Love and Baseball: Peter Scolari and Tracy Shayne Are On-and-Offstage Spouses in Broadway's Bronx Bombers
By Michael Gioia
Newlywed actors Peter Scolari and Tracy Shayne chat with Playbill.com about portraying — and meeting — Yogi Berra and his wife, Carmen.
Although Peter Scolari and Tracy Shayne have only been married for six months, the couple met nine years ago and act as though they've known each other forever.
The two, tucked away in an uninhabited corner of a coffee shop near Central Park, excitedly talk over one another and complete each other's sentences as they recount their October 2013 encounter with Yogi and Carmen Berra in preparation of embodying the real-life MLB legend and his wife in the Broadway sports drama Bronx Bombers.
"Meeting them was such a high point, and they're still so attached at the hip — so much in love," said Shayne.
"... From across the room," added Scolari.
"Yeah, it's just beautiful."
"... Like people say about you and me."
Scolari and Shayne, who were introduced by a mutual friend, find numerous parallels between themselves and the Berras — from double dating, much like Yogi and Carmen with catcher Joe Garagiola and his future wife Audrie Ross, to the infamous love letters Yogi would compose, which are now displayed throughout the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center in Little Falls, NJ.
"We had a couple that we'd go out with," explained Shayne about their beginning. Scolari adds: "We call them Fred and Ethel."
Shayne laughs and continued, "We're Ricky and Lucy... And, that's what we did. We ended up talking on the phone for a couple of weeks... We would talk every night. At the end of our day, I would look forward to his phone call, and we would talk for hours on the phone — talk about life, talk about love, talk about romance, talk about everything. And then he started sending me poetry."
"Talk about Yogi and Carmen and their letters!" said Scolari, who took off into a comparison story. "With our modern email technology, I actually decided — on a given night — that I'd fallen in love with her. I drafted an email and put it in a saved draft folder, but it had its date, so I could prove it at a later time that I had come to hold this very dear opinion. So, on another night, a few weeks later, I said, 'Well... I'd better send you this email that's been saved, and it has a date on it, so I want to be very clear that I came to have this feeling before you did…' And, I said to her, 'I love you.'"
Following an eight-year romance, Scolari and Shayne were wed in June 2013 — on one of Scolari's days off from last season's Lucky Guy, (which earned a Tony nod for Best Play) where he played journalist Michael Daly opposite his former "Bosom Buddies" co-star Tom Hanks. Months into their marriage, Scolari admitted, "We still have yet to have a honeymoon."
Although Scolari and Shayne are debating between a tropical island and Las Vegas, this Broadway season, they will honeymoon at the Circle in the Square, where Eric Simonson's Bronx Bombers — the third in the playwright's sports trilogy (and the second starring Scolari, following his stint in the 2012 basketball drama Magic/Bird) — officially opens Feb. 6.
In preparation for Bronx Bombers, Scolari and Shayne — who joined the project for its transfer to Broadway, after a fall 2013 run at Primary Stages — made the trip to Little Falls, NJ, where they met the Berras at Yogi's museum. "I think they approved of us," said Scolari.
"Yeah, they approved," Shayne agreed.
What did the newlyweds chat about with their real-life counterparts? "I talked baseball with Yogi," Scolari, an avid Yankees fan (and childhood baseball player), said with a smile, "because I can! I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I saw Yogi Berra play when I was a little boy [when] his career was winding down as a player and ramping up as a coach and then as a manager... But that's not [his whole] story. In preparing to take on this colossal undertaking of playing an iconic guy, I did some research and found him to be — his playing record — far more meaningful and extraordinary than I really understood as a little boy."
As for Shayne, she picked up on Carmen's St. Louis drawl and absorbed her presence. "It's just so interesting to hear Peter talk about what they had a chance to speak about," she said. "I saw them talking, but I didn't know what they were talking about. Girls are so different! Carmen and I stared at each other for so long! We were taking each other in. I brought her a plate of food. We were looking at each other's clothes. [We had conversations like,] 'Oh, I like your blouse.' ... 'I love your scarf.' It was a bonding moment between us."
Scolari confessed, "Yeah, we didn't do that!" Instead, he said, "I kind of wanted to look in his eyes... He's 88 years old, and everybody whose hand he shakes feels like they're with 'The Guy,' and they are! I aspire to be this way in my humble fashion as an actor. People say, 'How do you go about playing some iconic figure?' The truth of the matter is that the first obligation is to make sure that he's real, and I think I found a point of entry into that — by meeting the man."
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)
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