Seeing Stars: Where the Stars Play


at the Balboa Sports Center in Balboa Park
5600 Balboa Boulevard,
Encino, CA. / (818) 908-2642



If you drop by Balboa Park on a Saturday, between April and October, you can see an entirely different kind of "all-star" game.

When the warm days of summer arrive, movie stars and TV personalities enjoy throwing the ball around, just like the next guy. Hence the existence of the little-known Show Biz Softball League.

Sponsored by the major TV and movie studios (such as 20th Century Fox, NBC, and United Artists), the Show Biz league is composed of teams made up of the stars and other members of TV and movie crews; teams with names such as the "Glamour Boys," the "Rascals," and the "Hollywood Lizards" . And believe it or not, their weekly games are played in a public park!

Every Saturday during baseball season, the Show Biz League gets together to stage a full day of informal softball games at Balboa Sports Center, near the Sepulveda Dam Recreation area in the Valley.

It's rather amazing that stars can play ball right in the middle of a public park without attracting a lot of attention, but somehow they pull it off. The secret is that it's all very low-key. This is far from a big celebrity scene, just some of the guys getting together to play ball, break a sweat, and enjoy some healthy competition. There are no announcers, no crowds of eager fans in the stands. Mostly, it's just the players, and a few of their friends & family in the bleachers.

Very few fans know about these games - despite the jerseys that read "U.A." or "Fox," and despite the overabundance of Mercedes and Porches in the adjacent parking lot.

    

One factor that probably helps keep the games a secret is that most of the celebrity players aren't immediately recognizable when they're wearing a baseball uniform and cap. But don't be surprised if you spot a few familiar faces. Since the league brass are reluctant to discuss the matter, it's not easy to say just who is and isn't a player on any given team.

But I'm told that actor Tony Danza ("Who's the Boss?" and "Taxi") has definitely been a regular player in these games. And I've heard that Dean Cain ("Lois & Clark"), Tom Selleck ("Magnum P.I."), Billy Crystal ("When Harry Met Sally"), Michael Keaton ("Batman"), Matt LeBlanc ("Friends"), Ron Howard ("Happy Days"), Jonathan Silverman ("The Single Guy"), John Stamos ("Full House"), singer Michael Bolton, Mark Harmon ("Chicago Hope") and Kevin Costner ("Waterworld") have also been known to knock the ball around in various celebrity/charity games.

   

One ShowBiz League team, The Coney Island Whitefish, were started in 1982 by Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal and Christopher Guest.

The ShowBiz games take place all day Saturday (from 9 AM to 5 PM) during regular baseball season, on four separate baseball diamonds in the Balboa Park Sports Center in Encino (in the Valley), on the west side of the park. Other games are held on Sundays in Brentwood, at the Barrington Recreation Center fields on Barrington Avenue, south of Sunset Blvd. - and at other locations around L.A.

There are no guarantees that you'll spot a star. Most of these teams are made up of non-celebrity members of the movie studio workforce. But if you keep a sharp eye out, you may get lucky.

For more information, call the park. But be warned that the league officials are reluctant to give out much information to the public. They want to keep this little secret under their hat. And they have a point, I suppose - these celebrity players are trying to have a little fun away from the limelight for a change. It's a time for them to stop being stars and just be guys playing ball for a day. If too many fans showed up, it could spoil the informal spirit of the games. So, if you go out to the park, be cool - watch, but don't pester them.

(Incidentally, it might surprise you to learn that a number of movie stars have had homes in the city of Encino, including Clark Gable, John Wayne, Al Jolson, George Burns, Michael Landon, Cybill Shepherd, John Travolta,and Michael Jackson. See Where the Stars Live for more information.)

 Getting there: Balboa Park is located just to the northwest of the intersection of the San Diego (405) Freeway and the Ventura (101) Freeway, in Encino. / From west Los Angeles, take the San Diego (405) Freeway north (through the Sepulveda pass) into the San Fernando Valley, to the Ventura (101) Freeway west, then go about two miles west to the Balboa Boulevard exit. Head north on Balboa Boulevard, and the Balboa sports center will be on your left (west) side, just past Burbank Boulevard. Look for the four baseball diamonds near the center of this western strip / From Hollywood, take the Hollywood Freeway north to the Ventura (101) Freeway west, then go west (about seven miles) to Balboa Boulevard. Go north on Balboa Boulevard to the park.



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Copyright  2014-Gary Wayne
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