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|Index||54 reviews in total|
This is, appropriately, a nine-part series on the history of baseball
up to the 1990s, shown on PBS and done by Ken Burns. Since it's the
latter, you know it's going to be Liberal-bias PC but you put up that.
Overall, it is well-done and a must for any baseball fan and historian.
There are many interesting profiles of players and facts of each era.
Every "inning," about an hour-and-a-half covering the sport
decade-by-decade, has fascinating material.
Inning 1 (Our Game) - 1840s-1900. This segment reveals some facts probably 98 percent of all fans don't know, such as Abner Doubleday did NOT invent the game baseball, that it slowly evolved from a combination of rounders and cricket.
Inning 2 (Something Like A War) - 1900-1910. This might have been the most interesting tape (or disc) featuring incredible stories of riots on the field, in the stands, a stadium and 13 adjacent building all catching fire, one wild story after another. It's the era of the most hated player in the history of the game: Ty Cobb.
Inning 3 (The Faith Of 50 Million People) - 1910-1920. Almost as good as the previous decade. this was a time when America went absolutely batty over baseball. The players were the toughest they have ever been, playing for horrible wages where the game was "life and death" for many. The last half hour centers on the famous Black Sox Scandal.
Inning 4 (A National Heirloom) 1920-1930. This tape centers primarily on Babe Ruth, but who's complaining? Ruth was arguably the greatest player the game has ever known because he could pitch and well as he could hit and was an extremely colorful personality.
Inning 5 (Shadow Ball) 1930-1940. This segment revolves around the beginnings of the Negro Leagues as perhaps the game's greatest pitcher ever: Leory "Satchel" Paige.
Inning 6 (The National Pastime) 1940-1950. Baseball was now open to all people as Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier. Being Liberal-bias, Burns went overboard on this - and similar topics throughout the series - but Robinson's entry, nonetheless, was the biggest change in the history of the sport and he was an incredible man.
Innning 7 (The Capital Of Baseball) - 1950-1960. This tape is definitely for New York City area fans, but the rest of us can enjoy a lot of this, too. The Yankees, Dodgers and Giants all dominated in this decade.
Inning 8 (A Whole New Ballgame) - 1960-1970. Being a decade of social upheaval, riots, assassinations, etc., this centers on the effect on baseball and with the big change in owner-player relations with the players hiring Marvin Miller, a labor lawyer, to represent them.
Inning 9 (Home) - 1970-time of film release. This is potpourri of items from Earl Weaver and the Orioles to Willie Stargell and the Pirates and The Big Red Machine, the Red Sox horrible defeat in the 1986 World Series, among other things.
It would be interesting to see this updated and revised to include the strike in the mid '90s, the home run record-breakers and subsequent steroids scandal and, yes, the Red Sox finally winning it all.
Ken Burns' Baseball is a beautifully crafted telling of the history of
baseball, perfectly weaving the story of the game into the story of
America through archival footage, interviews, and the like. Its 9
episodes are, on aggregate, rather long, but after a while you just
don't notice. It's a wonderful viewing experience and well worth
watching by all - sports fans or not.
Unfortunately, there is one major flaw: the obsession with Boston and (especially) New York. While in some sense this is forgivable - highlighting these cities added some structure and continuity to the narrative, in others, it was blatant favoritism. For example, episode 7 is called "The Capital of Baseball", which can be seen as referring to many things metaphorically, but most directly, to New York City. To put things in perspective, the New York Yankees won the World Series in 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, and 1962. When, in 1960, Bill Mazeroski hit a dramatic home run in the 9th inning of game 7 to win the World Series for the long-suffering Pittsburgh Pirates, the focus was not on the joy of Pittsburgh (or the rest of the country) in seeing the mighty Yankees / New York Teams finally tamed. No, the focus was on the shock and sadness felt by Yankees fans and players. We get to hear comedian Billy Crystal tell us how crushed he felt, despite the previous Yankee championships and even though we see from other segments with him that he seemed to change his allegiances from Yankees to (Brooklyn) Dodgers to Mets as the winds blew. Sorry if I have a hard time sympathizing.
