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When you walk through the garden
Got to watch your back

The last episode of The Wire is being broadcast tomorrow night. It's been called "the best show on television" - not merely the best show now, but the best show of the last twenty years, if not ever - and that's pretty much how I feel about it.

One of the strangest things I've seen in my lifetime is the emergence of television - television, of all things - as the medium of expression for a large, novel-sized vision. Film remains a director's art, but the most interesting modern television belongs to the writer/producers who have emerged as show-runners: besides The Wire's David Simon, one thinks of David Chase (The Sopranos), Chris Carter (The X-Files), Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), David Milch (Deadwood), Alan Ball (Six Feet Under). Once upon a time, television drama, whether it was The Untouchables in the 1950s or Star Trek in the 1960s, or Kojak in the 1970s, seemed to proceed under certain assumptions - the most important being that the viewer had never seen an episode of this show before. So the characters would be re-established every week, and the action would be wrapped up before the closing credits. As far as I can tell, all of this - the story arcs, the evolving casts, a created world moving through time - began to change with Steven Bochco's Hill Street Blues, which began production in 1981.

David Simon said early on that his show would be unlike the police procedurals that populate network television. For one thing, he said he wasn't interested in good and evil as a theme. He's also not much interested in relationships (between people, anyway), and he's not much interested in character development. For the most part, the people of The Wire have already become who they were going to be. (With the large exception of the children of season four, seen in the process of becoming what they're going to be, and perhaps one or two others.) Simon has said he is most interested in the relationship between individuals and institutions. That might be most clearly evident in this fifth and final season. The epigraph for this season's opening episode is "The bigger the lie, the more they believe" and that motto turns out to be the final season's recurrent theme. We see the enormous investment three quite separate institutions - city hall, the police department, the media - make in the central lie that dominates the season, and what that lie and that investment does to the individuals caught up in it all. The word "bleak" is invariably used to describe the show's vision of the world, and certainly the show's attitude towards the major institutions it portrays represents a degree of cynicism too vast for our instruments to measure. Behind all of this is anger - no, not anger, but a deep and palpable fury - at what the modern American city has become.

While there are so many things one could say about this program, let me for now confine myself to saluting a remarkable cast of almost entirely unknown actors. It's unfortunately true that the biggest exposure most African-American actors get is playing the third hoodlum from the left on one of the numerous Law and Order franchises. The Wire put this amazing pool of talent to work.

Anyway, we're not going to let this occasion go by without a Hall of Names commemoration.

A request and a warning - NO SPOILERS! I've talked so far in general terms about the show's themes and perspectives, but I'm trying to avoid specifics. Fanatics like myself may have watched every episode (multiple times, in fact!) - but others are working through the DVDs, others have yet to get on board. So let's not give anything away. For my part, when it comes to identifying the characters that make up the basis of our team, I will confine myself to describing who and what they were when we first met them on the show. And when it comes to removing spoilers, I promise to be as ruthless as Stringer or Marlo when it comes to weeding that garden. Watch your back!

In five seasons, an awful lot of people have passed through the Western District (and the schools, and the docks, and city hall, and police HQ). But as familiar as some of them become, we don't always find out their names. Corner boy Wallace - I don't know if that's a first name or a last name, and as I'm only using last names we're passing him by. Frequently all we know is a street name, although sometimes a passing glimpse at a warrant tells us the character's real name. There's a Stanfield soldier we meet in the fourth season known only as O-Dog. For obvious reasons, I was set to put him at second base anyway. As it turns out, the character's name is Darius Hill, so I went with Aaron.

With great regret, I have been unable to find good comps for such unforgettable folks as Brother Mouzone, Tommy Carcetti, Bubbles, Kima Griggs, Herc Hauk, Ellis Carver, Dukie Weems, Chris Partlow, William Rawls, Bodie Broadus, and Frank Sobotka. All of whom ought to be represented. Oh well. Let's make a team anyway.

