Peter Handrinos is a frequent
contributor to Scout.com and author of the upcoming ‘The Best New York
Sports Arguments: The 100 Most Controversial, Debatable Questions for
When you think about it, Broadway
and the Major Leagues have a lot in common.
Both produce dramas on an almost
daily basis, scripted or not. Entry into the business is the dream of millions,
which makes the process competitive enough to yield the longest possible odds of
success. Those who do make it are among the best of the best in the world, those
who can rely on both physicality and artistry to make near-impossible
performances look easy enough (at least from the spectators’ seats).
If anyone knows the commonalities
between the Great White
Way and The Show, it’s Dan Landon.
York theatre manager for nearly 30
years, Landon’s been involved in the Broadway community’s summer recreational
organization for nearly as long. In recent years, he’s served as the
Commissioner for The Show
League, approving its 30 teams and three divisions, setting its nearly daily
schedule, clearing its coed squads, and serving as arbitrator for its rare
disputes. If you get a chance to catch a game at Central
Heckscher Fields, there’s a chance you’ll see him playing through a game or two
Recently, Dan took a break from
his work at The Ethel Barrymore Theatre and discussed the intersection of
showbiz and baseball:
How did you get involved in
It was a tradition in the family.
My father and my uncle were child actors - they were choirboys in ‘The Man Who
Came To Dinner’ and they were in ‘Life with Father’ with Clifton Webb. They
actually supported the family during the Depression, so the greasepaint was
always in our tradition.
I started out as an actor from
high school, then doing off-Broadway and Broadway. Believe it or not, my first
show was a play called ‘Yankees 3, Detroit 0’. Tony LoBianco played a
struggling pitcher, and I played a Yankee relief pitcher in a dream
Unfortunately, I would have
starved to death long before I made it as an actor - I was a terrible waiter! At
the end of that run, the theatre manager moved on and I went to the director. ‘I
think I could do that’, I said, and he let me give it a try.
How did you first get involved in
the Show League?
My first year in the League was
1977. I didn’t play in 1978, but I played again in ’79, while I was in a
production called ‘The Passion of Dracula’, and I’ve been hanging around, one
way or another, ever since.
I was drawn to it because it was
just an incredible social event every summer. Out there in beautiful
was just the gathering point for everyone in the Broadway community. I’ve always
said the whole thing was social, as much as anything else. It was great. You’d
see Danny Aiello drop by every so often to say hello to his friends. Al Pacino,
you name it.
Why do you suppose so many
Broadway people have been drawn to the League?
I’ve always said - there’s a lot
of uncertainties in an actor’s life, but a box score ain’t one of them! If
‘Phantom’ beats ‘Les Mis’, then, hey, they were just better than them that day.
And, maybe theatre people are susceptible to vivid imaginations, too - we can
all picture ourselves playing in the National League!
I know you were joking, but you
might be on to something there. Actors are a lot like Major Leaguers in that
they’re intense competitors, battling long odds just to hold down a job.
Don’t you doubt it. Anyone who
knows the first thing about acting knows - there are far more talented
performers than there are available jobs. Way more. Always. The talent out there
York is formidable. Is Major League
Baseball the same way? I’d bet it is.
Are most actors good
Most of them are excellent
athletes. Performances, particularly live theatre performances, where you have
to project yourself, are all about body language and body control. Actors have
impeccable mechanics and timing. They have the stamina to deal with the grind on
a day-to-day basis. Plus, they work out to look good.
Broadway dancers are especially
great athletes. They can run, jump, pivot, you name it. Of course, that doesn’t
necessarily make them great ball players. I’ve seen a dancer execute a perfect,
graceful plié [ballet movement] while diving in
the outfield, only to have the ball plop off their head. So, you never know.
Does that kind of thing happen
It’s not unusual. You’ve heard of
dancing off the bag? A lot of dancers, literally dance on the base path as they
lead on the base path!
How would you describe the quality
of play in the Show League?
It varies. Some teams take it
pretty seriously, and others mostly see it as a way to get outdoors for some
sun. Even teams that aren’t that great find ways to have fun with it. I remember
‘Children of a Lesser God’, the show about the hearing impaired. Many of the
cast members and crew were hearing impaired, and they’d work out this elaborate
set of [sign language] signals on the plays. They didn’t win many ball games,
but good luck stealing those signs!
There have been some good teams
you wouldn’t necessarily expect. Classic example - [the gay-themed] ‘Torch Song
Trilogy’. They had a bunch of great actors - Craig Scheffer, Fisher Stevens -
and they could really play. They won a championship one year and that night
Harvey Firestein had the whole squad come out after the curtain. He said, ‘You
think we can’t play ball?’ and they brought out the League trophy to a rousing
Is there competitive
Every week, it seems, we have
another great game. We do have a mercy rule, but we don’t have to invoke it very
often. Playoff games, are generally very close, hard-fought affairs - I can’t
tell you how many 3-2, 4-3-type games we’ve had, complete with sparkling
defense, good pitching, smart base running.
