John Beradino, who was a child actor in "Our Gang" comedies, played second base for a Cleveland Indians team that won the World Series and went on to play Dr. Steve Hardy on TV's "General Hospital" for 33 years, has died. He was 79.
Beradino, who played baseball under his real name of Berardino, died Sunday of cancer in his Los Angeles home.
He grew up near Hollywood in an Italian American family and fondly recalled his days in the "Our Gang" films, in which he worked for "six bucks and a box lunch."
"My mom put me in it," he told The Times in 1973. "My old man thought it was pantywaist. He pushed me outside with a ball and glove. When I made the majors, he used to hoot at my mom. But when I made it in acting, she gave it back to him."
Beradino had a lifetime batting average of .249 in his 16-year career with the St. Louis Browns, the Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He earned his World Series ring with the Indians in 1948--a season Beradino the actor recalled when he played a coach in the 1981 television movie "Don't Look Back," about his teammate Leroy "Satchel" Paige.
He always credited Paige with earning the team's championship diamond rings. Beradino was forced to pawn his for $80 when he switched to acting and was hungry for work, but he later retrieved it and wore it proudly the rest of his life.
During his baseball career, Beradino studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse and found small roles along the way. Still bothered by an injury incurred when he fell off a Jeep at Pearl Harbor in World War II, he finally hung up his glove in 1953 and went into acting full time.
Hollywood did not exactly greet him with open arms.
"They frowned on athletes acting," he told The Times in 1994. "They never took an athlete seriously. They thought we were inept, that we couldn't have any creative talents in us."
"Only one thing bugged me about acting: sitting around waiting for the phone to ring," he said in another interview. " 'General Hospital' gave me a chance to work the year round. I grabbed it."
He was Dr. Hardy when the soap opera debuted on April Fool's Day in 1963, and remained Dr. Hardy until his illness recently forced him to leave the show. When the popular soap celebrated its 30th anniversary in 1993, Beradino received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
During his vacations, he frequently did movies for television, including "Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate" with Mildred Natwick and Myrna Loy and "Morn of the Wolf" with Barbara Eden.
"This was the big leagues," he said, "but it was a snap. It was a vacation compared to the work we do [on daytime television]."
Beradino also played Sgt. Vince Cavelli in the crime series "The New Breed" in 1961 and 1962.
He is survived by his wife, Marjorie, a son, John Anthony, and a daughter, Katherine Ann.