A child in the movie utters the famous quote "Say it ain't so, Joe!" In real life, a Chicago reporter was standing close by when a boy said something to the effect of "Say it didn't really happen, Joe." The reporter took creative license, and created the "Say it ain't so, Joe!" quote, to give the story more emotional impact.
Director John Sayles was contractually obligated to a running time under two hours. To inspire the cast to talk fast, he showed them the film City for Conquest (1940). The final cut of the film is 1:59:48.
In many scenes, players toss their gloves down on the field near their positions before they head to the dugout. Until the 1950s, players frequently left their gloves on the field while at bat. Because of the danger of players stepping or tripping on them, and batted or thrown balls bouncing of of them in odd directions, the leagues requested, then demanded that players take their gloves with them to the dugout. They finally complied after a rule change and fines.
John Sayles used cardboard cutouts to fill the stands in the ballpark. He needed 1,000 extras to film close-ups and panning shouts of live fans. To lure the extras, Charlie Sheen volunteered to take part in a contest for one extra to have a lunch with him.
D.B. Sweeney who was right-handed, played the left handed hitting Joe Jackson. He initially suggested filming his hitting scenes in reverse, a process used in The Pride of the Yankees (1942). John Sayles didn't have the budget for such effects. Sweeney arranged to work out with a Class A Minor League Baseball team to learn how to hit left-handed. Sweeney came to feel that the conditions and atmosphere around Class A ball were comparable to those around big league baseball in 1919.
Initially John Sayles envisioned himself in a minor role as a member of the Chicago White Sox. After working over a decade to get the script turned into a movie, he was too old to convincingly portray a ballplayer when filming started. Instead, he cast himself as sportswriter Ring Lardner.
In the final scene, Shoeless Joe Jackson plays for a minor league team in New Jersey in 1925. The outfield wall has an ad for Harry Kurkjian confections. He was a real merchant in Queens, New York during the 1920s and '30s.
The film doesn't mention why baseball owners decided to name Kenesaw M. Landis baseball commissioner. Many baseball historians feel he got the job because he ruled in favor of the American and National leagues when the Federal League sued both leagues in 1914.
Nine players were banned for life as a result of the Black Sox scandal, not eight. Joe Gedeon, a pitcher for the St. Louis Browns, learned of the fix from his friend Swede Risberg, then placed bets on the Reds. He later went to Charles Comiskey and tried to collect a reward by telling him about the fix plot.
In an interview, Michael Rooker said he had a loud argument with the casting director because he was upset that John Sayles was not present at the audition. The casting director felt that he had the right attitude to play Chick Gandil. The producers didn't want to cast Rooker because he was an unknown. They decided to cast him after he sent the producers a clip of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986).
According to some sources, the Chicago White Sox were called the Black Sox long before the World Series fixing scandal. Charles Comiskey refusing to launder the team uniforms, forcing the players to do it themselves, and the uniforms became filthy. Other sources, including Eliot Asinof's book "Eight Men Out", do not mention that.
The ballpark used to make the film, Bush Stadium in Indianapolis, was converted to a dirt race track in 1997. Known then as the 16th Street Speedway, the property was sold in 2011 and remodeled into luxury apartments. Stadium Lofts opened in August 2013, overlooking the former playing field.
The weather during the 1919 World Series was mostly sunny and unseasonably warm. The game scenes were filmed in Indiana in October 1987, when the weather was largely overcast, and in one case brutally cold.
Field of Dreams (1989), another depiction of the 1919 White Sox, was released a little over six months later. The films are credited with increasing public awareness and sympathy towards the team's plight. As a result, public sentiment in favor of overturning Shoeless Joe Jackson's lifetime ban from Major League Baseball grew.
In an early scene, Eddie Cicotte walks by a Chicago storefront with the name Oppenheimer's in the window. In the movie Day One (1989), Strathairn plays Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, leader of the Manhattan Project, the program that eventually developed the atomic bomb.
The Chicago White Sox would not make it to the World Series again until 1959, where they would ultimately lose to the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 2, and would not win a World Series until 2005; defeating the Houston Astros 4-0.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The movie suggests that Eddie Cicotte helped throw the 1919 World Series because the White Sox's owner denied him a $10,000 bonus. Adjusted for inflation, the bonus would be almost $135,000 in 2013 dollars.
In the film, Lefty Williams intends to pitch an honest game in his final start, and changes his mind after a mobster threatens to kill his wife. Eliot Asinof included it in his book, on which the film is based. He later admit he'd made the incident up to thwart anyone trying to plagiarize the book.