In New York City there’s a fine line between baseball heroes and legends. On that line live the New York Yankees. You got your Derek Jeters, your Mariano Riveras – the players that will go down in history as some of the best to ever play the game.
Then you got the other guys. Like yesterday, heroes Dellin Betances and John Ryan Murphy. Both youngsters proved to be instrumental in the Yanks’ 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
Betances, in relief of Vidal Nuno, picked up his first major league win while Murphy slugged his first career major league homer; a solo shot that cleared the left field wall in the sixth inning to decide the game.
Tonight newcomer Masahiro Tanaka can be a hero; he’s looking to collect his fourth win this season and give the Yankees the rubber game of their three-game set vs. the Halos.
Should the Yankees win, it would mark their 15th win of this early 2014 season – and even if they were to lose tonight, they’d still be atop the AL East here in the early going.
And that – that’s great.
In the midst of all the Yankees’ success in the infantile stages of the year, I happened to come across an HBO special the other day starring none other than Billy Crystal, a famous Yankee fan and technically, a former Yankee himself.
Even if it was just for one at-bat during Spring Training, 2008 and he was struck out by Paul Maholm of the Pittsburgh Pirates. We all remember it, and his words,
“I only ever wanted to be a comedian or a Yankee. Or a very funny Yankee.”
Anyway, the special, entitled “700 Sundays” is in fact Crystal’s one-man show about his growing life. He chronicles his years as a young man and a teen, and does so in the only way he can: comically.
In between the comedy though, he retells sweet stories from his youth, including his first trip to Yankee Stadium. He talked about how excited he was to see Mickey Mantle, or as Crystal called him, “Elvis in pinstripes.”
Now, I don’t really want to give too much away; I think the best thing for all readers would be to check the special out for yourselves. It’s been on HBO frequently, so keep your eyes peeled for it. “700 Sundays” runs about two hours – and it’s worth every second.
The other night (before my power went out due to the insane blizzard that has plagued the northeast over the last few days) I happened to stay awake and catch a Stephen King horror movie late at night. “Riding the Bullet” was the name of the movie I watched and I have to admit, it freaked me out.
As I was watching, I kept thinking to myself how big of a Red Sox fan King is. Although the movie was creepy and gave me nightmares, it was the brainchild of a Red Sox fanatic. Then I asked myself, how many celebrities are Yankee fans?
Needless to say, a whole bunch of people came to mind. I have rounded up five of the best and most recognizable celebrity Yankee fans. (Keep in mind they are in no particular order of significance) Here they are:
5) Adam Sandler
He is probably the most proud celebrity Yankee fan there is. Actor/writer/producer Adam Sandler has starred in some of the best comedy movies. My personal favorites are “Big Daddy,” “Billy Madison,” and “Happy Gilmore.” All three of those films are cult classics and I recommend everyone watch them.
Sandler is such a devoted Yankee fan that he even incorporated the team into some of his films. In “Anger Management,” a film where Sandler’s character Dave Buznik is forced to undergo (you guessed it) anger management classes, the whole ending practically revolves around the Yankees.
Trying to propose to his fiancée Linda (Marisa Tomei) at a Yankee game, Buznik runs onto the field at Yankee Stadium. He bolts onto the field and just as he is about to give his monologue, Roger Clemens appears on screen and says, “Is this clown almost done? My arm is starting to ice over.”
Derek Jeter comes on and responds, “Chill Rocket. Goosfraba.” The term Goosfraba (according to the movie) is an expression Eskimos use to calm themselves down.
Don’t ask. Please.
Right as Buznik is about to kiss the girl, in a loud cry he proclaims, “GO YANKEES!”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Along with “Anger Management,” Sandler dropped another Yankee bomb in his movie “50 First Dates.” Now, granted the movie had a terrible premise–having to fall in love with the same girl day after day because of her severe memory problem–there was a scene that stands out in my mind as probably the best in the movie.
Sandler’s character Henry Roth decides to make a video tape of everything his love interest Lucy (Drew Barrymore) missed in the last year because she can’t remember anything. The movie came out in early 2004, right on the heels of the Yankees’ dramatic win over the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS.
