(Long Island, NY) Spring Training may not be the World Series, but it still serves a purpose. Exhibition games are still played for a reason let it be reps for regulars or important at-bats for a player trying to grab the last spot on the roster.
No matter how much of a fan someone may be, or hold celebrity status, that doesn’t give them any right to have a moment in the sun, even if it is the Florida sun in March. Billy Crystal, to his credit, did do a heck of a job on “*61” and that HBO movie was one to remember. He also has been a great public Yankee fan and at onetime a fairly funny guy. But where do you stop?
Jerry Seinfeld, a great comic and an avid Met fan, shouldn’t expect to be suiting up for the Amazin’s anytime soon. Maybe after seeing some of the negative hype that the entire Crystal charade caused, he would probably sit that one out anyway.
Maybe it was not the worst thing in the world, but for an organization as serious about everything as the Yankees are, this seemed like a bit of a stretch. They had to go to Commissioner Bud Selig and ask for an approval on an extension for a one-day official contract for Crystal, who last played organized baseball for Long Beach High School around the same time the Beatles first flew across ‘the pond.’ The comedian worked out with the team on Wednesday, so that counted as his one day. A lot of time and effort was put into this, while the front office should be more worried about who is going to round out the starting rotation.
Apparently the Bombers’ brass was more than happy to make a mockery out of America’s Pastime. “The Yankees are excited to welcome the newest member of our team known for his humor and wit as well as his undying love for the Yankees,” COO Lonn Trost informed reporters.
Before his big game, Crystal met with reporters after taking infield practice. “I’m really relaxed, I really am,” he said. “That’s until I see the 6’2”, 230-pound guy who’s going to throw who’s never been to a Seder.” Just for trying to be funny with a term not familiar to all of us (a Hebrew word meaning “order” that can be hold many meanings, according to Wikipedia), he should have had one thrown behind him. Just for laughs, you know.
Just in case you couldn’t sleep without knowing how this charade of nonsense turned out, Crystal was listed as the Designated Hitter on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at legends Field in Tampa. He wore uniform number 60, which is the birthday that he will celebrate on Friday. Leading off for the Yanks, he actually worked his way to a 3-1 count before eventually striking out swinging against lefthander Paul Maholm. Saving himself from lifelong ridicule, the 26 year-old hurler did not allow a man 33 years his senior to reach base safely. The Mississippi State alum has his own problems to deal with playing on a second-division club and trying to crack a staff after a 10-15 season a year ago.
If this makes the highlights on ESPN – which it probably will just because of the sheer ridiculousness of it all – after watching a ball inside, Crystal actually made contact on the second pitch and fouled it off. After taking two more pitches off the plate, the man who wore a Mets cap in two of his films swung and missed at two 88-mph fastballs. He received a standing ovation from the crowd, and Alex Rodriguez signaled for Malholm to be kind enough to toss the ball into the Bombers’ dugout. When his next turn at-bat came around, Johnny Damon pinched hit and just like that, his baseball career was thrown off the train.
Some may say to leave the barbs behind because country singer Garth Brooks suited up for three different teams in spring training since 1999, including the Mets (2000). The difference with him was that he was doing it to raise money for the Touch ‘Em All Foundation charity. What was Crystal doing besides inflating his already oversized ego? Not raising money for a good cause, but rather saving money on Fantasy Camp and getting to do something that non-professionals should not have the opportunity to do.
Not ‘mah-velous,’ but rather this was ludicrous. Shame on the game we all love.