When I first heard Billy Crystal commenting on the baseball movie The Natural, I had no idea what the game meant to him. I was not aware that his father had been a pitcher for St. Johns, or that the two of them had spent a lot of time together over baseball. It is a game that father's can teach to their sons, and for men, having something solid like that is a great help in life. We often are uncomfortable just sitting together. Having something to do, whether it be fishing or baseball, gives us an opportunity to spend time together, and that's an important thing. At fifty-four years of age Billy's father died suddenly of a heart attack. Billy was fifteen years old at the time. The young man went on to become a very good ball player. His senior year he captained his high school baseball team and earned a scholarship to play for Marshall University. Midway through his freshmen year the program was placed on probation, and Billy came back. He returned to New York, studied the theater, met the girl who would become his wife and began to work in the improv theater. Then it was on to Morty the Mime ("Mime is money", or so Billy's Morty would claim), SOAP, Saturday Night Live and all that we have come to know of Billy Crystal the entertainer. All the while the formative experiences for Billy go back to those times spent with his dad, learning the game of baseball and watching the play at Yankee Stadium. As Roy Hobbs would say "My dad wanted me to be a baseball player." That was true for Billy as well. It is still a part of him today, and his 61* captures the magic and romance of bygone days and of boyhood heroes, now seen more clearly through the eyes of a man. When he was young, his father brought Billy to baseball. Now it is baseball that brings Billy back... back to the younger days of a small boy in an enormous stadium, of hot dogs and mustard, of baseballs and towering home runs, and of long summer days spent with his father. I hope you will join me in watching Billy's fine tribute to Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, the 1961 Yankees, and most of all, to his dad... Jack Crystal.
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