McCann and Mrs. Miller (Bobby Cox, 2009)
Around the beginning of the twenty-first century, a catcher named Brian McCann (Brian McCann) arrives in the town of Atlanta, Georgia to start at catcher for a low-class National League East team. McCann quickly takes on a dominant position over the team’s simple-minded and lethargic ballplayers, thanks to his aggressive personality and rumors that he is a masher. The ‘legend’ of McCann as a masher is propagated largely through gossip on the part of Derek Lowe (Derek Lowe), a local sinkerballer notorious for telling tales. The legend claims that McCann hit a grand slam off a famous flamethrower named John Smoltz with a wooden stick/tree branch during a pickup game. The legend is neither confirmed nor encouraged by McCann; he is not seen with such a stick until the season’s conclusion, and is not portrayed as a courageous type, leading the audience to believe that the legend is merely another of Lowe’s fabrications.
Shortly after McCann has established his role as catcher on the make-shift Braves, consisting of several hacks (Garrett Anderson, Casey Kotchman) purchased from a fat jerk (Mike Scioscia) in the faraway town of Anaheim for $200, an opium addicted professional ‘hitter’ named Chipper Jones (Larry Wayne Jones) arrives in Atlanta. Chipper convinces McCann that he can do a better job of leading the team than he can, as McCann is clearly inept when dealing with teammates. The two become successful partners hitting 3-4 in the lineup, and a love-interest subplot is developed between these two MLB-hardened and cynical characters.
As the Braves become a richer and more successful team, a pair of businessmen from the New York Mets (Omar Minaya & Fred Wilpon) arrive to buy out the Braves, as well as the surrounding ballpark and resturaunts/bars. The Mets are notorious for having people killed when they refuse to sell. McCann doesn’t want to sell at their initial price, and plays the negotiations badly even though Chipper warns him he’s underestimating the violence that will ensue if they don’t take the money and run.
Eventually, three ballplayers (Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran) are dispatched by the Mets to make an example of McCann. The climactic showdown between McCann and his hunters is unconventional for a baseball season. McCann is clearly afraid of the sluggers when they arrive in town, and initially tries to appease them. Finally, when a lethal confrontation becomes inevitable, he manages to kill two of the ballplayers (Reyes, Beltran) by hitting them in the back from hidden positions, leaving only the most fearsome of the three to deal with (Wright). As a final twist of the plot, McCann hits the third bounty killer with a tree branch, confirming that the original legend was true, much to the surprise of the audience. McCann, however, is mortally wounded, and does not survive.
Just as McCann is a classical example of the antihero, the final shootout between McCann and the gunman (Wright) is antithetical to the baseball genre. It takes place, not with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, but in a first-inning stifling snowstorm, as the Mets stalk McCann through the back alleys of Turner Field like a hunted animal. No music is used, and only deafening silence is present as the falling snow muffles all sounds. McCann’s victory over his hunters is not celebrated by the townspeople, who are otherwise occupied putting out their “burning church” on the other side of town (the Atlanta Hawks). Having triumphed over his enemies, McCann does not get to ride off into the sunset with Chipper, but instead, slowly dies in a snowbank while Chipper drifts into an opium-induced trance, oblivious to his fate and indifferent to his own feelings. After McCann and the bounty killers are all dead, the town’s people are seen rejoicing, not for the hero’s victory, but for the Atlanta Hawks, who had finally won an important playoff series over the Celtics.
“Still Bobby Cox’s best moment, this 2009 anti-baseball season murmurs softly of love, death, and capitalism. Brian McCann is the two-bit catcher who falls in with third base proprietress Chipper Jones; together they grope toward money and oblivion. With Jeff Francoeur, Derek Lowe, David Wright, and others; songs by Leonard Cohen.” -Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader
“Bobby Cox has had a dozen seasons that can be called great in one way or another, but one of them is perfect, and that one is McCann & Mrs. Miller.” -Rober Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“I don’t automatically object to contemporary allusions, but I prefer to find them myself, and McCann & Mrs. Miller is so busy pointing them out to us that the effect is to undercut its narrative drive and the dignity of its fiction.” -Vincent Camby, New York Times