The great Chicago White Sox team of 1919 is the saddest team to ever win a pennant. The team is bitter at their penny pincher owner, Charles Comiskey, and at their own teammates. Gamblers take advantage of this opportunity to offer some players money to throw the series. (Most of the players didn't get as much as promised.) But Buck Weaver and the great Shoeless Joe Jackson turn back at the last minute and try to play their best. The Sox actually almost come back from a 3-1 deficit. Two years later, the truth breaks out and the Sox are sued on multiple counts. They are found innocent by the jury but baseball commissioner Landis has other plans. The eight players are suspended for life, and Buck Weaver, for the rest of his life, tries to clear his name. Written by
Patrick Lynn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the final scene, Joe Jackson is playing for a minor league team in New Jersey in 1925. On the outfield wall there is an ad for Harry Kurkjian confections. He was a real merchant that worked in nearby Queens NY during the '20s and '30s. See more »
In an overhead shot of the field before the conversation between Weaver and Gleason the day before the World Series opens, there are obvious remains of the lining for a football field. Cincinnati had no football team at the time that would have played at Crosley field. See more »
I especially enjoyed Studs Terkel and John Sayles as the two sportswriters, Fullerton and Lardner. They're very droll. They act as a kind of Greek chorus, making cynical wisecracks, keeping the audience clued in on what's supposed to be going on. As the White Sox play out yet another crooked game, Sayles said to Terkel, "Nothing but fast balls." "Nice, sloow ones," adds Terkel. It gets better. Terkel writes a column for the Chicago paper accusing gamblers of corrupting the game of baseball and Sayles is reading it aloud. "Writers are tainting the game," or something, says Sayles. "Keep reading," says Terkel. "The game would be better off without the long-nosed, thick-lipped Eastern element preying on our boys in the field." Terkels smiles around his cigar and says, "Makes you proud to be a sportswriter, doesn't it?"
The rest of the movie is pretty good too, although I sometimes get the characters and their motives a little mixed up. The baseball scenes are very well done. I say this, being no big fan of the sport myself. Charlie Sheen (a true aficionado) looks like he's heaving a heavy bat as he clunks out a hit, not a rubber prop. I admired too the way the series games swung back and forth as the players on the take tried to figure out if they were playing for the money or for themselves. It's tough to throw a game because part of one's self always wants to do what one does best -- in this case, play baseball well. The German ethologists call it "Funktionslust." In the end, despite some indecision, they do however lose.
The movie isn't kind to the gamblers or to the owners. Comisky was incredibly cheap and greedy. The script gives this as one of the reasons why the players agreed to throw the game. As Strathairn says when someone offers him a part payment, "I don't care about the money." He's throwing the games to foul up Comisky who has just denied him a promised bonus because Strathairn, playing the pitcher Cicotte, has only played 29 games instead of the 30 they'd agreed upon. Comisky has made him sit on the bench for the last few games so he wouldn't cross the bonus threshold. (Question: Given that Comisky cheated Cicotte of the contracted bonus, was Cicotte morally justified in throwing the games?)
The movie isn't nice to the gamblers either. Not only don't they pay off but they treat the players with contempt. Arnold Rothstein ("A.R.") treats EVERYBODY rudely. He never says hello when he enters a room, never says good-bye when leaving, and never smiles.
I kind of liked this. Sayles may not be a master but his films are always highly individualized. I cannot visualize him directing "Die Hard With A Sardonic Grin."
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