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On and On and On and On

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The Yanks look to win the game tonight. We will root for them because they are our boys.

Never mind the pontificating:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Million Dollar Movie: Out of the Woods

If you don’t know from Eve Babitz, prepared to be charmed. I wrote about her last week over at Esquire Classic, and can’t recommend her two volumes of memoirs—Eve’s Hollywood and Slow Days, Fast Company—enough. For a little taste of Babitz’s talent, check out this 1987 profile of James Woods, which was originally published in American Film magazine and appears here with the author’s permission.—Alex Belth 

“Out of the Woods”

By Eve Babitz

Whenever I think about James Woods, it is either as the affront he was in Split Image, where he plays the cure almost worse than the disease for a family who wants to have their kid deprogrammed from some Moonie-type cult, or else—and this is worse, especially since I was about to go to the Beverly Hills Hotel for one of those “interview breakfasts” in broad daylight—or else I see him hovering over Deborah Harry in Videodrome, helping her indulge her decadent, perverted taste for pain, sticking long needles through her earlobes, licking drops of blood as she slinks orgasmically beneath his hot breath, his hot eyes, his hotness—his coldness. Even Pauline Kael calls him James “the Snake” Woods.

“He’s such a sleaze, Eve,” says the only woman I know who’s immune to him. “He’s like the only guy in the eighth grade who knew about sex.”

“But someone had to,” I reply, thinking of the moment in Videodrome when James Woods spots this TV show of torture that at first he flinches from, but from which he cannot turn away.

Which is exactly how I feel about him.

* * * * *

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The Polo Lounge (or the room right next to it where they serve their gardeny breakfast) is graced by ladies in pink outfits to match the pink tablecloths and pinkness of the Beverly Hills Hotel since time began. However, most of the patrons are in the movie business with a vengeance not to be denied. If you like this kind of thing, then the Polo Lounge is it.

He arrives looking like something fresh, aslant in the sunlight and breakfast shadows of an L.A. morning. His clothes are light, his feet are light, and his expression is blank. He seems as capable of being blown out the door as a tumbleweed.

An agent clasps him on the shoulder and says in his ear: “How would you like to do Dracula for Ken Russell?” Woods tells me about it as we move into the Polo Lounge, and I feel suddenly that he is as at home here as a hustler is in a pool hall. All that energy he usually uses to punch weasels into High Art is whirling through his bloodstream.

“Dracula,” I mutter, thinking it’s redundant: James Woods as Dracula—he already is Dracula.

“Hi Olivia, do you have some cream, sweetheart?” he greets our waitress as we settle into one of the ivy green booths. “Did you cut your hair? You look adorable,” he adds as he takes a menu from Olivia, whose hair is short, permed, and gray.

“Thank you,” she says, laughing. “It looks nice for about a month, then it gets too long.”

“Then you look like, uh.” He pauses. “Angela Davis.”

Olivia brings us breakfast, which for the forty-year-old Woods consists of a large orange juice, bacon (“real artery jammers, babe”), and a toasted bran muffin. No cigarettes—he gave them up several months before. Not long ago, he confesses, “I actually had one in my mouth and a match lit. And I thought: If God wants me to smoke this cigarette, he’s going to put this match right to the end of it and I’m going to inhale. And that very moment, God, believe it or not, masquerading as a second AD, came to the trailer and said, ‘You’re needed on the set.’ And I thought: Well, it may not be Jesus in a crèche, but it’s good enough for me.”

I am anxious to know how he feels to be nominated for Best Actor in Salvador. “It was the single happiest day of my life,” he says, looking very sincere and very unsnakelike. “It’s hard to explain, because people sort of expect me to be outrageous and cynical—and I am, about things that deserve cynicism. But I’m not cynical about things like having all your colleagues toast you with something like an Oscar nomination.”

“How did you find out about it?”

“I unplugged my phone in the bedroom and didn’t set the alarm clock, hoping to sleep through the nominations because they were at five-thirty in the morning, and I couldn’t imagine getting up to be disappointed one more time in my life. And I kept hearing the phone ringing in the other room. And I looked at the alarm clock and it was, like, five thirty-one. So I picked up the phone and it happened to be a friend of mine who had told me that I wasn’t nominated for the Golden Globes, when I was, because he got the information wrong. So I thought he was teasing. He said, ‘You got nominated.’ And I said, ‘This is not funny.’ And I hung up on him. And then the phone started ringing some more. He said, ‘I swear to God. Turn on CNN.’ And I turned it on and I was stunned.

