Kurt Russell landed a role in his first movie when he was just 11 years old, playing a bit part in the Elvis Presley musical, It Happened at the World’s Fair. It was a small, uncredited role, but it began a career that is now almost five decades long. It wasn’t what Russell had in mind. He, like millions of other kids in America, wanted to play baseball.
Two family businesses for Kurt Russell
Russell’s father, Bing Russell, was an actor too, and like Kurt, Bing loved baseball. Bing loved baseball so much he eventually started a minor league team in Portland, Oregon, named the Mavericks. Kurt actually played a handful of games for the Mavericks in their inaugural season, 1973. He hit .229 in 83 at-bats for the Class A Northwestern Independent League team. That batting average is a good indicator why we know Kurt Russell for roles like Snake Plissken and Wyatt Earp, rather than as an infielder with a good batting eye for the California Angels.
The actor tried to pursue both careers
For a while, Russell tried to do both. He would play baseball in the summers and spend his winters in Los Angeles shooting movies and TV shows. Russell once said, “I always thought I could do both. I wasn’t really serious about acting — I was serious about baseball.” What he was serious about on the showbiz side was the money at the time, “I made good money acting, so it wasn’t something that I was just going to put aside and pretend it didn’t exist.” Baseball was his passion though.
The end came quickly for Kurt Russell the Baseball Player
Known for having a good bat, but not much power, Russell’s career as a baseball player ended when he tore his rotator cuff while turning a double play. Former Major League pitcher Frank Tanana was Russell’s teammate on the El Paso Sun Kings when Russell got hurt. The pitcher told him he thought it was Russell’s shoulder and also said the actor-turned-ballplayer was probably finished as the latter. Russell’s doctor confirmed that a couple days later. The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 star said, “The doctor did an arthrogram on me and he looked at the arthrogram, and he looked at me, and he said, ‘Aren’t you also an actor?’ And I said, ‘Yeah.’ And he said, ‘Well, you’re an actor all the time now.'”
Kurt Russell’s loss is the rest of the world’s gain
So, it was back to Hollywood permanently for Kurt Russell, and frankly, the world is a better place for it. Sure, it’s every kid’s dream to suit up for a Major League team, but if that shoulder had never been injured and Russell had made it to the big show, it’s all the other shows we as fans love that would’ve suffered. Kate Hudson is probably grateful too, as things could have been very different for her as well. For that, Russell is probably most grateful.