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DVD Review: Baseball: The Tenth Inning – Directed by Ken Burns

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Some things never change. Some people like it that way.  I still play golf with white golf balls. If I played tennis, I’d play with white tennis balls.  I wear hi-top football cleats on the field when I work as referee.  If I played basketball, I’d wear Chuck Taylor All-Stars. For 150 years, many of the basics of baseball have remained the same: three strikes and you’re out, four balls and you walk, ninety feet between the bases.   

My grandmother (Ma Price) was a loyal Yankee fan from my first memories of her, and she remained so all her life.  She also had a strong preference to hear games called by Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese, so when those two guys had the “Game of the Week,” and the Yankees were playing, she was on cloud nine!   I still remember when the Yankees would lose, she would complain that the opposing pitchers “just won’t throw them anything they can hit!”

Pitchers and hitters (or attempted hitters) each get their fair share of coverage in Baseball: The Tenth Inning, a film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, a sequel to Burns’ 1994 Baseball.  Burns and Novick have worked together often since his 1981 film, Brooklyn Bridge, was nominated for an Academy Award.  Burns’ work has been hailed by both historians (Stephen Ambrose) and the media for years and he was named by RealScreen Magazine as one of the “most influential documentary makers” of all time.

The adventures of Barry Bonds and the 1994-95 strike are covered in detail on Disc One.  That reminds me!  My interest in baseball had begun to wane anyway, especially after they allowed “wild card” teams into the playoffs.  Now a team that had a losing record in the regular season could win the World Series!  [Don’t think that ever happened, but just the possibility of it made me mad]. So now, the strike comes along at a time when the average salary in MLB was over a million dollars.  Having never been a fan of unions at any time in my life, this did it for me. I even quit watching in the fall. Who’s the most recent player to be called “Mr. October?”

Disc One continues with the Joe Torre’s story and the Yankees return to prominence.  Torre’s story with the Yanks would have made Ma Price proud.  The “Top of the Tenth” concludes with stories about Roberto Clemente, McGwire, Sosa, and a return to Barry Bonds.

Disc Two reviews more famous pitchers and hitters, covers the drug problems, and features the end of the 86-year drought for the Boston Red Sox.  For this reviewer, the most poignant moment of the entire production is the adornment of the graves of Boston fans that didn’t live to see their team’s victory.  The presentation concludes by addressing the steroid and doping issues of recent years (another coda to Barry Bonds) and reminds us that no matter what the scandal, baseball has persevered for a century and a half — and will surely continue through good times and bad.  Sports writer Howard Bryant says most fans agree, “The game is more important than the players. The game is more important than the owners. The game is more important than the money or steroids. The game is more important than all of it.”

Throughout both DVD’s, a thoughtful selection of music for the soundtrack includes big bands, Springsteen, and Sandy Nelson. Dr. John brings a hearty smile and a laugh out loud during the closing credits with his cover of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.“

Baseball: The Tenth Inning includes two discs, with each dedicated to time periods covering the nineties and the first nine years of the new century, and named respectively as the “Top of the Tenth” and “Bottom of the Tenth.”  Actor Keith David is narrator.  Bonus features include an interview with Burns and Novick, additional scenes, and outtakes. It became available on Amazon on Oct. 5, 2010 — just in time to watch before the 2010 World Series.


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  • Great article, Chip!

    Seems to me that Burns is the reverse of the old Chico Escuela character from SNL (you know, “Baseball been berry good to me”). Burns has been very, very good to baseball. Can’t wait to see this one!

  • Reese McKay

    Your comment about Dizzy Dean and Pewee Reese really takes me back to that time. They were such fixtures on weekend televised major league baseball. There was one pennant race though that really caught my attention back in those days. It was during the summer of 1964 after my final season as a little league player, first baseman. In those days the closest MLB team to north Louisiana was the St. Louis Cardinals. We couldn’t get many of their games on TV so I used to listen to the Cardinal games on the radio. Some time that August the Cardinal team, which had been up and down all season suddenly caught fire after acquiring a new lead-off hitter named Lou Brock who had a fantastic on-base percentage and turned out to be one of the great base stealers of all time. Brock seemed to provide the spark needed by an already talented and tough ball team that included the great fastball pitcher, Bob Gibson. The Cardinals went on an electrifying streak to come from well back in the pack and win the pennant. They went on to beat an aging Yankees dynasty that included the immortal Mickey Mantle in the 7th game of the world series. David Halberstam wrote a good account of this season in his book “October 1964.” It was a time of momentous change in major league baseball, and a time when I was starting to understand the finer points of the game. Gibson pitched a complete game in the Cardinals 7th game world series win, a rare feat by a pitcher in modern times.