“Actors pretend to be so blasé about this stuff: ‘Ah, the Oscars. They don’t mean anything.’ And yet I’ve never met an actor who hasn’t been rehearsing a speech every day of his life on his way to an audition.”

The agent bobs back, smiling loudly at Woods. “We just want to know, are you prepared to shoot Dracula in four days in between two pictures?”

“If I don’t have to do any overtime,” Woods replies.

The agent proceeds: “Listen, when we first tried to put this picture together four years ago, we got a call from this rock star and we flew to Washington, D.C., where he was doing a concert, and the guy actually told Ken that he would be prepared to drain his blood before shooting so he could really look the part—and he said he would actually sleep in a coffin to get into the role.”

Olivia serves us coffee, and the agent, at long last, leaves.

“This guy wants to drain his blood and sleep in a coffin’? It’s like Laurence Olivier’s great line to Dustin Hoffman, who stayed up four days to look tired. He said, ‘Can’t you try acting?’ ”

I am wondering whether he felt Platoon had anything to do with the renewed attention being lavished on Salvador. 

“Luckily, Salvador was on videocassette at the time, and people started saying, ‘Gee, Platoon was good. I wonder what Salvador is like.’ The problem is that you try to put a film like Salvador in a theater when there’s fifteen hundred theaters with Pretty in Pink playing for the fifteenth week. Even though the theaters might be empty by the fifteenth week. But a lot of times, when you go to these sixplexes in some shopping mall somewhere in Costa Mesa, it’s the same six studio pictures.”

“So now that Platoon and Salvador have made it, are we going to see a slew of movies about Vietnam and Nicaragua and Beirut?”

“You know, for eighteen years of my career, I’d always hear that I wasn’t a leading man. I would say, ‘Well, how about Humphrey Bogart? How about Dustin Hoffman? AI Pacino? How about…?’ Even Bill Hurt is a good-looking guy, but he’s not some classic walking surfboard. Each time, they sort of get it, but they only get it that one time. It seems like they go out of their way to avoid quality, to find an excuse to hire every football player and model they can. It’s almost uncanny how difficult it is to convince them that maybe, instead of a run of movies about kids getting laid in the backseat of the car, maybe you could have a run of movies about Vietnam or Central America. There are two kinds of movies being made: There’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and there’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, you know, John Hughes’s imbecilic movies. Will I get invited to the prom or not? Who gives a rat’s ass.

“Now Platoon has finally done it. But if Oliver had the script of Salvador right now, and he brought it to a studio, they probably would say, ‘God, you’re great. And Platoon was sensational and we really want to be in business with you, but do you have anything else, maybe? Instead of this thing about Central America?’”

Before I met Woods for the first time, his press agent had told me, “The great thing about Jimmy is that you don’t really have to interview him. Once he gets going, he’s off.” It’s true.

“I hate the guy I played in Salvador—I think he’s a total asshole. I don’t hate him; I’m indifferent to him—the kind of guy who is a drunken, boring, disgusting fool who’s always gypping people with money and lying and bullshitting and all the other wonderful things that compulsive obsessives do—but I loved the story. And I found a way of turning that character into a fictional amalgam of what he is and what I hoped he could be in his life, which caused untold amounts of violence between me and Oliver Stone, but the final synthesis was worthwhile.”

“I hear Oliver Stone is pretty intense.”

“Well, he met his match the day he walked on the Salvador set in Mexico with me. But our arguments were over the right stuff. They were about interpretation, balancing the picture, not making it a polemic. Not making the character too heroic, which Oliver didn’t want. And not making him such a loathsome scumbag that the audience would be so turned off that they wouldn’t get any of it, which was my point of view. And so we had two very antithetical points of view that resulted, I thought, in a very constructive synthesis. And I like to work that way. If it’s all peaches and cream, you’re in trouble, believe me. It’s a cardinal rule of filmmaking that if everybody’s happy at the dailies every night, you’ve probably got a piece of junk on your hands. We struggled through that thing like a war. We’re great friends now.”