Lucy’s video showed a clip of the Red Sox celebrating and a caption appeared that read, “Red Sox win World Series.” Then the glorious Aaron Boone home run clip played and another caption came up that read:
“Just kidding.” What a great way to stick it to the Red Sox fans!
Being the type of diehard fan he is, Sandler is sometimes seen in the crowd at Yankee Stadium. In fact, when Joba Chamberlain made his first career start, Sandler was seen on TV at the game. I guess he figured it would be historic, but unfortunately the Yankees lost to the Blue Jays 9-3 and Chamberlain only tossed 62 pitches over 2 2/3 innings.
Come to think of it, when they showed him on TV, he was leaving the game in the seventh inning.
I hope Sandler includes the Yankees in some of his upcoming work, but first I hope he can finally start making funny movies again. Although I love him, Sandler has been making lackluster and rather dull movies for the last three or four years now. He should make a whole movie dedicated to the Yankees.
Now that’d be a movie worth seeing!
4) Spike Lee
Actor/director Spike Lee has been a longtime faithful follower of the Yankees.
Like Sandler, he has included the Yankees in his work. Lee directed the 1999 movie “The Summer of Sam,” which takes place in 1977 and revolves around the Son of Sam murders. All of the characters live in New York City and are Yankee fans.
The way Lee worked the Yanks into the story was quite clever. The murderer was known as the “Son of Sam” but also developed the nickname the .44 caliber killer, being that he used a .44 caliber handgun on his victims. The characters in the movie suspected Reggie Jackson as the murderer, being that he wore the uniform number 44.
In another scene towards the end, two men in the movie beat the living snot out of another character, simply because he admitted to being a Red Sox fan.
I haven’t seen many more of Lee’s movies, except for “Do the Right Thing,” which, if you ask me, was a great and meaningful movie. It deals with a ton of social issues and racial tension. In fact, I studied the film in my understanding movies class last year because it makes so many cultural references.
Lee not only directed “Do the Right Thing” in 1989, but he also starred in it playing the main character Mookie, a young black man working for Italian-Americans at a pizza shop.
I think Lee meant for there to be significance having Mookie wear a Jackie Robinson jersey for the duration of the film. Although Robinson was not a Yankee, the jersey symbolized where Mookie came from and his background. Robinson had to fight to gain respect and was basically caught in the middle of the racial tension his whole career.
Mookie was the same way–caught in between and needing to find middle ground.
Always a man with a sharp mind, Lee also helped develop a unique Yankee hat with New Era. It is basically the same hat the players wear on the field, only with pennants representing every year the Yankees have won the World Series covering the top and sides.
I have to admit, the hat is very nice. I may eventually have to get one sometime.
At the World Series this year, I noticed Lee was wearing the same Yankee jacket I have. It was the most interesting thing (to me) because I honestly thought I was the only one who had that jacket–up until I saw him wearing it on TV, I had never seen anyone else with it on.
“Spike Lee’s wearing my jacket!” That was all I could say when I saw it.
A great Yankee supporter and a devoted fan, I salute you Mr. Lee. Keep on doing the right thing–rooting for the Bombers!
3) Paul Simon
Being one half of the great singer/songwriter duo “Simon and Garfunkel,” Paul Simon is a legendary Yankee fan. He is known for his powerful voice and unparalleled songwriting skills but when I think of Simon, I think of the Yankees.
I’d first like to mention that I had the pleasure of meeting Simon’s partner Art Garfunkel a few years back at a concert I helped work at. He was very nice and he sang some of the all-time best songs: “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Sounds of Silence,” and “Mrs. Robinson.”
After the concert, I talked to Garfunkel and told him what a wonderful job he did on “Mrs. Robinson,” it being my favorite song of theirs. He thanked me and said only one other thing:
“It would have been better if Paul Simon was here.”
Speaking of “Mrs. Robinson,” many people are familiar with the lyrics:
“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Woo woo woo.
What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away. Hey hey hey…Hey hey hey.”
Simon originally wanted to use Mickey Mantle instead of DiMaggio in the lyrics, but it was a matter of syllables. “Mick-ey Man-tle” only has four syllables while “Joe Di-Magg-io” has five, so he needed to use the Yankee Clipper.
