Billy Crystal 1 – Moonlight Graham 0.

Billy Crystal Baseball is for Life

Billy Crystal
Baseball is for Life

Five and more than one half years ago, on the day prior to his 60th birthday, comedian Billy Crystal chalked up an official spring training time at bat on a one-day contract with the New York Yankees. The day and date were Thursday, March 13, 2008. The place was Tampa, Florida. The opposition was the Pittsburgh Pirates. The pitcher for the Buccos was the 6’2″. 220-lb. lefty, Paul Maholm.

Crystal’s playing contract was incredible. “It was $4 million dollars for one day on the active roster,” Billy says, “but they only gave me 24 hours to come up with the money.”

Wink! Wink!

As it turns out, New York was playing Pittsburgh on the day of his active player service and the Yankees started Crystal as their DH and their lead-off batter. He even wore a jersey with #60 on the back in honor of his impending next morning turning 60 Friday birthday.

“I was their DH, all right,” Billy now boasts. “I was their Designated Hebrew.”

Billy so jests. Constantly. And with impeccable stance and timing. What else should we expect from one of the genuinely funniest men of all time?

It’s not that he tells a lot of jokes that make him funny. Billy just happens to tell a lot of funny jokes. And he delivers them all in the right way. The funny way.

Billy was a little taken back by the Pirate pitcher’s size, power, and speed.

“Maholm’s first pitch was high and outside for a ball.” Billy says. “I didn’t see it, of course, ” he adds, “but it sounded high and outside.”

Billy swung at the next pitch and laced it down the right field line for what would have been a double, he says, had it stayed fair. If you ever see his foul ball from that day on You Tube, you may reset the actualities here just a tad. Meaning, it didn’t go quite as far as Billy professes – nor was it ever even close to being a fair ball. But it was the only piece of ball that Bill Crystal caught with his bat that magical day. You have to expect it to have befitted Billy’s personal field of dreams moment.

I”m glad it wasn’t fair for a double,” Billy recalls. “That’s the part that scared me the most,” he adds.

“Had it been in there for extra bases,” Billy opines, “I would have had to stop and pee twice before I ever got to second base.”

When Billy Crystal finally struck out on a 3-2 count, the spring training crowd rose to give him a standing “O” for what he had done. He hadn’t merely taken one for himself, but for all of us other Walter Mittys who die to be in there with guys like Eddie Gaedel and Moonlight Graham in all the print and digital encyclopaedia of the baseball world.

Billy Crystal didn’t make it to Baseball Reference.Com either, but he still did the thing that always eluded poor one-game fielding vet Moonlight Graham. It was only Spring Training, but Billy Crystal still got to play in a real game, against a real major league foe. It was every fan’s dream – and Billy Crystal still collects hugs from tearful fans who thank him for crossing the line into reality for all of us others who know in our hearts – our dreams of a major league career live only in our hearts – and in the memories of our sandlot days – when all things were still ahead of us and possible.

Time to stare out the window again. And wait for spring.

 

 

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2 Responses to “Billy Crystal 1 – Moonlight Graham 0.”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    Billy Crystal actually started college on a baseball scholarship, but the program was dropped during his freshman year. He also does a dead-on impression of Phil Rizzuto. Another Walter Mitty moment came in the Astrodome in late July 1972, when Jerry Lewis started at first base for the Houston Astros in an exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers. Although I was never a fan of his humor, I was amazed at how well he played defense; he even got a hit off Tiger pitcher Mike Strahler. It was reported that he arrived at a party later that night still wearing his number “9” Astros jersey.

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