LOS ANGELES -- Just because you're the defending world champion in one sport doesn't mean you have to root for the defending world champion in another. Wearing a Dodgers jersey, Lakers forward Pau Gasol -- a two-time defending NBA champ now -- threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium on Friday night before the start of a three-game series with Yankees, who are defending their 2009 World Series run. "From my understanding, they haven't matched up in a long time," said the Spain native of the Dodgers-Yankees rivalry that once flourished. "Obviously, they're the world champions, right, and everybody's excited to see them and hopefully beat them."
Actor Billy Crystal knows full well how deep the rivalry goes, as he grew up in New York. Things get complicated, though, because he happens to be one of manager Joe Torre's closest friends. "What does my hat say to you?" Crystal said, already at the stadium three hours before the game. He pointed to his black cap with a red flag and a white cross in the middle. "This is Switzerland. This is the official neutral hat. Joe knows he's one of my dearest and closest friends, but he knows how I feel about the Yankees, and I root for the Dodgers in the National League. But the Yankees have been my team since I was a kid. In order to survive the walk out to the parking lot, I thought I'd wear this hat." Crystal was coincidentally with Torre the day this season's schedule was announced. The manager's reaction? "Oh jeez." Not an unrealistic summary, considering the mash of people and storylines for the Yankees' rare visit to Dodger Stadium. Alyssa Milano was set to watch the game, as was Christina Aguilera, LL Cool J and Nick Turturro. Actor Robert Wuhl is a Dodgers season-ticket holder, and though he grew up in New Jersey, he was being diplomatic, too. "It's always better when the home team wins," said Wuhl, who once played a sports agent on HBO's "Arliss." Michael Balzary, better known as Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was wearing a Jackie Robinson jersey and performed the national anthem with Josh Klinghoffer, a guitarist for the California-grown group. "I love Dodger Stadium, it's a beautiful place," Balzary said. "It's one of those greatest things about L.A." Judging by his five-minute discussion with Gasol in the Dodgers' dugout and his white sneakers with yellow and purple trim, Balzary's passion is the Lakers. "Lakers, man, I bleed purple and gold," he said. "That is such a beautiful basketball team." As for the Dodgers?
"Hopefully we'll give a resounding thumping of the Yankees."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.