The Yankees spring camp was turned into fantasy camp Thursday as comedian Billy Crystal, who signed a one-day contract with the New York Yankees on Wednesday, played his first and only game as the Yanks took on the Pittsburg Pirates at Legends Field.
Crystal, who celebrates his 60th birthday on Friday, wore number 60 and led off for the Yanks as the designated hitter. “I’m the D.H. — designated Hebrew,” Crystal said. “It doesn’t matter. I’m so jazzed. It’s the greatest thrill ever.”
Crystal, who was his high schools baseball captain, batted .348 as a senior in Long Beach, Long Island.
"I'm really relaxed, I really am," Crystal said after taking pregame infield practice. "That's until I see the 6-foot-2, 230-pound guy who's going to throw who's never been to a Seder."
He walked up and took his first at bat to a standing ovation, especially that of friend Robin Williams, at Legends Field batting against the Pittsburg Pirates left hander Paul Maholm. Crystal took ball one, fouled off a Maholm fastabll for strike one, took balls two and three and then swung and missed at strikes two and three, both were inside cut-fastballs. Johnny Damon took over for Crystal in the third inning.
Chrystal was given the opportunity to play a game with the Yankees as a birthday gift from Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Jeter met up with Crystal while both were on vacation in Costa Rica and Crystal mentioned his upcoming 60th birthday to Jeter. Jeter asked Crystal what would make his 60th brithday better and Crystal replied, "How 'bout playing with the Yankees?". Jeter did the rest.
Despite striking out, Crystal kept his game-ball and experienced something that most only dream of.
“It’s a childhood dream, to get to this place,” Crystal’s wife, Janice, said. “For 59, his reflexes are amazing. Whether it’s on the tennis court, or baseball, or basketball, or signing a contract. He gets paid after opening day. I do know that.”
He is just another celebrity to play for a major-league baseball team in spring training. He follows the likes of Tom Selleck and Garth Brooks who also made the major-league debuts and finales in their spring training games.