6 forgotten TV shows about baseball that all struck out

By: H&I Staff    Posted: October 24, 2019, 2:42AM

Image: The Everett Collection

Baseball players have become huge TV stars. Take former Chicago Cubs first baseman Chuck Connors, for example. He earned his nickname "Chuck" for how he threw the hardball, before becoming better known as "The Rifleman." And don't forget that Bob Uecker starred on Mr. Belvedere.

Beloved sitcoms have centered around fictional baseball players, too, like Sam Malone of Cheers. Movies about "America's Pasttime" have earned critical acclaim and box office success. See: The Natural, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, Major League, Field of Dreams, etc.

But for whatever reason, TV series about baseball seem to pop out as soon as they pop up. Most of them did not make it to a second season, like the fleeting MLB franchise the Seattle Pilots.

Let's take a look at six vintage TV shows about baseball that swung hard and missed. Look for some of the stars on H&I.


Ball Four


As a pitcher for the Yankees, Jim Bouton won a World Series (1962) and made an All Star squad (1963). Later, he bounced around from team to team, throwing for the Pilots, Astros and Braves. But the righty's biggest success perhaps came off the mound, in bookstores and candy aisles. He penned a best-selling memoir called Ball Four that peeled back the curtain on the clubhouse. Then, he was one of the co-creators of Big League Chew gum. He gave acting a go, too, starring in the TV adaptation of his book, which tried to do for the bullpen what M*A*S*H did for the battlefield. However, the writers kept butting heads with censors when trying to realistically depict the chatter and behavior of the locker room. The fictional "Washington Americans" folded after a mere five episodes.

Image: The Everett Collection


The Bad News Bears


The hit 1976 movie The Bad News Bears earned big bucks and big laughs at the box office. CBS figured a TV spin-off would be an easy bunt. Not so. Casting precocious child stars like Corey Feldman (pictured) and Meeno Peluce as the players, these Bears did at least manage to steal a second season (the only show on this list to do so). Going up against CHiPs on the schedule led to an early sweep.

Image: The Everett Collection


Bay City Blues


The fictional Bay City Bluebirds featured an all-star roster, at least in terms of actors. Steven Bochco (Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue — the guy likes "blue") produced this overlooked show, which assembled the talents of Dennis Franz and Sharon Stone. MTM Enterprises produced the series, which featured music by ace composer Mike Post. NBC had it batting clean-up after The A-Team and Remington Steele. On paper, that's all a killer lineup. Yet, somehow, it could not defeat the CBS Tuesday Night Movie. Ken Olin, who later worked with Bochco on Hill Street Blues, was also part of the cast.

Image: The Everett Collection


A League of Their Own


How do you fill the cleats of Tom Hanks and Madonna? That's a challenge, not to mention Geena Davis and Lori Petty. Penny Marshall, who directed the film, also helmed the pilot episode. Tom Hanks directed episode three! Out of five — just five — episodes total. Ouch. Penny Marshall's daughter, Tracy Reiner, was part of the cast. (She is on the lower left of the team photo in the main image up top.)

Image: The Everett Collection




In 1994, Major League Baseball went on strike. The relatively young Fox Network figured a fictional baseball team might fill the void. Enter the pioneers. Hardball cast both future podcaster Joe Rogan (pictured) and Dick Van Dyke Show legend Rose Marie, in a Disney-produced comedy that was clearly inspired by the cinematic hit Major League. Nine episodes were produced. But this game was rained out after only seven aired.

Image: The Everett Collection


A Whole New Ballgame


Another substitute for the sport during the 1994–95 strike, A Whole New Ballgame actually centered around the strike. Corbin Bernsen (L.A. Law) starred as a ballplayer who suddenly has nothing to do thanks to the strike. So he becomes a sportscaster in Milwaukee. 

Image: The Everett Collection