“Give me an example of a fight.”

“One day Oliver and I were having a terrible argument. And he said, ‘You know, you’re a rat and a goddamn weasel and I hate you and I hope you die!’ I said, ‘This is great—ten minutes before a scene.’ The next day, we’re doing the scene where I’m trying to convince Elpedia Carrillo to marry me. I was supposed to say to her, ‘OK, so I’ve done some bad things in my life.’ Instead, I said,’OK, I’m a rat and a goddamn weasel!’ And I threw it right in. And he said, ‘Oh, you had to embarrass me, right? You have to throw it into the take.’ And that came out of an argument that Oliver and I had. And he was gracious about leaving it in.”

“What did Richard Boyle think of your Richard Boyle?”

“Richard was pretty content to sort of try screwing the extras and having free lunches and free drinks—which I say affectionately. He was always on the set and, in all seriousness, was concerned to make sure the Salvadoran uniforms looked right, and that the peasants looked right, and so on.

“At one point, one of Boyle’s friends there said, ‘Richard would never wear a Hawaiian shirt.’ I said, ‘No, but on the other hand, what Richard really wears is so frigging ugly that if you put it on the screen, people would walk out of the theater.’ I mean, he has the worst taste in clothes imaginable. My shirts weren’t what he would wear in actual fact, but they did poetically capture the spirit of Boyle more than what Boyle himself would actually wear.”

“So I guess you’d work with Oliver again?” I break in, spearing a strawberry.

“He wanted me to do Platoon, but I didn’t want to go get any more tropical diseases this year,” he replies. “I’ll stick by Oliver, even if his next one isn’t courted and wooed by the critics. I know the vagaries of this business. I know that they can turn on him like a lightning bolt. They may; I won’t. You know, John Daly, chairman of Hemdale, is doing Oliver’s film after the next one. When the bigwigs who all turned down Salvador and Platoon wanted it, he said, ‘Hey, John Daly was my friend. John Daly’s got it.’ I had a studio exec say to me, ‘Well, Oliver Stone doesn’t want to talk to me.’ I said, ‘Well, he knows that you hate him. You may work on the premise of “Hey, if it’s big bucks, screw it!” But there’s a moral consideration. You spit in a guy’s face, he doesn’t wipe it off with a hundred dollar bill. You think I’m a piece of crap? Then I’ll just stay a piece of crap and now you can’t have me, even though I’ve been dipped in gold. Oliver believes in something. You don’t. That’s the difference.”’

* * * *

Best Seller James Woods

I first met Woods in a nunnery—that’s right, a nunnery—in downtown L.A., built on a giant estate overlooking the entire smog-laden city baking in eighty-five-degreeish desperation. The bougainvillea are staggered on the terraced garden walls; the walls are stained an Italian sepia, like a Leonardo line drawing. The mixture of downtown L.A. and this thrust of pastoral, idyllic Italy is unnerving.

But then, what about Jimmy Woods isn’t.

The movie is called Best Seller and it’s about a Joseph Wambaugh-type cop-writer (Brian Dennehy) who is contacted by a white-collar hit man (Woods) who wants Dennehy to expose the corporation he works for.

When filming stops for resetting the cameras, Woods comes to me in his Armani suit and we begin to walk down to his trailer.

Me: “Let’s get serious. Where do you get your technique?”

Him: “What kind of technique?”

Me: “Do you have any technique other than plowing forward?”

Him: “I don’t even know what you’re talking about—technique for what?”

Me: “Acting, acting, what you do.”

Him: “Yeah, I put batteries in my alarm clock and try and get here on time.”

Me: “Do you have a philosophy of acting?”

Him: “I admire the James Cagney ‘plant your feet on the ground, look the other guy in the eye, and tell the truth’ school of acting. I’m not into the ‘four hours before you go to work pretend you’re a radish’ school of acting.”

By now we’ve reached this kind of luxurious trailer and spend the next few hours facing each other in claustrophobic air-conditioning across a table in a breakfast nook meant for old retired couples to play gin rummy.

