It happens every spring — except this one.
Major League Baseball kicks off a new season each year, one of the surest signs that spring is in the air. This year, though, Opening Day, slated for March 26, was postponed while Americans quarantine and isolate to stem the spread of the coronavirus. There’s no date for when the national pastime will return, leaving a void in the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.
So, what are die-hard baseball fans to do? Well, it’s certainly not the same, but it’s a good time to look back on some sluggers and aces who’ve graced the small screen not on the diamond, but on some of our favorite shows. It marked a time when “Play ball!” gave way to “Action!”
These are some of the more memorable TV cameos made by baseball stars over the years.
Keith Hernandez, “Seinfeld”
One of the most well-known and funniest guest appearances ever on the small screen — by a baseball player or not — the former New York Mets first baseman parlayed a friendship forged in a gym locker room with Jerry into a romance with Elaine. He also cleared up a years-old beef Kramer and Newman had with relief pitcher Roger McDowell (who also appeared in a hazy home video cameo) in a bit that satirized the film “JFK.” Meanwhile, George tried to get Hernandez’s autograph in a failed bid to continue receiving unemployment. This two-part 1992 episode is considered one of the legendary comedy’s best to this day. Hernandez later returned to the show for the series finale.
Barry Bonds, “Beverly Hills, 90210”
Long before he became the face of the steroids scandal that consumed baseball, Bonds starred on the classic '90s Fox drama as fictional baseball star Barry Larson, who squared off with his father against Steve and his dad in a round of golf. Things got thorny in this 1994 episode when Steve discovered his own dad was cheating and demanded he play fair.
Ken Griffey Jr.,“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”
The Hall of Fame slugger met Will, Carlton and Hilary (the latter two had no idea who he was) at a carnival during a season-five episode. Hilary flirted with him but struck out; after Will teased Ken about his baseball skills, Ken took a jab at Will’s relationship with girlfriend Lisa.
Hunter Pence, “Fuller House”
The San Francisco Giants outfielder played Stephanie’s boyfriend in a season-one episode. The relationship didn't go well for Stephanie, who was blamed for Pence’s slump at the plate. The two broke up as Stephanie sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at a Giants game.
Wade Boggs, “Cheers”
One of the recurring storylines on the Emmy-winning NBC comedy was the bar’s running feud with rival bar Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern. They were constantly trying to prank each other, with Gary’s always coming out on top. In this 1988 episode, Gary admitted the Cheers gang got the best of him, so he said he was sending over the then-Red Sox star to sign autographs as a way to congratulate them. The crew was so paranoid Gary was duping them that they taunted Boggs and stole his wallet and pants, only to discover that he was indeed the real Wade Boggs.
Nick Swisher, “How I Met Your Mother”
Womanizing Barney, played by Neil Patrick Harris, was on the cusp of completing a perfect week (hooking up with seven women in seven days) in this 2010 episode when the New York Yankees World Series champion walked into the gang’s favorite bar and hijacked his attempt to win over his final conquest, before Ted, Marshall and Robin went over and chatted him up. Fun fact: Swisher’s real-life wife, former “Reba” star JoAnna Garcia Swisher, also guest-starred on “How I Met Your Mother,” in 2009.
Don Drysdale, “The Brady Bunch”
After meeting the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching ace, Greg became determined in this 1970 episode to make it to the majors. He became so obsessed, in fact, that Mike had to contact the recently retired Drysdale to try and make him understand that being a baseball player is not as glamorous as it seems. The talk backfired and Greg remained laser-focused on baseball before his dream came crashing down after he pitched poorly in his next game. Mike then consoled him with one of his patented dad talks that helped make the series so popular, even a half-century later.
Ryan Howard, “The Office”
That’s Ryan Howard, the former Philadelphia Phillies first baseman, not Ryan Howard, the temp played by B.J. Novak. Howard appeared in the show’s final season, attending a business meeting with Jim and Darryl and sharing his oddball screenplay with them: a “half biopic, half superhero” movie.
Ken Griffey Jr., Wade Boggs, Don Mattingly, Roger Clemens, Ozzie Smith, Jose Canseco, Darryl Strawberry, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, “The Simpsons”
Mr. Burns hired star baseball players as ringers for his softball team, but nearly all of them suffered some sort of strange setback (poor Ozzie disappeared into the Springfield Mystery Spot). It was up to Homer to carry the team to victory — which he did, after getting hit in the head with a pitch. The 1992 episode, titled “Homer at the Bat,” is one of many in the show’s long run to revolve around sports, but it's arguably the best.
Bill Buckner, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
Leave it to Larry David to take an unfortunate moment from Buckner’s career — a momentum-shifting error in the 1986 World Series, which his Boston Red Sox lost in seven games — and play it for laughs. In this 2011 episode, Buckner redeemed himself by catching a baby tossed from a burning building. Much credit goes to Buckner, who died in 2019, for being a good sport.