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A date with the Angels' other MVP

The most valuable primate, the Rally Monkey, is willing to take the credit for his team's heavenly ascension as World Series champs.

October 29, 2002|Reed Johnson | Times Staff Writer

Every once in a generation or so, a World Series, Olympics or other sporting epic produces a legendary performer, someone with the looks, personality, athletic skills and sheer animal magnetism to captivate viewers around the globe. Such a hero emerged from the just-wrapped Angels-Giants matchup, and his name wasn't Troy Glaus.

We speak, of course, of the Rally Monkey, that elusive simian with a knack for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat as if plucking juicy nits off a mate's head.

In a rare interview with The Times, the personable primate -- "R.M." to his friends -- spoke candidly about baseball, his role in helping the Angels win their first World Series in their 42-year history, the Darwinian nature of professional sports and the burden of fame.

At his suggestion, we met in a back room at the Coconut Teaszer where, contrary to his reputation for making fashionably late arrivals, the monkey was right on time. After being warned by his publicist not to ask any question containing the phrase "missing link," we began.

The Times: So your team just won the World Series. Are you going to Disneyland?

Rally Monkey: What, are you nuts? Have you been on the Jungle Cruise lately? I mean, I've seen a few tacky rainforests in my time, but at least they don't make you wait in line for two hours to get in! Naw, the kids and the missus have been begging me to take 'em to the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Anything to keep the peace at home, ya know?

Times: Are the rumors true about Game Six that you got stuck in traffic on the 405, and that's why you didn't show up until the seventh inning with the Angels down 5-0?

RM: Absolutely not. I just figured it'd make the game more interesting if I let the suspense build. Plus, it's a long series and you've got to pace yourself. Remember, I helped lead more than 40 Angels' comebacks during the regular season. Who else are you going to call when you're in a jam -- the San Diego Chicken? Please!

Times: How'd you get into this line of work?

RM (wrapping his tail around the light fixture): I guess you could say that show biz runs in our family, which for the record is Hylobatidae. My great-grandfather stole the show from Ronald Reagan in "Bedtime for Bonzo." An aunt had a cameo in "Planet of the Apes" -- she was a child star. And my second cousin once removed was the guy with the bone in "2001: A Space Odyssey." Like they say, the banana doesn't fall far from the tree! (Laughs)

Times: We hear that you're a free agent next season. Any danger you might be lured East by some big-money owner? The New York Yankees, for instance?

RM (glancing uneasily at his agent): It's true. George Steinbrenner and I have had some discussions. Nothing formal. But what could he offer me that I don't already have in Orange County? The penthouse suite at the Empire State Building? I've seen what they do to apes in that town. Besides, believe it or not, I don't like heights. And have you ever seen a palm tree in Central Park?

Times: So what are your off-season plans?

RM: Survival of the fittest, you know. Gotta diversify. Michael Eisner offered me a part in a "Mighty Joe Young" sequel, but I'm holding out for "The Barefoot Executive" remake.

Times: Aren't you, um, kind of small for that role?

RM: Hey, watch it, fella! I may be small, but I think my work on the Jumbotron screen speaks for itself. Plus Curious George, my only competition, is demanding 20% of the overseas grosses. One thing I've learned from being a Disney employee: Never monkey around with an 800-pound gorilla.

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