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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 did.

    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.

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  • Kakueke5 December 2002
    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.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Ken Burns' "Baseball" tries to be a good documentary... it presents a clear origin of the game, a great depiction of baseball's early years and heroes. There's plenty of great footage in this movie for any baseball fan... that said, the film has several glaring flaws- namely by presenting the game of baseball as some sad and tragic part of America's history when it is in fact the opposite: a joyous if imperfect celebration of everything uniquely American.

    Ken Burns- fresh from the success of his Civil War series- tries to tell the story of baseball in the same way as he did his previous documentary: maudlin, sorrowful, and sentimental. The running time doesn't help: 18 hours is simply too long for the human attention span. It's clear that Burns stretched his film out to fit his "nine inning" concept. It's not even a tight 18 hours: the pace is slow, almost morose... the music always nostalgic and wistful. Isn't baseball ever exciting and fun? Why is every player and their accomplishments presented in the form of a tragedy?

    Talking head after talking head turn every pitch into an emotional heartbreak, yakking about baseball as a metaphor, baseball as Americana, the psychology and theology of baseball... at times this is tough to sit through. What should have been an enduring tribute to the game becomes syrupy, mawkish drivel. Billy Crystal stops by to sell us all the Yankee hokum he's sold us before. Ken Burns uses the National Anthem as the series' theme song, and manages to play "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" so many times you might vomit. We get it, dude.

    Mr. Burns also comes off as a neo-Hollywood faux-liberal, spending probably a third of the film on the Negro leagues... these segments are spent chastising whites of yesterday for not being as open-minded as Kenny is today. For shame! He chides baseball for being segregated in the thirties and forties but fails to realize that the entire country was segregated in those times! He tries to shame the game, evidently failing to realize that baseball was one of the FIRST institutions to integregate, starting with the historic signing of Jackie Robinson. Burns seems sheltered and naive, clearly falling in love with Buck O'Neil, a former negro-league player, and drools over every piece of footage in which the elderly O'Neil waxes poetic about his playing days. Nonsense...

    Burns would have been better off with an objective outsider to help him edit his creation down. "Baseball" winds up as mushy, gushy, civil- rights propaganda disguised as Americana. It's clear that Burns is not a baseball fan... otherwise he would know that we fans watch games laughing and cheering, not weeping and reciting soliloquies... are you listening, Mr. Burns? There's no crying in baseball.

    GRADE: C-
  • What makes this documentary great is, well, everything. At the foundation, 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.
  • cubiegirl8 January 2001
    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 beginnings to modern-day. My favourite era of baseball was the 1940s to the 1960s and I thoroughly enjoyed that part. I recently found the complete set at a local video/music store and bought it. I pop one in every week to get me through the long winter. Every baseball fan should see this! You will not be disappointed!

    A 10 out of 10!
  • Enjoyable and informative baseball documentary. Probably the best Ken Burns did outside of The Civil War but it's not without flaws. I liked the first four or five "innings" best. After that, things go downhill. The episode covering the 1940s focuses 3/4 of its time on Jackie Robinson. While Robinson and the integration of baseball are certainly important parts of the history of the sport, you're left with the impression it's all Burns really cares about. From this point on in the series, all roads lead back to Robinson and he features prominently in every episode after. It just feels like the first half of the series is a love letter to baseball and the second is more concerned with politics and social issues. Nothing necessarily wrong with that but it does affect the overall congruity of the documentary. Also, as others have noted, the documentary basically loves the New York teams and the Red Sox to death but can barely be bothered to discuss other teams. This is also true of many great players. To have a documentary about the history of baseball and not even mention Stan Musial until he retires is just shameful. There are other greats who are similarly shafted.

