Mitch Albom has a new play opening this week. The Free Press assigned a reporter, and another reporter, but of course no Albom media event would be complete without a contribution from the man himself.
He modestly says “Ernie” is a wonderful play. Srsly. He really does say that:
You start with stories. His humble roots. His speech impediment. The time he got Babe Ruth to sign his shoe. You move through his World War II service, his early career, his relationship with JackieRobinson, Willie Mays, then on to Detroit, the 1968 champions, the Jose Feliciano brouhaha, the 1984 World Series. You explore his firing from the Tigers, his fondness for Tiger Stadium. And you layer the whole thing with one of the great love stories in baseball, Ernie and Lulu.
And you find there is a beautiful play there, a man about to make his farewell speech at a ballpark, wondering how he could be worth such a fuss.
As usual, this is all played in the key of aw-shucks, all I did was write it all down:
The show runs until June, but already in preview performances, it is amazing how people gasp a little when they hear Will speak like Ernie, how they laugh, nod and even cry at familiar stories, and how, when Ernie talks of his lifetime honeymoon with his wife, they all sigh at the same time.
The first time I read about “Ernie,” I declared that I’d rather be locked in for the overnight shift in a daycare center full of crack babies and poisonous snakes than see this. Add “and 14 little dogs that do nothing but bark-bark-bark,” and you’ve got it about right.
The theater where this sapfest is booked is across Woodward Avenue from Comerica Park, and showtimes are scheduled to coordinate with home game starting times. So you can catch “Ernie,” and then, face still wet with tears, cross the street, pass the statue of Ernie near the main gate, and catch a game.
If Ernie Harwell was really half as humble and self-effacing as Albom and others make him out to be, he is rolling in his grave. As one of my Facebook friends commented, Albom has made more money off dead guys than Yoko Ono.
Next on the agenda: Bread, water and a healthy bowl of high-fiber gruel — a Michigan legislator gets into the spirit of the age with proposed legislation that the state’s foster children should be clothed solely in the castoffs of others:
(State Sen. Bruce) Caswell says he wants to make sure that state money set aside to buy clothes for foster children and kids of the working poor is actually used for that purpose.
He says they should get “gift cards” to be used only at Salvation Army, Goodwill or other thrift stores.
“I never had anything new,” Caswell says. “I got all the hand-me-downs. And my dad, he did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army, and his comment was — and quite frankly it’s true — once you’re out of the store and you walk down the street, nobody knows where you bought your clothes.”
Caswell is 61. He “never” had anything new. So why should anyone else? Look what it did for him: He graduated from Michigan State! Actually, his Wikipedia bio is intriguing. Graduated high school in 1967 and went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, leaving after two years to finish undergrad at MSU, before re-enrolling and finishing with a master’s in 1976. Nowhere in there do I see the name of a certain southeast Asian country that begins with the letter V. Hmm.
So, it was a weekend for entertainment catch-up. Watched “Game of Thrones,” part 1. This one’s going to be difficult, I can see — I’m already sorting characters by hair color. You can tell the producers had the same idea, giving one brother-sister pair identical shades of peroxide-white, and another familial unit a uniform strawberry blonde. Thank heaven, as I’m certainly not going to catch their names as they fly by, each one ending in -ian or -aeus. What is the appeal of fantasy, I ask you fans out there. Escapism? Must be, although each novel I’ve picked up loses me in endless tangles of family trees, and I always have to check the map on the endpapers to orient me in space. “Game of Thrones” helpfully does this in the credits; although after one episode all I really know is: Winterfell is in “the north” and north of Winterfell is “the Wall,” behind which are monsters and dire wolves. I wonder how many fantasy readers know the dire wolf was a real species of the Pleistocene era. Lived in these parts, even. A 250-pound wolf. Now that would have been a sight to see.
OK, it’s Easter Monday, which means it’s still a quasi-holiday here in holiday-mad Michigan, but I have work to do just the same. Happy week to all, although with rain in the forecast nearly every day, we’ll have to see about that.