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96 of 101 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The tragic story of Buck Weaver and the Black Sox scandal, March 25, 2001
This review is from: Eight Men Out (DVD)
Every time I watch "Eight Men Out" I am not really sure how I stand on the question of whether or not "Shoeless" Joe Jackson should be in the Hall of Fame, but the film certainly reaffirms my long held belief that justice might best be served if Charlie Comisky was kicked out of the shrine of baseball immortals. It is useful to remember that the team was already known as the Black Sox before the 1919 World Series because they refused to pay for their own laundry when Comisky decided there were additional nickels to be made from cutting that particular corner. What Comisky did to create an environment on his team that gamblers were able to exploit is amply set up. Even before the gamblers double-cross the boys and have to take extra steps to ensure the outcome of the series against the Reds, it is Comisky's arrogant dictatorship that makes us look with some measure of sympathy towards the Black Sox. Director John Sayles, who takes a turn as sportswriter Ring Lardner singing "I'm Forever Throwing Ball Games" on the train carrying the team, this 1988 film certainly gets the most out of its limited budget. Based on Eliot Asniof's book, which is a very detailed account of the entire scandal, the film focuses on the eight men who, for various reasons, ended up throwing away their reputations and their careers. The details on the scandal are in the book; Sayle's film focuses on the basic elements are the moral ambiguities of a complex chain of human actions.
Certainly the tragic figure in "Eight Men Out" is not Jackson (D.B. Sweeney), who certainly receives his biggest cinematic boost from "Field of Dreams," but rather Buck Weaver (John Cusack). Weaver's sin was that he failed to rat out his teammates once he knew there was talk of a fix. Judge Kenisaw Mountain Landis, a necessary evil as the game's first commissioner, needed to scrap out the cancer of this scandal even if it meant cutting to the bone. That meant that Weaver, who was the third baseman on Ty Cobb's all-time team, suffers the same banishment for life from the game he loves as those who took payments to throw the World Series. Weaver's nobility is further enhanced in the film because he is the one who has time for the kids in the sandlot and who believes that the lessons he learned as a boy playing the game still apply not only to baseball but also to life. Jackson is something of a cipher in the film, more legend than flesh and blood human being. Consequently, Weaver's character stands in contrast to Chick Gandil (Michael Rooker), the limited "brains" behind the scandal and Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn), the star most wronged by Comisky the skinflint. Even at the end of the film, when we see "Shoeless" Joe on a semi-pro field playing under an assumed name, it is Weaver who offers the film's benediction from the stands and Weaver who emerges as the most sympathetic figure. If you get to vote for anyone to be in the Hall of Fame from the Black Sox, Bucky would be your man. But neither Weaver nor Jackson is in Cooperstown and there is a second ballpark on the Southside of Chicago named for the true villain of the story.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 23, 2008 11:57:21 AM PST
J J BAGS says:

Posted on Mar 4, 2009 11:30:13 AM PST
THIS film has subtitles in Spanish

Posted on Jan 31, 2010 9:37:52 AM PST
Bill Emblom says:
J. G. Taylor Spink was the publisher of The Sporting News and one of the series' official scorers. In a letter to me in the 1960s Spink said this regarding the offending eight players: "They were all guilty. Jackson was a friend of mine and did me some favors that I will never forget."

Posted on Feb 21, 2010 4:03:00 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 3, 2010 5:32:49 AM PST
Watched this excellent dvd (anniversary edition) again just last night- good review, but also worth mentioning that the extras to the dvd are necessary viewing, if you want to get the most out of the movie. Excellent expansion of the backgound history of the event, and the principals involved, and also lots of information about the selection of the cast, and the challenges involved in the filming of the movie, which help you appreciate the artistry of Sayles even more. Also the dedication of DB Sweeney to his role as the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson- while Sweeney was a former college baseball player, he was not a left handed hitter, but insisted on learning to hit well enough left-handed to make those scenes with Jackson (arguably the best left-handed hitter ever, right up there with Ty Cobb) believable- even down to fine details like how Jackson would hold his hands on the bat when he swung.

I'm an ex-college baseball player, and remain an avid fan of the game, and it's history. Also was born and raised on the South side of Chicago, so this story has always had a more special significance to me. Baseball movies always have the tough task of involving good actors who can also PLAY baseball well- and while some of the on the field action in this movie suffers a bit, overall it gives you a good idea of how baseball looked in 1919. The details of the uniforms, gloves, ballparks, fans, etc was excellent.

And I couldn't agree more with your last statements. I lived in a Chicago suburb where Charles Comiskey had his private residence (rather lavish, of course). Like most scandals in sports, the 1919 Black Sox players were made to be major scapegoats, and the corruption of the game (gamblers AND team owners) was given an "intentional walk". Kennesaw Mountain Landis, for all his posing as a martinet, was as much to blame as anyone, too.

This movie is in my top 5 baseball flicks of all time, and not just for the story. It's a well-made film that deserves a spot in any baseball fans' video library.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 24, 2011 11:11:57 PM PDT
ellison says:
I think Curt Flood was able to get the reserve clause eliminated.

Posted on Jul 21, 2014 9:39:22 AM PDT
Peter G says:
Must say I respectfully disagree that 1)Sayles got everything out of the movie & 2) Jackson and Weaver were victims and should be in the HOF (or considered for the HOF)

Sayles captures little from the book except a cartoon version of the events and the characters that shaped it. The good guys are squeaky clean, the bad guys are really bad. Everyone is one dimensional. Everyone is out to 'get' the poor players. Although Shoeless Joe was illiterate, wasn't a simpleton as portrayed here. The movie, although entertaining to a baseball fan like myself, is a simple one sided version of the events. You would do well to read the book of the same name that Sayles poorly bases this movie on. Obviously much more detail, and the characters are presented a little more humanly, good and bad motives along the way. Comiskey, although cheap, was a 60 year baseball man from a player to a magnate. He wasn't the bumbling idiot portrayed here
Your review implies you take the movie at face value. Jackson and Weaver are the victims, Comiskey and the gamblers are the villains. Try the book, you'll love it. The were all guilty, they were all human beings and tried to get a quick buck.

As far as Jackson or Weaver being treated unfairly, that they should be at least considered for the HOF, I could not disagree more (and I grew up on the Southside as a Sox fan). No matter if they were the least paid team in baseball, the average big leaguer in 1919 made eight times what the average man wages (btw- that eight times figure would remain somewhat consistent until free agency). They may have been nickled and dimed by Comiskey, but they gave them no right to throw the world series. Even if you do take this movie as fact, both Jackson and Weaver knew the fix was in and did nothing. Even if they were 'led astray' as if they were poor saps that could taken advantage of, they were all big boys and did what they did for the money, poor and simple.

Its a sappy movie about a tragic event in my beloved baseball, but the players have only themselves to blame.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2014 10:35:07 AM PDT
Peter G says:
Yes the owners were cheap, but so were the owners of every other business in every other industry (then and now)
The players still made eight times the wages of the average working man. Throwing the World Series was greed, not a financial necessity caused by Comiskey.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2014 10:40:37 AM PDT
Peter G says:
Saying Landis is 'as much to blame' is almost as stupid as adding "ex college baseball player' to your post as if that adds credence.

The players, although underpaid, still earned eight times more than the average working man's wages. Throwing the world series was greed, not a necessity due to financial hardships. Comiskey and Landis are many many things, few of them good. But they are not to blame. the players were big boys and have to live with their decisions.

How lavishly Comiskey lived is not the issue as to why the eight were permantly banned from the game.
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Lawrance Bernabo

Location: The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota

Top Reviewer Ranking: 26,134