I never liked Rookie of the Year. The band, the Riff Raff song, the St. Louis Cardinals winner in 2001 who eventually quit playing baseball to count money, but mostly the 1993 baseball comedy starring Thomas Ian Nicholas as a boy who accidentally becomes the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. The subject of today’s installment of 73 Sports Movies in 73 Days, Rookie of the Year was a lighthearted, nonsensical tale of Henry Rowengartner and the Chicago Cubs team that finally broke the World Series curse.
And I hated it. Not because it was a bad movie or because it was unrealistic and the final game made absolutely no sense whatsoever, from what was actually on the line to the very last pitch, but because, like most kids my age, I wanted to be Henry. I hated Nicholas so much for being the kid who was hoisted up by his teammates with that ring on his finger, but today? It’s a pretty good f*cking movie.
So to honor it 20 years later, I decided to write about it as if I am a younger Jay Mariotti covering the Chicago Cubs in 1993.
*closes eyes, takes a deep breath, opens eyes, punches blow-up doll*
Last week, Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, a man who I have both seen in concert and met while I was vacationing in Los Angeles, where I plan to one day live in a mansion on the beach, was arrested and sent to jail for assaulting his wife, Courtney Love. I can’t think of anything more deplorable in this world than a man physically harming a female, especially one as attractive and talented as Love, which is why I hope that he’s locked away for a long time, so the other members of Nirvana can move on with a more capable lead singer, like Sammy Hagar or Bryan Adams, two men whom I have seen in concert at least four times.
But Cobain’s arrest reminded me that today’s biggest rock stars and most important sports writers like myself aren’t the only people out there setting examples. The Chicago Cubs and their inept and boneheaded President Larry Fisher decided that the way to save yet another painfully decrepit season was to sign a 12-year old boy to be a pitcher. Let’s forget that he’s practically 1/5th of ace Chet Steadman’s age, and focus on the fact that this kid can’t even catch a pop fly that was hit to him by his school’s cool jocks.
I, of course, was a cool jock at my high school, which produced such lesser American icons as Steven Seagal, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Tom Hanks, and if someone had hit me a pop fly, I would have caught it and probably ended up playing for a professional baseball team as well. I was actually offered a contract by 20 baseball teams when I was 12, but I turned it down because I knew I’d end up becoming the best sportswriter in North America. My best friend, Michael Jordan, and girlfriend, Kathy Ireland, told me I was insane, but sanity is a weigh station on the long road to brilliance.
Instead, Henry Rowengartner is now the Cubs’ present and future, as his damaged shoulder somehow gave him the natural ability to throw a 100+ mph fastball like very few people, including myself and my good friend Randy Johnson, can. Is it irresponsible for the Cubs to give baseball money to a 12-year old when he doesn’t even know how to purchase his own plane tickets to Los Angeles and make reservations at Spago? Of course it is, but that’s what happens when you put senile owner Bob Carson and Fisher in a room together with an unlimited supply of blank checks and ballpoint pens. They end up giving away money like they’ve got the bank accounts of Chicago sportswriters.
But forget about the six-figure salary that I’m currently pulling in and the Mercedes Benz convertible that I’m driving to and from O’Hare, from where I fly to Los Angeles and have dinner at restaurants where I’ve seen Whitney Houston and Julia Roberts dining at the same time. This is about a kid named Henry and his ability to cope with the perils and temptations of the road. Who’s going to help this kid stay away from bad influences? Phil Brickma? The guy can’t even find his way out of his own hotel room.
Then there’s the team’s manager, Sal Martinella, who can’t even bother to learn Henry’s name! It’s Rowengartner, Sal. I’d say you should learn how to spell and pronounce it, but the reality is that you’re going to be on the next bus out of Chicago after this season anyway. And this isn’t a situation of me focusing my ire on a black baseball manager, because I have plenty of black friends , like Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy, and they all agree that Martinella has no business managing a Pacific Sunwear store, let alone a professional baseball franchise.
That leaves Steadman, the old, washed up staff ace that can barely finish six innings of a game that could very well decide the Cubs’ postseason fate. Sure, he has a mustache that rivals that of my good friend and celebrated TV actor Tom Selleck, but what are Steadman’s intentions with serving as Henry’s mentor anyway? He seems more interested in Henry’s mother than he does in the boy’s success, and that troubles me because his mom is maybe a drunk 4 at best. I’ve dated models and actresses that live in L.A. and I’m allowed to say that, because I’m handsome and sat in the fourth row at a Paul McCartney show last month.
The truth here is that the Cubs are still being run into the ground, because Carson and Fisher have no concern for the idea of winning as much as they do lining their pockets with gimmicks. I feel bad for Henry. Not because he’s a talented boy capitalizing on an accident that left him with a gift from God. But because he’s not me, a talented sportswriter who has dated models and will one day live in Los Angeles, where I will eat dinner at restaurants with stars like Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood, while women beg me to take them home.
I’m an awesome man and nobody will ever be as great as me.
*closes eyes, shakes violently, vomits*
What… what happened? Why is everyone drinking cyanide?
The Most Important Thing To Remember About This Movie
Gary Busey suffered a serious head injury and brain damage in a motorcycle accident in 1988; however, he still went on to give us memorable roles in Point Break, Under Siege and even Rookie of the Year. But it all changed after this movie. Why? What did this movie do to Gary Busey? It may take me the rest of my life, but I will find out what happened to Busey while filming this movie.
The Second Most Important Thing To Remember
This is the most positive movie ever written.
Final Grade: Float it…
And one Cubs World Series victory.