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Mr. Monk Goes to the Ballgame is the third episode of the second season of Monk.

Synopsis[]

When a ruthless CEO and his wife are lured to their deaths, Monk connects their murders to a star baseball player's quest for the single season home run record.

Plot[]

In the midst of a corporate scandal (which is never fully explained), billionaire Lawrence Hammond leaves his office with his trophy wife Erin, and drives to a resort getaway using the directions given by their car's GPS system. However, the electronic voice leads them not to a resort hotel but to a deserted industrial park where a masked gunman is waiting to ambush them. As soon as they come to a stop, the gunman steps up to the passenger side door, pulls a pistol out, and fires five shots through the window. "Thank you for using the Safe Voyage system!" the GPS chimes after the fact.

The next morning, Monk and Sharona are at a Little League game where Benjy is playing against a team coached by Captain Stottlemeyer. Benjy's team loses, and Sharona asks Monk to give the boy some words of encouragement. Monk is out of his depth, but they are relieved when Stottlemeyer receives a call about the murder.

The three of them go to examine the crime scene. Monk quickly realizes that, contrary to their expectations, Erin was the killer's primary target. According to Lieutenant Disher, the sequence of events was that the shooter stepped up to the passenger door, and shot Erin four times. He then shot Hammond once, and non-fatally at that. Hammond then got out and tried to run, but the shooter got into his own car and ran him over. Hammond was still not dead, and managed to crawl away. He made it several miles. A truck driver found him the next morning, just barely hanging on to life. Although he died before the ambulance arrived, Hammond did say one last thing: "Girls Can't Eat Fifteen Pizzas." No one knows what it means.

The fact that Erin was shot four times, and Hammond only once, makes Monk think that she was the main target and Hammond was just collateral. Investigating her bedroom, he discovers that Erin had been having an affair. When Monk sees a sports magazine, he notices that Scott Gregorio, a baseball star, had taken an art class that Erin was also in, and deduces that he was her secret lover. Gregorio, however, cannot be the murderer since he was playing that night at the stadium.

At the time of the murders, Gregorio was just days away from breaking the single-season home run record. He confesses to Monk that he was indeed having an affair with Erin, and that since her death he has gone into a terrible slump. Monk suspects that Erin might have been killed by someone who wants to keep Gregorio from breaking the famous record. Surprised, Gregorio agrees: just some two weeks before, someone attacked him outside the stadium with a baseball bat and tried to smash his arm. Since then, he's had to be accompanied by bodyguards everywhere he goes.

Gregorio offers to do anything he can to help in the investigation, and Monk asks him to give some batting tips to Benjy. In his own way, Monk manages to come through: with coaching, Benjy's swing improves noticeably, and he is on a cloud, taking lessons from his sports idol.

Since they've both lost the great loves of their lives, Monk and Gregorio quickly bond, and Monk gives the baseball star some advice about coping. In the meantime Gregorio tells Benjy to use a device he calls " HELP " to aid in his batting skills: Hands, Elbows, Legs, Patience. Gregorio calls "HELP" a mnemonic device that helps him remember.

Monk, with that in mind, realizes what Lawrence Hammond's last words, "Girls Can't Eat 15 Pizzas," really mean: it was the dying man's way of remembering "GCE15P", the license plate of the killer's car. The police quickly track down the car and impound it, discovering it was stolen a few days prior. Blood is found on the front bumper and matched to Hammond, and under the driver's seat, they find a home-programmed CD for a GPS unit, likely what was used to lure Hammond and his wife to the industrial park. A security camera in the area has also been discovered that caught a fuzzy photo of the killer. Monk knows he's seen the face before - but where?

Monk investigates whether Darryl Grant, the baseball player whose record Scott is about to break, is trying to protect his record. Even though Grant was in Chicago the night of the murder, he may have hired someone to do it. He and Sharona interview Grant's agent, who assures them that his client is an honorable man who has already had another record broken, that of the single season runs batted in (RBI's). He even shows them the photo of Grant congratulating the new record holder. The agent assures them Grant would never stoop to sabotaging another player.

At Benjy's Little League game, the umpire quits after Stottlemeyer gets in his face over a disputed call. Since Benjy's team has to forfeit the game unless someone replaces the umpire, Monk agrees to do it. He couldn't be a worse choice for the job.

