Thursday, June 17, 2010

Re-Post: The Wally Backman tirade goes viral

The Wally Backman Independent League tirade from a few years ago has gone viral. The video was captured as part of the "Playing for Peanuts" series, which I reviewed - with a focus on former Oriole Curtis Goodwin - in March 2009. I love Goodwin's use of the phrase "bushy" to describe the league in the video below.

Here's the original post.

An Oriole in his early 20s, a South Georgia Peanut at age 35. What is Curtis Goodwin's story?

Don't blink or you might miss Curtis Goodwin. Such a thing could be said of Goodwin's speed on the base paths or of his brief tenure with the Birds, but in this case the words reference the player's appearance in the reality series/documentary "Playing for Peanuts."

Goodwin first appears, seemingly from out of the blue (were this a fictional baseball movie, he would've emerged from a corn field), in the eighth of 10 episodes on the 3 DVD "Playing for Peanuts" series. The outfielder, as portrayed, is full of personality and confidence as Peanuts creator/director John Fitzgerald focuses on Goodwin's tendency to talk ad nauseum about his experiences in the bigs - one scene shows him chattering in the outfield during game action about facing knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Goodwin is largely absent from the DVD in the final two episodes of the series, with his name and related game highlights popping up only briefly during the Peanuts' championship run in the now-defunct, independent South Coast League.

Viewers can learn a bit more about Goodwin in the "Meet the Peanuts - Again" segment on the "Playing for Peanuts" blog, but his back story, like that of many other players in the series, is left largely unexamined, which contributes to a sense that the series leans more toward its Reality TV billing than its documentary side. It seems like a missed opportunity, but perhaps for a good reason.

It's fair to assume that Fitzgerald faced a sizable challenge in trying to get mostly young, 20-something ballplayers to engage in any level of self-examination, much less to do so on camera. Perhaps with this in mind, or even having tried to take on the task, Fitzgerald ultimately chooses to use Wally Backman's journey through the professional and minor league ranks as a player and as a manager as one of the series' predominant narratives. 

The consistently colorful Backman rarely disappoints, and Fitzgerald captures some telling moments along the way, most notably an obvious discrepancy between the media re-telling of a Backman tirade and the reality of the day's events as captured on video. Fitzgerald also focuses on the overall struggles of the start-up league and its Keystone Cops umpiring crews.

Interestingly, Fitzgerald notes the following of Goodwin on the Peanuts blog: "Curtis suffered from a weird strain of camera shyness - he never wanted to do interviews, but he would jump in front of our cameras whenever he could - mostly during games or batting practice. I had to work extra hard to get Curtis to sit down for this interview and he didn't disappoint."

What does it mean to not know if you're single, as Goodwin states in the interview? What convinces a guy to "kind of retire" at age 26 and then re-emerge in his mid-30s in a start-up independent league? Why did Backman keep Goodwin waiting to be signed, and better yet, why was Goodwin so willing to wait? Sometimes lives left unexamined are that way for a reason.

I provided a brief bio on Goodwin and described meeting him before anyone really knew who he was in a September 2008 Roar from 34 posting.



john said...

Hey thanks for the posts... Curtis Goodwin... I don't even know where to begin. The show really does capture the essence of Curtis - he arrived out of nowhere after a Peanut was signed by the Red Sox, thus clearing roster space. Wally had Curtis on speed dial and he arrived the next day, from Oregon.

Curtis really did flame out, just like in the show. By the end of the season, he would show up and leave without saying a word to just about anyone. I think he was unhappy with the league and the realization that he wasn't going to get signed by an MLB team that season, so he'd have to do it all over again... To his credit though, he really turned it on in the playoffs.

Funny story - everytime I tried to get Curtis to do an interview, he would instead try to get me to purchase his camcorder tapes from the night Ripken broke the consecutive games streak. He tried to convince me that those tapes would be a great storyline for the show and I should pay him several thousand dollars for them. I never understood that...

Thanks again!

Roar from 34 said...

Thanks for adding some perspective, John. That's funny about the Ripken tapes. It was nice to see Curtis Goodwin again in the series.