    The Ninth Inning covers way too broad an era and seems rushed, like they just wanted to get the doc over with. Some great players and achievements from the '80s aren't even talked about. The '70s fares only slightly better. Despite this being released in 1994, you get the impression it was finished several years earlier. For example, near the end they talk about Bo Jackson like he's the next big thing. Jackson had already suffered the injury that derailed his career years before this, yet no mention is made of it. They do tack on something about the Blue Jays winning the World Series at the end, but only because their manager was black and a significant portion of the series, particularly the last half, was devoted to the issues of race in baseball. The Tenth Inning parts that were added many years later don't feel like Ken Burns at all. They're really terrible, to be honest. Some of the interview subjects, like Daniel Okrent and John Thorn, are just apologists for the roidheads and big egos that ruined the sport. Trying to compare some guy using a spitball decades ago to some guy juicing up and shattering cherished records that were earned by men who didn't have to cheat to get it done is just disingenuous and pathetic. Perhaps they are on the MLB payroll. If I sound bitter, it's because I am. I grew up on baseball and loved it. The way some of these guys in the earlier, more nostalgic segments of the documentary talk about the game is how I felt. But the last two decades chased me away and it hurts me to watch it anymore. Anyway, check it out if you have a lot of time to spend on the history of major league baseball. It's not perfect, and I could make a list of things I would change about it, but it kept my interest throughout.
  • robstackley26 December 2014
    Despite what I'm going to focus on below, I stand tall and proud and say that 9 weeks before the first pitch of the season, every season, I pop in one VHS a week and ring in the new season with this sometimes breathtaking documentary,

    Now then - the accolades for this production are myriad and have been skillfully and warmly put forth by other reviewers. I can add no more, they have said it all and said it well.

    To that end, I'd like to mention what I found to be the one inherent flaw of "KB's Baseball"...its' major flaw is that the content itself flies in the face of one of the over-riding themes - segregation, exclusion, narrow-mindedness and arrogance. Now, all of these things existed, true, and these issues were addressed in the programme with integrity and honesty. And yet, all of these things are prevalent in the CONTENT of "KB's Baseball". Anyone watching this 200 years from now would think that teams only existed in New York and Boston.

    The viewer is beaten over the head with New York and Boston from beginning to end, to the EXCLUSION of almost every other team. How unfair it is to segregate the love of a nation for its' native sport by focusing so narrowly on the game as played on the Northeast coast of the United States? Is Burns himself not guilty of failing to practice that of which he preaches throughout? Just as all men are created equal, so are all of the fans throughout ALL of the states...where is the equal representation? Yes, I know, it can't be presented in 3,847 innings to get everything in, but come on.

    In closing, Buck O'Neill was an absolute treasure, and I traveled to Milwaukee just before his passing. to meet him at Miller Park, shake his hand, and personally thank him for everything.
  • 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.
  • I wouldn't necessarily call this a great documentary, at least not as a view of baseball overall.

    There is far too much concentration on New York and Boston during eras that warranted much more mention of Cubs, Athletics, Tigers, Cardinals and so on.

    Burns also seems to get lost at times on the racial segregation issue, almost to the point of contradicting his own narration and inferring that baseball was somehow more racist than the country in general at the time. I am not trying to discount the plight of African-American ballplayers over the years, I just think Burns emphasized it to the point of distraction at times. Large chunks of the series revolve around nothing else but New York, Boston and segregation. Also, negative aspects about New York teams and players are glossed over. I don't recall any mention of lagging attendance as a defense for the Dodgers exodus to Los Angeles or the Giants to San Fran. Mention is made of Mickey Mantle constantly playing with pain. The fact that he brought much of that on himself by constantly abusing his body with carousing and alcohol is basically glossed over. I also don't recall the Yankees horrible history of introducing black players being included as the flip side of the Jackie Robinson story in Brooklyn.

    With the exception of the dominant Yankee/Dodger teams of the 50's, the series is much more East Coast-centric than it need be. The fact that 1970 til present (well, 1994) was compacted into one volume is also a bit annoying. (As if anything in the post expansion era isn't 'romantic' enough for Burns' efforts.) The talking heads can also be a problem at times. I consider myself to be a sucker for the occasional 'tug at the heartstrings' poetic waxing, but some these people are too overblown. I found myself wincing on more than one occasion at the pretentiousness of some of the comments. The most interesting dichotomy of the series is seen by looking at the historical versus the modern talking head. The majority of the narrator driven historical readings emphasis baseball as a wonderful boys game played by men. It's only the modern day talking heads that manage to pervert it into some beautiful, unicorn, fluffy bunny, poetry-in-motion, analogy for the human condition slop.

