WHEN motion pictures finally became a reality in the 1890s, one of the first events the cameras recorded was a boxing match. Since then, sports has been one of the movies' most popular subject.
Not only have movie companies recorded actual sports events, but they've also built feature films around sports and their athletes.
HBO surveys that long "marriage" between sports and the movies at 7 p.m. Sunday with the 90-minute special "Sports on the Silver Screen." The special spotlights clips from nearly 150 movies, dating back to silent films and including such notables as "The Natural," "Rocky," "North Dallas Forty," "Bull Durham" and "Raging Bull." Among those interviewed is Jackie Cooper, who as a child co-starred with Wallace Beery in 1931's "The Champ." Beery, according to Cooper, didn't like kids. "As soon as the scene was over, he'd push you off his lap," Cooper said. Among the others actors interviewed are Tom Selleck ("Mr. Baseball"), Talia Shire (the "Rocky" movies) and Gene Hackman ("Hoosiers"). Billy Crystal, Jerry Lewis, Robert Wuhl and James Earl Jones also add some observations. Baseball player Jimmy Piersall, whose life story was told in "Fear Strikes Out," reveals that he hated the movie. "It made my dad out to be a villain and he wasn't that tough." Gale Sayers said he wanted to play himself in "Brian's Song," the story about the Chicago Bears' Brian Piccolo, who died of cancer. …