Monday, January 11, 2010

Holy Land Hardball's tribute to Our Man Elli

Holy Land Hardball, the documentary about the optimistic, hopeful start of the Israel Baseball League in 2007, got its first nationwide U.S. audience last night, thanks to an airing on the MLB Network and proved to be a great, feelgood work of art about a group of men who became young again by carrying out an innocent, naive dream in a foreign land. Yet to those who know how the story played out, the film proved to be a poignant, even anger-making document as the cheerful, seemingly guileless businessmen behind the scenes were revealed to be charlatans, liars, scamsters and worse.

Experiencing Holy Land Hardball without the real-life epilogue of deceit and failure that followed would be like watching a lump-in-the-throat doco about Mark McGwire's chase of baseball's home run record later tonight, with no knowledge of his overdue shameful, tearful steroid admission on the very same MLB Network earlier this evening.

Yet for us, there was a high point to Holy Land Hardball, and that was the quick tribute given to Our Man Elli in Israel early in the film. As disgraced IBL founder Larry Baras is profiled affectionately as a bagel-making bumpkin blustering his way through the baseball business, there is a brief moment when he is shown being interviewed by Our Man Elli.

There he is, Elli Wohlgelernter, the journalist who would expose the moral and financial corruption of the IBL days after the final pitch, shown interviewing Baras months before the first pitch, Elli towering over the self-styled baseball exec, the no-frills professional, holding a large, makeshift hand microphone, wearing a tie, kippah in place, unmistakeably an Israeli, unquestionably a Jew, asking Baras:

"And how fearful are you
that you could end up
being called 'a colossal failure'?"

Baras does not answer.

The filmmakers, baseball historians that they are, were sitting in their editing room doing post production on the film at the same time that Our Man Elli's reportage was spooling out from this site and other publications, day after day, month after month. They saw that Larry Baras was being called many other things beyond "colossal failure." They realized that Elli was onto something from the start, and knew that history would prove him right.

So they gave him that tribute.

Nice job, boys. We're only sorry it took us this long to see it!

Click here to read the complete year-long coverage of the rise and fall of the Israel Baseball League and much more of Our Man Elli's reportage at Tabloid Baby's special Baseball in Israel archive site.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Israel Baseball League doco on television

Our Man Elli in Israel offers a programming note: Holy Land Hardball, the documentary feature about the startup of the Israel Baseball League in 2007, can be seen on television tomorrow evening on the MLB Network.

Our Man Elli's got a cameo in the doco, so we'll be sure to tune in and go for a screen grab, although the world now knows that the story of the Israel Baseball League was not told until the day after the final out of the first and only season, and led to a solid year of Elli Wohlgelernter's independent, exclusive, groundbreaking coverage of seamy deals, athlete-endangering nincompoopery and arrogance that exposed the dream introduced in Holy Land Hardball as an international scandal and nightmare, and won Elli and Tabloid Baby, where his coverage appeared exclusively, a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Holy Land Hardball, a film by Brett Rapkin and Erik Kesten, makes its national television premiere this weekend, airing on the MLB Network Sunday, Jan. 10, at 10 p.m.

Click here to read Our Man Elli and Tabloid Baby's complete coverage of the Israel Baseball League successes and scandals at our Baseball In Israel archive site.