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Redeption at the Plate

Pro athletes and the people paid to talk and write about them often speak of redemption. An end who drops a pass in the first half redeems himself by catching one for a touchdown about as often as a ballplayer who allows the opposing team a run by making an error redeems himself by whacking a homerun in the ninth inning.

Pretty silly.

But when John Albert invokes the concept of redemption in connection with the Griffith Park Pirates, the team about which he writes in "Wrecking Crew," attention probably ought to be paid.

Albert himself is a recovering drug addict whose previous abuse has left him with a liver that "continues to slowly wear away, like the hardening leather of my old Davey Lopes mitt." His teammates are fellow addicts, convicts, and deluded musicians with bad pasts and dubious futures, but the present of each Sunday ballgame serves them well. John Albert may be speaking for most of the roster when he writes:

"My greatest fears in life have always been about isolation and whether I have a place in the world....Over the years, I've had the same troubling dream in which I take an afternoon nap and sleep until it's dark outside. Still dreaming, I would wake up in a panic and realize that I had no family or friends and nowhere to go, that I was alone. I would try desperately to think of someone to call, and there would be no one...Too many times in my life, my reality mirrored that dream. But the baseball team took care of that."

"Wrecking Crew" is not a book for the squeamish, or for those who can't muster the tolerance that characterizes these team members who welcome pretty much anybody who wants to play, moral turpitude, chemical dependency, and criminal records and associations be damned. On the other hand, if you seek relief from the cliche of cheap and instant redemption offered by each pitch of each game and want to meet some players who need saving and are trying, inning by inning, to do something about that state of affairs, "Wrecking Crew" is worth a look.

This program aired on September 9, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.

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