What bothered me the most was how sloooowwww the pitching was in the movie. Old time pitchers like Walter Johnson could really fling it in there.
Then again, most of the pitching in this movie were players deliberately floating softballs over the plate to tank the game. And during those live game sequences, the actors do have to be able to hit the ball to put it into play.
Agreed that John Cusack, DB Sweeney, and Charlie Sheen looked most authentically athletic. David Straithairn had good form and motion for a pitcher, if not necessarily speed. Gordon Clapp looked plausible as a catcher. (Side question: Did Shoeless Joe run with wild abandon the way Sweeney rounded the bases, or does DB just look kind of goofy when he runs?)
Bill Irwin is a human rubber band with freakish agility, so even though he wasn't as heavily featured (Collins, 2B) it wouldn't surprise me if he had some skills as well. Beyond that, I thought they did a good job of training and/or cutting around the rest of players. Physically they all looked like they could plausibly be athletes of the era.
The worst example I've ever seen in film/TV of an actor with zero baseball skills? In an episode of the X-Files called "The Unnatural", Jesse Martin plays "Exley", supposedly one of the best players in the Negro Leagues. He's jaw droppingly terrible. Watching him even try to throw the ball was an exercise in complete frustration.
What a stellar line up of acting talent "Eight Men Out" is though. Still early in Cusack / Sheen / Sweeney's career....David Straithairn, a Sayles favorite, is always good...Bill Irwin, beyond talented in every understated thing he does...John Mahoney, enough said.....Michael Rooker, for whom less is always more....Gordon Clapp, nearly perfect as the excitable catcher....James Read (so effective in "North and South" but then....not much after this)...Michael Lerner, Christopher Lloyd, Studs Turkel (!!) and even Sayles himself. Top notch.
Side question: Did Shoeless Joe run with wild abandon the way Sweeney rounded the bases, or does DB just look kind of goofy when he runs?
I don't know if Jackson ran that way, but I always thought Sweeney ran like he was trying to look "old tymey".