I just finished watching a ten-part documentary series called Playing For Peanuts, which is about a team in the independent South Coast League. The league operated only one year, in 2007, and then folded.
The center of the story is Wally Backman. You might remember
he was hired to manage the Diamondbacks and fired four days later due to a domestic problem that hit the papers. Backman was desperate to get back into the game, so he agreed to manage the South Georgia Peanuts.
Wally was wired with a mic for the entire season. He was combustible, he was controversial, he got suspended, he got fired, he got rehired. But he passionately loved the game and defended his players.
The backdrop for all this is the absolutely horrid conditions in this indy league. It had four teams, and one of the four lost its stadium lease after a week so it had to play on the road for the rest of the year. There was a drug controversy — again, involving the Peanuts — and as the financial losses mounted the players wound up having to be their own grounds crew.
Despite all this, the Peanuts somehow won the pennant.
The series was originally envisioned as ten 30-minute episodes, or 22 minutes without commercials, to run on regional sports networks. The producer issued the series on DVD. It arrived yesterday and I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode. It was dramatic, it was funny, it was everything you’d want in a baseball documentary.
And if you’re looking for an Angels tie … The hitting coach was Larry Olenberger, the father of former Angels minor league pitcher Kasey Olenberger. You’ll see wearing Angels T-shirts and pictures of Kasey in Angels gear on his locker.
You can order the DVD through www.playingforpeanuts.com. It’s $25 plus $5 for shipping. I love finding little gems like this no one has ever heard about. It’s a perfect gift for a baseball fan.