6 forgotten TV shows about baseball that all struck out

They all swung for the fences… and missed.

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.

1. Ball Four

1976

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

2. The Bad News Bears

1979–80

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

3. Bay City Blues

1983

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.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. A League of Their Own

1993

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

5. Hardball

1994

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

6. A Whole New Ballgame

1995

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

SEE MORE: Can you guess these TV shows from their football scenes?

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AgingDisgracefully 1 month ago
A real-life baseball sitcom should take 4 hours and feel like 6.
Wiseguy 1 month ago
I remember the first three series. The Bad News Bears starred Jack Warden (in the Walter Matthau role) and Catherine Hicks (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 7th Heaven), with Soleil Moon Frye's (Punky Brewster) half-brother Meeno Peluce. Two of the kids (Tricia Cast and Kristoff St. John) went on to star in The Young and the Restless for several years.
cperrynaples Wiseguy 1 month ago
Yes, and St. John died suddenly of a heart attack in his early '50's! I remember Cast from Santa Barbara where her sister was an ex-nun who was in love with Mason! Yes, Sister Mary was the one killed by the giant C at the Capwell hotel!
RobCertSDSCascap 1 month ago


I only remember the second one, probably because of the theme song;
Bizet's Carmen.
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Yes, and I just watched that episode! Technically, the castaways produced "Hamlet:The Musical" but Hecuba stole it!
He'll never admit it.
daDoctah cperrynaples 1 month ago
And his daughter went on to play Jenny Piccalo on "Happy Days".
cperrynaples daDoctah 1 month ago
Yes she did and her father's last appearance was as Jenny's father! Anyone remember when Joanie told stories about how Jenny was a "bad girl"?
Runeshaper 1 month ago
I've never heard of any of these, but I think I would have gave at least 2 -3 of them a viewing.
cperrynaples 1 month ago
I suppose it's too recent for MeTV, but a few years ago Fox had a show called Pitch about the first woman in MLB!
Utzaake cperrynaples 1 month ago
The protagonist in FOX's Pitch was played by Kylie Bunbury, the older sister of the New England Revolution's Teal Bunbury. Mark Consuelos, who currently plays Hiram Lodge in The CW's Riverdale, was the San Diego Padres' general manager in the series. Watched the entire series because of Bunbury and not for the baseball. Of the six series in the article, only watched Ball Four which also featured Oakland Raiders legend Ben Davidson and was rendered corny by the censors.
cperrynaples Utzaake 1 month ago
I assume by corny, you mean no double entredres [SP?]. The explanation for this is that CBS scheduled this show at 8:30 and the "Family Hour" rule was in effect. Had this show run at 9:30, It proably would have been a different show!
Barry22 1 month ago
With the exception of Ball Four (a great book), I don't remember any of these.
harlow1313 Barry22 1 month ago
Harry Chapin did the theme song.

Like you, I enjoyed the book. I always remember an anecdote about spring training where Steve Hovley said he liked to lie in a big field of alfalfa and look up at the sky.

Bouton wrote "I sure hope Hovley makes the team."
Moody Barry22 1 month ago
Ball Four was a great book! I saw some of those shows & they are pretty forgettable. lol!
BrittReid Barry22 1 month ago
Ball Four was an excellent read.
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