Dramas, in other
Hey, every game’s a story. Every
game’s a little play.
Is there good teamwork between the
stars, on the one hand, and the ushers and stagehands on the
Oh, there’s great teamwork. The
beauty of the thing is - softball’s a great equalizer! On the field, a big star
like John Lithgow isn’t necessarily the star. I mean, if he goes 0-for-3, he
didn’t have a good day. The star of the game might be an usher who goes 3-for-3
with a home run.
Is there good sportsmanship
between the teams, for the most part?
I’d say so. Most go out there to
be complete ladies and gentlemen, to enjoy the game and the camaraderie. That
being said, sometimes, rarely, some players will get into it a little too much,
maybe get just a little out of line.
Do any examples come to
Well, once Tony Danza was
pitching. Tony’s a great guy, by the way, and a great athlete - he was a
middleweight boxer. But it just wasn’t his day out there, and he was getting hit
pretty good. The other team was getting on his case, chanting ‘Who’s the
boss?!’, ‘Who’s the boss?!’ I didn’t like that too much but, after the game,
Tony came over and said, ‘Dan, I’m a big boy - I can take it. Don’t worry about
That kind of thing happens in
every league, though. Maybe I should get together with Bud Selig one day. We
could exchange war stories.
Do dramas have an advantage over
comedies, or vice versa?
The big advantage goes to
musicals, as it happens. They always have a big casts - wice, sometimes, three times the cast
and crew. And, with more people involved, the better the chance of picking up
great ball players. ‘The Producers’, that’s a huge show, and they’ve been a
Do you guys worry about
You don’t like to see it but,
sometimes, rarely, players have been known to get a little banged
[Veteran Broadway actor] Tony
Roberts says the League launched his career. Apparently, the guy who was going
to take Robert Redford’s lead in ‘Barefoot in the Park’ hurt his leg really
badly on a grounder to first base, and Tony took over the role instead.
Redford, himself, played in the League
for a couple of years during his run in ‘Barefoot’.
Maybe that’s why he became Roy
Hobbs years later.
In ‘The Natural’. Who knows?
There was one other instance I’ve
heard about. One year, Norm Nixon [of the NBA] was in the League, playing for
his wife’s [Debbie Allen] show, and he hurt his knee quite seriously. It may
have impacted his basketball career to a degree. I have to say, people do get
into it and play hard, especially at playoff time.
Have teams tried to work ringers
into their lineups?
You mean when a new limo driver
shows up, even though the lead actor walks home every night? (chuckles) I’ll
tell you, people have been known to go to extremes to win softball games in
It’s happened. Sometimes producers
have been known to pull a fast one. In those instances, as Commissioner, it’s
been my solemn duty to fully investigate and protect the integrity of the League
through arbitration. (chuckles)
We’ve had a lot of great ball
players, too. Some stagehands have been Minor Leaguers - Larry Doby, Jr., son of
the Hall of Famer, played in the League for years. We’ve had many All Americans.
Lee Mazzilli was in ‘Tony & Tina’s Wedding’, and he played for one year.
Keith Hernandez, one year. Phil Esposito, the hockey Hall of Famer, was a
fantastic power hitter.
Do you see showmanship out there
on the ball fields?
Ha. The thing about Broadway is
that it tends to attract . . . big personalities. Flamboyant. ‘Theatrical’ is
So, absolutely, we’ve had our
share of showmen. I remember once, a longtime teammate of mine - a great dancer
named Mark Bovay - hit a home run to win a playoff game. He ran the bases
hollering ‘I’m SuperDancer! I’m SuperDancer!’. Another time, a great young lady
named Stephanie [Michels] hit a game-winning single and jumped up and down,
saying ‘This is exactly how I felt when I won Miss
Georgia!’. More than once, there’s been a
bow after a great catch. You won’t see that in the Majors!
Would you mind giving some player
He was a pitcher, and he was quite
a character, from what I hear. For instance, the only two pitches available in
the league are ‘slow’ and ‘slower’, but George C. would shake off the catcher
before he delivered. Meanwhile, the catcher isn’t even putting down signs. He’d
drive his opponents crazy! (chuckles) Which was the point, I
Al was on Actor’s Equity. He was a
pretty good third baseman, but he didn’t hit much. Good glove, no
Matthew Broderick, a.k.a. Cub fan
A good lefty hitter, a contact
hitter. I’ll always treasure the memory of hitting a homer over Matthew’s head
in left field during the playoffs.
A pretty good hitter, for the most
part. He slumped one year, for some reason. As far as I know, John’s the only
player to pull off an unassisted triple play in the 50 plus years of League
history. It was a pretty spectacular play.
Not much power, but a pretty good
average. Classic inside-out swing like the great Roberto Clemente. OK, not that
good! (chuckles) Has a good time out there.
The complete Table of Contents for
the ‘Baseball Men’ interview series can be found here.