Hey! Me and Road Dog, we came up with this little game, a way to synopsize the 2001 Major League Baseball season. It's called "Dog & Dub, At the Movies, And the Ballgames, At the Same Time."
See if you like it. If you don't ... blame Dog. He's the one who said, "Let's put the 'E' in ESPN."
OK. Here goes nothing.
MINNESOTA TWINS, starring in "DEAD MEAT 2" (rated R): Teenaged ball-playing heartthrobs in midst of midsummer winning idyll in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" see their idyll turn nightmarish after being warned by 60-ish camp counselor, Ol' Kelly: "There's things that eat human flesh during the dog days, if you don't watch out, young fellers."
Teens pooh-pooh, then poo-poo their pants. You'll yell at the screen for them to get the hell out of there, then watch, horrified, as they are oh-so-predictably stalked, chased, hooked and gutted by bat-wielding band of Native American zombies. Bloody, but a cut above you average teen-slasher fare; script makes you actually care about these kids -- beforehand. Sad to see 'em go. But ... c'est la vie.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS, starring in "BASEBALL DRIVER" (rated R): Takeoff on famous Martin Scorcese-Paul Schrader collaboration, starring Robert DeNiro as crazed cab driver Travis Bickle. Anti-hero character is now named Barry Bonds, whose mundane life of hitting baseballs the distance of a $10 cab ride drives him to boredom; his edgy persona makes even the other ball drivers nervous. Then, inspired by a strawberry blond named McGwire, Bonds decides to assassinate a revered baseball record, most homers in a season.
|Despite warnings from Ol' Kelly, Doug Mientkiewicz and the Twins were eaten alive in "Dead Meat 2."|
Plot twist revolves around two other Baseball Drivers, Sammy Sosa and Luis Gonzalez, the "flotsam and jetsam" Bonds constantly complains about. "You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Well, I don't see anybody else here, so you gotta be talkin' to me" is uttered at a press conference instead of to a mirror. In the end, we are left with the question: Is Baseball Driver a hero, or is he a villain? And who decides? Bud Selig?
TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS, starring in "NIGHT OF THE LIVING D-RAYS" (rated R): Bunch of stiffs chase a handful of prospects and a handsome, resourceful veteran named McGriff, who leads them into deserted mausoleum in St. Pete to make last stand. Starring Hal McRae as The Poor Guy.
A few -- Albie Lopez, McGriff -- escape, but the rest end up having their flesh eaten by The Contenders, though they do blow away a few dead meat sleepwalkers -- hey, it's the teens from "Dead Meat 2"! Movie doesn't know if it wants to be a spoof of horror movies or be taken seriously. This one will be on video before you can say Randy (Can't) Winn. Leader McGriff survives deadly encounter, but then is traded to Chicago Cubs for a pennant race -- which is like being shot right between the eyes, then having your body dumped on a pyre for burning.
|"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Well, I don't see anybody else here, so you gotta be talkin' to me."|
NEW YORK YANKEES, starring in "PRIDE OF BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY" (rated PG): Big Yankees first sacker (Tino Martinez) of World Champs gets disease (Steinbrenneritis Wornoutwelkomatus), also known as SWAK, or Tino's Disease. Heroically, Tino pounds more home runs that he has in, oh, a couple years, as many as 34 home runs and 110 RBI. Not a dry eye in the clubhouse. Well, a few, but there are some wet ones, also, because somebody set off a stink bomb in there.
Anyway, the disease spreads. It is unmerciful. Nameplate above Tino's locker soon has "Jason Giambi" written on it. Tino gives emotional farewell speech, not to fans at Stadium, but to Yanks in clubhouse. Derek Jeter asks if there is anything he can get for Tino. Tino sniffs, says, "No ... not unless you wanna hand over Miss Universe when you're done with her."
Tino then looks around at the rest of the Yankees and says, into a mike, so it will reverberate, "I consider myself ... the guy who's gonna come back ... and haunt youse flipping guys. There's new life for me, in Oakland. If I take a pay cut." Mediocre tear-jerker.
|Tino Martinez's farewell speech is a real tear-jerker in "Pride of Bang the Drum Slowly."|
OAKLAND ATHLETICS, starring in "ADVENTURES OF ROBIN'S HOODS" (rated PG): Sherwood Forest becomes the ice plant at the Oakland Coliseum in this update of '30s classic starring Errol Flynn. The title role now belongs to the swashbuckling Jason Giambi, who has Flynnish good looks, and is a big ol' bruiser on top of that. Giambi's band of green-clad Merry Men all have tremendous "bows and arrows,"
also known as major-league arms, guns, and they make a living stealing from the rich Eastern contenders, throwing all kinds of arrow-strikes past them.
"Huddie, Lytle, Captain Zito, Agent Mulder, Time To Dye, Damer, TLong!" Giambi calls out their names, challenges them, leads them, as a catchy little tune plays in the background. They take from the rich (the Yankees, New York City) and give to the poor (East Oakland). But there is a surprise ending. Even if Robin's Hoods beat the Sheriffs of New York, Giambi then becomes the next Sheriff of New York, and the old gang leaves Sherwood Coliseum for the wilds of ... Vegas! Sequel alert!
PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES starring in "SILENCE OF THE HAM" (rated R): Scott Rolen stars as Phillies third sacker Scott Starling of the FBI (Fun baseball? I-don't-think-so), who is chewed out by boss' boss, Dallas Green, for not putting out. Rolen rakes to all fields after meeting with Phillies manager, Larry "Hannibal" Bowa, who invites Rolen in for dinner of liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.
Phillies teammates begin to disappear. Bowa's plate is full; he can't seem to shut his clubhouse freezer door. "Find out whose taking our hearts," Hannibal instructs Rolen. Rolen thinks he knows who it is. His teammates leave him notes saying, "It's Bowa, you idiot!" These and other clues lead Rolen to the real culprit in the end. It's ... Greg Maddux! Tom Glavine! Kevin Millwood! It's (gasp) John Smoltz!"
|The swashbuckling Jason Giambi leads the A's "Merry Men" in "The Adventures of Robin's Hoods."|
Not as good as the original. Scott Rolen is no Jodie Foster. And while Larry Bowa is outstanding in the role of the erstwhile Hannibal -- great villains makes good ballclubs -- he is still no Anthony Hopkins, or Joe Torre either.
SEATTLE MARINERS starring in "RUSH HOUR 3" (rated R): Ichiro Suzuki has more tricks up his sleeve than Jackie Chan on ecstasy. The special effects are breathtaking. Can a man actually tool the sacks like that? Is that hose for real? Is he really hitting a million with the bases loaded?
The hook here is not only does he have an entertaining black sidekick, he has innumerable sidekicks, black and otherwise -- Olerud, Boone, Cameron, Bell, Wilson, Garcia, Moyer, Arthur Lee Rhodes, Sasaki -- including an imaginary one. Is Ichiro really Rickey Henderson at 26 -- or more? Mark McLemore stars as "Dude," Ichiro's offensive and defense-girding sidekick. You won't believe your eyes. Two thumbs up.
BOSTON RED SOX starring in "UNTAKEABLE" (rated R): Sort of an "Abbott & Costello Meets 'The Sixth Sense' Meets 'Sexy Beast'." Story of two comic-book characters. One, Nomar Garciaparra, reprises the role of David Dunn, originated by Bruce Willis. Nomar plays a simple man with the strength of Superman. His only weakness is hard-hit ground balls.
|Scott Rolen reprises Jodie Foster's role in the classic "Silence of the Ham."|
"Hard-hit ground balls, they're your Kryptonite," says the other protagonist, Nomar's foil, Carl Everett, in a combination role originated by Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Kingsley. And we ain't talking "Gandhi," in either case, here. At times, it seems Everett gets confused, and thinks he's playing the Sam Jackson role of Jules, in "Pulp Fiction." No Oscar nomination will be forthcoming for Carl, it's safe to say. When the leaves turn brown, he'll be rode outta town. But, he brings brio to the part of the sociopath. It is through Everett's scenery-chewing role that Nomar seems all the nobler to us. And when it turns out that it is really Carl Everett who, besides being a nutzo ball, is also responsible for the train wrecks of 1978, 1986, 2000 ... oh, the horror, the horror ... of letting the trade deadline pass and not getting rid of him and half the roster.
Hey, it's called outfield defense, team speed, and pitching, pitching, pitching, guys ... Famous tag-line -- "I see dead Sox"-- is uttered by Little Jimy Williams, on his way out of Dodge. Felipe Alou turned down the role of the Man Who Is Dead But Doesn't Know It Yet, who is played by a somewhat forgettable Joe Kerrigan.
Guest appearance by Pedro Martinez as the Angel of Mercy. "I have only four words to say," says Angel Martinez, "which beats the four Little Jimy said. The real theme is not 'I see dead Sox.' The real theme is 'We are so slow.' "
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS starring in "PURPLE RAIN OUT" (rated R): No review available.
CHICAGO CUBS starring in "ALMOST SAMMY" (rated R): Story of a rock band, the Chicago Cubs, on the road, the intrafamily conflicts, all witness by "beat journalists," a bunch of slap-happy, middle-aged guys with expanded waists and memories of their own intrafamily conflicts.
|Nomar Garciaparra's foil is the "hard-hit groundball" in "Untakeable."|
Band on the run, but with a twist. In their psyche-threatened childhoods, the "beat journalists" were saved when someone passed along to them a reverence of the Cubs, and how the Cubs make life balanced, and meaningful, and holy, even. We know it's a bunch of what they used to call malarky, now known as dogcrap, that theory combined with the Cubs in September. Ah, but the real gritty talent of the Cubs, Sammy, the one with the beautiful wife and any groupie he wants and adoration from the fans and life, if not the guys on the beat -- he's the crux of the story. Sammy gives good quotes. Sammy handles the media.
"Almost Sammy" is more than expected and leaves us with this intriguing notion: Maybe Sammy is the slugger of his generation, not McGwire, or Bonds, or Griffey, Jr. Maybe it is Sammy who is God. But whether he is or not, the Cubs are still the Cubs. Sooner or later, they are going to play like dogcrap and break your heart, and thus the sacrificial roles assigned to Manager (Mr. Hit-By-Pitch) Baylor, (The Girl Who Loved Tom) Gordon and McGriff, from "Night of the Living D-Rays," no matter that they may be Hall of Famers.
It's being a Cub. It's the job. It defines the player. It's part of the cycle of life. This one makes you think on several levels. A keeper. Two big thumbs up.
ATLANTA BRAVES starring in "GONE SOUTH WITH THE WIND, BABY" (rated PG-13): And it is a bad wind, baby, a real bad gasbag of a wind, featuring traded stars, clanking mitts, false nobility and star-crossed love. People get traded and call other people "white trash," as John Rocker did to Rhett Butler (Chipper Jones). Battles are won. Wars are lost. Chipper is so sweet you could melt him down and pour him on pancakes.
But Andruw Jones, as the ex-Gold Club love slave, is still a year and a heaping helping of offseason work away from being what he eventually could be. Of course, he might already be what he could be. He has to figure it out amid the chaos of a burning Atlanta, and he might as well ask Hattie McDaniel for help as to ask the Braves, who should've just turned him over to Henry Aaron three years ago. But did they think of that? Nah. They figure, what the hell, we can always trade him. Will General Bobby Cox go ahead and make John Smoltz his closer, or will Sherman win again? Hint: Take Sherman.
|Sammy Sosa is a God, but the Cubs are still the Cubs in "Almost Sammy."|
CLEVELAND INDIANS starring in "RAMADEUS" (rated R): The story of a crazed Cleveland Indian minor-league second baseman, who knows he can never come up to the big leagues and play for the King (which in Cleveland would be everybody who comes to the ballpark who is not the Mayor) because of the genius of one man, Robby Alomar. The minor-leaguer plots Alomar's demise and tries to get a big-league umpire to call him a ... well, you won't hear it from me here.
Most of the populace, while recognizing Alomar as skillful, think of him as an ill-mannered buffoon anyway. Ironically, only another second sacker like Solly Early, played here by the unknown Whatshisface, would recognize the true brilliance of a great immortal master. Alomar is great; the actual score his play provides, even on misplays, is breathtaking. When he bats third, and leads the orchestra in the show-stopping "Bomb Giovanni," with solos by Thome, Juan Gone, Omar and Lofton, then this one sings. Directed by first-timer Charlie Manuel, from an original script by the '70s Pittsburgh Pirates, the Lumber Company, and franchise of the Maz, the Glove Man.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES starring in "STEPSON OF DRACULA" (rated R): Teenage ballplaying heartthrobs in midsummer growing idyll are employed by one Count Angelos, who never eats, leers a lot and leaves no reflection in a mirror ...
Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."
|Roberto Alomar stands in the way of a minor-league second baseman in "Ramadeus."||