** Hall of Famer
* All Star

MGR - Grady Little (stickup man Omar Little, one of the most original, unforgettable creations you will ever see on television )

C - Babe Phelps* (Baltimore Sun state desk editor Tim Phelps - three time All Star)
1B - Derrek Lee* - (middle school pupil Michael Lee - two Gold Gloves, led NL in BAVG and slugging in 2005)
2B - Aaron Hill - (Stanfield soldier Darius "O-Dog" Hill - still working on his legend)
SS - Garry Templeton* (Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Templeton - first man to get 100 its in a season from each side of the plate)
3b - Buddy Bell* (Barksdale consigliere Stringer Bell - five Gold Gloves and more than 2500 hits)
RF - Keith Moreland (detective Bunk Moreland - Cubs moved him from RF to 3b in 1987, and he hit 27 homers)
CF - Hack Wilson** (political operative Norman Wilson - 56 HR and 191 RBI in 1930. It wasn't his only good year)
LF - Pat Burrell (deputy police commissioner Ervin Burrell - 30 HR and 100 BB every year)
DH - Kal Daniels (police lieutenant Cedric Daniels - injuries stopped him very early, lifetime OPS+ of 138)

C - Jody Davis* (state Senator Clay Davis - two time All-Star, Gold Glove)
Inf - Bill Russell* (port authority officer Beadie Russell - 2181 ML games, all with the Dodgers)
Inf - Rickie Weeks (Bubbles' partner Johnny Weeks - still building his legend)
Inf - Ricky Gutierrez (Sun reporter Alma Gutierrez - played with 6 teams from 1993-2004. Been released by another 3 since)
OF - Pat McNulty (detective Jimmy McNulty - hit .314 for the 1925 Indians, then faded away)
OF - Buck Freeman (detective Lester Freamon - yes, the spelling is wrong. But we have to have Lester - his 25 HRs in 1899 was the highest single season total between 1885 and 1919 )


SP - Dave Stewart* (East side drug kingpin Proposition Joe Stewart - four straight 20 win seasons 1987-1990)
SP - Rick Wise* (Barksdale soldier Dennis "Cutty" Wise - won 188 games, plus Game 6 of the 1975 World Series)
SP - Mike Norris* (detective Ed Norris - 22-9, 2.53 in 1980, should have won the Cy Young)
SP - King Cole (detective Ray Cole - 20-4, 1.80 for the 1910 Cubs)
SP - Tommy Bond (district attorney Rupert Bond - won 123 games in three years)

RP - Bill Campbell* (politician Nerese Campbell - went 17-5 with 20 saves for the Twins in 1975, led the AL with 31 saves for Boston the next year)
RP - Scott Williamson* (drug kingpin Kintell Williamson - 1999 NL Rookie of the Year)
RP - Joe Haynes* (Baltimore Sun editor Gus Haynes - 14-6, 2.42 for the 1947 White Sox)
RP - Kevin Stanfield (drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield - got into 3 games with the 1979 Twins)
RP - Alan Brice (Barksdale soldier Wee-Bey Brice - career ERA of 0.00!! and a losing record!! 0-1 in 3.3 IP, 2 unearned runs )

And we have some prospects chomping at the bit! They should be on this squad, and with some luck (on their part), someday they will!!)

James Barksdale, Pirates OF prospect (West side drug kingpin Avon Barksdale)
Tyler Colvin, Cubs outfield prospect (police district commander Howard "Bunny" Colvin)

It's been an astonishing run. By the way, there were actually characters on the show with last names like Williams and Reese and Johnson - but they were generally so minor and so obscure that it would have seemed too much like cheating to include them. By including Ted and Pee Wee and Walter, we could certainly make this a better baseball team, if we wanted. But the Hall, like The Wire, wishes we could conduct ourselves with a little bit of integrity, in a harsh world.
Goodbye to "The Wire" | 24 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Leigh - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 09:47 AM EST (#180774) #
best show of the last twenty years

This may be true come 2011, when twenty years will have elapsed since the last time we saw Agent Cooper...
Leigh - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 10:00 AM EST (#180775) #
Full disclosure:  I've never seen The Wire, just thought that TP deserved a mention.  "She was wrapped... in plastic".
natan79 - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 10:26 AM EST (#180777) #

best show of the last twenty years

In my opinion that title belongs to Homicide: Life on the Street (1993 - 1999), which was actually based on a Book by Simon.

ayjackson - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 11:47 AM EST (#180780) #

Never heard of it.

