'Up For Grabs' keeps eye on ball
Stephen Taylor / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Up For Grabs (Japan title: 100-man Doru no Homuran
4 stars out of five
Dir: Michael Wranovics
Cast: Alex Popov, Patrick Hayashi, Barry Bonds
Up For Grabs does not document that feat, nor any
allegations that Bonds was as pumped as the balls he was slamming out of ball
parks left, right and center, but the story of one particular ball that flew
from his bat into the history books and the hands of Patrick Hayashi...or was
it Alex Popov?
Traditionally, any spectator who catches a home
run ball in a Major League Baseball game gets to keep it, so balls from
record-breaking hits have become highly desirable and, more to the point,
extremely valuable pieces of memorabilia.
In Up For Grabs, writer, producer and director
Michael Wranovics focuses on the remarkable situation in which two supposed
baseball fans ended up going to court over the ownership of Bonds' 73rd home run
As the ball landed in the bleachers at San
Francisco's Pacific Bell Park (now renamed AT&T Park) on Oct 7, 2001,
little did anyone watching in the stadium or on TV realize that the resulting
scrum as fans tried to retrieve the "million-dollar ball" would spark
a legal wrangle resulting in several lawyers padding their tidy living for the
next 20 months and reveal some of the worst aspects of human greed.
Wranovics captures the absurdity of this 626-day
soap opera by interviewing witnesses for Popov and Hayashi, as well as
impartial observers such as journalists and regular baseball fans.
The movie will appeal to an audience far beyond
the world of curveballs and RBIs as Popov, whose claim for the ball starts
strongly as he eagerly grasps his chance to bathe in the media spotlight and
milk his 15 minutes of fame. Yet by the end of the film his grip on the media,
perhaps like his grip on the ball in the first place, weakens to the point
where he is eventually described by Wayne Freedman, a reporter on San
Francisco's KGO-TV station, as a "media curiosity" rather than media
He comes across as a rather boorish, greedy,
attention-seeker, and his attempt to use his fame (or infamy?) to impress
female fans at the ball park comes across as rather pathetic. Not that Hayashi
is much better, as the means by which he ended up with the ball remain a
mystery. Though he does at least offer to split the proceeds of any sale 50/50
at quite an early stage.
The fans who defend the two protagonists offer
some entertaining asides in the film. Popov is backed by Doug Yarris, a dentist
who, ever the professional even in the midst of the ball park melee, observes
that Hayashi "needed an orthodontist or maybe some dental work,"
while Hayashi supporter James Callahan introduces himself with a version of
"Take Me Out to the Ball Game" on the piano.
An impartial voice of reason is offered by
Freedman, who had a sensible solution to the impasse. "The judge should
really have ordered the court to saw it [the ball] in half and give each one of
And at the end of this entertaining, insightful
and well-balanced chronicle of undignified greed, this reviewer couldn't agree
more with that assessment.
At the time of writing, Bonds is on the brink of
overtaking Hank Aaron's career home run record of 755. After watching Up For
Grabs you might just hope that if No. 756 should happen at AT&T Park, the
ball soars right over any get-rich-quick merchants in the bleachers, past the
flotilla of boats waiting in McCovey Cove and lands with a big splash in San
The movie is currently playing.