Crystal’s Ball: The Billy Crystal Yankees ‘Controversy’


Why would anyone allow a 60-year-old comedian bat leadoff for the Yankees? That’s the question plaguing sports columnists this week as Billy Crystal lived out his boyhood dream and batted first in a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Crystal struck out, and the Pirates won 5-3.

Are the Yankees really this hard up for publicity? It seems that every day we get another story in the news or sports section of the tabloids reminding us that this 2008 is the Last Season Ever in the House That Ruth Built. (Of course, it’s making way for the House That Jeter Built, which is what we’ll hear about non-stop for the foreseeable future.) Daily News columnist Bill Madden chuckles at the Crystal “signing,” explaining that this is the type of stunt that the Yankees used to scoff would be beneath them. He reminds readers of crazy baseball owner Bill Veeck, who would pull similar stunts frequently from the 1940s to the 1980s and how the Yankees would scoff at the “indignity” of it all.

The Post leaves Crystal out of the sports pages (which, of course, is not at all where he belongs) and places him on page 2. We see him joking with A-Rod and attempting to field. The sports section of the Post concentrates on the more pressing Yanks news: the controversial slide by Shelly Duncan that sparked a bench-clearing brawl with the Devil Rays earlier this week. (The News reports that skipper Joe Girardi may be suspended on Opening Day.)

It almost seems appropriate that Crystal got this one-day contract with the Yankees. Just as just about anyone is baseball is available because of their massive payroll, now the Yankees Experience is available to the team’s most powerful and wealthy fans. This is a celebrified version of Fantasy Camp. And it’s hilarious coming from a team that’s always bragging about class and tradition. We have a feeling Boston is having a field day with this.

Now the Mets just need Garth Brooks to suit up again.