Despite the many delays caused by Monk, the game goes on, and Scott Gregorio drops by, in time to see Benjy hit a game-winning home run. Stottlemeyer takes his loss gracefully, congratulating Benjy personally and giving him the ball as a souvenir, telling him it will be worth a lot of money someday if he ever makes the Major Leagues, That is when Monk has his epiphany: everyone has seen the killer's face before, on a TV commercial for storm windows endorsed by Darryl Grant, and featuring footage of the record-making home run with the killer catching it -- a baseball that would suddenly become worthless were Gregorio to break the record.

Here's What Happened[]

Monk and the police close in on Walker Browning, an out-of-work computer programmer who caught the famous ball. While the police surround the house, Monk, Sharona, Stottlemeyer and Disher go inside to talk to Browning. They notice he has a wall lined with memorabilia from the day he caught the record-breaking ball, which he plans to sell at auction. Monk and Randy then reveal the motive: If Scott Gregorio broke the record, Browning's ball would be worth practically next to nothing. Monk explains:

From the moment he caught it three years prior up until a few weeks before the murders, this record-breaking ball would have fetched $3 million at auction, but Browning found there were no buyers at this point, because the buyers knew the ball would become worthless if Scott Gregorio broke the record.

Browning therefore decided to protect his investment. He tried attacking Gregorio outside the stadium with a baseball bat, intending to break a limb or something to knock him out of the starting lineup, but the attempt failed. Afterwards, Gregorio hired bodyguards to protect him everywhere he went in public, which nullified any chance for Browning to get at him directly again. But he continued following him and eventually he found out about Gregorio's affair with Lawrence Hammond's wife. Realizing he had another opportunity, Browning broke into their car and replaced the disk in their GPS with one he programmed himself, to lure the Hammonds to the industrial park so he could shoot her, knowing that her death would greatly hurt Gregorio emotionally and affect his performance on the field, thus preventing him from breaking the record and preserving the value of Browning's ball. He was sure everyone would focus the investigation on Hammond's many enemies and ignore the wife completely, or at the very least, just write her off as collateral damage.

Browning says there is no proof, but Stottlemeyer counters by revealing that they found a fingerprint on the adjustment bar under the driver's side seat which will undoubtedly be matched to him. Browning releases his attack dog, Toby. In the confusion, the police subdue Browning, but Toby runs out the door with the priceless baseball in his mouth.

Ultimately, the regular season ends with Gregorio having failed to break the home run record. Interviewed on TV about Browning's arrest, he admits that he's disappointed, but repeats the advice given to him by a "good friend" - that the most important thing is taking care of the people you love, or being true to their memories.

Later, when Monk and Sharona are taking a walk near the Palace of Fine Arts, they stumble upon Toby, who is still clutching what's left of Browning's ball in his jaws. He releases it and runs off, but the ball has been reduced to soggy scraps, leading Monk to quip, "That is one expensive chew toy!"

Trivia[]

  • This is the first episode to allude to Monk's Gymnophobia. When going to the art class that both Scott Gregorio and Erin took, he is shown to be disturbed with the nude male model. However since Erin's painting is a self portrait of herself in the nude Monk does not show any emotion to that. Unless of course he was focusing on just the background scenery. Also, in "Mr. Monk and the Red-Headed Stranger" he actually hires a streaker to prove that someone who is thought to be blind can see.
  • Stottlemeyer informs the killer that they had found his fingerprint in stolen car. However, in flashback, its clearly shown that he was wearing gloves. Why would he take them off? -- Probably because he never thought they would look there and he could not move the bar easily with his gloves on. It could also have been a bluff on Stottlemeyer's part.
  • How could the killer broke Lawrence Hammond's into garage and car, since there were presumably well secured? And how did nobody notice traces of the break-in?
  • This is one of the few episodes in which the killer is not truly involved in the storyline except at the beginning and at the end when the killer is revealed. In other words, it is a true whodunit.
  • There is a bit of gallows humor in the beginning of the episode: Just before Lawrence Hammond is killed, the GPS system states that it has arrived at Skyline Hills Resort, causing Hammond to yell in disbelief "The hell I have!" The GPS then quips "Thank you for using Safe Voyage System" just as Hammond and his wife are gunned down.

Quotes[]

(Monk gets Scott Gregorio to coach Benjy)
Sharona Fleming: Thank you, Adrian! (pause) I thought I'd thank you now, because in a half an hour, you're probably gonna piss me off again.
Monk: You're welcome.


(as Monk starts cleaning the plate)
Stottlemeyer: Okay, guys, we're gonna be here for a while, so if any of you have any homework that you need to do, you might as well take it out now.


(After Monk solves the case)

Sharona: Adrian, you are a great detective. A terrible umpire, but a great detective.

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