The late Billy Wilder, a film genius, and an idol of mine, was responsible for some of Hollywood’s most memorable movies. As a writer, director or producer (occasionally, all three) Wilder’s credits include: “The Apartment,” “The Lost Weekend,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Double Indemnity,” “Stalag 17,” “Witness for the Prosecution,” “Sabrina,” “Love in the Afternoon,” and “The Seven Year Itch.” (Fairly impressive, eh?)
Among my all-time favorite comedies was Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot” (1959), which starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. So, what does any of this have to do with Manny Ramirez? Nada, but bear with me, por favor.
The plot of “Some Like it Hot” began with the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, inadvertently witnessed by two jazz musicians, (Curtis and Lemmon, the latter a national treasure whom I sorely miss). The two desperately have to find a way out of Chicago before they are killed by the mob. The only job available is in an all-girl band heading to Miami Beach.
The duo convincingly dress up as women and board the train to Florida. Joe/Josephine (Curtis) falls for fellow band member and singer, Sugar Kane Kowalczyk (Monroe). Jerry/Daphne ends up being pursued by a rich bachelor in Miami, Osgood Fielding (Joe E. Brown, Jr.).
Osgood delivers one of the best closing lines of a movie, ever. On his boat, under romantic Miami moonlight, he proposes to Daphne (Lemmon). She comes up with excuses why she can’t marry him that Osgood dismisses. Finally, Lemmon rips off his wig, shouting, “Because I’m a man! Undeterred, Osgood replies, “Nobody’s perfect.”
To compare eras money wise, the budget for “Some Like it Hot” was under $3 million. Today that might be the catering bill. And, in baseball, Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle’s entire career earned him 1/8th of what Manny will pay just in fines.
I’m suggesting that Manny Ramirez may have something in common with Marilyn Monroe. (And no, Marilyn didn’t wear dreadlocks.) Consider what Wilder said about working with Marilyn again. “I have discussed this with my doctor, my psychiatrist and my accountant, and they tell me I am too old and too rich to go through this again.”
And yet Wilder acknowledged that Monroe was “an absolute genius as a comedic actress. Nobody was in that orbit. Everyone else was earthbound by comparison.” Clearly, Marilyn was instrumental in the enduring popularity of a milestone in his film career.
Clearly, last year, Manny was instrumental in getting the Dodgers into the playoffs. But, as with Marilyn, at what cost? One minute you adore Manny, the next you hope he never darkens your dugout again.
Manny has quite a bit left of his 50-game suspension for using a banned substance, HGC, a female fertility drug. (Baseball slugger or Octomom?) Actually the drug is often used at the end of a steroid cycle, meaning Manny was probably “juiced,” adding another ugly chapter to baseball’s sad steroid saga.
So Manny returns to his home in Florida $8 million lighter in the wallet and plays video games until July 3. What a world. He’s fined $8 million but will still earn $17 million. In the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression, you’d have to say that’s not bad pay for part-time work.
While Manny’s a mental midget for his reckless behavior, he’s certainly not alone. (There’s A-Rod, aka “A-Fraud,” Barry “Melon-Head” Bonds, Roger “Possible Perjury” Clemens, and 103 unnamed players who failed drug tests.) But, while steroids are currently baseball’s albatross, they may have, in fact, saved the game from itself.
In 1994 Major League Baseball went on strike for 232 days. (Their fourth in-season work stoppage in 23 years.) The World Series was canceled, which hadn’t happened since 1904. As bitter as fans are about steroids now, they were even angrier about the strike, that is, until 1998. That year Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were engaged in a thrilling battle chasing Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Looking back, it seems obvious the two were using performance-enhancing drugs. And while the owners clearly had to have known, they did shockingly little, other than listen to the “ka-ching, ka-ching” of the cash registers. Taking a quote from “All The President’s Men,” “Just follow the money.”
So the once-crowded “Mannywood” in the left field bleachers of Dodger Stadium will probably be more of a ghost town for the next two months. (Somehow, I can’t imagine “Juan Pierrewood.”)
Assuming the Dodgers are still in contention, when Manny returns (and I hope they are because I like this group) will we accept him with open arms? Even if he resumes blasting home runs, I probably shouldn’t. But, with a nod to Mr. Wilder, “I have discussed this with my accountant and psychiatrist and they tell me, I’m too poor and too old not to.”
When he’s not living and dying with the Dodgers, Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.