Actor Billy Crystal is to mark his 60th birthday by donning the colours of the New York Yankees.

The City Slickers star, a lifelong baseball fan, is to wear the number 60 jersey for the exhibition game between the Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates this Thursday.

"I've been waiting 50 years for this call," said Crystal in a statement.

The actor has been invited to the side's spring training camp but had to first sign a one-day contract to play for the Bronx side, which required the permission of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

"I'm overwhelmed by the generosity of the Yankees and commissioner Selig," the frequent Oscars host added.

"I know this'll be tougher than the Broadway Softball League, but I'm looking forward to helping the younger players - which, by the way, is all of them."

Lonn Trost, the Yankees chief operating officer, said the team was "excited to welcome the newest member of our team, known for his humour and wit as well as his undying love for the Yankees".

He added: "The Yankees are very grateful to the commissioner's office for allowing us to extend this special invitation to Mr Crystal."

Crystal is known to be close friends with former Yankees manager Joe Torre and has said he carries a picture of baseball great Mickey Mantle in his wallet.

He also directed the Emmy-winning TV movie 61*, about the 1961 race between Mantle and teammate Roger Maris to break the single-season home run record.

Current Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Crystal had "done a lot for this organisation".

"He's always been a big part of it. This is our way of rewarding him, saying thanks for everything that you've done."

11/03/2008 14:40:55