Saturday, December 17, 2011

Metkovich moonlighted in movies

Uncommon commons: In more than 30 years in sportscards publishing I have thrown hundreds of notes into files about the players – usually non-star players – who made up the majority of the baseball and football cards I collected as a kid. Today, I keep adding to those files as I peruse microfilms of The Sporting News from the 1880s through the 1960s. I found these tidbits brought some life to the player pictures on those cards. I figure that if I enjoyed them, you might too.

Journeyman outfielder George Metkovich was a California boy who got his start in show business before he got his start in professional baseball.

As a 17-year-old student and star basketball player at Fremont High School in Los Angeles, Metkovich landed a bit part in a basketball movie for MGM in 1938. He later said he was paid $350 for the role, and earned his Screen Actors Guild union card.

The next year he was signed by the Detroit Tigers and played in their Class D and C teams during the 1939 season. He was released by the Tigers and signed by the Boston Bees/Braves. He played most of the next three seasons with Class B Hartford. 

In 1943 he was sold to the San Francisco Seals, then in mid-season was traded to the Boston Red Sox, for whom he made his big league debut. 

Metkovich spent the next 15 seasons bouncing between the Pacific Coast League and various major league teams: Cleveland in 1947, the White Sox in 1949, the Pirates 1951-53 and the Braves in 1954.

During the off-seasons, Metkovich wintered in Los Angeles and appeared in more than a dozen movies, usually  typecast as a ballplayer.

By 1952, he was getting $100 a day as an actor. He explained that if he had to do any stunt work, such as "sliding or bumping into somebody," he earned an extra $55. That scale was about equal to what he was making as a veteran ballplayer.

Metkovich liked to say that in his movie roles he worked with some of the most beautiful women in the world. He ranked young Elizabeth Taylor at #1 in that group. Metkovich said that Doris Day was the nicest female star with whom he worked. He said that between takes she would play catch and pepper with the guys on the set.

In 1951 he worked with Ronald Reagan in the Grover Cleveland Alexander biopic, The Winning Team. Also that year he filmed with Esther Williams in Million Dollar Mermaid. The previous year he had appeared as baseball coach/clown Al Schacht in a Fred Astaire musical, Three Little Words.

Other movies in which Metkovich appeared were Gilda, The Stratton Story, The Jackie Robinson Story and Angels in the Outfield.

Following his playing days on the Coast, Metkovich managed the San Diego Padres from 1957-60. He died in 1995.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments, criticism, additional information, questions, etc., are welcome . . . as long as they are germane to the original topic. All comments are moderated before they are allowed to appear and spam comments are deleted before they ever appear. No "Anonymous User" comments are allowed.