9/23/2013 3:11 P.M. ET
Who's the Boss? Danza is in broadcast booth
Actor does play-by-play, discusses baseball, upcoming film on 'Express Written Consent'
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
There's a certain generation of people who would think it's absolutely normal to hear Tony Danza talk like an actual ballplayer when discussing the national pastime.
After all, despite the fact that Danza has had a long, successful acting career and is famous for several roles, he's arguably most recognized for his run as Tony Micelli -- hunky ex-ballplayer, neurotic dad, master housekeeper and heck of a nice guy -- in the 1980s sitcom "Who's the Boss."
Most remember Danza's character for his mad skills in the kitchen and occasional struggles with his daughter's determination to grow up too quickly (but when your daughter is Alyssa Milano, can you blame him?), but these days, few probably recall that Micelli was a second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals. He was forced to retire due to a shoulder injury, and ... yada, yada, yada ... he ended up keeping house for a hot-shot advertising executive in a Connecticut suburb.
Sure, it's fiction, but it's fun to associate Danza with baseball. It beats the alternative, which would be associating him with cab driving, which is how we were first introduced to him back in the '70s, as Tony Banta in "Taxi". Or boxing, which is what he did before he turned to acting.
Anyway, it seemed only fitting that Danza would be a part of MLB.com's "Express Written Consent," where mainstream celebrities gather in the Klondike Suite at a Major League ballpark to take in some on-field action and talk about whatever comes to mind.
As it turns out, Danza does have a little personal experience with baseball, even if he's not been as close to it as his fictional on-screen alter-ego.
Danza has participated in his fair share of celebrity games at Dodger Stadium -- the site of more celebrity games than any other venue in baseball, for obvious reasons -- and recalled one endearing moment that involved him and Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda.
"I'm at bat, 50,000 people in the stands," he began, chatting with MLB.com's Jeremy Brisiel while watching the Home Run Derby at Citi Field in New York. "It's the sixth inning of a celebrity game, which is a long game. We're down a run, [runners on] second and third."
Danza got a pitch to hit and knocked a line drive over second base. Two runs scored and his team won the game.
"Lasorda comes running out like I'm Mike Piazza," Danza recalled. "He said, 'This is what this team needs, another Italian.'"
While we ponder whether it's endearing or worrisome that Lasorda was that wrapped up in a celebrity exhibition game, we should note Danza's baseball skills aren't all fiction.
"I've got a little bit of a curveball that I can throw," he said. "I can throw strikes. I'm not afraid to drill. I usually drilled someone right off the bat. Usually, it was Alan Thicke."
Ba-da-bum. Now 63, Danza's career path has gone in many different directions following his long run as a sitcom star. He hosted a talk show, starred on Broadway as Max Bialystock in "The Producers," hosted reality shows, and then starred in one himself, as a high school teacher in Philadelphia in A&E's "Teach: Tony Danza." He was so moved by those experiences that he wrote a book about it, titled, "I'd Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High."
Today, Danza is touting a new movie, premiering Sept. 27, titled "Don Jon." He plays the traditional father of a young womanizer needing a clearer path in life -- portrayed by Joseph Gordon Levitt, who wrote the screenplay and directed the movie.
In addition to carrying a message, Danza said, the movie is also surprisingly funny.
"Medicine always goes down better with some sugar," he said.
He warned, though, that it may take a few minutes for viewers to get into the storyline.
"The first few minutes, you're going to say, 'What the heck am I watching here?'" he said. "And then you get a laugh and you say, 'OK, I'm going to hang with it here.'"
Danza often plays characters named Tony -- in fact, in his TV career, he's had four roles in which he's played a character named Tony. What better way to segue to the long-standing EWC feature "Start, Bench, Cut?"
"Tony Banta. Tony Micelli. Tony DiMeo," Brisiel offered up.
Unsurprisingly, Danza opted to cut DiMeo, the character from the short-lived "The Tony Danza Show." He benched Banta, and started Micelli. Makes sense.
But he wanted no part of the Round 2.
"Angela. Samantha. Mona." Brisiel said, referring to the three main characters on "Who's the Boss."
"Ah, man," Danza said, chuckling.
That's how it ended, so if he has favorites from that hit show, we'll never know.
But our money is on Milano.