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Batter up, Meathead!

| Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rob Reiner is on the record as saying that no matter what else he might achieve in life, he always will be identified as Meathead (Mike Stivic) in "All in the Family," one of the most enduring hit series in TV history.

His resume speaks even better of him, though.

Reiner, 59, is in town for the All-Star Game and related activities. He played first base for the winning National League team in the celebrity softball game Sunday.

First base•

"I used to play a lot of ball as a kid," he says, "but at this stage, first base is what I can do. I can't play anywhere else. I can't run."

Reiner was greeted with boos from the crowd every time he came up to bat.

It all started when emcee Frank Nicotero asked him how he liked Pittsburgh and what sort of fun he had experienced so far. Reiner, joking, told him that talking to Nicotero was the first fun thing he'd done. The crowd didn't take it as a joke.

Reiner finally took the microphone and laughingly asked: "Why are you booing me• What did I do• Why are you booing me?"

He told the crowd he liked Pittsburgh and had visited the city with his sons here a few years ago to see a game in the new ball park. But by this time, the audience was having far too much fun to listen to reason and kept up the good-natured boos when Reiner stepped up to home plate.

A huge baseball fan, Reiner is a Los Angeles Dodgers season ticket holder who brought in his sons, Jake, 15, and Nick, 12, for a long weekend.

"I was born in the Bronx and was a huge New York Giants fan. They moved to the West Coast in 1957, which infuriated me. They went to San Francisco. My family (including actress-mother Estelle Reiner and actor-writer-director-father Carl Reiner) moved to Los Angeles in '59, and I became a Dodgers fan."

Rob Reiner already had made a few movies and done many TV shows when he was cast for "All in the Family," which he stayed with from 1971-78 and for which he made a two-part guest appearance during its 1978-79 final season.

A frequent guest on the series was Burt Mustin, the native Pittsburgher who became a full-time Hollywood actor after retiring from firefighting here.

"I met Burt when he was on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' with my dad," Reiner says. "He was already about 80, and he said to my dad, 'Know how many years I've been in show business?' My dad thought he was going to say something like 70 years. 'TWELVE years,' he said proudly."

Reiner occasionally acts in movies such as "Bullets Over Broadway," but he has become more identified with the 13 films he has directed including "A Few Good Men," "The Princess Bride," "The American President," "When Harry Met Sally" and the recent "Rumor Has It."

He'll turn up in theaters Sept. 15 as the voice of Screwie in the animated "Everyone's Hero," which Christopher Reeve was co-directing (with Colin Brady and Dan St. Pierre) at the time of his 2004 death.

"I knew how important the picture was to Chris," Reiner says. "It embodied his personal philosophy of 'Never give up.'

"Screwie is a baseball who's embittered. He was fouled out and landed in a junk yard and was forgotten. Later, a boy picks him up, and together they help each other and help Babe Ruth and the Yankees win the 1932 World Series."

Reiner hopes to begin directing the movie "The Bucket List" in October. It's about two terminally ill cancer patients who resolve to use the rest of their lives fulfilling dreams. He's hoping Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson will sign to do it.

Among his first 13 directed films, Reiner says, "'Stand by Me' means more to me than any other. I saw it as being about a time in my life when I was breaking away from things my father had done," as in stepping out of Carl's professionally imposing shadow.

Rob Reiner most associated with Wil Wheaton's Gordie character ("the emotional core") and "the strength that he draws from his friends."

We were rhapsodizing about Kathy Bates, the person and the actress, when he explained how he cast her so much against type as the demented sadist who takes author James Caan prisoner in "Misery," a part for which she copped an Oscar.

"I'd seen Kathy in several plays and loved her work, but it was ('Misery' screenwriter) Bill Goldman who suggested her to me.

"She came in to read for me, and after just a line or two, I stopped her. I said, 'You don't have to read anything more for me. I know how good you are. You've got the job.'

"She said, 'Really• I do• Can I call my mother?'"

"I said, 'Call your mother.'"

Sally A. Quinn contributed to this report.

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