TONY PEREZ SHOULD have known better.
Not only was the legendary Reds first baseman taking on Ken Griffey Jr. when he refused to unretire his #24 jersey and loan it out to the Kid, he was taking on Nintendo, the media, and a whole bunch of bananas.
"Tony Perez will feel the wrath of high technology for his arrogance," said Brian Goldberg, Griffey's agent, shortly after Junior's inaugural Cin City press conference. "What's Nintendo to do on Griffey Diamond Studs 2001—brand a new number? There's no power in 25."
Days later, Griffey's wife, Melissa, gets pulled over for driving alone in the HOV lane on the Big Red Expressway. Griffey calls another press conference, again letting Goldberg do all the talking.
"Who do the Ohio State Patrol think they are, pulling over the diva of all divas? Don't they understand that Melissa had a very prominent passenger: Ken Griffey Jr.'s ego?!"
Goldberg goes on to explain that Griffey's ego is way too big to actually fit inside his own body and thus usually rides in the passenger seat of Mrs. Griffey's lavender Humvee.
The Reds' private spring training barbecue rolls around, and ex-Reds owner Marge Schott and her fabled St. Bernard, Schotzy, crash the party.
"Sick balls, Schotzy!" yells Marge, barely able to nosh on her stogie through a scotch-drenched haze.
Schotzy goes straight for an unsuspecting Griff, knocking him over and humping his leg with ardent ferocity. Griffey Sr., tending a rib eye at the grill, races over to defend his son with a steak knife, stabbing Schotzy to death.
Outraged members of the Animal Welfare League deluge the Cincinnati Enquirer. But the paper, still kissing up to Reds' owner/Chiquita CEO Carl Lindner after the voicemail-theft scandal, runs a staff editorial trashing the Animal Welfare League and praising Griffey Sr.'s "selfless fatherly defense of the most important welfare league in all of Ohio: the Junior Welfare League."
Capitalizing on Griffey-mania and the public's insatiable appetite for blood and guts entertainment, Nintendo and MTV team up to release Schotzy Death Match, a video game and television franchise that depicts fathers of famous athletes (Griffey Sr., Earl Woods, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant) killing horny canines with various barbecue utensils.
Then, just before the first game of the regular season, Nintendo and MTV join Griffey in demanding that the Reds change their uniforms to "reflect current Generation Dot-Com fashion savvy" by issuing players black denim bell-bottoms, ribbed polyester T-shirts, Calvin Klein shades, and clogs.
Not wanting to upset his new baby, Lindner quickly buckles under the pop culture pressure, firing senior citizen manager Jack McKeon because "his ass is too damn droopy to do those hot jeans justice." Fit-as-a-fiddle sex symbol Griffey Sr. is immediately named Droopy's successor.
But the Reds' House of Style first half is a disaster, as the hipster get-ups don't prove conducive to glory between the lime lines. Griffey, displeased at his team's cellar-dweller status, again turns to Nintendo, which demands that Commissioner Bud Selig change the real baseball standings to reflect the standings in Griffey Diamond Studs 2001.
Selig takes pandering to new heights by not only agreeing to use the video standings, but also declaring that real players will be replaced by the digital players in the Griffey Nintendo game. "We think today's baseball consumers will enjoy the livelier, more interactive experience," says Selig.
Players Union Chief Gary Templeton files a grievance, which compels Vice President Al Gore to intervene. "I'm still pro-union, but I'm also pro-technology," says Gore, having just secured Junior's endorsement for his presidential candidacy to go with that of Shaq Diesel O'Neal.
During the home stretch, Griffey is suspended for using too much pine tar on his joystick, at which point he demands a trade from Nintendo to Sega.
"The monitors trashed me, the PlayStations trashed me, how can I stay with Nintendo?" fumes Griffey.
Junior adds fuel to the fire by complaining that Nintendo "should have never dumped Ms. Pac-Man without receiving some sort of compensation" and alleges that he received a death threat in the mail from Super Mario.
Handcuffed, Nintendo obliges Griffey's request by trading him to Sega for the rights to Mortal Kombat and two human resource managers. Given that Mortal Kombat was only a .256 hitter with 145 strikeouts, the trade is deemed a steal for Sega.
"It's good to be home," announces Griffey at his first Sega press conference. "I grew up playing Atari, which got bought out by Sega—so now I'm back in the motherland."