1962, Acuff became the first living person to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Acuff’s real love at the time was sports; in high school he lettered in football, basketball, and baseball. After graduation, Acuff turned down a scholarship to nearby Carson-Newman College and worked temporarily at a variety of jobs, including that of railroad “call boy,” the one responsible for rounding up other workers as the need arose. He also played semi-professional baseball and boxed informally. Early in 1929, major-league baseball scouts recruited Acuff for training camp, but his collapse during a game—an after-effect of an earlier sunstroke—prompted a nervous breakdown and sidelined him for most of 1930.
George Thorogood (U.S. Singer and songwriter)
A huge baseball fan for most (if not all) of his life, as well as playing minor league baseball as a catcher during the 1970s, when asked about his rigorous touring schedule – specifically his “50/50″ Tour (50 states in 50 days) – his immediate response was “Well, it was in the off-season. So, it was nothing. Didn’t have to miss a single game.“ He took his daughter to Chicago for her first major league game (Cubs vs. Rockies), during which he sang “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”. With obvious excitement in his voice, he said, “I told her, ‘You’ll see a stadium where Babe Ruth called his shot, Ernie Banks hit his 500th home run, and Milt Pappas threw a no-hitter!’”
Chuck Connors (U.S. Actor)
During his tour of duty in World War II, Chuck moonlighted as a professional basketball player at night. Following his military discharge in 1946, he joined the newly formed Boston Celtics of the Basketball Association of America. Connors left the team for spring training with Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers. He played for numerous minor league teams before joining the Dodgers in 1949, for whom he played in just 1 game; and the Chicago Cubs in 1951, for whom he played in 66 games as a first baseman and occasional pinch hitter. In 1952 he was sent to the minor leagues again, to play for the Cubs’ top farm team, the Los Angeles Angels. Connors was also drafted by the Chicago Bears, but never suited-up for the team. Chuck Connors is one of only twelve athletes in history to have played for Major League Baseball, National Football Association and in the NBA. Connors is credited with being the first professional basketball player to break a backboard. Connors jumped center and smashed the glass backboard in the first-ever Boston Celtics game on Nov. 5, 1946 at Boston Arena.
Kurt Russell (U.S Actor)
Kurt Russell, who started his acting career by kicking Elvis Presley in the shin and later working for Disney also had a baseball career (his father was also a baseball player). In the early 1970s, Russell played second base for the California Angels (now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) Double-A minor league affiliate the El Paso Sun Kings. During a play, he was hit in the shoulder by a player running to second base; the collision tore the rotator cuff in Russell’s right/throwing shoulder. Before his injury he was leading the Texas League in hitting with a .563 batting average but the injury forced his retirement from baseball in 1973 and led to his return to acting.