Mick Doherty - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 12:19 PM EST (#180781) #

Never seen the show, but undoubtedly one day will take several days off work and watch the entire series. Nice job promoting without spoiling! Anyway, this is a comment about the team.

Hack Wilson in CF? Really? I know he played there, but was his stocky 5'6", 190 frame any good out there? I honestly don't know and was thinking maybe Willie Wilson would be a good CF option; then if you want Hack's big bat in the lineup, you go with him at DH (or is there just the one Wilson character?) ... Kal Daniels was  a great young hitter but fell off the map pretty quickly -- I was in Ohio when he came up and remember thinking that he, Tracy Jones and Paul O'Neill were going to be a great outfield for a long time. Well, great-hitting anyway -- Kal was a defensive butcher of epic proportions.

soupman - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 01:11 PM EST (#180782) #
I was turned onto the Wire only a couple weeks ago, and have already plowed deep into season 3. Nice post!               
Dewey - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 02:23 PM EST (#180784) #
Aw crap.  We just got done congratulating ourselves in another post about what an intelligent site we were.  What the bleep has any of this to do with baseball, really?  (Be honest.)  Let's leave the pop culture stuff for elsewhere.  Jeanne Beker, maybe.

In the kindest possible way.

Love and kisses,  Dewey.

Mick Doherty - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 02:55 PM EST (#180785) #

Dewey, the Hall of Names has saluted a number of TV shows, movies, songs, holidays, etc. that are not, strictly speaking, baseball-centric. And a number of them are among the most-read and most-commented-on stories ever posted here. And there have been dozens of threads that are not HoN that tackle baseball only tangentially.

So I think you may be overreacting just a tiny bit. This is a terrific piece, and Magpie writes thousands of words a year that are baseball-centric, and all on a completely non-compensated basis, so if he wants to enter a tangent of sorts of his own, on his own time and effort, he is absolutely on the even-up to do so.

seeyou - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 03:32 PM EST (#180787) #

Nicely done.  I was scanning some pre-season boxes the other night, and Paul McAnulty's name made an immediate Wire-connection in my brain.  I started watching in the second season, and was given Season 1-4 DVDs for Christmas and re-watched the whole thing in the past two months.  I'm usually not much for commentaries, but Simon's descriptions of how meticulously he crafts these characters are definitely worth hearing.

Waiting in anticipation for the finale tonight!

jeff mcl - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 04:32 PM EST (#180790) #
Absolutely nothing to do with baseball, but fellow fans of "The Wire" will almost certainly enjoy Showtime's "Brotherhood."  Two seasons in the books, hopefully coming back for a third.  Another slice of Americana, but from the persepective of working class Irish in Providence, RI.

There actually were quite a few Orioles references in The Wire; Herc went off on a pretty long tangent on Gus Triandos once and there were two episodes filmed at or around Camden Yards. 

Dewey - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 05:07 PM EST (#180792) #
O.K., O.K., so sue me.  I dissed Mags himself!  The Pie. One of my heroes on Da Box.  I am not myself.  I deserve to be flogged.   It's the Cabin Fever.  Bad Cabin Fever.  It's the hundredth  snowstorm of the year in Toronto.  My snowshovel hasn't cooled down from the last time.  Give me some slack.   I'm sure it's a wonderful series.   Bad, bad Cabin Fever.
dan gordon - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 06:40 PM EST (#180793) #
I agree that Homocide:Life On The Street was one of the best TV shows of all time.  Watched every episode at least 2-3 times.  Great cast, many of whom have done a lot of other stuff, great characters, great writing.  I still miss it.  There have been a lot of really good TV shows over the last 20 years.  Some of my other favourites - The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and Third Watch, all of which are no longer in production, and the new Battlestar Gallactica, which is.  As far as The Wire is concerned, I watched the first few episodes because it was really hyped by The Movie Network when it came out, but I didn't like it at all.  To each his/her own, I guess.
Magpie - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 07:19 PM EST (#180794) #
What the bleep has any of this to do with baseball, really?

Hey! Earlier in this fifth season, the Sun editors thought it would be a nice human interest story to send a reporter to Camden Yard for Opening Day and find some die-hard Orioles fan who's never missed an opener.

