THE SPECIAL "Ferrell Takes the Field"

WHEN | WHERE Saturday at 10 p.m. on HBO

WHAT IT'S ABOUT On March 12, Will Ferrell spent a day going to five different ballparks in Arizona to play 10 different positions for 10 different major league teams, all at the outset of spring training. The idea was threefold -- do a comedy special for HBO; honor Bert Campaneris, shortstop for the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics; and raise money for a pair of charities, including Cancer for College, run by his former fraternity brother, Craig Pollard, who, with Ferrell's help, has raised over $2 million for scholarships that go to cancer survivors. This 49-minute special, coproduced by Major League Baseball and Ferrell's Funny or Die, raised additional funds, per HBO, by selling "game-used memorabilia from Ferrell's journey across the five ballparks." Why Campaneris, who appears here briefly? Because on Sept. 8, 1965, he played all nine positions for the Kansas City A's.

MY SAY Would you rather me play nice here, given the auspices of what appears to be a highly laudable charity and Ferrell's efforts in support thereof? Or save you 49 minutes of precious time Saturday night, which might otherwise be devoted to (I dunno), sleep?

You choose the "save 49 minutes" option?

Option two? Fine then: This special is not good.

Not even remotely in the ballpark of "good" -- huddling way up there in the last seat of the grandstands, bravely sticking out its chin of worthy intentions into the cool winds of autumn blasting in from center field....

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It is however tired, self-amused, occasionally boorish, entirely dull and much (much) more about Ferrell than baseball, Campaneris, or those charities. The joke is a long one. Ferrell pretends to be the world's greatest ballplayer who, despite his repeated claims of bewilderment and indignation, is traded constantly to other teams. The real-life players on those real teams -- the A's, Giants and White Sox -- are intermittently more puzzled than willing to play along with the bumbling movie star. (After all, many were fighting for a regular-season job.)

Of course, Ferrell deserves credit for this generous impulse and even the resulting (if flawed) effort. But couldn't he just have easily written a check for a million bucks instead?

BOTTOM LINE Not counting a visit to the accountant, or periodontist, the longest 49 minutes you'll spend all year.

GRADE C-