Ken Burns’ latest film, “The Tenth Inning”, just got over on Channel 2. The four-hour program, shown over the past two nights, was an extension of “Baseball” the 1994 Burns program that covered baseball from the beginning. The highlight of tonight’s show, of course, was the Red Sox historic victory over the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series (and they’re almost anti-climatic World Series victory).
The sixteen year arc of this program began with the strike of 1994 that drove fans away and continued through Cal Ripken’s pursuit and surpassing of the record for the most consecutive games played, the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run records, and the emergence of Barry Bonds to break those records. Steroids were interwoven through all the home run excitement and Burns wraps up the program by focusing on that.
The show also highlights the good parts of baseball: the emergence of Latino players as some of the best that ever played the game, the return of the Yankees to dominance, the crushing defeat of the Red Sox in the fall of 2003 and their Lazarus-like victory in 2004.
This film is typical of earlier works by Burns with archival film and photos guided by narrators and on-camera commentators. Pedro Martinez was one of the more thoughtful speakers, believe it or not. Certainly there was someone more insightful regarding baseball than George Will. Mike Barnicle was omnipresent which, as a Facebook friend, was completely ironic: a guy fired by the Globe for plagiarism sharing the stage with those decrying how steroid use was cheating. Keith Olbermann was on camera often. Fortunately, he’s easier to take when he’s talking about sports than when he’s talking about politics.
Back in June when Ken Burns spoke at the Middlesex Community College Celebrity Forum, he focused on his National Parks film, but in the question and answer session, he gave some teasers about The Tenth Inning. I would judge it to be a success and well worth watching.