It also stands to note that while doubtlessly others will nitpick here and there about things that have been left out of Burns' telling, none stands out more than the omission of the 1980 National League Championship Series between the Phillies and Astros, which unquestionably ranks as the best playoff series ever played between two teams in the history of baseball. But, no, that's left out and instead you get another 10 minute story about New York instead.
Still, don't let my comments distract from the overall greatness of this series. Highly, highly recommended.
Wow. Ken Burns' Baseball is a fantastic experience. The beautiful thing
about this series is that you don't have to be obsessed with baseball to
enjoy the videos. I myself am only a moderate fan but still found this to be
an exciting and worth while collection. To like this you really only need to
like history, and Baseball does an excellent job taking you through the past
150 years of America. So much information is contained that you will be
overwhelmed by the time you finish it. This is definitely one of the best
done documentaries in all of sports and is worth your time and
What makes this documentary great is, well, everything. At the
it is meticulously researched. Without that wealth of background
information, all the style in the world wouldn't have saved the doc. From
that fount of knowledge springs a geyser of historical glory.
The music is pitch perfect. Burns sticks with an Americana theme for his soundtrack. Variations on "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" provide the primary background music. They are joined by a number of classic baseball songs and tunes that defined generations. The music puts you in the era and adds to the simultaneous definitions of the game and the country.
The storytelling style was a bit jilting at first. Each inning is told in segments. A title pops up on the screen, and then that story is related. At the end of that segment, a postscript is added that may or may not have anything to do with the preceding tale. Initially that was disorienting, but once one realizes how the doc is going to work, it's no longer bothersome.
Ken Burns' defining technique is his use of still pictures, panning and zooming over and around them in a fashion that nearly brings them to life. Accompanied by various ballpark sound effects, that style is perfect for the game of baseball. The deliberate pace of the documentary matches the deliberate pace of the game. But most remarkable about "Baseball" is the archival footage. Antique film of early century heroes like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth literally caused my jaw to drop at times. I had no idea such video existed, and seeing all the classic footage for the first time is like being introduced to a whole new ballgame and cast of characters. Oddly enough, the entire film works better before colorized film and photos are introduced. Perhaps because of the romantic nature of monochromatic hues. Perhaps because they seem new and fresh when compared to the colors we are bombarded with today. Whatever the reason, the first two-thirds of "Baseball" stand out, due in part to the simple yet elegant pictures.
Aside from the archival footage, the highlights of the documentary were not the historical accounts themselves, but rather the commentary by various people who expound upon the intricacies of baseball. Bob Costas reminds us that baseball is a beautiful game. Robert Creamer explains the social aspect of baseball. Billy Crystal tells of his wide-eyed attitude as a youngster. Moments like these will bring a smile to your face, as you nod your head enthusiastically in agreement.
Through the 1950s, Burns covers everything I could think of, along with many great tangents. A major theme to that point is race, as Burns consistently makes a point to explain how baseball is not just a game but also a social barometer. Side stories such as the history of the ballpark frank and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" provide the documentary with a well-roundedness that appeals to people besides the hard-core baseball fan.
My only complaint about this piece of work is a common one. A little too much Northeast bias once the series hit the 1960s. Up to that point, I didn't notice much, probably because baseball did more or less revolve around New York and Boston until expansion. But since the 1960s, the game has truly become national, even international, and I feel that the documentary didn't quite reflect that. Admittedly, the expansion of the game made it more difficult to cover all that has happened in the last quarter century. Also, part of the reason I felt shortchanged was undoubtedly because I am familiar with a larger number of recent events and knew more about what was absent. I realize that with the final 25 years crammed into one two hour episode, many great events had to be truncated or eliminated, but I was still left mildly disappointed.
Like the players that participated in the game it describes, this mini-series is not perfect. However, to maintain the baseball analogy, Ken Burns' documentary is both Hank Aaron and Roger Maris...er, Barry Bonds. It has phenomenal singular moments and also has the longevity to attain Hall of Fame status.
Bottom Line: The scope of "Baseball" combines with the dead-on moments to present a near perfect history and explanation of why baseball is the greatest game ever. 10 of 10.
