Sweaty and dusty after this Sunday softball game, Garry Marshall
shoved his worn glove in his bag, stood, and stared out over
the deserted softball field.
"When I was fourteen," he told me, "my friend
and I stood in line at Yankee Stadium to get tickets for Joe
DiMaggio Day. DiMaggio was one of my heroes, so I wanted really
good seats. We got them. We were right down in front. When
the game started, one of the older guys from my neighborhood
came down with a hot brunette and offered us twenty dollars
each for our seats. We took the money and had to watch the
game standing on cardboard boxes at the back of the stadium.
DiMaggio hit a home run that day, and I always regretted giving
up those seats. That day I learned you should never give up
your dream for anything-not for money, not for a good way
to impress a hot brunette."
"What about for sanity?" I asked him as I sat down
on the bleachers. "We face stress, adversity, anxiety,
disappointment, frustration, and rejection as we chase our
dream careers-especially in Hollywood."
"Try softball," Marshall smiled.
Softball is more than a Sunday afternoon pastime for this
Hollywood director: it's a philosophy. "Life is more
important than show biz," he reminded me as he kicked
the side of the bleacher knocking the dirt off his cleats.
"You have to keep balance in your life, and there's no
greater way to do that than through sports." Hitting
the ball hard and taking the bases fast, Marshall releases
his work pressure, keeps his focus, and stops worrying about
And he's good at it too. On this Sunday, his pitching led
his Falcon Theater team to the Burbank Co-Ed Winter Softball
"I used to play basketball," he said, (Who doesn't
remember the famous pick up games on the Marshall court? The
deal for The Flamingo Kid was struck on that court.
Esquire magazine called it "a legendary schmooze
game." Magic Johnson and Meadowlark Lemon even played
there, for goodness sake.) but, at sixty, I injured my knee.
Now I play softball."
My eyes traced the infield diamond, "And this, hitting
balls and running bases, this keeps you sane and able to focus
on pursuing your dreams?" I turned to him, and his steel
blue eyes looked levelly into mine. "Yes," he said
. . . without hesitation. "I like softball because it
helps me deal with the biggest stress of show business: ambiguity.
In softball, you're safe or you're out. You win or you lose.
You know the outcome right away. Nobody says to you, 'we may
pick it up in the fall' or 'we're still auditioning, we'll
let you know'."
The sprinklers came on in the outfield, the sun dropped below
the trees, and the last mini-van pulled out of the lot. I
knew it was time to let him go.
"One last thing," I said, pulling his book, Wake
Me When It's Funny, out of my bag. "Would you mind
signing this?" (Here in front of me was the creator of
Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Mork
and Mindy, after all. Do you think I could let this moment
pass?) "Of course," he said graciously, "do
you have a pen?" I handed him my favorite Pilot. He scribbled
across the page and handed both back. We said good-bye, and,
as he walked away, I opened to the title page and read his
message. In black stretching scrawl, he wrote, "I wish
you all 'Happy Days' in your life."
"Oh no," I thought, "I guess I better sign
up for a softball league first thing in the morning."