WRECKING CREW by John Albert


The Really Bad News Griffith Park Pirates
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Faded punk rockers and drug addicts on the mend try to get their lives together—by forming a baseball team, of course.

Sound familiar? Yes, but, fortunately, the scribe this time isn’t a professional journalist writing a quick inspirational-lite story about weekend ballplaying with his buddies, but, rather, Albert—serially troubled, a recovering alcoholic and an occasional screenwriter whose high points as a punk rocker in the Southern California scene were co-founding Christian Death and drumming for Bad Religion (before either achieved any sort of success). Now, sick of his going-nowhere life and aching for something that seems just a little bit more real, Albert and a coterie of buddies, plus randomly gathered strangers, form the Griffith Park Pirates and start playing games every Sunday. The team is a messy mélange of types that soon gets downsized to a hardcore contingent who “shared a similar background that consisted of slam dancing, weird haircuts, and too many drugs.” As in your average baseball tale, the focus isn’t on the sport itself—has any other recreational activity lent itself to so many analogies and metaphors?—but on what brings the players there and what keeps them going. Though Albert’s descriptions of the rough-and-tumble games are quite vividly entertaining in and of themselves—at least one rival team is composed mostly of young gang members, and at one game the umpires are off in the bushes doing crack—what really keeps the story going are Albert’s thoughtful portraits of these troubled souls. With the cinematic potential so rife here (underdog sports team and all), the reader keeps expecting a sublimely happy ending but grows quickly aware that this one won’t end with a single triumphant game. Instead, it ends simply with some hard-luck guys trying to keep their lives together despite addiction and constant failure.

A jaggedly beautiful punk-rock sports tale.

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 2005
ISBN: 0-7432-4632-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2005