Thursday, March 4, 2021

Under The Grapefruit Tree: The CC Sabathia Story

(HBO, 2020) I am not sure who pitched this to me, but despite not being next level documentary craftsmanship, I definitely dug the movie. I enjoyed/hated watching Sabathia pitch against the White Sox for two decades, and my fascination with him was not that he was a powerhouse pitcher, or that he had as big of belly as the Chicago fans in the stands, nor that he was one of the few star Black players from the U.S. in the league since baseball fell behind football, basketball and even soccer in  the eyes of America's youth. I just really liked how he cocked his hat slightly to the side on the mound. I had never seen that in MLB. Hat cocking is not covered here, but his youth (practicing pitching with his grandma's backyard grapefruits), family, and alcohol addiction is explored. Sabathia is the narrator and is steering his legacy here, but he's a credible voice, mainly because he is still married to his (beautiful) high school girlfriend, who acts as a bullshit check and also lends credence to his character-defining pledges of family loyalty (to his here-and-gone-and-here tragic father, to everyone back home in  Florida, and to his children). I was most impressed by the twin discipline/chaos of his version of functioning alcoholism, where he would walk off the mound directly to his Hennessy-stocked locker and drink for three days straight with no breaks before going cold turkey for the 48 hours preceding his start. The first day he showed up drunk for work was the day he put himself into rehab (even though it was during the playoffs). Actually, I was most impressed when recently retired CC cleaned out his Yankee Stadium "locker" (a millionaire's walk in closet-sized office) and it was just 500 pairs of new gym shoes and a painting of him as Yoda. He also dressed as Yoda in full greenface to hand out bobbleheads on Star Wars Day. Thusly, I was most disappointed to learn his post-career podcast, "R2C2," was just sports talk featuring CC paired with a guy who has the initials R.R., and not what I  hoped for:  Sabathia talking droids! These are not the podcasters I've been looking for.

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