Me: “They said you quit the Tavianis’ new film because you were afraid of being kidnapped and wanted a twenty-four-hour-a-day bodyguard.”

Him: “Actually, it was a stronger reaction. It was when I read that France and Italy provided safe havens for terrorists—and had a tacit agreement with them. And I thought: You bastards weren’t objecting when we left half a million American bodies here to protect your grandmas from being raped by Russians drinking gasoline in 1945. You know what, why don’t you rely on Libyan tourism?”

Me: “Are there any kinds of roles that you don’t want to do, or that you wouldn’t accept?”

Him: “I have made a conscious effort in the past year or two to avoid villains, only because I did a couple that were rather well received, even though they were extremely different characters. But the press can tend to typecast you. Best Seller is my farewell to villainy, but it was such a delicious character, I couldn’t resist it.”

An AD comes to summon Woods to the set. He stands in line with the rest of the people, assembling his lunch—pork chops, apple sauce, peas, mashed potatoes with lots of gravy, and chocolate milk. Director John Flynn comes over and says, “He acts with a pin stuck through his muscle. It gives him that edge. Otherwise he falls asleep.”

“Yeah, with you directing, I’m surprised I don’t have narcolepsy.”

“Yeah, when you sit through the rushes—”

“We could bottle those babies and sell them for Valium.”

* * * * *

James Woods Cop

Fade to pink and the slanting sunlight of a Beverly Hills morning. We’re back at the Polo Lounge. These days, Woods is busy on a new project for Atlantic Releasing Company, except that this time he’s behind the camera, as well as in front of it. He’s coproducing a film based on the novel Blood on the Moon, a murder-suspense thriller in which he stars as a Los Angeles police detective. I wonder whether, in his role as a producer, he is “nice”?

“I’m never going to be nice. Nice is what studio executives are when they’re offering your part to somebody else behind your back after they’ve already made a deal with you.”

“So what’s it like to be a producer?” I ask.

“It’s great, because I treat people the way I would like to have been treated when I was only an actor,” he says, pushing his plate aside. “It’s easy, if you’re honest—if you’re straightforward. If I’m asking somebody to work for less than the usual salary, what I do is bring out the budget and show it to them. I don’t bullshit around with them.”

“There’s been a big stir about David Puttnam coming out against inflated stars’ salaries,” I say, glancing at the movers and shakers at nearby tables. I can talk Industry with the best of them.

“But it’s not just the stars’ salaries, it’s the executive producers’ salaries. I know that people do not go to see a movie because Jon Peters produced it. They go to see a movie because Robert Redford is starring in it. Or Oliver Stone directed it. I mean, the people who make movies should get paid for making movies, and the people who make phone calls should get paid for making phone calls—by the hour. Unfortunately, they’ve got it all backward in this business.”

Suddenly he looks almost remorseful. “Don’t get me wrong,” he says. “There are studio heads who are friends of mine, whom I like very much. I always dump on these guys and I don’t mean to, because I do not envy them the task they have before them. If I had to answer to the people they have to answer to, I’d probably hang myself. Their job is to make money. The Killing Fields was a studio movie. Terms of Endearment, finally, was a studio movie. And they were great movies.”

This is almost too nice, so I change the subject. “You once told me that it’s usually a bad sign if everything’s going peaches and cream. Do you know when it’s working and when it’s not working?”

“Almost invariably. Not only the performance, but the feeling on the set. I mean, if I see, like, an unbelievably stupid costume on somebody, chances are that there’s five other unbelievably stupid costumes on other actors, because people are either good at what they do or bad at what they do. And usually they’re bad, not for lack of talent, but for lack of dedication. And that drives me crazy. The one thing that makes me want people to disappear from a set is that they’re too busy doing something else and don’t have time to do the job that they’re getting paid for. You know, buying a string of condos in Marina del Rey or whatever else they have on their mind. My attitude is that when you make a film, you eat, drink, and sleep it. And be thankful that you can go twenty-two hours a day, because if you’re spending any time less than that, you’re probably not giving it your best shot.”

“Are you interested in directing?” I ask.

