When news broke last week, like a dam holding back the memories of my youth, that the powers that be on the left coast were going to remake the transcendent baseball film Rookie of the year, my first question was, “Why?” Not “Why” because the first film was in fact a perfect piece of cinematic bliss, but “Why?” because we don’t need a remake… we need a sequel.
There were countless unanswered questions at the conclusion of the original Rookie of the Year that still beg for answers.
Questions like “did Henry and Becky’s romance last”, “when Chet Steadman finally hung it up what was the aftermath”, “did Jack Bradfield get his revenge”….”did that deathtrap of a boat sink?” So many questions with no answers… no answers until now.
Here it is, my pitch, my treatment if you will, for “Rookie of the Year 2: Bradfield’s Revenge.” Hold tight friends… it’s about to get dark.
Act 1: These are the days that try Henry’s soul…
We open with a close up of a framed 8×10 glossy of legendary Cubs play by play man Cliff Murdoch, now deceased. It’s a simple headshot of the times, him and his headphones and mic. It’s signed, “To the kid with the best arm I’ve ever seen. Love ya Henry- Cliff.” We zoom out to a single hand holding a scotch next to an ashtray overflowing with cigarette butts. We hear the faint whisper of one single line…”Hen hen re re row row en en gar ten ner ner…” fade to black. The words “Rookie of the Year” appear on the screen, flicker, crack, and fade like light bulbs going out, and are replaced by “Bradfield’s Revenge” in Cub blue.
We then cut to a sun filled kitchen, adult Becky is preparing dinner while 4 children run around her as she yells, “Get cleaned up for dinner! Your father’s pulling up.” The front door opens and there’s a slow shot from the floor up as all the kids grab their father’s legs. Becky comes into the shot and as she kisses her husband the camera reveals that husband is…Mark Prior.
“Wow, something smells great! I heard the strangest news today… Becky… do you remember Henry Rowengartner?”
Dark piano notes play… Becky’s face shows pure terror.
Cut to a bustling business on the banks of Lake Michigan. We see the sign “C&G Yachts.” Henry’s two boyhood best friends run a successful Yacht Club and Marina, the original boat hangs on the wall of the lobby. They haven’t heard from Henry in over a decade, since the incident. Clark bursts through an office door and before he can even speak George says, “I know… I know.”
Act 2: Death came calling
So, at this point we’ve hinted at the past, Henry’s demons, and the decades of disaster that followed that magical end to the 1993 season. But, what was it? There is only one tried and true way to tell this tale. We cut to an E:60 report.
I’m guessing we can get Jeremy Schaap for this one… I mean… why not?
The E:60 recounts the original injury at recess, the increased control of his fastball, his first trip around the bases after drawing a walk against the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine…
Then Schaap does that thing where his voice goes from jovial to treacherous mid syllable.
“Then… it all fell apart.”
They go through his return to elementary school, his awkward teenage years, his second rise to stardom in hollywood trying his hand at acting in the coming of age film “American Pie.”
Cut back to Schaap, “Then the roles began to dry up…”
The report of course goes through a litany of fallen star cliches. The reality star girlfriend, addiction to pain pills, the eventual try at being a professional DJ. You get the gist.
How? Why? Why Henry? What happened?
Jack Bradfield happened….
You see, Chet and Henry’s mother, the stone cold gorgeous Mary Rowengartener, were wed atop the Hancock building in a ceremony attended by Mayor Daley, Jim McMahon, Oprah Winfrey, and Mr. Cub himself Ernie Banks. The band at the reception was The Staple Singers! All was great. Henry had the life he’d dreamed of.
This stewed within Bradfield. Ten long years he hated and hated. It all finally came to a head in August of 2003, ten years since Henry’s comet streak across the Cook County sky. Bradfield read the news that Henry’s latest film American Wedding had grossed over 100 million at the box office and he snapped like a Louisville Slugger across Bo Jackson’s quad.
The reign of terror Bradfield orchestrated over the following days is too bloody to recount here. It ended with Mary in the ICU, Stedman with severe brain trauma, and Bradfield in the Stateville Correctional Center in solitary confinement.
Henry of course blamed himself. He never really recovered.
Act 3: Everybody loves a comeback
We start the final act with a closeup of Henry’s hands signing the guest log at the prison.
We then hear the slam of the door and Henry looks up. There sits the architect of all of his suffering. Jack effing Bradfield, chained to a steel table.
“Well hello Henry. What brings you to the friendly confines of Stateville Correctional Center?”
“I’m done hating you Jack. You don’t deserve one more drop of feeling from me.”
“The big boy Henry. Look at you. So grown up now… strung out on pills… dead arm and a dead movie career. How’s Mary?”
“DON’T YOU SPEAK MY MOTHER’S NAME!”
The guard jumps and Bradfield waves him off.
“We’re fine… little Hank here just has trouble controlling himself.”
“I’m finished with you Jack. You don’t exist to me anymore.”
“I’ll never leave you Henry. I made you who you are. I am your identity. I’m the one thing that whoever you are now came from. You’re nothing without me.”
“You’re dead Jack. And you always will be. When you do die in the this place there won’t even be a whisper of your name. They’ll probably toss you out with the garbage. Goodbye Jack. And Good riddance.”
As Henry waves to the guard and heads for the door Bradfield stands up and pulls at his chains that are chained to the table…
“YOU’RE NOTHING WITHOUT ME HENRY… NOTHING… I’M THE MANAGER!!!! I’M THE MANAGER!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Okay… I know i’ve gotten carried away here, but I have to bring this home.
The final scene…
We cut to people filing into the Wrigley Field Bleachers. We slowly see George and Clark, we see Brikma the pitching coach, we see Becky and Mark Prior… and what the hell… Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano show up with Mark Grace and Greg Maddux.
We then see Henry at the podium…
He’s trying to gather the strength to speak…
He scans the crowd and he sees her…
It’s his mother Mary…
She’s walking slowly and as the crowd parts we see she is pushing a wheelchair…
And in that wheelchair is the Rocket Chet Steadman.
He’s fighting back tears…
He starts…”I’m coming back. I’m going to pitch again… this is real… this isn’t some publicity stunt.”
A reporter calls out, “Why today… why here in the bleachers.”
“Because this is where it all started. This is where Clark, George, and I saw our lives change… this is…”
He gets cut off again. “But can you still pitch?”
“Yes… I am coming back… with the arm I had 25 years ago”
The reporter tosses him baseball. “Prove it”
Henry smiles and brings his arm back…
Cut to black… we hear the sound of a ball whizzing through the air… and then the snap of a catcher’s mitt.
Roll credits. Not a dry eye. Oscars here we come.
Look… that was admittedly ridiculous…. but you would totally see that movie. Do not even deny it. It’s the story that needs to be told, not so cheap “remake”. It’s the story we’ve been waiting for since 1993. The true story of Henry Rowengartner, in full.
Now…someone get Busey’s people on the phone…