Character actor Art LaFleur, best known for playing Babe Ruth in The Sandlot and for nearly 200 other roles in movies and on television, has died after a battle with Parkinson’s. The news was confirmed by his wife (via Variety), who referred to him in a Facebook post as a “generous and selfless man” who carried those qualities into his acting. LaFleur was 78.
Art LaFleur was born in Indiana in 1943 but didn’t start acting professionally until the ‘70s when he played a Russian spy in the TV movie Rescue From Gilligan’s Island. He was an athlete before that, which would later go on to inform a lot of his acting roles.
His career as a character actor took off dramatically in the ‘80s, with LaFleur appearing in dozens of TV shows and movies in that decade alone. They include: The Incredible Hulk, Soap, Cannery Row, WarGames, Webster, The A-Team, Cobra, Hill Street Blues, The Blob, and Thirtysomething.
In 1989 he also appeared in Field Of Dreams, playing the ghost of 1919 White Sox first baseman Chick Gandil—the player who infamously convinced his severely underpaid teammates to throw the World Series in what was later called the “Black Sox” scandal.
LaFleur’s other big-name role in a baseball movie came a few years later in 1993 when he played a dream version of Babe Ruth in The Sandlot, inspiring one of the kids to heroically retrieve their lost baseball. After that, LaFleur appeared in Coach, Matlock, First Kid, Baywatch, ER, Boy Meets World, JAG, Angel, The Practice, two Santa Clause sequels (he played the Tooth Fairy), Home Improvement, Malcolm In The Middle, House, and Key And Peele.
LaFleur is survived by his wife, Shelley, and two children. In the Facebook post, Shelley LaFleur said, “Art was larger than life and meant the world to us.”