Billy Crystal's touching tribute to his late friend Robin Williams was one of the most talked-about moments of Monday night's Emmy Awards.
It also began with a great baseball story as Crystal remembered the time that he and Williams were at Shea Stadium on July 9, 1989 (a 6-3 Mets victory over the Reds) to promote Comic Relief. Though Williams seemed out of his element (it was only the second baseball game he'd ever attended), he quickly got into character when Crystal suggested that Williams was actually a Russian baseball player visiting the United States.
Williams eagerly accepted the comedy challenge and then things got really crazy as the baseball gods proved they have their own sense of humor. Mets shortstop Kevin Elster fouled a pitch from Reds starter Rick Mahler into the brodcast booth and toward Crystal and Williams.
Here's Crystal's retelling of the event (Check out the full transcript on Yahoo Celebrity):
"Robin, Whoopi, and I were in the broadcast booth on Comic Relief day at a New York Mets game with the great Tim McCarver. Robin knew nothing about baseball. I asked him who his favorite team was, and he said, 'The San Franciscos.'"
"He was a little lost in the conversation, so I got an idea, turned to him and said, 'We have a Russian baseball player with us.' His eyes got all bright; his ears perked up. It was like he was a little dog that was inside all day and the master came and said, 'Hey, do you want to go for a walk?' I said, 'What's baseball like in Russia?' Without missing a beat, he said, 'We only have one team: The Reds.'"
"The ball came screaming at us; we ducked down, it went screaming into the wall. The ball bounced back into Robin's hands. He yelled, 'I love America! I'm going to defect.'"
If you watch the video above (gotta love MLBAM for finding the clip so quickly), you'll find the scene is even funnier than you might've imagined, even if Whoopi Goldberg doesn't seem to be there. (We can't blame Crystal for the oversight. It was 25 years ago, after all.) Tim McCarver's laughing in the immediate aftermath of the foul ball is a great detail.
Celebrity PR appearances during baseball games can often come off as contrived and they often get in the way of the action, especially if the famous person doesn't know much about baseball.
But as Crystal said of Williams: "He could be funny anywhere." That clip is certainly proof. Is there anyone who wouldn't want to see nine innings of Robin Williams doing color during a game?
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