Believe it or not, DiMaggio did not like the lyric and somewhat took offense to it, responding by saying “What do you mean where have I gone? I am right here!”
DiMaggio eventually dropped his complaint after taking a meeting with Simon. The songwriter explained to Joltin’ Joe that the lyric was a tribute to him. Back then, the heroes were becoming so pretentious and pop culture distorted how the American public perceive our role models, so Simon kindly told DiMaggio that there was nothing hurtful meant by the lyric.
Now understanding what Simon meant, DiMaggio accepted the lyric as a tribute.
Furthermore, when DiMaggio passed away in 1999, Simon performed “Mrs. Robinson” in centerfield (the position DiMaggio played) at Yankee Stadium. A somber capacity crowd wildly cheered for the lyric.
And here’s to you, Mr. Simon. You really are a Yankee fan for sure!
2) Jack Nicholson
“You want the Yankees? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE YANKEES!”
Jack Nicholson is one of the most famous actors in American movie history, starring in classics such as “The Shining,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “A Few Good Men,” (see the modified quote above) and my personal favorite, “Batman.”
Yes, he was the Joker before Heath Ledger.
One of the other movies Nicholson starred in was “Anger Management” (opposite Adam Sandler) and his Yankee pride was on full display. He wore his Yankee cap with a regular shirt and blazer, much like he does when he attends the games at Yankee Stadium.
Nicholson likes to do it classy.
In September of 2006 his Yankee faith was put to the test. For his role in “The Departed,” Nicholson was asked to wear a Red Sox hat. He was playing the part of a gangster in Boston and the director wanted him to wear the cap with the evil “B” on the front.
Ever the loyalist, Nicholson refused to wear the Boston hat in the scene and better yet, wore a Yankee hat for it. That is loyalty and faith, in my view. His boss told him to wear a Red Sox hat and he basically said, “No. I am a Yankee through and through.”
For his love for the Yankees, he made the list. Good work Mr. Nicholson. You are a film legend and a devout follower of the Yankees. Good man!
1) Billy Crystal
He is the only person on the list that is not only a devout Yankee fan, has made a movie about the Yankees, but has actually been on the team for one game.
On March 13, 2008, the comedian/actor/director signed a one-game contract to play for the Yankees in a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Crystal only had one at-bat and he struck out swinging. He did however make contact, fouling off a pitch in the sequence before fanning.
I’d say he did well and it was such a neat thing to see. Crystal took part in the Yankees’ tune-up game as birthday wish; he had always wanted to play for the Yankees and on his 60th birthday he lived his dream (He also wore the uniform number 60 in accordance to his age)
But he was technically a member of the Yanks, even if it was only one at-bat.
If playing for the Yankees was not enough, Crystal directed “61*” in 2001, an HBO movie about the 1961 home run race between Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
For those who have seen the movie, I think the most compelling scene in the film is the part when the Yankees are playing the Orioles at Camden Yards in Baltimore. What some people may not realize is that game was the 154th game the Yanks played in the ’61 season.
If Maris had not reached 60 home runs by that game, the media and Major League Baseball did not consider him the true Home Run King because Babe Ruth hit 60 homers in 154 games. 1961 was the first year MLB played 162 games like they do today.
Maris had 59 home runs by the end of that game, meaning that if he had broken the record in 162 games, it would be “a separate record,” according to MLB commissioner Ford Frick. Obviously Maris broke it after 154 games, so the record technically was not his until Faye Vincent (the MLB commissioner in 1991) did away with the “two separate home run records.”
Unfortunately Maris passed six years before Vincent abolished the separate records and he never knew the home run record was his. But I think in most peoples’ minds, he was the true king and deep down in his heart, I’m sure Maris knew it too.
Crystal did such a wonderful job with “61*” My only hope now is that he makes another movie based off the Yankees. I feel he could certainly pull it off the way he did with “61*” but I think he would need a hot topic. After all, the 1961 Yankee season was one of the most revered campaigns in all of baseball history.
If you ask me, Crystal is one of a kind. A funny guy and a true Yankee man.
On a side note: I may have lost power for awhile because of this awful blizzard, but that did not stop me from playing in the snow like a five year-old and building a snowman.
Hope you all enjoy the picture.
Nice jacket, right Spike Lee?….