Dodgers, Yankees 'Old Timers' provide thrills
LOS ANGELES -- It has been 58 years since Don Newcombe's Brooklyn Dodgers finally subdued Billy Crystal's favorite team, the Yankees, in the 1955 World Series. Billy was 7 and no doubt crushed.
There they were on Saturday in the bright sun of Dodger Stadium, Newcombe giving Crystal, the kid from Long Island who went on to big things in another field, some history lessons during batting practice before Dodgers and Yankees legends battled to a 1-1 tie in the Old-Timers' Game at Dodger Stadium.
"You're talking about big games," Crystal said, grinning. "But this is the big game, right here, today."
As manager of the Yankees for the day, the actor/comedian put himself in the cleanup spot and at shortstop for the pinstripers, fulfilling a pair of longtime dreams.
"He grew up a Yankees fan wanting to be a ballplayer," Newcombe said. "Today he gets his chance."
As luck would have it, Crystal had the challenge of facing the great Fernando Valenzuela, who showed no mercy. Getting ahead 0-2 in the count, with Larry King calling balls and strikes, Fernando got Crystal to chase a screwball out of the strike zone.
The biggest ovation of the day as Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully made the introductions was reserved for Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers' version of Joe DiMaggio in the hearts and minds of fans. Mr. K did not take the mound, but Dr. K -- Dwight Gooden -- did for the Yankees.
"I'm not sure how I'll do," Doc said. "I haven't been throwing, but I've been teaching my 8-year-old son, Dylan, how to pitch in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. He's got a good arm.
"All I had when I came up was a four-seamer and a curve. I tell young guys to go with what they have, to trust their stuff."
Gooden didn't get a chance to face old buddy Darryl Strawberry, playing for the Dodgers, but Doc had the same distinct form in giving up a pair of hits.
Mickey Hatcher singled to center but was out stretching on Rickey Henderson's throw to Crystal covering second. Bill Buckner followed with a double to the left-center gap, but Steve Garvey tapped out to Paul Blair, playing third for the Yankees.
Among the highlights for fans was the reunion of the longest-running infield in Major League history. Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey, who spent 8 1/2 years together for the Dodgers. The quartette played the first inning together behind Valenzuela, with Steve Yeager behind the plate.
Bob Welch also took a turn on the mound for the Dodgers, and, like Gooden, was in excellent shape. Given an extra out, the Yankees scored when Gooden dropped a single into left field to score Jay Johnstone, who'd singled.
The Dodgers, getting extra outs against Ron Davis in their half of the second, tied it on Rick Monday's double and Manny Mota's RBI groundout. The game ended with Tommy Davis, two-time Dodgers batting champion and pride of Brooklyn, hitting a classic drive to left-center -- only to get thrown out at first by Gooden, playing left.
Crystal, wearing No. 65, his age, was asked about his Spring Training experience, taking an at-bat in a Yankees uniform on his 60th birthday, March 13, 2008, against the Pirates' Paul Maholm -- now with the Braves, the club on hand to face the current Dodgers Saturday evening.
"The Yankees signed me to a one-day contract for $4 million," Crystal said. "And I had two or three days to come up with the money."
Facing Maholm in that Grapefruit League game five years ago in uniform No. 60, Crystal struck out.
"I fouled one off and saw six pitches," Crystal said, calling it "the thrill of a lifetime."
Old-Timers' Day commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers' four-game sweep of the Yankees in the 1963 World Series. It ended at Dodger Stadium with Koufax outdueling Whitey Ford, 2-1, in Game 4.
Al Downing, wearing No. 24, his original Yankees number, represented the '63 Yankees. Koufax was joined by Tommy Davis, Maury Wills, Ron Fairly, Pete Richert and Dick Tracewski from the Dodgers' '63 champions.
Hall of Famers Koufax, Henderson, Don Sutton, Scully, Rich "Goose" Gossage and Tommy Lasorda were part of the festivities.
One of the popular topics of conversation among the stars of the past was Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig.
"What I love about him," Strawberry said, "is the way he attacks the game, like a kid in the park. You can tell how much he loves the game. That's what it's all about -- not the stats."