Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Long Before Crystal, Sparky Gave Selleck A Shot

He actually looked pretty darn good in the batter's box -- his lefthanded stance appearing competent and big league-like. And not like a pitcher with a bat. He looked position player-ish.

Actor Tom Selleck, dressed in the creamy whites of the Detroit Tigers, stood in against the Reds' Tim Layana in spring training, 1992 -- and I remember watching the at-bat. Perhaps on purpose, Selleck's appearance coincided with a rare spring TV game, beamed back to Detroit.

Layana didn't baby Selleck, and the 47-year-old Detroit native didn't go down easily. Selleck struck out, but not before fouling off several pitches -- much to the delight of the Lakeland crowd, especially the females, no doubt.

Selleck was preparing to shoot a baseball movie, and figured his hometown Tigers would be the most logical choice to hang out with as he got himself ready for the role. Selleck, as you recall, used to wear a Tigers cap religiously while playing in Magnum, PI. Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell even had bit roles in one episode, in their playing heyday.

And who can forget country singer Garth Brooks and his frequent flings in spring training, with a variety of clubs?

Tigers manager Sparky Anderson was more than happy to indulge Selleck, who was a lifelong fan of the team.

Thursday, actor Billy Crystal will suit up for the Yankees, playing in a spring training game. His appearance will come one day before his 60th birthday. Crystal, like Selleck, will get a chance to don the uniform of his boyhood team.

I have no problem with such stunts -- and let's face it, that's what it is -- in meaningless games. No harm, and the fans get a kick out of it. The chance of injury is slim.

Of course, just as Layana no doubt didn't want to be known as the pitcher who gave up a hit to a 47-year-old actor, whomever Crystal faces is sure to bear down as well. No Denny McLain-like grooves down the middle, as if Crystal was Mickey Mantle in 1968. Unlikely, anyway.

I had nearly forgotten about Selleck's celebrated at-bat until the news broke of Crystal's romp, which brought those Magnum memories back. Good memories, I might add.

Spring training can use something right about now -- with three weeks still remaining.


Blogger Big Al said...

We think alike, Eno. Selleck's spring AB was the 1st thing I thought of when I heard about the Billy Crystal stunt. As you said, I remember Selleck putting the bat on the ball several times before striking out swinging.

Selleck looked like a ballplayer, and had a nice swing. I doubt you can say the same about the 60 something Crystal. But it's spring training, so what the heck!

By the way, "Mr. Baseball" is a very underrated movie...

11:34 AM  

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