"Diamond in the Rough"
Original airdate: October 31, 1999
by Michelle Erica Green

The Natural on the Field of Dreams

"Diamond in the Rough" Plot Summary:

Fenway Park, Boston, 1946: In the last game of the World Series (in an alternate universe), Boston is trailing St. Louis 4-3 with two on. The American League MVP, Ted Williams, steps up to the plate. He smacks the ball, but a brilliant catch by fielder Jimmy Jonesboro is followed by a tag to second and a chase to first...an unassisted triple play! The Red Sox lose the series, but in the melee which follows, Jonesboro's glove is stolen right off his hand. Despite a reward, the glove is never seen again.

Off in the jungle in the present day, Sydney Fox retrieves two daggers from a booby-trapped statue, but her adversary Reiner attacks and steals one. When she accuses him of following her, he says he likes the way she looks from behind and makes lewd comments about something that happened a long time ago in Kathmandu. Sydney is having none of it, but her arm gets trapped in the statue and Reiner tries to feel her up before getting away with the dagger. Natives rescue Sydney and the other blade, then she gets a call from the university president requesting her presence to track down a baseball glove.

Sydney is unimpressed with the statistics of hotshot fielder Frank Newhouse, but every other woman on campus - including Sydney's assistant Claudia - thinks he's the hottest thing around. The man has offered to make a large donation to Trinity, however, so she has to be nice to him--seven figures if he makes the all-star team, six figures if not. He thinks the missing mythical glove of Jimmy Jonesboro can make the difference, so the president of the university wants Sydney to find it. "I'll look for Jimmy's glove for Jimmy," insists the relic hunter, who knows that the fielder's career crashed and burned after the theft.

Jonesboro now lives in an isolated trailer, and shoots at the approaching strangers until Sydney shouts his statistics and claims she paid $200 for his card. The former player tells insulting stories about Pee Wee Reese and gives Sydney a photo taken seconds after the glove was stolen, as he was carried victoriously by his teammates. Claudia scans the photo and blows it up, so they can clearly see that a nearby kid is holding the glove. He's also wearing a shirt from Pilgrim's, a bar across the street from Fenway "named after the original Boston team." Pilgrim's is seedy nowadays, but when Sydney and Nigel visit, they find a photo of the same kid on the wall, getting Ted Williams' autograph. The bartender identifies the boy as Tommy Weston, who frequented the bar every moment he wasn't in the stands...until the day he keeled over and died right there.

Tommy had a back room shrine, with such objects as Yastremski's batting helmet and Wade Boggs' bat. Sydney is curious to note that he also had books on Egyptology. She sees a small suncatcher shining on a September, 1946 calendar, and concludes it can't be a coincidence. Peeling away the wall behind the calendar, she finds a little black book full of numbers. At the same time, Nigel lifts a bat and triggers a trap door under his feet.

When poor Nigel comes to, Sydney identifies the Revolutionary War supply tunnel into which he has fallen. The main tunnel leads straight under Fenway Park, to the locker room of the Red Sox! While Sydney tells Nigel about the Curse of the Bambino, which has fated the Sox to lose every World Series since they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees, Jimmy tries to instill some respect for the game into young Frank. Sydney believes Tommy buried Jimmy Jonesboro's glove under right field at Fenway to help his team break the curse, and believes the first code number in the little black book represents the hour of the end of the 1946 series.

Walking with Sydney, Nigel bumps into his old friend Tony, who calls him "Professor" and demands dinner plans. Nigel reluctantly explains to his boss that he lied to Tony, who got rich on the stock market and would have no respect for a mere teaching assistant. He also claimed that Sydney was his assistant. She agrees to play along through dinner, but when a drunken Nigel passes out and Tony makes a pass at her, she flicks cigar ashes into his lap, then dumps ice water on his crotch. Hauling the unconcious Nigel upstairs with her, Sydney undresses her assistant and puts him to bed, where he sleeps soundly through an attack by an intruder.

When Nigel wakes and sees the mess strewn around the room, he apologizes to Sydney, telling her he still respects her as a woman and a person. She is mystified, explaining that the mess was used by a would-be-robber. "I thought I did that," Nigel says, abashed. Sydney has more important matters to discuss: she has broken the code in the book, which has to do with Red Sox players and their stats. They follow the numbers on the tunnel walls based on her calculations, realizing that in three hours, it will be the anniversary of the fateful shot, and that may be a magical hour for the history-obsessed Weston. Thug Reiner interrupts, stealing the book and holding Sydney at gunpoint, but she reminds him that without her to interpret the statistics, the book is meaningless, so the trio set off together in search of the glove.

