A Visit of His Own

Written by: Bill Francis

Actor Joey Slotnick, a familiar face on movie and television screens for the past 25 years whose first major credit came in an iconic baseball film, celebrated his and his dad’s milestone birthdays with a recent trip to Cooperstown.

“We’ve always wanted to come here. My dad, Terry, turned 75 and I turned 50 and we thought, ‘Let’s do this. Let’s go to the Baseball Hall of Fame,’” said Slotnick, who visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum with his father on Oct. 17. “We’re both big Cubs fans and baseball fans and it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime things. It’s been incredible. I love the history and the stories that come out of an artifact. Baseball has such good stories. It seems more than any other sport it has the best stories.

“And (the Hall of Fame) so unassuming from the outside. To come in here it just kind of reveals itself, like a beautiful box that just kind of opens up and opens up.”

Slotnick’s love of baseball dates back to his earliest diamond memories.

“I played in Little League when I was a kid and I was terrible, but I loved it,” he recalled. “It’s that thing where anything is possible – where I can probably do it because I don’t have to be extra tall, I don’t have to be extra big or extra strong. And yet you can’t. Because when you really see a baseball player up close they’re a little taller, they’re a little bigger, they’re a little stronger. It’s elusive, but it’s got enough possibility. I think it’s the possibility that attracts me to the game.”

Born and raised in Chicago, the lifelong Cubs fan had to suffer through one of the most infamous moments in franchise history before finally being able to celebrate the team’s first championship in 108 years.

“I was at the ‘Bartman game’ (Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS vs. the Florida Marlins), which was crazy. The energy outside the ballpark before that game was amazing and palpable,” said Slotnick, who arrived at the Hall of Fame wearing a jacket celebrating Weeghman Park, the original name of Wrigley Field. “I can remember people around me were saying, ‘Five more outs, five more outs.’ I kept on thinking to myself, ‘Just be quiet.’ And then the energy was sucked out of the whole place. And it wasn’t just the Bartman play – there were so many other things that went wrong – but the story was how things can change in an instant.

“And then in 2016, the year the Cubs finally won, I couldn’t attend any of the World Series games because I was doing a play, The Front Page, in New York,” he added. “From offstage, though, I would run down to where the dressing rooms were and there was a television on and I’d watch that. And I had a scooter, so I scooted home afterwards with my telephone listening to the radio in my backpack. It was insane.”

With more than 50 movie and television credits to his name, Slotnick was a series regular on The Single Guy, had recurring roles on Boston Public, Alias, Nip/Tuck and The Good Wife, was a voice actor Family Guy numerous times, and appeared in guest spots on The Nanny, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, Ghost Whisperer, Boston Legal, The Office, Psych, Blue Bloods and the recent reboot of Murphy Brown.

But it was the 1992 baseball blockbuster A League of Their Own – where he played a fan of Rosie O’Donnell’s character – that gave Slotnick his big break.

A League of Their Own was my first movie and it was a great experience,” Slotnick said. “I worked for a week on that and director Penny Marshall really liked us, me and this other guy who kinda played brothers, and she asked us to come back for another week. A lot of people still recognize me from that. That was really my first acting break. And everyone was great. That was a really fun experience to do that movie. And it’s a great movie.”

Besides A League of Their Own (1992), Slotnick has appeared in such movies as Twister (1996), Blast from the Past (1999), Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999), Hollow Man (2000), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) and The Cobbler (2014). He is set to appear in the 2019 release The Goldfinch with Nicole Kidman.

Ask for his other favorite baseball films, Slotnick listed The Natural (“I think that’s a beautiful film”), Eight Men Out (“A really fascinating film”), The Rookie (“A sweet film”), Field of Dreams and the original The Bad News Bears.

Before he and his dad continued their tour through the history of baseball, Slotnick was asked if he could think of any correlation between baseball and acting.

“Certainly you have to have patience as an actor and you have to have patience as a baseball player,” he said after initially pondering the question. “I’m really noticing know when you have a hitter up at bat and he takes that breath. It’s a beautiful thing because when you go into an audition or before you go on stage you want to be as relaxed as possible.

“And watching a baseball player, where it’s just really them and the ball coming at them, they have to be as present as possible. And I think as an actor when you’re onstage or in a film you have to be as present as possible.”

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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