Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic All-Star Game Extravaganza of Awesomeness (or as I like to call it: the MLBMCASGEA) is this week. It’s the National League vs. the American League as baseball’s best players (and also Derek Jeter) go head-to-head to battle in one of sport’s most meaningless events.
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You and I are sitting here having this conversation, and we could go back and forth (as we so often do) about what players got snubbed (some at first, but almost none after all the “injured” players backed out) or what players didn’t deserve to be invited in the first place (almost all the closers and, of course, Jeter) or how the All-Star game should be changed (stop trying to play everyone – this isn’t Little League).
Instead, if you’ve got a minute to spare, or four or 37 if you like to read really, really slowly to savor every word (or have some sort of learning disability), what I’d like to do is tell you the story about another game – a game that was more all-starrier than any All-Star game you’ve ever seen.
It was all the way back in August of 1996. Well, let’s say the late ’90s instead (I don’t want to give away my age too much). It was the Annual Hollywood Celebrity All-Star Baseball Game held at Dodger Stadium starting in the late afternoon and into twilight – the magic hour as photography people call it – as if Ron Howard had descended from his mighty film crane to direct the event himself.
Accompanying me on this fateful day was my good friend Mikey (not to be confused with Mike “The Worst Heckler Ever” – I know, there are too many Mikes). Anyway, there’s no one better to see a sporting event with than Mikey. He’s so genuinely enthusiastic that it gets you fired up for anything – college football, beach volleyball or even a preseason water polo match.
We had great seats in the front row of the Loge section, right at third base, and we got there plenty early – we didn’t want to miss one minute of the celebrity game. But even with our excitement, we had no idea the magical journey we were on.
Instead of the play-by-play of the game, I want to share with you the star-by-star breakdown from that evening which was so many years ago and yet has stayed with me, comforting me like some sort of mental Snuggie in times of grief and despair (women).
Probably the biggest star there was Billy Crystal. He’s a huge baseball fan and he seemed to relish the opportunity to play on an actual major league field. At the time, he was one of the biggest stars in the world, but shortly after he suffered from that thing where a particular person is beloved and then, kind of simultaneously, the entire society doesn’t give a crap.
Tony Danza was the pitcher for one of the teams and he’s always been one of my favorite TV personalities (not just because Elton John wrote that song about him) [Editor’s note: Jed, for the tenth time, the song says “Hold me closer, tiny dancer.”] Tony seemed to do a pretty decent job despite his dreadful pitching form (not quite Kenny Powers-bad, but yikes). We weren’t close enough to hear, but we were pretty sure that every time he struck someone out, Tony would say, “Who’s the boss? I am. I’m the boss.”
Also, it should be noted that there weren’t really that many fans at the game – that meant that if a fan yelled loud enough, everyone on the field could hear him. So, when it looked like Tony was getting tired, Mikey and I channeled our inner Angels in the Outfield and got up on our feet, flapped our arms and screamed, “You gotta believe!” After having a good laugh on the mound, Tony was rejuvenated and got back to work getting the next guy out.
Jon Lovitz made one plate appearance and looked exactly how you’d expect Jon Lovitz to look playing baseball or any other activity that required any sort of physical coordination. After his one at bat, he retired from the game and took over announcing duties – and, of course, he was geniusly hilarious. I always thought he’d be more successful than he wound up (in comedy, not baseball) – but I guess he just never really got the right show or film or whatever – jeez, I’m talking like he’s dead. Sorry, Jon.
Some celebrities are former college athletes. And such was the case with Mark Harmon (TV’s version of Kevin Costner). He actually looked like a baseball player on the field and he was running around like there were scouts watching. At one point he wound up at third base – right in front of us. So, as loud as I could, I yelled, “Hey, Mark. You gotta steal home! Do it for Jodie!” He thought this was pretty hilarious and you would, too, if you were one of the six people on the planet who had seen “Stealing Home,” a movie he starred in with Jodie Foster.
Before you start thinking that I’m an a-hole (yes, I realize many of you are well past that point, but for the rest of you), I want to say that it seemed like the celebrities enjoyed my contribution to the event because they were laughing a lot, and we were not escorted out by security.
Also starring in “Stealing Home” and a staple of celebrity baseball games for years and years was Jonathan Silverman. You probably don’t remember who he is, but you would recognize him if you saw him. He was that guy in that movie with that thing about the thing in that place. Yeah, him. Anyway, he played shortstop, which is probably the hardest position to play, so he had to be pretty good, I guess. But, like his career, I can’t remember much other than he was there.
And then, coming to the plate, in what was a gloriously lame and amazing comedy bit, was Lou Ferrigno. He was carrying a giant bat – like the Hulk would have to use. He played the Hulk on TV – get it? – pretty hilarious. The best part about that is that there was some intern or assistant publicist who had to run around town that week looking for an oversized baseball bat. Unless Lou just has those around his house – just in case – and now I’m sad for Lou.
Let’s stay with a theme here and go from TV’s Hulk to TV’s Superman, Dean Cain. I’ll tell you right now, that is one handsome dude – another former athlete that was all smiles and handshakes until he got up to bat and then the poop got real. He got a base hit and when he was running the bases, you already know how fast he was going – that’s exactly right, faster than a speeding bullet.
One of the mid-level celebrities at the game was Dennis Haysbert. At the time, we all just knew him as Serrano from “Major League” but he has gone on to have a very steady career in TV and film. When he came up to bat, I wanted to yell something from the movie but all I could remember was, “Up your butt, Jobu!” Yeah, yeah, keep your emails, I know that wasn’t his line from the movie. I’m sooooo sorry.
After those celebrities, I don’t really remember who else was playing. There must have been more people there to fill out nine guys on each team and the event planners don’t get too particular about who gets to play. There are really only two qualifications to be invited to play in these games. You need to be at least vaguely recognizable for some sort of TV or movie activity and you have to want to (or be willing to) play baseball. Some “stars” were there because if someone asks if you want to play a baseball game on the actual field at Dodger Stadium, you say yes. And some “stars” were there because if someone remembers you are alive and asks you to go out in public, you say yes.
You’re probably saying to yourself, “You’re right, Jed. That sounds like one of the greatest nights of anyone’s life.” But, wait, there’s more. That night, the Dodgers played a game. I have no idea if they won or lost. But I do remember that Mikey and I, along with 50,000 other fans, set the Guinness Book world record for dancing the Macarena. Do you remember that song? I know, right? It’s crazy how huge that song and that dance were – truly an international embarrassment. Though, truth be told, it was actually only 49,999 that danced – I just kind of stood there – it was a matter of principle.
Anyway, the celebrity all-star is an annual event, and they have featured other celebrities like David Boreanz (from TV – I think) and James Van Der Beek (still clinging to his “Dawson’s Creek” glory) and Alyssa Milano (trolling for dudes, I presume), but none of them were as special to me as this night was. Of course, that might be because this was the only one I ever saw. But why should I bother going again? How could they possibly top that night?