Thomas Jane — who plays Mickey Mantle in the HBO telepic

61* (airing Saturday at 9 pm/ET on HBO) — admits that unlike the film's director, Billy Crystal, he was never a big fan of the baseball legend.

"I didn't grow up with a lot of baseball, so I don't really know all that stuff," the actor confides to TV Guide Online. "[Making 61*] was a big education for me. I grew up with Ken and Barbie."

Actually, Jane — best known for his role in 1999 spooker Deep Blue Sea — admits that he's "more of a football guy. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Lynn Swan, Terry Bradshaw, Mean Joe Green — those were my heroes."

The up-and-comer is ready to add one more name to that list: 61* helmer Crystal. "You wish other people had as much knowledge, detail, grasp and passion of their subject matter as Billy does," marvels Jane, who can next be seen in the Antonio Banderas-Angelina Jolie thriller Original Sin as well as the romantic comedy The Sweetest Thing opposite Cameron Diaz. "He puts a lot of directors to shame. As passionate as he is about baseball, let me tell you, he's more passionate about his films. And it shows; the work is on the screen."