Baseball: The Tenth Inning
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Baseball - The Tenth Inning a four hour, two episode follow-up to Ken Burns original Baseball series. The film tells the tumultuous story of Americas national pastime from the early 1990s to the present day, introducing an unforgettable array of players, teams and fans, celebrating the games resilience and enduring appeal, and showcasing both extraordinary accomplishments, and devastating losses and disappointments.
Unlike his usual long forays into our nation's distant past, Ken Burns turns his eye to recent history with this engrossing four-hour addition to his popular 1990s documentary series Baseball. Spanning the last 20 years, Baseball: The Tenth Inning chronicles the memorable and infamous personalities, teams, games, and scandals that make the national pastime such a topic of significance beyond sport.
Disc 1 examines the labor stoppage of the '90s, the rise of Latino players from countries like the Dominican Republic, the resurgence of the New York Yankees, and Mark McGwire's and Sammy Sosa's pursuit of the single-season home-run record in 1998. The coverage of the home-run chase is particularly effective in showing how baseball simultaneously serves as an escape from and a reflection of the era in which it is played. A country weary of the scandal of President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky eagerly turned its attention to the two men hitting towering home runs. And yet there was scandal, too, at the heart of their exploits, the truth of which would be avoided by owners, players, the press, and fans for many more years.
Disc 2 spends a significant amount of time on the way the steroid scandal fully came to light in the 2000s. The sour reception to Barry Bonds's pursuit of Hank Aaron's all-time home-run record was not just a reaction to how fans felt about Bonds but also how they perceived what they saw on the field with either greater knowledge or less willful ignorance of how it was achieved. Another compelling chapter on a serious topic focuses on the resumption of baseball after 9/11, one of the few times in history that more than New Yorkers were rooting for the Yankees in the World Series. Burns still gives plenty of time in the second disc to lighter subjects, including the rise of the Boston Red Sox to World Series champions twice in three years after so many seasons of futility or how globalization of the game brought us outstanding talent from beyond the Western Hemisphere in the form of Japan's Ichiro Suzuki.
For all its depth, if there is a weakness to this documentary, it's how much goes unexamined. Because of its focus on players embroiled in the steroids controversy, the feats of the dominant position players of the era who weren't implicated as performance-enhancing drug users--like Ken Griffey Jr., or Albert Pujols--receive little or no attention. Griffey, once considered the best player in the game, gets nothing beyond a brief highlight reel and a reference as an also-ran in the McGwire-Sosa home-run chase. World Series games not involving the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, or Atlanta Braves get about 30 seconds of footage. But to give the game its due might have required a second documentary as long as the original Baseball series.
Regardless of what else could have been covered, fans will be delighted by this Keith David-narrated documentary with its snappy production values and thoughtful contributors--none, however, with the presence or significance of the late Buck O'Neil, the heart and soul of the original series. Sometimes Baseball: The Tenth Inning works its best magic by letting the game do the talking, allowing viewers the opportunity to reminisce as they watch footage (unfortunately grainy on today's huge high-def screens) of great contests gone by. And with the San Francisco Giants defying the odds by winning the 2010 World Series title, Burns is off to a good start this decade with material for future extra innings in this amazing series. --Aaron Knopf
- Back to the Baseball Park: An interview with Ken Burns and Lynn Novick
- Additional scenes: "Dodger Town," "A Night at Fenway Park," "A Tour of Fenway Park"
- Full of Knowledge: A look at baseball in the Dominican Republic
- Central Park and outtakes
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This one deals with the modern game - specifically how the use of steroids affected the game, it's prized statistics that allowed us to compare players over different generations, and how they changed how we look at baseball in general. It is easily up there with Burns' best work.
The research that went into "The Tenth Inning" must have been thorough because the results are a comprehensive analysis of the modern game with its performance enhancing drug use, ridiculous salaries, new 'retro' stadiums and MLB player contract disputes. It isn't all bad however. There's some marvelous detail on players who did it the right way and how good they made we baseball fans feel with the way they handled themselves as players and as men.
Some highlights on these two DVSs include a recap of the McGuire/Sosa single season HR record, a brief comparison between Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Bonds, a nice profile of Ichiro Suzuki and his impact on the style of play by some winning teams, a tour of Fenway Park that's tucked in the Special Features section on the 1st of the two DVDs in this set - and these are all set to great background music throughout.
The 2nd disc includes details the recent World Series title won by the Boston Red Sox and it is at turns funny as hell and also heartwarming. Based on what's revealed here, it could be the most publicly popular major sports title ever won by a professional team. Even if you're not a Red Sox fan, it's a great story very well told.
And that is Ken Burns' major contribution to us, isn't it? He has that talent of making history interesting and captivating, and I don't know how you put a price tag on that.
I think that, even if you didn't see any of his original "Baseball" chapters, this one is strong enough to stand on its own. It's that good.
I'd give it 6 stars if I could...
Fans of the original series will find this addition to be additive, but not transformative. It certainly gives a perspective on baseball today, but does not change what was featured before.