I was watching a Buster Keaton movie the other day when I was somewhat startled to see a former major leaguer make a cameo appearance. The baseball-player-turned-actor was none other than Mike Donlin.
Donlin spent 12 year in the big leagues with six different clubs, but is best known for his time with the New York Giants. For the World Champion 1905 Giants, Donlin was the starting center fielder, pacing the club with a .356 batting average and a league-leading 124 runs scored. Here's a photograph of Donlin at Chicago's West Side Grounds, home of the Cubs prior to their move to Wrigley Field:
Chicago Daily News negatives collection, SDN-003778. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.
In five seasons during his career, Donlin finished with one of the top three batting averages in his league, and when he finally hung up his spikes following the 1914 season, his lifetime .334 average was in the top 20 all-time.
But back to the movie ...
What startled me was not that Donlin showed up in a movie. Indeed, most baseball historians are familiar with Donlin's Hollywood career. Following his days as a big leaguer, Donlin appeared in numerous motion pictures, most notably in a role as a Union general in Buster Keaton's beloved 1926 film The General. He also made appearances in films such as Raffles, The Amateur Cracksman (1917) featuring Donlin's friend John Barrymore, She Done Him Wrong (1933) starring a very young Cary Grant, and a pair of movies starring Walter Huston scheduled to air on Turner Classic Movies on April 6, 2010: The Star Witness (1931) and The Beast of the City (1932). With roles in over 60 movies, Donlin was no stranger to the silver screen.
What startled me was that Donlin was in this particular movie: Spite Marriage (1929). IMDB (the Internet Movie Database) doesn't make note of Donlin's role and neither do any other sources I could track down. Yet, about 50 minutes into the film, there is Donlin, manning a ship's engine room along with Keaton. Here are a few stills from the film showing Donlin:
And here's a close-up of Donlin from this last still:
I've submitted this new information to the folks at IMDB. Here's hoping they add Spite Marriage to Donlin's list of acting "accomplishments."
Update of December 11, 2010:
I just checked and found that IMDB has indeed made the update that Mike Donlin had an uncredited role in "Spite Marriage."
Also, blog reader Meho Midjich commented that Mike Donlin appears in John Ford's "Up the River." Indeed, Meho is correct. Here's a screen shot of Donlin from the movie:
Once again, I've submitted this new information to IMDB.