“The T-shirt at Creative Artists Agency—have you ever seen it? It’s an agent sitting behind his desk, holding his head in his hands, and there’s a chair with a dog sitting in it, smoking a cigarette, and the suitcase he has says, ‘Ralph, the Talking Dog.’ And the caption is, ‘Of course, what I really want to do is direct’: So, you know. If I ever direct, you’ll know when you go to see the movie, and you can tell me.”

“Is there anything else you’ve always wanted to—”

“—the world? No. I’m fine. See, I wasn’t terrible after all. It’s all a myth.”

I actually had hoped not. But maybe so.

…And, No

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As in, no “W” for Los Baby Bombers last night in Seattle, in spite of two more homers from Garry—Don’t-Call-Me-Kevin-Maas-Or-Shane-Spencer—Sanchez.

That Time of Year

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Yanks in Seattle to see our old chum Robbie Cano.

Never mind the late night:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Sweet and Meaty

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Yanks having some fun in Orange County this weekend. They look for the sweep this afternoon.

Never mind the palm trees:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

California Dreamin’

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Ah, remember the days when the Angels were a thorny pain in the ass? Not so much these past few years. The young Yanks beat up on J. Weaver last night and look for more tonight.

Never mind the sunset:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

In Case You’re Up…

vggdsljum6sqvyxj6fmkThe New Jack Yanks are doing a little West Coast swing tonight starting at 10pm EST with Los Angeles as the first stop and Seattle the last.  If you’re up late at night, need something to preoccupy your mind and if you can stand them, maybe you should consider the new A-Team…

Series preview courtesy of River Avenue Blues

Thunder Clap

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The good news: Gary Shanchez hit two home runs last night—the second one was a real blast and came just as the rain did.

There was a rain delay and when the game resumed came the bad news as a 6-0 Yankee lead was wiped out by a swift, merciless comeback from the Jays who scored 8 in the 8th and won, 12-6.

Growing Pains indeed.

More rain today? We shall see. Yanks and Jays play a matinee.

Never mind the slickers:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Picture by Bags]

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

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Pardon me for fallin’ asleep at the wheel—it is mid-August after all, the sleepiest time of year. Still, the Yanks won a nail-biter last night, a big double play getting Betances out of trouble in the ninth.

Let’s see if the ball flies tonight.

Never mind heat index:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Double Bubble

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There probably is no room left in the world for great deadline sports writing, but the last couple of days in New York on the beat for the Yankees certainly provided a gifted wordsmith a wealth of opportunity. A Rod had his finale last night and just as the Yanks are giving him the standard farewell, the sky opens up and it starts to pour. Only A Rod. Everyone is forced to leave the field, a video tribute is cut short. But Alex’s two young girls seemed to enjoy it. “You like this?” a mic picked up Alex asking the younger one. “I love it,” she squealed.
Of course, the rain didn’t last long and they got the game in. Not before a muderously gorgeous sunset. After the quick storm—which did nothing to relieve the humidity—the sky was a painting.
And then Rodriguez doubled in his first at bat, good for an RBI. That was all he’d get—but that’s more than most get. Girardi put him out at third in the 9th, and then took him out of the game with 1 out, and he got a nice ovation. All very modest. Then Girardi broke down and cried during the post-game press conference (I swear, watching this mind-numbing ritual, day after day these press conferences, I don’t know how these guys hold it together sometimes). Vulnerability is always appealing. He didn’t cry when Jeter left. Tells you something.
Then, the Yanks honored the 1996 champions yesterday at Broiling o’clock in the morning. And let me tell you, Saturday was hotter than Friday. The Yanks make regular business of these kind of events, and if only Hunter Thompson and a bucket full of blotter acid were around, a real gonzo writer could really do justice to it because these ceremonies are just like those awful Jerry Lewis Telethons.
Anyhow, the Yanks called up 2 of their hot young guys—and the kids hit back-to-back homers in their first at bats! The second kid, Aaron Judge, looks like he ate Mike Stanton. Just an absolutely Moose. And while 99 is not a number I’m crazy about for a baseball player, if you are going to pick it you had either be a crazy ass reliever or a Wily Mo Pena Giant slugger. And Judge looked as fresh as a newly picked pea pod at the farmer’s market in his post-game interview.
The ball was flying yesterday—even Aaron Hicks hit a bomb—and the Yanks won, 8-4.
Happy?

