It was the summer of 1994. And the world fell in love with a charming, magical sports comedy called Angels in the Outfield (itself a remake of a warmly remembered Janet Leigh movie from 1951). At the time, the cast was notable for reuniting two stars from the hugely popular sitcom Taxi, Tony Danza and Christopher Lloyd, and while today it’s frequently cited for starring a then-13-year-old Joseph Gordon-Levitt, there’s an even more amazing casting oddity hidden amongst the Angels’ outfield: that’s right, it’s Matthew McConaughey.
Yes, it’s him.
At the time, McConaughey had two films under his belt (his first movie was actually an ahead-of-its-time romantic zombie comedy released by Touchstone Pictures), and at the time was just 25 years old. About 20 minutes into the film, which is about a losing baseball team (called the Angels) who gets some divine intervention (from actual angels), McConaughey’s outfielder Ben Williams is going for a catch when, from the heavens, a couple of angels lift him up so he can catch the potential home run. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as the little kid who can see these otherworldly beings, says, “Holy cow.” The sports announcer calls the save “miraculous,” etc.
Oddly enough, watching the movie again, you can see all the hallmarks of what would become McConaughey’s lengthy and frequently awe-inspiring career (hey, the man won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Critics’ Choice Award): the physicality, the swagger, the rugged handsomeness, the sense of aw-shucks wonderment. The Angels in the Outfield cast is stuffed with actors who would go onto huge things, but watching the movie then, it would have been hard to designate those other actors for potential greatness. When McConaughey shows up, though, it’s easy to spot a future sensation. Just look at the way he reacts to those computer-generated angels–the man is a star.