Magazine article The New Yorker

DOING YOGI THE BOARDS Series: 4/5

Magazine article The New Yorker

DOING YOGI THE BOARDS Series: 4/5

Article excerpt

"My baseball was stickball--that's a broom handle and a rubber spaldeen--and where I lived, you go to the park, only the park's concrete," the actor Ben Gazzara said one evening earlier this summer, over a drink at his apartment, in the East Eighties. He had just driven in from Sag Harbor, where he and his wife, Elke, have a house, and where, two days earlier, he'd opened the season at Bay Street Theatre, playing Yogi Berra in a one-man tour de force called "Nobody Don't Like Yogi." He was sitting in a striped silk armchair in his dugout slouch--shoulders down, arms loose, feet planted on the rug with plenty of room between them for a bat. His hair was shaved close, into a perfect Yogi Berra crewcut ("My wife hates it," he said). And he was reminiscing about the game of baseball as it was played sixty blocks south, and as many years ago, by the sons of the Irish and Agrigento immigrants who'd taken over the tenements of the neighborhood known today as Murray Hill.

Gazzara loves baseball. It may be that the only person involved with "Yogi" who didn't know this was the man who wrote it. The play dropped into Gazzara's life last year--which is to say the postman brought it, unsolicited, with a letter inviting him to a reading. Gazzara had never heard of the writer, a Brentwood prep-school teacher named Thomas Lysaght-- "Black Irish," Gazzara calls him--and didn't know if Yogi had heard of him, either. But he read the play, and liked it, and, more to the point, he says, Elke, who read it first, liked it, and "Elke is never wrong." It turned out that everybody liked "Yogi" so much that by curtain on opening night the producers were making plans to bring it to New York. (The play opens here in October.)

As it happens, Gazzara's own adventures in baseball ended as abruptly as Yogi's had managing the Yankees. (George Steinbrenner fired Yogi in 1985, only sixteen games into the season, and after a pennant the year before.) It was around 1960, some five years after Gazzara hit Broadway as Brick in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." He'd graduated to a bat and a real ball, and was playing center field for "a terrible team of football jocks, gamblers, writers, actors, and mainly losers" who drank at a bar at Forty-fifth and Eighth called Harold's Show Spot. "I'd bought cleats, the iron ones," he said, wincing even now. "We're losing by two runs, and I'm up at the plate, bases loaded, and I hit a sharp ball down the left-field line--it's at least a double--and I'm running in these cleats, and I don't have to slide, but I'm going to slide anyway because I want to look like Joe DIMaggio. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.