 

We’re Havin’ a Heat Wave

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Alex Rodriguez’s pregame ceremony was cut short by rain. But the storm was a passing one and it left the most gorgeous sunset in its wake—the sky was orange and red and fantastic. Rodriguez got an RBI double in his first at bat—his last hit and run batted in for the Yanks. The Old Man even trotted out to third base in the 9th inning before being pulled and given an ovation. It was modest by Yankee standards by seemingly heartfelt (manager Joe Girard’s tearful postgame press conference perhaps being the most genuine televised moment of the night).

And, oh yeah—the Yanks won.

This morning gives a tribute to the 1996 team.

Never mind the humidity:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

What Did You Expect?

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The Yanks honored Alex Rodriguez tonight and before they could get through the proceedings the sky opened up and everyone ran for cover. Just about sums it up for Rodriguez, doesn’t it?

 

 

Hot Dog Days


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Yanks look to make life annoying for the Sox. Hope Alex gets a base hit, maybe drive in a run.

Never mind the selfies:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

 

Winners and Losers

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Hey, Alex Rodriguez got an at bat last night, and just got under a pitch and flew out to right field. Man, you could see how frustrated he was having just missed it. And that might be as close to getting a hit as he comes—just missing a pitch, feeling that frustration. You never know. He is supposed to start tonight and then again tomorrow but something tells me that we are definitely going to see him again in the spring somewhere else.

Anyhow, the  Yanks lost on Tuesday but they pounded the Sox last night and hell, anytime the Yanks can irritate the Sox it feels like a good thing, am I right?

Old Friends

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The bobbleheads ain’t coming. But the Yanks are in Boston for a three-game set against the Red Sox, who need these wins more than the New Yorkers. Be interesting to see if Alex gets any swings this week. I expect he might, just to give him some burn in a big league game.

Never mind the boo-birds:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Good Bye, Alex

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I was at a baseball card show in the winter of 1996, and I crossed paths with Alex Rodríguez. He had just spent a few hours signing autographs, and was wandering the floor of the convention hall, sifting through baseball history laid out on 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inch pieces of cardboard.

I didn’t like him. He wasn’t a Yankee, but more importantly, he wasn’t Derek Jeter. In those early days of the late 90s, Jeter and A-Rod were intertwined (along with Boston’s Nomar Garciaparra) as the glamour shortstops of the day. You couldn’t read a feature article about one without seeing references and comparisons to the other, and they were often side by side on magazine covers ranging from Sports Illustrated to GQ. (Looking at one of those covers in April of 2000, my wife casually mentioned that A-Rod was better looking. What’s interesting is that I wasn’t bothered that she was saying this about another man, I was bothered that she had chosen him over Jeter.)

But it didn’t take me long to come around once he inevitably arrived in New York, so I’m sad to see him go. No story about Alex Rodríguez will ever be written without mention of his PED issues, both his admission to use in Texas and his season-long suspension in 2014, but those high profile scandals were only the most egregious missteps of a career fraught with controversy. Whether he was posing shirtless on the rocks in Central Park, commissioning a portrait of himself as a centaur, or dating Madonna, he was as bad at publicity as he was good at hitting a baseball.

But there was baseball drama as well — he scuffled with Jason Varitek, he slapped a ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove, and even yelled (“Ha!“) at two infielders who were trying to field a pop-up — and those childish antics couldn’t have endeared him to his bosses. What other elite player in the prime of his career would ever be slotted eighth in the lineup in a playoff elimination game? Only Alex. What other elite player would force his general manager to publicly tell him to “Shut the fuck up“? Only Alex.

He was the most talented player in baseball, and probably the most insecure. Four or five years ago, back when he was still one of the most feared hitters in the game, rather than posing after hitting a majestic home run, A-Rod would instead snap his head to the right and look immediately into his own dugout, preferring to watch the celebration of his teammates rather than the flight of the baseball. Even with hundreds of home runs on the back of his baseball card, he still needed the approval of his peers.