Being a life-long baseball fanatic (Personally a Cubs fan) and a baseball
history buff, this is simply a WONDERFUL documentary. Ken Burns did an
excellent job on covering every single era in baseball, from the
to modern-day. My favourite era of baseball was the 1940s to the 1960s and
thoroughly enjoyed that part. I recently found the complete set at a
video/music store and bought it. I pop one in every week to get me
the long winter. Every baseball fan should see this! You will not be
A 10 out of 10!
Baseball is a well-researched, thorough documentary of the history of baseball made by Ken Burns, and anyone should find it enjoyable. Burns' overfocus on labor and blacks can be a bother at times, but that is the perspective he chose and he does well with it, and I certainly enjoyed "Shadowball." The real problem is the surfeit of commentary from people like George F. Will (besides, I do not wish to hear what he thinks about anything) and Doris Kearns Goodwin, all of 'em. What I want to hear is the baseball personalities, whom Burns did so well with, not the continual ruminations of celebrity nonexperts -- a little is enough. The worst moment is hearing them sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." The result was underemphasis of some areas of substantive baseball, like some great Philadelphia A's teams of old and various aspects and personalities of the most recent baseball at the time the documentary was made. But for the most part, thumbs up to Burns for his efforts.
Ken Burns gained fame with this major work and deservedly so. Admittedly, I am an unabashed lifelong fan of the sport, but I believe anyone with any type of interest in American history would do well to invest several hours on this wonderful documentary. His groundbreaking style is evident here, such as the innovative use of panning over still photographs and the mix of people who lived some of events, along with modern historians who have spent their lives studying them. I believe that to understand America is to understand baseball, and Ken Burns certainly follows that philosophy. Of course, with any human endeavor, there is room for improvement and points of criticism. My minor criticism may include the inordinate focus on the Yankees, though I agree it would be difficult to produce a documentary on the sport without spending a lot of time on that team, since it has embodied such a large part of its history. It is admirable that Burns made a commitment to include a major part of baseball's history that has been overlooked by many: the influence of blacks and the Negro Leagues. However, as important and necessary is that inclusion, it does seem that at times to spends a bit too much time on it at the expense of other worthy subjects. Still, such a criticism is minor. This is a wonderful compilation worthy of every minute you spend watching it.
This series should have been titled "Baseball in Boston and New York" because that seems to be the only cities w/ any kind of tradition or such. Other that forgetting the other 28 cities that have major league baseball this was a good series.
For all his wizardry doing The Civil War, this Baseball one even though
it is twice as long, puts too much emphasis on Ken Burns favorite
moments of Baseball. A baseball fan appreciates this, but for a history
student, this series does not satisfy you the way the Civil War Series
Burns does focus a lot of time on Jackie Robinson's breaking the color line in Baseball, which is a good thing. He actually spends more time on this one event, than anything else that ever happened in Baseball, & that is too much. What is missing because of this is a large amount of history.
Examples of this are plenty. Nowhere is mentioned the fact that new stadiums were built larger after Babe Ruth came along to try & stop Ruth from hitting more homers. That is exactly the opposite of where the new stadiums have been getting smaller to help the Bonds, McGuires, etc. break all time records.
The beginning of the game is a murky cloud at this point now that Abner Doubleday story has been totally discounted. Yet Doubleday is here but not any evidence of who really invented the game. Then a lot of little things are missed along the way. Very little time is given to the "spit ball" & how it historically effected the game.
Very little time is spent on the dead ball either. The change in lowering the pitching mound in the mid 1960's is not evaluated. Equipment changes are paid only slight attention.
One of the greatest events in Baseball in the 1950's is totally missed, the 12 perfect innings thrown by Harvey Haddix of the Pirates. This has never been done either before or since, & yet did not make the cut to get mentioned in this series?
I am not an expert on Baseball, yet if I can see stuff missing, I am sure the purist of the sport had to be very disappointed. Actually, after visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame, & the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Football has done a better job noting it's history than Baseball has.
In fact, Pro Football broke the color line with 5 Professionally paid Black Pro Football Players before World War 1, years before Jackie Robinson. Maybe we need a series on Pro Football too, only someone who can focus on the entire history of the sport. Ken Burns failed to do that with this Baseball series.
Brilliant documentary on the astounding history of America's pastime with the superb direction of Ken Burns and the vast number of talents from around the world who lend their views on the classic game. Amazing footage never seen before.
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