Los Angeles (E! Online) – To celebrate his 60th birthday, Billy Crystal has finally been given home-field advantage. Sort of.
The actor and avowed baseball nut who has toted his love of the game with him into more than a few films has inked a one-day contract with the New York Yankees that will allow him to play in Thursday’s exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Bronx Bombers‘ spring training facility in Tampa, Florida.
And despite the unintentionally laughable outcome that resulted from Michael Jordan‘s and Garth Brooks’ brief forays onto the field, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has given Crystal his blessing to play ball.
“I’ve been waiting 50 years for this call,” Crystal said in a statement released by the Yankees on Monday. “I’m overwhelmed by the generosity of the Yankees and commissioner Selig. I know this’ll be tougher than the Broadway Softball League, but I’m looking forward to helping the younger players, which by the way is all of them. Oops, I have to go, Scott Boras is on the phone.”
(Boras is one of MLB’s top agents, famous for negotiating infielder Alex Rodriguez‘s unprecedented 10-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers in 2000, and then was left holding the phone when Rodriguez negotiated a 10-year, $275 million extension from the Yankees last year on his own.)
On game day, Crystal’s pinstriped jersey will sport the number 60, a nod to the birthday he’ll celebrate the day after his big-league debut.
“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,” added Lonn Yost, the organization’s chief operating officer.
According to the Yankees, Crystal—a Long Island native who hit up the batting cages in When Harry Met Sally, described his first trip to Yankee Stadium as “my perfect day” in City Slickers, and directed the HBO film 61*, about Roger Maris‘ pursuit of Babe Ruth‘s home-run record—hit .348 during his senior year at Long Beach High School.
The Emmy-winning comedian also used to play regularly in the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ annual Hollywood Stars Game, which has counted Jamie Foxx, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, Ray Romano, David Boreanaz, Tony Danza, Kevin Costner, Keanu Reeves, Jimmy Kimmel, Sean Astin, David Arquette, Tom Selleck and Rob Schneider among its participants over the years.
The Dodgers switched to softball in 2004 so female celebrities, such as mlb.com blogger and serial player-dater Alyssa Milano, could grab their gloves, as well.
As for what position Crystal will play when he suits up at Legends Field on Thursday, the Yankees’ new manager, Joe Girardi, says he isn’t sure of his lineup yet.
“That remains to be seen,” Girardi told reporters following his team’s 4-0 exhibition win over the Cincinnati Reds. “Obviously, it’s kind of exciting. Billy Crystal has done a lot for this organization. He’s always been a big part of it. Our way of rewarding him, saying thanks for everything that you’ve done.”
My take: I am an avid Yankee hater and I don’t care all that much for Crystal, and this is just a ridiculous stunt. It’s nice that this 60 year old guy gets to sign a one day contract, wear a uniform and play in an exhibition game, but that no more makes him a Yankee than me wearing a suit makes me the President. As I thought about this though, it dawned on me….this is how alot (and I mean alot) of people in our country live. They go to church on Sunday (or Saturday),wear the acceptable clothes, sing some songs, listen to a message that they will forget before they leave the parking lot and think that what they just did makes them a Christian. Going to church and doing something “religious” one day a week no more makes someone a Christian than does wearing a Yankee uniform for a day make Billy Crystal a Yankee. When Billy Crystal makes a commitment, and goes out and practices every day, plays 162 games and sheds the blood, sweat and tears it takes to actually be called a Major League ball player….that’s when he can be called a true Yankee. Likewise, once we stop living as if God or faith is something we do once a week at church and start daily putting into practice God’s Word and start shedding the blood, sweat and tears it takes to truly be a follower of Christ, then and only then should we truly call ourselves a Christian.