Character actor Art LaFleur, best known for playing Babe Ruth in The Sandlot and for nearly 200 other movie and television roles, he 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 brought those qualities to his performance. LaFleur was 78 years old.
Art LaFleur was born in Indiana in 1943 but didn’t start acting professionally until the 1970s when he played a Russian spy in the TV movie. Gilligan’s Island Rescue. Before that, he was an athlete, which would later inform many of his acting roles.
His career as a character actor took off dramatically in the 1980s, with LaFleur appearing in dozens of television shows and movies in that decade alone. They include: The incredible Hulk, Soap, Cannery Row, War games, Webster, Team A, Cobra, Hill Street Blues, The drop, and Thirties.
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 underpaid teammates launch 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 boys to heroically reclaim his lost baseball. After that, LaFleur appeared in Coach, Matlock, First child, Baywatch, IT IS, Boy meet the world, I, Angel, The practice, two Santa Claus aftermath (played the tooth fairy), Home improvement, Malcolm in the middle, home, 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.”