If Neil Simon was going to write a movie about Senator John McCain he would have a very difficult time casting it because the only actor capable of playing the role was John Wayne. In Hollywood Wayne was known as a man’s man. In real life McCain truly was a man’s man. A prisoner of war that was continuously tortured yet would leave Vietnam with his head up high, as if to say that you never got me down punk you never got me down. It’s ironic that both McCain and Neil Simon would die on the same day.
In the spring of 1985 I was asked to appear in a film called the Sluggers Wife. The film was directed by Academy Award winner Hal Ashby who worked with every major actor that you can think of including Paul Newman. The film was written by Tony and academy award winner, Neil Simon . Mr. Simon wrote so many great projects that he eventually became Mr Broadway.
Mr. Simon was probably one of the most modest man that I have ever met. In the three months that I spent in Atlanta doing that film, you hardly knew that he was there.
I was such a fan of his that I looked for him each morning. He would always just stand in the back of the set. I literally went out of my way to let him know that I thought he was the greatest. I told him that I worked for George Steinbrenner and he said that the Boss was a friend of his. Mr. Simon said that he and the Boss had actually talked about doing a project together at some point, unfortunately that never materialized. That would of been a very interesting duo. I guarantee you that what ever they did together would of been great.
For me the highlight of working in that film was when Hal Ashby and Mr. Simon came over to me and told me to take the second unit camera crew to shoot a scene where I would be sliding into second base and Bucky Dent the former Yankee Great would tag me hard on the head and I would get up and get into a fight with Bucky. The scene was actually so good that some of the other players including The Mad Hungarian Al Hrabosky ,unaware of what we were doing actually thought that Bucky and I got into a real fight. Everyone on the set was laughing like crazy and Hal Ashby told Mr Simon that I guess we are gonna have to keep this shot in the film and they did. Thirty three years later, Bucky and I still talk about our scene together and we are very proud of it.
Bucky was very proud to be working in a Neil Simon project and thought that Mr Simon was truly a legend. Bucky has always been a true professional, whether he was on a baseball field or a movie set and was always so focused that he never noticed Neil Simon being there. He was like that at Yankee Stadium, He would come over to me after games and ask me if Frank Sinatra was really there or whoever. That’s part of the reason why these guys are the professionals that they are.
Today we lost Senator John McCain a true American hero. Someone that gave and sacrificed so much for his country. I wish I had a fraction of the heart and mental fortitude that Mr McCain had.
Thank you for your service, you was a great American, but more important a wonderful human being.
As for you Mr. Simon, your god given gift as a wonderful writer in the arts is something that will stay with this world forever. You will both not be forgotten!