Love of Baseball is No Act for Garson

By Trevor Hayes

A bit of Hollywood fame touched Cooperstown on Tuesday, though those not devoted to the show “Sex and the City” or USA’s “White Collar” might have recognized it.

Willie Garson doesn’t look like a typical Hollywood star – a fact he acknowledges and that is even made fun of by Lee Majors in the movie Out Cold when he’s called “short-stack.”

A baseball fan since his youth in Highland Park, N.J., Garson chose the Mets over his father’s Yankees to be different. While he fondly remembers the Mets success in 1986, he was only five years old for the 1969 Miracle Mets.

Lifelong baseball fan and television and movie star, Willie Garson, visited the Hall of Fame on Tuesday. (Milo Stewart, Jr./NBHOF Library)

“When you’re my size, it was never going to be football,” Garson said about his connection to baseball. “And being a Mets fan, it’s bonding when you lose. Yankees fans don’t bond.”

On Tuesday, he was transferring that love of the game from his youth to his son, Nathen, whom he adopted in 2009. Joining a colleague’s son’s travel baseball team in Cooperstown, Garson hoped to show a bit a simpler time and what made him love the game.

“I loved the artistry (of baseball cards). I remember, like Rollie Fingers, with that mustache,” he said. “Baseball cards were everywhere and kids don’t do that today. It’s all internet and TV.”

A prolific actor since the mid-1980s, Garson’s filmography has numerous credits for smaller roles in noted film and TV like “Cheers,” “Mr. Belvedere,” “Quantum Leap,” the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, the short-lived TV series “A League of Their Own” based on the baseball movie by the same name, “Friends,” the Nic Cage-Sean Connery movie The Rock, “Melrose Place,” “NYPD Blue,” “Boy Meets World,” “CSI” and much more.

Baseball fans might also recognize him from his role as Kevin, the doctor and fellow Red Sox-crazed compatriot to Jimmy Fallon’s Ben in Fever Pitch. In one scene in particular, Garson’s character – dressed in a full Red Sox uniform – had to out dance the others to get Sox-Yankees tickets.

“Those dance moves were self taught, a lot of people don’t realize that,” Garson said. “It almost killed me having to be a crazed Sox fan.”

On set, Garson could revel in the Mets’ 1986 triumph over the Red Sox, but on camera it was a different story. At one point in the movie, Fallon’s character has locked himself away and is rewatching an endless loop of Bill Buckner’s error in that cost the Red Sox Game 6 of the World Series which eventually led to the Mets victory in Game 7. In the movie, Garson’s Kevin and others have to disgustedly stop the tape, destroy it and clean up their distraught friend.

His stardom has allowed him to do some special things. In 2010 after Sex and the City 2, he threw out first pitch before a Cubs game. Even after practicing with Nathen, he bounced it and 30,000 fans booed him. But his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” made up for it when those same fans cheered him.

“Baseball is so accessible, even if you’re untalented like me,” Garson said. “You can still go out and play catch with your kid.”

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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