Somehow all of this made me love him. His tragic flaws could’ve been penned by Shakespeare, and just as Hamlet and Othello were doomed, A-Rod’s destiny was always written in the stars, and once again that destiny was intertwined with Jeter, now his teammate. When the Captain notched his 3,000th hit with a home run, the world stopped and grown men cried; when A-Rod matched that feat with a home run of his own a few years later, his teammates stood on the top step and applauded politely. When Jeter left the game he did so with a season-long parade; A-Rod’s announcement on Sunday morning put an end to what had been a month-long march into oblivion. Yes, Rodríguez was always a superstar, but he was never beloved.

But as you might expect from a player as complicated as this, there’s much more to A-Rod’s legacy. We’ve always heard about his ability as a teacher of the game, and on Sunday morning manager Joe Girardi credited Alex for elevating Robinson Canó from an average hitter to a superstar. We’ve seen A-Rod laughing with the younger players on the bench, and Girardi talked about that also, remembering the sound of their laughter echoing from the clubhouse down the hall to his office. And the general manager who publicly feuded with his all-star third baseman? When asked about A-Rod’s legacy as a Yankee, Brian Cashman didn’t mention any of the controversies. Instead he pulled an enormous championship ring from his finger and dramatically slapped it down on the podium. “That’s the ’09 ring. That doesn’t come along to this franchise’s trophy case without Alex’s contributions, significant contributions.” (A-Rod slashed .365/.500/.808 and hit six home runs during that postseason.)

This is the way it is with retirements. We gloss over or choose to forget the negatives and instead accentuate the positives. Not even in your line of work do people stand up and complain about the boss who made them stay late on a Friday night. But there was something genuine in the voices at the podium on Sunday. The tears that welled in Girardi’s eyes weren’t manufactured, and Cashman wasn’t exaggerating when he threw down that ring.

Somehow A-Rod had mended those relationships, and somehow he made me a fan as well, even though I know that doesn’t make sense. He cheated and lied, he squeezed every penny he could out of the Yankees, and he embarrassed the franchise on several occasions, but there was still something about him that allowed me to overlook all that. More accurately, I was able to accept all of that as well as his other weaknesses. He was human, and he gave proof of that humanity with each misstep. His personality flaws were on display for all to see, but he never shied from the spotlight.

It will likely take decades for baseball fans and historians to reconcile A-Rod’s momentous statistics with the reality of this Steroid Era, but right now I can say two things. I’m glad he was a Yankee, and I miss him already.

And Now the End is Near


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The Yanks lost today and this evening announced that Alex Rodriguez is holding an 11 a.m. press conference tomorrow morning. Which means he is either going to follow Tex and hang ‘em up, or the team is going to release him. Rodriguez had a terrific comeback season in 2015 but this year he has been what you’d expect from a 40-year old.

Going out with a whimper is not rare—it is how most players leave and reminds me of the lede of a story Pat Jordan once wrote about Bobby Hurley:

“For most of us, death will not announce itself with a blare of trumpets or a roar of cannons.  It will come silently, on the soft paws of a cat.  It will insinuate itself, rubbing against our ankle in the midst of an ordinary moment.  An uneventful dinner.  A drive home from work.  A sofa pushed across a floor.  A slight bend to retrieve a morning newspaper tossed into a bush.  And then, a faint cry, an exhale of breath, a muffled slump.”

If this is it for Alex, well, I have thoroughly enjoyed rooting for him. Not since Reggie Jackson have I pulled for a star player that is so disliked by Yankee fans. And he didn’t make it easy to root for him always, that is for sure. He was such a social klutz—never mind his tremendous talent—that I felt for him, even when he was being a putz. He’ll retire as the greatest third baseman in Yankee history, like him or not.

He achieved some grace before the curtain fell on his playing days and considering where he was a few years ago that is no small feat.

Treadmill to Oblivion

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Man, the Yanks should sell more often. All this winning, what gives?

They’re at it again this afternoon.

Never mind the Men at Work:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

S’Long and Thanks for the Ringski

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Whoa, Tex is hanging ‘em up at the end of the year.

And tonight gives the Clevelanders.

Never mind the March of Time:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Saving Face

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That what the Mets want to do tonight. More than that, they just need a win.

The Yanks. Well, we’re still root, root, rootin’ for our boys.

Never mind the ruckus:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver