Former Longacres jockey Gary Stevens, who won the Kentucky Derby three times, had a starring role in Seabiscuit (2003) / Wiki Commons
The 83rd Academy Awards will be held on Sunday night (televised by ABC). Rather than serve up another stale list of the best and worst sports movies, we decided to look at the highest-rated movies in which athletes with connections to Washington state appeared. Rather than go Roger Ebert on you, we relied on Internet Movie Database (IMDb) ratings (ratings below are on a scale of 0 to 10). In cases where an athlete appeared in more than one highly rated movie (former UW football/track star Herman Brix, for example), we listed only the highest-rated movie in which the athlete appeared. This double-bonus Top 5 List is by no means exhaustive, and is meant for entertainment purposes only.
Like Mike, 2002 (4.5): Former Sonics star Gary Payton (1990-03) is one of a dozen NBA players appearing in this clinker, which has to do with a 14-year-old orphan who becomes a superstar after trying on a pair of sneakers with the faded initials “M.J.” on the inside (it’s amazing Payton agreed to appear in this mess).
Stone Cold, 1991 (5.3): Former Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth (1987-89) gives a less-than-riveting performance as the star of this film. He plays Joe Huff, a tough, go-it-alone cop who has a knack for infiltrating dangerous biker gangs. The Boz also played a prison guard in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard.
Little Big League, 1994 (5.7): A young boy is bequeathed the ownership of a professional baseball team. Among those making cameo appearances: Mariners manager Lou Piniella, center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., and pitcher Randy Johnson.
Little Giants, 1994 (5.7): A bunch of misfits form their own team to oppose an elite peewee football powerhouse. Former University of Washington All-America Steve Emtman plays himself, as do Emmitt Smith, John Madden, Bruce Smith and Tim Brown.
Big Stan, 2007 (6.3): A weak con man learns he is going to prison for fraud and hires a martial arts expert to train him to defend himself against barbaric inmates. Bob Sapp, a football player at Washington (1994-96) who later became a renowned mixed martial arts master, plays the trainer, “Big Raymond”. Sapp also played “Switowski” in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard, starring Adam Sandler and Chris Rock.
The Longest Yard, 1974 (7.1): Former University of Washington quarterback Sonny Sixkiller (1970-72) plays the “Indian” in a movie in which a sadistic warden (Eddie Albert) asks a former pro quarterback (Burt Reynolds) serving time in prison to put together a team of inmates to take on the guards. Funniest football game in history, and the film won a Golden Globe in 1975.
Jerry Maguire, 1996 (7.3): Based, in part, on the career of sports agent Lee Steinberg, the film features dozens of professional athletes, playing themselves. Quarterbacks Warren Moon (Huskies, Seahawks) and Drew Bledsoe (Cougars) make cameo appearances in a film that stars Tom Cruise and Rene Zellwegger. Jerry Maguire included Cuba Gooding Jr.’s oft-quoted line, “Show me the money!”
Seabiscuit, 2003 (7.4): Former Longacres jockey Gary Stevens, who won eight Triple Crown and eight Breeders’ Cup races during a Hall of Fame career, plays George Woolf, who won the Triple Crown on Whirlaway and died after falling off his horse during a 1946 race at Santa Anita. Stevens, also the winner of the last Longacres Mile held at Longacres (1991), steals just about every scene in which he appears.
M*A*S*H, 1970 (7.7): Ben Davidson, who had a more productive career in the NFL than he did at the University of Washington (1959-60), has a not-so-substantial role in a famous film that stars Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall and Sally Kellerman. Davidson also had parts in Behind the Green Door, (1972, 6.0 IMDb rating), Conan The Barbarian (1982) and Necessary Roughness.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948 (8.5): Bruce Bennett, known as Herman Brix when he participated in football and track at Washington (1925-27, once held the world record in the shot put), plays James Cody in a cast that includes Humphrey Bogart, John Huston and Tim Holt. The film netted two Academy Awards for Huston (directing, adapted screen play) and is the origin of the famous line, “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges.” Bennett/Brix, the first movie “Tarzan,” (personally selected by Edgar Rice Burroughs), also appeared in such films as Sahara (1943, also with Humphrey Bogart, 7.6 IMDb rating) and Dark Passage (1947, with Bogart and Lauren Bacall, 7.5 IMDb rating).
“Top 5 List” is published every Friday as part of Sportspress Northwests package of home-page features collectively titled, The Rotation.
The Rotations weekly schedule:
- Monday: That Was The Week That Was A snarky, day-by-day review of the week just ended.
- Tuesday: Wayback Machine — Sports historian David Eskenazi’s deep dive into local sports history, replete with photo eye candy.
- Wednesday: Nobody Asks But Us — We ask, and answer, fun and quirky questions nobody else is asking.
- Thursday: Water Cooloer Cool: Art Thiel takes on the weekend for the benefit of the more casual fan.
- Friday: Top 5 List — The alpha and omega of Northwest sports, at least as far as we’re concerned.