Justifiable

15 Apr
April 15, 2008

Published in Sports Illustrated

Reprinted with permission.

In their series’ five years on NBC, the producers of Homicide: Life on the Street have used police tape to cordon off  fictitious murder scenes on streets and back alleys all over Baltimore.  But the show had never tried to stage a crime at the city’s best- known setting: Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The idea that Peter Angelos, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, and the Maryland Stadium Authority would permit Homicide to portray some grisly murder there, made-for-TV or not, seemed hopelessly far-fetched. But in what producers David Simon and Jim Yoshimura describe as a moment of  “pure, unencumbered genius,” they jiggered the plot so that the ballpark brass not only embraced the idea but also happily allowed Orioles pitchers Armando Benitez and Scott Erickson to make cameo appearances. In this season’s second episode, which is to air on Friday, the victim and the killer are both obnoxious men with thick Long Island accents. Each is a New York Yankees fan. “Someone should check the Maryland Annotated Code,” says Detective John Munch, who is played by Richard Belzer. “I’m not sure this is actually a crime in Baltimore.”

One of the happiest memories of my years working on NBC’s Homicide was the meeting with Orioles officials to propose the above storyline.

“A murder?  Why would we show a murder at the ballpark?”

“It’s Yankee fan who gets killed.”

“Okay, but still…”

“Another Yankee fan kills him.”

Long pause, smiles in the room.  Sold.

 

 

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