PLAYING FOR PEANUTS – A HIT

I TIVO’ed Playing for Peanuts, a reality TV show about minorleague baseball, that aired its first episode in Chicago Sunday night on CSN. Finally got around to watching it this morning, after a frustrating late night of watching the Halos crunch Mark Buehrle & the White Sox. I needed a reminder that our national pasttime was worth watching. Playing for Peanuts, John Fitzgerald Director/Producer/Editor, was just what I needed to see.

Wally Backman was the manager of the South Georgia Peanuts of the now-defunct SCL. The SCL was an independent league where players/managers hope to get a chance of getting into more organized ball. I remember when Wally Backman was an up & coming youngster in with the NY Mets. Backman was always a scrapper, being a 5’9″ secondbaseman, who’d do anything to win, and win it all he did, with the 1986 Mets over the Boston Red Sox. As a 26 year old Wally batted .320 for New York that year.

After his playing years were behind him, he was on the fast track to a big league managerial job, in fact he landed one, with the Arizona Diamondbacks. But his stint only lasted days, he never got to manage, before it was disclosed he had a DUI, an incident with domestic abuse, and a parole violation, for which the new skipper might have to do some jail time. The D*Backs quickly distanced themselves from Backman, which is why he resurfaced as the manager of the Peanuts.

Looking over the Peanuts roster I saw another familiar face in Mike Caruso. At 21, Caruso was the Chicago White Sox shortstop of the future when he batted .306 as a rookie in 1998. Mike came to the Sox from the Giants in the 1997 fire sale, in which Chicago shipped off Roberto Hernandez, Wilson Alvarez, & Danny Darwin in exchange for Caruso, Keith Foulke, & Bob Howry. The Sox cashed in the present for the future and Owner Jerry Reinsdorf took a lot of heat. The next year Caruso’s production fell off to a .250 batting average, and his bigleague career was pretty much history. A has been at 22, which is the reason he was trying his luck with the Peanuts.

Checkout the Playing for Peanuts website. Hopefully we’ll be able to do a podcast with John Fitzgerald in the not too distant future.

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