Say it ain't so. Has it really been a score of seasons since we were introduced to "the greatest show on dirt?" Twenty years since that lubricious laugh riot of a loop through the Carolina League? That's a lot of water under the bridge -- a lot of fungus on our shower shoes. Whatever became of the characters in
You've seen some of them, no doubt, without realizing you were seeing them. Take Jose, the chicken-bone wielding, Santeria-practicing first baseman. He made it to the show in 1990, and lasted 11 seasons. His sophomore slump in Milwaukee was compounded by the local PETA chapter, which made his life miserable when it was reported that he really
And you've probably read about Larry Hockett, the assistant coach whose mincing, upright trot to the mound, followed by his powwow-ending oration ("Candlesticks always make a nice gift ... Okay, let's get two!") ranks among the most sublime moments in one of the best sports movies, ever. Larry crossed over to the dark side and became an agent. The week he got certified, he poached Nuke Laloosh from
Not to worry, leftfielder and born-again Christian Jimmy is still married to Millie (who made a huge fuss over the candlesticks). While Jimmy never made it past double-A, he came to regard his release as a
The Crash and Annie Show, likewise, had legs,despite their abiding disagreement over the merits of the novels of
In the movie's penultimate scene,
Davis was referring to the Class A Oaks of Visalia, Calif., in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley. Annie agreed to accompany him under one condition: that they make the trip in his slightly dinged up but ultra-cool Oldsmobile convertible. Theirs was a nonlinear journey. They took back roads wherever possible. As Crash later put it, in a reference to the motels they occupied and the use to which they put them, "We got our kicks on Route 66."
They stopped in Vegas on the way, and, in a display of spontaneity not seen since their urgent, Wheaties-spilling breakfast-table clench late in the movie, they were married the next day. They tied the knot in the Little White Wedding Chapel, where they chose the "Romantic's Package" over the "Lover's Package" in part because the former included ... a garter for the bride.
In Visalia, Davis inherited a youthful roster: a mix of post-adolescents barely out of high school and Latin American players of indeterminate age. Only once, at the end of a five-game losing streak in June, was he forced to herd them team into the shower, scatter bats all over the floor, then deliver a fiery oration during which -- and this was no coincidence -- he used the wordy "Lollygaggers," or some variant of it, half a dozen times. (The team responded, sweeping a weekend set against the Stockton Ports.) While Davis had several players who were a season or two from The Show, none had the talent of his old mentee, the formerly clueless
As a rookie, Nuke rapidly gained renown for both his body of work -- he piled up impressive numbers of wins, strikeouts, bases on balls and hit batsmen -- and his absurdly contorted, back-to-the-plate, eyes-to-the-heavens delivery. Crash's cliché lessons notwithstanding, Laloosh kept the beat writers scribbling with his frequent, unprompted soliloquies on his "parietal eye" and the state of his various shakras.
After winning 15 games that first season -- he came in second in balloting for NL Rookie of the Year -- Nuke was described by as "a cross between
"Don't think, Meat."
"Just give 'em the gas."
"Fear and Ignorance."
"This underwear feels kinda sexy."
While he walked fewer batters than Wild Thing, his struggles with control were more spectacular and life-endangering. There was the night in Atlanta he uncorked a pitch that bounced a full seven feet in front of the plate, ricocheting over the glove of his catcher before lodging itself between the bars of the umpire's facemask. The ump was able to return to action after a restorative seven minutes on his back, during which time he was attended by paramedics. This was a month after LaLoosh had made SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays of the Day be throwing a ball
His celebrity was such that he appeared as a special guest on
Within a month, she'd dumped him for
"I helped build her confidence. I told her how much I respected her work, and how much more convincing she would be playing a lifeguard than, say,
The following June, LaLoosh appeared in a photograph in
What he did say failed to buy him much slack: "Well,
While the tabloids had great fun with it, evincing deep shock ( "
Following the kerfuffle from a distance, and with considerable amusement, was the woman responsible for it. After two years in Visalia, Crash been named roving hitting instructor for the Los Angeles Dodgers. (He drew raves for the work he did with a fellow catcher, a rough diamond with the club's Class A affiliate in Bakersfield -- a kid by the name of
Annie, meanwhile, had gone back to school -- sort of -- taking online courses at the World University in Ojai and dragging her husband to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur for seminars on tantric sex.
Where the players' wives in Durham had viewed Annie her as something of a threat, the Dodgers' wives used words like "enlightening" "progressive" and "intriguing" to describe her. They listened with unfeigned interest to her discussions of the "shakra connections" and the need, when an athlete is stuck in the wrong side of his brain, to "breathe through his eyelids, like the lava lizards of the Galapagos Islands." When Annie spoke to them of the superb results she'd witnessed, first hand, when a man "re-channeled" his lovemaking, and/or experimented with women's underwear, she had their full attention.
The word got around, and before long, Annie was being handsomely paid to give her talks to Players' Wives Associations all over the country. But then, a few years back, a medical condition temporarily curtailed her travel.
She was pregnant. After multiple consultations, she and Crash had been told that it wasn't in the cards for them. They'd accepted that on moved on, which magnified their joy when the child was born. It was a boy. They named him Thurman.