Look at Me! I Can Be, Centerfield (Really, I Can!)
by Alex Belth
Billy Crystal will suit up and play in an exhibition game with the Yankees tomorrow. It's a frivolous, ego-driven stunt, that is being promoted as a good, light-hearted time for all. The Yankee players, management and announcers, seem to fawn over celebrities like Crystal, and, as we well know, stars like Crystal just love being around jocks. Maybe I'm turned off by it because I wish I was Crystal, being able to live out my fantasies. More than that, though, I'm embarassed by his need to fulfill his every desire. Color me a spring training Scrooge.
Regardless, Crystal's star turn brought to mind a cover article Pat Jordan did on Tom Selleck for GQ back in 1989: "Magnum, P(retty), I(ndecisive):
Like many actors, Selleck is more than a little embarrassed by what he does for a living. He considers it unmanly. "It's easy to stare someone down with a gun when you know that after they shoot you dead you can get up again. Now, a big left-handed pitcher throwing me curveballs, ouch! That's real!"
Selleck, at six feet four, 210 ounds and 44 years of age, is proud of his athletic ability. He is an Olympic-caliber volleyball player and claims his greatest achievement was recently being named to an all-American team for men 35 to 45. He also likes to talk about his college basketball days, and how he could really leap. "I didn't have white man's disease," he says. "In one episode of Magnum, we ended the show with me dunking a basketball. It was really important for me to do that without camera tricks."
It's important, too, for Selleck to take batting practice at least once a year with a major-league team. He has done so with the Orioles ("I hit a few out at Memorial Stadium") and with the Tigers ("A few players were screwing around in the outfield. When I hit one between them, they just looked") and, this past season, with the Dodgers. This time, it did not go well.
Selleck, Stood behind the batting cage with the pitchers, waiting to take his swings against the easy lobs of one of the team's older coaches. The pitchers kidded around, occasionally including Selleck in their jokes. He laughed nervously. This was obviously an important moment for him. He had spent the previous day at a batting range in preparation and did not want to look foolish.
Steve Garvey, the former Dodgers first baseman, walked onto the field accompanied by his latest wife, a striking cotton-candy blonde. Garvey, dressed in a navy blazer and tan trousers, looked less like a ballplayer than an actor. One of the Dodgers said to another, "Who's that with Garv?"
"His new wife."
"How do you know?"
"She's the one who's not pregnant."
Selleck went over to talk to Garvey. They chatted under a bright sun, two men who have embellished their careers by being "nice." Finally, it was Selleck's turn to hit. For the next hour he struggled, sweating and lunging, foul-tipping or just missing pitch after pitch. There was a lightness to his swing. He didn't attack the ball, driving toward it with his shoulders, but swung only with his arms.
"You're pretty good," said one pitcher, "...for an actor."
Selleck tried to smile.
When batting practice was over, Selleck hear a stern voice calling him from the seats behind home plate. "Thomas! Thomas!" He went over to [his publicist, Esmee] Chandlee, who was seated alongside Selleck's older brother, Bob.
"That was humiliating!" Selleck said.
"Oh, Thomas!" Chandlee said. "That pitcher was throwing hard."
"He was," Selleck said. "Wasn't he?"
"Pretty hard," said Bob, who had been a pitcher in the Dodgers organization years ago.
Crystal will be able to cover his ego in a way that Selleck couldn't because Crystal is a comedian and will resort to cutting everyone up when he invariably looks foolish. Serioulsy, though, they aren't going to let him play the field are they? Certainly not the infield I hope. The guy could get murdalized out there.
If I was pitching against him, just in the spirt of fun, I'd chuck one right at his dome, knock his ass down, and then say, "Where's Ya Moses....Nooooow?"