All the reporter found were bitter and disillusioned people complaining about Bud Selig, steroids, and Barry Bonds. It was actually rather funny.
Mike Green - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 07:42 PM EST (#180795) #
I haven't seen The Wire, but the HoN team is cool.  The prospect of Grady Little managing Dave Stewart draws a smile; I don't think a hook would do it if Little tried to remove Stewart from a game!
China fan - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 10:28 PM EST (#180796) #

    The first baseball reference in The Wire was in Season One, Episode 7.    Lieutenant Daniels is attending a City Hall reception, and he finds all the limousine drivers in a back room, watching the Orioles-Yankees game.  Baltimore is ahead 4-3, with Buddy Groom pitching, but Bernie Williams has just hit a double.  One of the drivers says: "They always let the Yankees back into it."  Another driver says:  "No, they got a bullpen this year."

   That would have been 2002, the best year of Buddy Groom's career, when his ERA was 1.60 in 70 games.   Aside from Groom and Jorge Julio, the Orioles bullpen was relatively undistinguished that year.  But one of its younger members was a 26-year-old who would later become familiar to Jays fans.  His name was B. J. Ryan.

Flex - Saturday, March 08 2008 @ 11:34 PM EST (#180797) #
Off topic, but I don't see another place to put this. I'm wondering why John Parrish pitched 3 innings today. Surely they're not stretching him out to start, but why else would you pitch him 3 innings?
James W - Sunday, March 09 2008 @ 12:13 AM EST (#180799) #
They're stretching him out to start.   Most likely, in Syracuse.  But you never know.
James W - Sunday, March 09 2008 @ 12:13 AM EST (#180800) #
They're stretching him out to start.   Most likely, in Syracuse.  But you never know.
MD2B - Sunday, March 09 2008 @ 09:06 AM EDT (#180802) #
Despite the fact that McNulty is a womanizing, self-destructive drunk, you actually feel for the guy.  I remember when him and Bunk had their boys at the Orioles game.  I've also watched jealously as downtown lawyer types chat on their cellphones in the first row, while I squint to make out player's names on their jerseys.  Add a woman to the equation and it would make me all the more angry. 
lexomatic - Sunday, March 09 2008 @ 12:05 PM EDT (#180803) #

my own two thoughts in response to Dewey & others...
my one problem with the TV show HoN posts, is that sometimes they are stretched a lot, to the point of having a barely similar last name, which seems kinda pointless - why not just make up players who have similar names? I would prefer it, that if the names don't match up, that a team/post not be made.
that being said i totally recognize the amount of work involved with this type of article, and usually i pop in out of curiousity and then just don't read because it's not my cup of tea. i think that's basically the way to do it.. if you don't like it, don't read, don't post, and wait til the next article you like. and though i don't think there's anything wrong with posting requests on the type of articles we all like to read, i think there are polite and rude way sof doing this.
King Rat - Sunday, March 09 2008 @ 10:00 PM EDT (#180818) #
I have to say, that Lester and Jimmy's analogues are on the bench is deeply funny.
Jacko - Sunday, March 09 2008 @ 11:32 PM EDT (#180819) #
If you want to hear some pretty good commentary about the show, Bill Simmons spent an entire hour talking with James Whitlock about the Wire on his podcast last week.  You can find his podcast on iTunes (and probably ESPN as well).
DRising - Monday, March 10 2008 @ 03:19 PM EDT (#180827) #
Hi, first post from longtime fan who has been lurking. Just wanted to outpoint ESPN preview of the Jays at:
Oh, and the last episode of The Wire was fantastic!
huckamaniac - Monday, March 10 2008 @ 08:08 PM EDT (#180839) #
I haven't posted here in long time but I have to say that The Wire is best show on television. On one of the DVD commentaries David Simon says that the show is supposed to be like a novel and each episode is a chapter. Because of this, you have to be paying constant attention and can't miss an episode (ie you wouldn't start reading on chapter 10). Often times you would see someone playing such a small bit role and then play larger role one or two season later. The show was not simply about drug dealers or police but the decay of the American city. Watching the show I always felt like I was watching something real (with the exception of one large plot line in the last season).

I was a big fan of Homicide and still see it as the best cop show, but only because The Wire is more than just a cop show.
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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.