Friday Flicks: Eight Men Out


May 4, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; A stack of baseballs and a glove before a game between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason can be tough on baseball fans. Why not get your baseball fix through the Silver Screen? All offseason long, check out “Friday Flicks” at lunchtime for a baseball movie review. Want to suggest a movie for review? Comment below with the title.

Last week, I wrote about a movie that appeals to baseball fans because of it’s incorporation of real baseball knowledge. This week’s movie is based on the true story of the 1919 “Black Sox”, who threw the 1919 World Series.

Eight Men Out (1988) is the story of a baseball team in a different era. The players were barely paid enough to scrape by, and the owners had the players with their backs to the wall. Charles Comiskey, owner of the White Sox, was especially known for taking advantage of his team. This is where the gambling bosses could step in.

The 1919 White Sox were considered by many to be the best team to have played in Major League Baseball. After the team guaranteed a World Series berth and before the series started, they were approached by two gambling interests to throw the best-of-nine World Series. Some of the players were invited to participate, and some were kept in the dark…or so the players contended at trial.

The film brilliantly captures the complexity of the drama that played out in the 1919 White Sox clubhouse. Players were underpaid, barely able to make a living, while the owners lived a luxurious life. The players struggled between living as men of integrity and living as men of opportunity. Young, innocent fans believed until the very end that their White Sox were untainted. In the film, innocence is not limited to children; Shoeless Joe Jackson and Buck Weaver claim innocence until the very end. And yes, we do hear a young boy implore Jackson with the infamous and legendary request, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”

Is it a hit? I give it a homerun. I admit, I considered giving it a grand slam; however, I don’t know enough of the factual history to sift through what is accurate and what is apocryphal.  At the same time, any baseball fan will appreciate the (loose) history lesson, as well as the roots of today’s game that are mentioned in the film. Most importantly, the film takes historical figures – some well known and some on the fringe – and reimagines them as figures in both contemporary screenplay and historical imagination.

Come back next week for the remake of a film about a baseball season that helps one catcher make ultimate journey.