Meanwhile, Jimmy invites Frank to play catch and explains the secret of the glove. His father had had great passion for baseball, but no talent, while Jimmy had talent but no passion. He had found the glove at a garage sale for pennies and discovered only after he bought it that it had belonged to his father. The glove conferred on him the same passion for the game, and once it was lost, he lost his ability to play.

Inside another hidden room under Fenway, Sydney holds the suncatcher up to the sunlight. At the precise moment of the fateful play that ended the Series years before, the light refracts through the center and begins to burn through a newspaper tacked to the wall, headlining the Sox' loss. A hole is revealed with gears behind it, which in turn trigger a trap door to a tiny back room where the glove sits under glass. They retrieve it, but while Sydney and Reiner argue over whether she should have to trade her dagger for the glove, Tony appears with a gun and steals the relic. It turns out that Nigel babbled about the glove at dinner, so Tony attacked Sydney at the hotel, then followed them in order to steal the glove to pay off his debts. Nigel admits he's a phony too - he's not really a professor - but Tony is unimpressed with his honesty, and leaves the three historians tied up to the machinery.

Sydney triggers the pitching machine so they can break free, leaving Reiner unconscious on the floor when he tries to harrass her about the dagger. Then she chases Tony through the streets of Boston to Fenway Park, where both jump the gate in the middle of a practice. A well-thrown ball beans Tony and earns Sydney the admiration of the Red Sox. Bringing the glove to Jimmy, Sydney tells Frank he can keep his money - the deal to trade the glove for a university donation is off. Yet Jimmy says Frank really needs the glove more than he does. Then, having rediscovered his love for the game in conversation with the older player, Frank says the glove just doesn't feel right and returns it to its original owner.

Back at Trinity, Nigel paces, finally bursting into Sydney's office so they can talk. He explains that cognac and cigars must have overwhelmed his civilized restraints. He apologizes again for giving in to his base animalistic urges, which is not like him. Otherwise, Sydney agrees, people would just go around rutting like wild animals. "It'll be our little secret," she says with a straight face, to Nigel's great relief. He thanks her profusely, she thanks him in return...then he walks out of her office and she bursts out laughing.


Unfortunately, this episode crossed a line. I don't mind so much if Relic Hunter mucks with the histories of entire nations or creates artifacts which could not have existed in the times and places from which they're supposed to be from. But baseball is sacred! And a show targeted at young males should realize that. If you're going to do an episode about a baseball relic, you either get your facts straight, or you set it someplace so obscure that absolutely nobody can get distracted by your meddling. Field of Dreams got obscure information about a guy who played one inning straight; this series should have done the same.

In the final game of the 1946 World Series (according to my resident baseball expert spouse who grew up rooting for the Red Sox), Ted Williams popped out to end the eighth inning. By the ninth, the game was 3-3, the Sox had a guy on third, and the last out was made by a reserve outfielder whose pinch hit grounded to the second baseman. The Cardinals did win in seven games, but there was no triple play - something suspected even by a non-aficionado like myself, because unassisted triple plays are so rare that I was sure I'd have remembered if I'd heard about such an event ending a World Series. There was no Jimmy Jonesboro either. I looked him up, but I know there are fans who wouldn't have had to.

This is lazy writing, folks. Either make the relic entirely personal and cut out the money angle, so you can set the story in the minors, or write a story about an actual relic like Thompson's despised home run ball from the Dodgers-Giants series. It's going to be difficult to take historical storylines seriously if details about baseball get yanked around. Unlike the details of events in various ancient locales, this is stuff any amateur with a good card collection can look up. Now I'm wondering whether there were lies about Elvis in last week's episode, and I'm sure I don't believe that headless nun set those Indiana Jones booby traps.

Other than the enormous factual blunders, this episode was about standard, in other words, fun but lightheaded. The plethora of amateur-rigged relic hunts is getting a little silly, though the ingenius treasure maps are a lot of fun. This week's would have been more convincing if they hadn't already mucked around with the facts of the game, but the one with the Bible code in "Flag Day" was great. The most fun scenes for me surrounded Nigel's assumption that he had sex with Sydney, though the look on her face when Tony asked her to fetch the cigars was priceless, too.

The baseball players were okay, but if you're going to go hokey, you may as well go for REALLY hokey and make Frank into Jimmy's long-lost son or something. I saw The Natural, I saw Field of Dreams, isn't that what baseball stories are supposed to be about?

Relic Hunter Reviews
Get Critical