Billy Crystal’s New Book Is A Baseball Love Letter

Posted September 26th, 2013 by Tom Owens and filed in Billy Crystal, City Slickers, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Still Foolin' 'Em, Ted Williams

Billy Crystal can’t fool me.

His new Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? book purports to be about turning 65. Sure, he covers the bases on aging issues.

However, I think he might have wanted to call the book Baseball and Other Stuff. His words sparkle when discussing his favorite sport.

He writes adoringly but honestly. Crystal encountered Mickey Mantle at his best…and alcoholic worst.

Joe DiMaggio dissed Crystal’s wife when she tried to get a vintage jersey signed by the crankiest Yank. Joe D brushed her aside, saying that he had an exclusive signing deal with a card company. (We’ve heard that one before, right?)

At least, the Hall of Famer never punched YOU in the stomach. Crystal relives both moments in fan-friendly fashion.

I love the chapters about the movie *61, and Crystal’s one-day career as a New York Yankee. Somehow, he fudges on only one detail about his single at-bat in a spring training game against the Pirates.

“My wife made fun baseball cards of me as a present…” he recaps, telling of the gifts he left for each teammate.

These were no homemade knock-offs. Topps produced the 1952-style cards of Billy. A year later, he’d autograph a few for inserts, found in just one of an estimated 60,000 packs. (Did his Yankee brothers get the facsimile autograph version?)

Of course, there’s choice material about Crystal’s acting, too. He ties in Hollywood lore with his baseball passion. How could he have agreed to wear a Mets cap instead of a beloved Yankees topper in City Slickers? There was a $40,000 licensing issue! Again, in baseball terms, Crystal does both play-by-play and color commentary in his career recounting.

G-rated readers, take note: Crystal seems to launch at least one F-bomb per chapter. Aside from the frequent off-color color, readers can soak up chapters of gleeful gratitude from this senior funnyman.

The book can be summed up in Crystal’s recounting of a phone call from Ted Williams. Teddy Ballgame praised Crystal’s Oscar hosting in baseball terms.

“Ted, is everything hitting to you?”

“You bet,” he said. “It’s a great metaphor, isn’t it?”

Crystal’s book is a great metaphor for fans, collectors and viewers. He enjoys every day and every game. I enjoyed every word.

New Baseball Stamps Worth The Hunt

I love the work of artist Kadir Nelson. Check out
his Negro Leagues Art Exhibit as it travels America.

(image copyright, courtesy of USPS)

Collectors are getting heard.

The U.S. Postal Service chose to issue limited numbers of sheets of ONE each of the four new commemorative stamps of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Larry Doby and Willie Stargell.

The only problem? Only post offices in Cooperstown and the team cities got the special sheets.

Therefore, only some Yankee fans can delight in having no one but The Yankee Clipper on their envelopes. Why not let ALL collectors have the one stamp they want most?

I’m bored with Liberty Bell FOREVER stamps. I feel baseball stamps get your envelope noticed when you’re writing for an autograph. Most of all, using the commemoratives tells the USPS to keep autograph collectors in mind for future issues. Agree?

Coming Friday: Talking autographed baseball books with expert Bobby Plapinger!

Author (and Mets Fan!) Phil Bildner Brings Baseball’s Past Alive For Youngest Fans

Posted December 14th, 2011 by Tom Owens and filed in Bob Feller, Bobby Thomson, Bud Harrelson, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Bildner, Ralph Branca, Ted Williams

I’m a Phil Bildner fan. The attorney-turned-teacher-turned-author is today’s Matt Christopher, and then some!



Bildner is a literary time traveler. His Sluggers book series, about turn-of-the-century barnstormers, is like chocolate-coated vegetables. It’s so much fun that young readers will never know that they’re being introduced to baseball lore. As an historian, Bildner makes the past matter a current topic for young fans.

Via his all-star website, http://www.philbildner.com/, the author took time to answer some questions.


Q: You’ve written about many famous baseball names. Have you ever collected autographs, in person or by mail?


A: As a kid, I used to ask for players’ autographs all the time. I was (and still am) a huge New York Mets fan growing up. I remember getting Bud Harrelson’s autograph when I started little league. I don’t think I ever sent a letter seeking an autograph.
These days, I don’t collect autographs, but I do have a signed Hank Aaron baseball, which is pretty special. I also have a signed copy of Marvin Miller’s book.
Q: Have you interacted with current or former players while writing your books?
A. While writing Shoeless Joe & Black Betsy, I reached out to Bob Feller, and I actually got a voice-mail response from him. He wanted no part of writing a blurb for the book! I also met Tommy Lasorda at a Shoeless Joe Jackson statue dedication ceremony in Greenville, South Carolina. I know both Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca were given copies of The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.

Q:.Your great new book is about Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and their great 1941 season. If you could reach Teddy Ballgame in baseball heaven by mail, what would you ask him?

A: I would love the opportunity to ask Ted Williams about the home run in his last at bat. I’d also like to ask him about his return to Fenway for the All-Star Game before he passed.


Q: What’s in your baseball writing future?

A:  I’m working on a couple of new baseball history titles, but like baseball players, we baseball authors are a superstitious bunch. Don’t want to jinx them! I also penned a chapter book series with Loren Long called Sluggers. It’s about a barnstorming band of baseball players touring the country in 1899. Each book is set in a different city with many winks and nods to the baseball mystique of those settings.

Coming Thursday: Does Pat Neshek pitch for Santa Claus?