"It was definitely a little nerve-wracking," Maholm said after facing Crystal in the first inning of Thursday's 5-3 Pirates win over the Yankees at Legends Field. "I was trying to give him a strike so he could have fun with it, and I think he had fun. I'm just glad I didn't have to watch it every day on TV that he got a hit off me."
The closest the 59-year-old comedian came to a base hit was a foul ball down the first-base line on Maholm's second pitch.
"If it would have bounced over or hit the bag or something and he had gotten a base hit, I never would have lived that one down," Maholm said. "I didn't want to throw too hard to him, but I still wanted to go after him. I was just trying to lay it in there, but for some reason, the ball kept cutting, and thank goodness he was swinging. It would have been [more] fun for him to run the bases, but that's how it goes."
Maholm, who pitched four scoreless innings and allowed just one hit on the day, did not face Crystal again, as Johnny Damon pinch-hit for him in the third.
That was OK by Maholm, who had more serious work to do, like preparing for the regular season. But Maholm said he enjoyed the experience.
"I definitely wasn't trying to blow it by him or anything like that," Maholm said. "I tried to take it as a normal hitter, but it was hard. He gets a standing [ovation], and he gets to tip his hat right before the game starts. You realize it's kind of good for the crowd and I think it was a thrill for him. [But] I've got a Hall of Fame lineup right after him, so it's kind of tough to dial it down against him and pick it back up against [Derek] Jeter."
Maholm's first reaction following the foul ball was that Crystal had hit catcher Ryan Doumit with the follow-through on his swing.
"I thought he swung around and hit our catcher in the head, but our catcher said he hit himself in the head," Maholm said.
The lefty fell behind in the count, 3-1, but retired Crystal with consecutive strikes. Maholm said that the last pitch was out of the strike zone.
"I was happy he was swinging, though," Maholm said. "Walking him wouldn't have been [fun]. I hadn't walked a batter all spring; he would have been the first."
Had he walked Crystal, Maholm had already decided what would be next.
"That was definitely in my head," Maholm said. "If I walked him, I was trying to pick him off."
That would not be necessary. Maholm did get to meet Crystal after the game to complete a most memorable Spring Training day.
"It's definitely something I'll remember, but hopefully, there's plenty more to come that can overtake it," Maholm said.
Maholm and Crystal exchanged autographed baseballs in the Yankees' dugout after the game. Maholm signed, "You looked marvelous" to the actor, and Crystal signed, "Thanks for a great memory."
"We're forever linked, like [Joe] Louis and [Max] Schmeling," Crystal cracked.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less