Billy Crystal loves the New York Yankees. He’s not afraid to show it, either. The actor and comedian has been a fan of the Bronx Bombers since he was a young boy, watching his favorite player ever, Mickey Mantle, belt home runs at Yankee Stadium, and it’s never wavered. His lifelong dream was to one day wear the pinstripes for real and he actually made it happen.
Back in 2008, just a couple of days before his 60th birthday, Crystal signed a one-day minor league contract and was invited to play with the Yankees in a Major League Baseball spring training game in Tampa, Florida.
The rest is history, and it was all worth it.
Billy Crystal’s Spring Training At-Bat
Playing against the Pittsburgh Pirates that March afternoon, and alongside Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, Crystal was inked on the MLB lineup card as the designated hitter — or “Designated Hebrew” as he joked to Reuters.com — in the leadoff spot.
The City Slickers star and famous Oscar host would face Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm.
“I got very emotional when I heard my name announced. I saw the crowd standing up. Because, you know, I’ve been pretending to be a Yankee since I was seven, eight years old, and now I was one. It was very emotional at first. I had to take a deep breath and look over at Jeter and realize this is really happening.”
Donning the No. 60, the 5-foot-7 Crystal took the first pitch fastball high and away for a ball and fouled the second pitch off down the first base line, hitting himself in the back of the head with his bat.
Crystal, a former high school baseball star, eventually struck out on a 3-2 count in his only at-bat of the game. He was replaced in the batting order by two-time World Series champ Johnny Damon.
Nobody cared, though. The 10,000 people in the stands, including the late Robin Williams, loved every second.
Everyone has a bucket list, but not everyone gets to life out their dream. Billy Crystal did, and it was absolutely amazing.
While the rest of the world has coronavirus concerns, and the NBA season suspended and the NCAA Tournament in limbo, perhaps it’s time we all focus on the good times until sports return.