The Austin Chronicle


Reviewed by Mark Fagan, August 12, 2005, Books

Wrecking Crew: The really Bad News Griffith Park Pirates

by John Albert

Scribner, 281 pp., $23

With the media attention lately focusing on Rafael Palmeiro's suspension for alleged steroid use and eccentric multimillionaire Manny Ramirez asking for a day off and to be traded from the reigning champs, it's easy to get distracted from the sheer beauty and slow drama that is the great game of baseball. The smell of the freshly shorn grass and the sweet sound of ball striking bat are all it takes to bring back fond memories of days spent playing Little League and scarfing down postgame pizza and Cokes. It is this love of the game that draws author and musician John Albert back after years of drug abuse and a few close calls with rock stardom. As co-founder of cult faves Christian Death and one of the drummers for punk legends Bad Religion, he tasted more success than most aspiring musicians ever do, but his dreams ended as most, with Albert forced to make a living outside the music biz. On the fringes of the Los Angeles movie industry, Albert manages to survive by writing and working on screenplays with fellow writer, business partner, and drug addict Teo. While his screenwriting career isn't necessarily blossoming, one of his ex-junkie friends decides to put together a baseball team following his latest go-round at sobriety and the slow dissolution of his major-label record deal, and he recruits Albert to help him fulfill this dream. The squad they assemble resembles a police lineup more than a team of ballplayers. Their heavily tattooed and syringe-scarred team includes Dave Navarro's cousin Johnny; Clay, an ex-member of the band Junkyard; and the cross-dressing Chris, to name a few. The title Wrecking Crew applies more to their lifelong bent toward self-destruction than their abilities between the lines. Though they do manage to win a few games, Albert dedicates most of his ink to their depressing yet enthralling drug habits, rehab stints, and deviant sexual behavior. But for one afternoon out of the week, they get to leave their troubles at home, and the thrill of playing baseball becomes as important to them as a No. 1 single, a bed full of models, and an armful of dope ever was.

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