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April 2012
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Batting a Thousand
Actors who were nearly professional athletes.

Making it to the top of any profession takes a lot of drive and hard work; this is why it comes as no surprise that many of Hollywood’s most successful actors almost made it to the top of the sports world, but ended up turning in their uniforms for costumes. While names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Bradshaw and Andre the Giant are well-known athletes turned actors, here are some with athletic backgrounds that might surprise you.
Sometimes it seems like there is absolutely nothing that George Clooney can’t do. The actor/writer/director and two-time People magazine “Sexiest Man Alive” has won numerous awards and legions of fans everywhere, but did you know he was a breakout star on his high school baseball team? So much so that he was offered the chance to tryout for the Cincinnati Reds in 1977. Clooney leapt at the opportunity, but was ultimately unable to make it past the first round of cuts. Failing to make his pro-baseball dreams come true, Clooney was forced to settle for worldwide mega-stardom.
Whether you prefer Married…With Children or Modern Family, there is no denying that contemporary sitcoms would not be quite as good without the presence of the great Ed O’Neill. The Emmy and Golden-Globe nominated actor first made a name for himself on the football field, playing defensive lineman for both Ohio University and Youngstown State. In 1969, he was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he got cut during training camp. Pittsburgh’s loss was Hollywood’s gain, however. After a quick detour as a Social Studies teacher, O’Neill re-enrolled at Youngstown State University where he became one of the first candidates in the school’s newly developed theater program.
Kurt Russell is certainly an all-star in Hollywood, but he was also an all-star on the baseball diamond. He was signed by the California Angels in the 1970s and, while playing on the farm team circuit, was named a league All-Star. In 1973, Russell batted .563, the highest average in the Texas League that year, and was a lock to be called up to the majors. Unfortunately, a collision at second base resulted in a torn rotator cuff that effectively ended his career in sports. Luckily for Russell, he had an acting career to fall back on. He returned to acting and just five years later, earned an Emmy nomination for the 1979 made-for-TV movie Elvis.
Dean Cain’s athletic physique was obvious when he donned the Superman costume for his hit 1990’s TV series Lois & Clark, but what you may not know is that he got that superhero bod on the football field. Cain was offered athletic scholarships to 17 universities and ultimately chose to attend Princeton where he played safety and was captain of the school’s volleyball team. In between earning his bachelor’s degree in history and dating fellow Princetonian Brooke Shields, he earned himself a spot in the NCAA 1-AA record books for most interceptions in a season. Upon graduation, he was drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Unfortunately, he suffered a career-ending knee injury during training camp and his professional football career ended before it began. 


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