Some baseball purists might sneeringly refer to comedian Billy Crystal's plate appearance during a New York Yankees-Pittsburgh Pirates spring training game yesterday as a fantasy camp for the elite, but I can't get upset about it. It's spring training, after all.
Crystal -- a lifelong Yankees fan who used poignant baseball references in City Slickers and directed the movie 61* about the 1961 season when Roger Maris hit, of course, 61 home runs -- struck out as a leadoff hitter against Pittsburgh left-hander Paul Maholm.
Although he didn't hit any line drives, he did deliver some sharp one-liners.
Asked what position he would play, he quipped, "DH -- designated Hebrew."
And then there was this on Wednesday: "I'm supposed to bring blood and urine to the umpire tomorrow. I might test positive for Maalox."
Crystal fouled off a pitch toward first base and worked a 3-1 count before swinging through a couple of 88-mph pitches, according to an Associated Press story.
Later, Crystal signed a ball for Maholm and asked, "What are you, 9?"
Actually, the Pirates pitcher is 25, but Crystal can be excused for his perspective. Hard to believe, but he turns 60 today and wore a No. 60 on his Yankees jersey.
In an interesting story by Newsday's Steven Marcus, Crystal was recalled by his high school baseball coach, Eugene Farry, as a "tiny little second baseman who got a lot of walks."
Of Crystal's plate appearance yesterday, the old coach from Long Beach (N.Y.) High School observed, "Overswinging like he always did in high school."
But Crystal had some legitimacy as a young ballplayer. Farry said in the Newsday article: "He was a good kid to have on the team. He was a good player, but I used to tell him he only used a third of the field because he used to swing real early and he would pull everything down the left-field line. He got on base a lot. He had a good strike zone, and I remember he was pretty hard to strike out."
In batting practice yesterday, Crystal took more than 50 cuts and made contact every time, according to reports. Not bad for a guy who rolls the odometer on six-oh today.
Heck, I'm just happy to be able to get a flare single every now and then in the Catonsville Sunday coed slow-pitch league that The Sun's softball team plays in.