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Up for Grabs

Manna from Baseball Heaven

I hate baseball. Baseball is boring. I could care less whether the Giants or the Dodgers win. So the fact that anyone can make baseball even remotely interesting to me is saying something in my playbook. Michael Wranovics' Up for Grabs is an illuminating study of how greed for greenbacks made a laughingstock of two grownups who took to court a matter that should have been resolved amicably over a couple of beers.

In October 2001 Barry Bonds hit ball #73 in Pac Bell Park, an event that literally captured the imagination of baseball fans nationwide. For reasons only those fans can appreciate, that single ball would be worth millions of dollars -- not to mention 15 minutes of fame -- to anyone who caught it. Like the Midas touch, however, catching it came at a price.

As it happened, two men claimed to have caught the ball, and each claimed exclusive rights to the fame and fortune that accompanied it. Director Wranovics sniffed a good story when he read about it in the local paper and boned up on the necessary video production skills to tell it right. Good thing he'd already quit his day job. Thanks to the fortuitous presence of NBC Channel 11 cameraman Josh Keppel (whose clip of "the catch" has been likened only somewhat facetiously to the famous Zapruder film), Wranovics found the necessary footage to piece the puzzle together.

Patrick Hayashi and Alex Popov, the two men who both claimed ownership of the ball that fateful day, act as the film's protagonist and antagonist. Sports commentators and fans serve as the chorus. It's practically a Greek comedy. Up for Grabs is a cheeky, fast-paced, wittily edited, yet ultimately sober investigation into who caught what, who bit whom, where did it go, and how much was it worth. Just when you think you know the answer to everything, the question changes and you scratch your head.

Baseball may not be fun for everyone but watching the fans sure is, and especially when the biggest winner of all turns out to be irony itself.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars