ON MONDAY, NOVEMBER 14 AT 9:00 P. M. ET
The Award-Winning Actor, Director, Writer & Producer Talks About Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and His Love of Baseball
Clips from “61*,” “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” “A Comedy Salute to Baseball,” and “City Slickers” Featured Throughout
Secaucus, N.J., November 10, 2011 – Award-winning actor, director, writer and producer Billy Crystal discusses Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and his film about their home run chase, “61*” on MLB Network’s Emmy Award-nominated Studio 42 with Bob Costas on Monday, November 14 at 9:00 p.m. ET. Following the 50th anniversary of Maris breaking Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record, Crystal talks with Costas about his longtime friendship with Mantle, Mantle’s battle with alcoholism, Mantle’s feelings about his baseball career, and the making of “61*.”
Featured throughout the interview are clips from Crystal’s career in film and television that depict his lifelong love of baseball, including rare footage from 1962 of “The Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson pitching to Mantle, Maris and other New York Yankees players at Yankee Stadium, as well as “A Comedy Salute to Baseball” in 1985, an appearance on “The Dinah Shore Show” with Mantle in 1997, Crystal’s 1991 film “City Slickers,” and his impersonation of Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto during a Yankees game telecast in 1996.
Additional new episodes of Studio 42 with Bob Costas will air on Monday nights throughout November and December and feature conversations with former Minnesota Twins pitcher and MLB Network game analyst Jim Kaat, as well as Hall of Famers including former New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver, former Atlanta Braves pitcher Phil Niekro, and former Chicago Cubs Ryne Sandberg, Ferguson Jenkins and Andre Dawson.
Highlights from the conversation with Crystal include:
On his relationship with Mickey Mantle:
We lived through it with certain moments in his life that weren’t pleasant for us. We put him to bed once. … There are writers and critics who don’t know that and are not privy to it and it’s annoying because what we know is real and we talk about it that it’s real and they don’t know that.
On Mantle’s personal struggles:
He had this feeling that he had failed. … He just never felt he did what he should do. And I’m sure he was hearing his Dad in the background [saying], “Not good enough, not good enough.” And I’m sure he heard [Joe] DiMaggio in there too.
On the making of “61*”:
I knew where everything was. [I would say], “This should be like that, no this guy batted that day, this guy pinch-hit.” I didn’t even have to look at stats, I knew everything, and it was the perfect kind of movie for me to do because it was something I loved and it was something I knew I could do well.
Ross Greenburg, who was my partner in the movie at HBO, took the film down to Gainesville, Florida to show the Maris family for the first time. I was in California on a scoring stage with Mark Shaiman doing the music for the movie and I knew they were watching it and I was really nervous about that. The phone rings in the booth and it’s Ross and he says, “Somebody wants to talk to you.” So I said, “Who is it?” He said, “Roger’s mother.” I go, “Hello?” And she goes, “You got it right,” and hung up. Just hung up. So I said, “I think we can continue, I think we’re okay.”
So much good has happened for the movie. … It was put into the Baseball Hall of Fame, stuff I never would have imagined. I thought I was going to get there as a player, but that still might happen. For this to be honored and to be put into the film archives at the Hall of Fame, it was something that was sort of meant to be, I think.
On working with Yogi Berra on the making of “61*”:
We ran a big practice to relax the guys [during filming]. … The ballpark looked so perfect and the light was coming over the right field wall … and Yogi comes through the gate, gives me a big hello and he looks around and he goes, “The monuments are six feet to the right, they should be to the right. They weren’t there – they were over to the right.” I go, “Okay.” And he goes, “You know, I hit one over the roof there, I hit one right over the roof and I told Mel Allen I was gonna do it.”
I got a Yogism from him. We went to a restaurant that night and he wanted a little bit of vodka. The waitress said, “[Do you want the drink] straight up or what?” And he said, “No, straight up, but with a little ice.”
On his Spring Training at-bat with the New York Yankees in 2008:
I was going to turn 60. … To get down to Spring Training and know that you’re going to be doing this for a couple days was still the greatest time I’ve ever had. … I fouled one off and the place went nuts and somebody yelled, “Double.” I was scared because if I ran to second, I would have to stop twice to pee. And then it got to 3-1 and [Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Maholm] throws me a cutter – worst cutter since my bris. … This [was] the first time they had ever stopped the game to give a ball to somebody who had struck out.
On late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner:
I had a great relationship with [George Steinbrenner]. In the [Spring Training] at-bat, he had to say okay. After I was done, I stayed the whole day and during the game, they called me and said, “Mr. Steinbrenner wants to see you.” So I’m in uniform, I change my shoes, I go up to the office, there he was and he said, “You did good, but I’m trading you for [Jerry] Seinfeld.”