CenterStage premiere: Billy Crystal

12/19/2012 11:46 AM ET
By staff

Billy Crystal joins Michael Kay on an all-new CenterStage tonight.(Ellen Wallop/YES Network)
Billy Crystal is one of the most iconic entertainers of all-time; from bringing Saturday Night Live's Fernando to life to playing the titular lead in When Harry Met Sally, from playing Robert DeNiro's therapist in Analyze This and Analyze That to voicing roles in some of the last decade's biggest animated films, Crystal has done it all.

Tonight at 10 p.m., however, the nine-time host of the Academy Awards will join Michael Kay as the guest on an all-new CenterStage on YES Network. Crystal, who first joined Kay on CenterStage in 2002, returns tonight to discuss his day with the Yankees in 2008, his new film Parental Guidance, which opens nationwide on Christmas Day, and much, much more.

Here's a little snippet of what you'll hear from "Mr. Saturday Night" himself on this new edition of CenterStage:

Crystal on his time playing with the Yankees after signing a one-day contract during 2008 Spring Training:
“Over the Christmas holidays, I bumped into Derek Jeter in Costa Rica. And he goes, “You know, you look great.” And I go, “Yeah, yeah, I am going turn sixty.” He goes, “Really? And he said, “Well, what would you like to do? Do something good.” I said, “You know what? You guys sign me to a one-day contract, I DH, whatever happens, happens. And I’ll announce my retirement and I’ll throw a big party for the team. What do you think?” And he went, “Let’s do this. And suddenly there I am in Tampa, with the team.

I got in great shape. I went to Reggie Smith, who was a great switch-hitter, and he was my technical advisor on 61*, and he taught the guys how to hit. So I called him, I said, “Reggie, you got ten days to make me the Yankee DH?” And he said, “Get over here.” And then I left and got to Tampa to play against the Pirates. And Paul Mulholland was pitching. So when I found out who was in the rotation, I watched him on the computer strike out, of all people, Barry Bonds. And that’s who I am going to go up against.

It wasn’t like back here, it didn’t come overhead. So I knew where to look for it. And then I got up there and I got six pitches. I fouled one off and it went down the right field line. Somebody yelled, “Double,” and I went, “Oh no,” ‘cause if I get to second, I have to stop twice to pee.

And then finally I struck out. But the great thing was they stopped the game to give somebody a ball for striking out!

Yeah, I didn’t want to walk. I kept looking at Derek, and he kept going “Hack, hack, hack, hack.” And I wanted to hit it and I just missed the two cutters. I hadn’t seen the cutter ever in my life. And, I was really proud of it and I had a great time. You know, it was a birthday present for me, which was phenomenal. The next day, I was sixty.

It was the greatest thing ever. You mentioned the Oscars, the movies, those were all great and I am grateful. I can always say I led off a game for the New York Yankees. And that’s phenomenal.”

On his relationship with Joe Girardi, manager of the New York Yankees:
“I respect Joe. When I had my at-bat, it was Joe’s first season. And when the thing came down that I was going to do it, I asked for his number to call him to make sure it was OK with him. And if I was going to be in, in his way, I am not going to do it. That’s how I felt. And I told him that on the phone. He said, “I am looking forward to this.” And he welcomed me then, made me feel part of the team, not a comedian guy doing this. And that’s how it was, the approach was. And I came with no airs. And Joe really protected me. He just treated me like one of the guys. And so I always loved that about him, and to this day I am indebted to him for being such a regular guy. So what appears to be a tough kind of Marine guy, with the haircut, he is a really funny guy.

He gave me his number, which is a mistake. And for particular games, I would start to write these funny texts. And then he’d write me back. And it became this thing. And then I would always talk to him about the September call-ups, you didn’t call me. What’s with that?” And he went, “It’s not me, it’s Cashman.” It got really funny, between the two of us and I think he is a fantastic guy and a great manager.”

On his one regret about playing with the Yankees:
My one regret was, when I had my at-bat, he (Bob Sheppard, former Yankee Stadium public address announcer) didn’t announce me. It was spring training. And when I would come to the Stadium and I would sit upstairs, I would always go just to say hello to him. Some days, you would see him, he would have The New York Times, and he’d be doing the crossword, and watching the game. And he’d be doing it. And then he’d know what was up and he’d go, “Kirby Puckett, number Fifty-Four.”

Watch the premiere of an all-new CenterStage with Billy Crystal tonight at 10 p.m. on YES, immediately following Nets basketball, with a special encore presentation Thursday at noon. comments