‘The Sandlot,’ ‘The Santa Clause’ actor dead at 78

November 21, 2021
Actor Art LaFleur arrives at a movie premiere at the El Capitan Theater on October 29, 2006 in Los Angeles, California.


Character actor Art LaFleur, who played the role of baseball icon Babe Ruth in the 1993 movie “The Sandlot,” has died after living for 10 years with Parkinson’s disease. He was 78.

LaFleur died Wednesday surrounded by his family at home in Los Angeles, his wife, Shelley LaFleur, told USA TODAY in a statement. 

“To say Art will be missed dearly would be an understatement,” she added. “He left a legacy larger than his personality and while his absence is a void that can never be filled, his warmth will always be felt. Art lives on through his work, stories about his life and the relationships he built with everyone he knew.” 

In a touching Facebook post on Thursday, she described the actor as both “generous” and “selfless,” and said he had battled Atypical Parkinson’s disease for a decade.

One of LaFleur’s first onscreen roles was in 1978 as the spy Ivan in the NBC TV movie “Rescue from Gilligan’s Island.” From there, he went on to guest roles in TV’s “Lou Grant,” “M*A*S*H,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Hill Street Blues,” “thirtysomething” and “Doogie Howser, M.D.”

LaFleur became notable for his role as the idolized “great bambino” Babe Ruth in “The Sandlot.” The actor played the legendary baseball player’s ghost, who appears in the film to impart wisdom and courage to Benny (Mike Vitar), one of the young sandlot baseball players.

“Remember, kid: There’s heroes, and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered, but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid, and you’ll never go wrong,” his “Sandlot” character said in a memorable moment. 

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The actor’s TV and movie career spanned almost 40 years and included roles in “Boy Meets World,” “The Santa Clause 2,” “The Bernie Mac Show.”

LaFleur’s most recent roles included an appearance on “Key & Peele,” “The Last Treasure Hunt” and 2017 TV movie “Dive.” 

In addition to his wife, LaFleur is survived by his children, Joe and Molly; daughter-in-law, Glenda; and granddaughter, Frankie. 


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