An actor who transitioned from a pro sports career into a run in movies and TV shows has died. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Brad “The Animal” Lesley died Saturday night of kidney failure at 54.
Lesley is best known as an actor for playing John “Blackout” Gatling in the 1994 baseball movie “Little Big League.” A right-handed pitcher, he played for the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers in the 1980s.
He had a high-profile role on Japanese television in the game show “Takeshi’s Castle,” appearing as Ajimaru “Animal” Resry. The series later moved to the U.S. on Spike TV, renamed “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge,” and then “MXC.”
Other film appearances for Lesley included “Mr. Baseball” (1992), “A Boy Called Hate” (1996) and “Space Jam” (1996).
His ex-wife Chiho Svimonoff told TMZ that Lesley had been living in a nursing home for seven months while undergoing dialysis for kidney problems. He was taken to a hospital in Marina del Rey, Calif., Saturday night.
THR notes: “6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, he gained his nickname for his theatrics that included thrusting his fist in the air following a strikeout and stomping around the mound.”
Lesley spent the end of his playing career in Japan, where he was embraced by the Japanese fans — known for being more reserved than U.S. sports fans. He talked about his reception there in a 1987 interview, saying: “After they found out it was part of my intensity, an act of intimidation, they loved it. I haven’t toned down any part of my act.”