New pic players in ballpark

Wranovics' 'Grabs' focuses on battle over Bonds' 73rd home run ball

Sports documentaries have carved out a respectable niche in recent years with such entries as “Riding Giants” and “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” but “Up for Grabs” doesn’t quite fit in that category.

Mike Wranovics‘ filmmaking debut, which opened May 6 in Gotham, where weekend grosses weren’t so hot ($1,881 at two screens) and bowed this past weekend in Los Angeles, focuses on the bizarre legal battle between Alex Popov and Patrick Hayashi over Barry Bonds‘ 73rd home run ball in 2001 and their obsessive attempts to cash in. Popov originally caught the ball, then lost it in a melee; a judge finally ordered the duo to split the $450,000 in auction proceeds from a winning bid by comic book creator and producer Todd McFarlane.

“I see it as more of a ‘Thin Blue Line’ project due to the commingling of multiple points of view,” Wranovics says. “Once I read about it, I was convinced that 20 other people were going to do it, but I turned out to be the only one.”

Reviews have been solid, noting that it recalls the mockumentary feel of “Best in Show.”

The film also marks the debut of the Laemmle/Zeller distribution shingle from industry vets Steven Zeller and Greg Laemmle.

“We’ve been looking for films that are hard to categorize, and this is the first one that we both agreed on even though I know absolutely nothing about sports,” Zeller admits.

One of the film’s more memorable moments evokes a far more innocent time with Sal Durante, who caught Roger Maris’ record-setting 61st home run in 1961.

Durante recalls he tried to give the ball back to Maris, who told him, “Make yourself some money, kid,” and let him keep it. Durante sold the ball for $5,000 to a restaurateur who returned it to Maris and used the photo to promote his eatery.

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