    I know it seems as if I'm slamming the series, but I really did enjoy it overall. I just don't think it's anything approaching a perfect documentary. You'll get the feelings that the game rarely left New York until the Giants and Dodgers did and that it existed purely as a vehicle to oppress the black man. Still, It's an entertaining watch and worthy of the time investment for casual baseball fans and history buffs alike.

    7/10
  • Watching this documentary is a must for any serious baseball fan. It documents with great alacrity some of the best anecdotes and characters in baseball since its "invention" in the 19th century.

    The series has one serious weakness: it is heavily focused on the Boston Red Sox in several chapters.

    While the history of the Red Sox is intriguing and worthy, it's given a little too much attention in this documentary. Other teams, with other great moments are sometimes given only the briefest of mentions.

    I think you have to forgive Ken Burns for getting wrapped up in New England's fascination with the Red Sox. Despite having a wealth of interesting stories and characters to choose from, in certain chapters he clearly chose to just have extremely eloquent people just wax all poetically about the opera of his favorite baseball team. He's clearly a fan just like you and I, so how can you not understand his fascination with his favorite team? There are other notable oversights. There is little to no discussion on the advent and development of relief pitching or in fact any discussion on the modern development of the game's strategy. The importance and strength of the Pacific leagues, before the Giants and Dodgers move out west, is also largely ignored. In fact if you are a fan of baseball's history west of the Mississippi you might get frustrated at how much of the focus is centered on the teams from the Northeast.

    Another beef of mine is there is only a casual nod to development of baseball in other countries. This is forgivable, since one of key themes of the entire series is how well baseball mirrors and reflects the social and political events within America through each decade. Still, in my mind, Latino players, and Latino culture in baseball was not given its full due, this is probably the series' gravest oversight.

    Whatever weaknesses there are, it is forgivable because the documentary is so lovingly put together and so beautifully crafted. The various commentators throughout the segments are selected well for they are both knowledgeable and eloquent. They shine the most when they reveal their own personal connections to baseball and each of them has a personal story to tell as to why the game is meaningful to them.

    Along the way, you will see photos and film of some of the great legends of the game, that you probably never saw before. You'll get insight into collusion, the trials baseball endure, and the player's long quest to banish the reserve clause. You'll also see just how greedy, myopic and tragic some of baseball's owners and commissioners have been over the years.

    If you love baseball, buy or rent this series. It's a real treat, and a series that you may find yourself revisiting from time to time in the cold winter, when you yearn for the green fields and blue sky of your favorite baseball park.
  • I liked this documentary but it was a little too high falooten with the scholars and the writers and the historians and if they mentioned the Red Sox and that stupid hit in the 6th game of the world series in '75 I'd...and Red Sox, Yankees, Red Sox, Yankees, Red Sox...enough already! Personally I found the stuff in the early days of baseball (pre-1920s) to be the most interesting. Also, the segment on the Negro leagues was very strong. Probably worth a documentary on that subject alone. Seems like some of the bad teams like Cleveland and Philly (Phillies) were kind of overlooked. Yeah, they didn't get the headlines but there might be something to be said about why those teams never managed to do anything while the Yankees and Cardinals pummeled them year after year. Anyway, if you're a fan of the game you should clear out a week or so of evenings, fire up the netflix and check it out!
  • The issue with this kind of a documentary is fans will inevitably criticize it for what it leaves out. If you are a Minnesota, Houston, Seattle or Angels fan, you might feel shortchanged if not entirely ignored. If you are a Yankee or a Boston fan, you probably feel the piece is just about perfect. Burns had to make the inevitable and painful decisions about what to keep and develop and who and what to cut, just like the manager of a baseball team must do at the beginning of every season. There are always players with potential that are regretfully cut from the roster. Burns only had a finite amount of time to tell his story, and he focused on those incidents that captured the spirit of the larger American experience.

    Burns decided to create a narrative that is obviously more of an anecdotal history of baseball than a comprehensive history of the entire sport. The amazing aspect of the film is how much he was able to expound upon in 9 parts, which may seem like a lot until you realize the film is trying to cover a 150-year history that encompasses thousands of players and millions of fans. And just about every story is worth the time allotted to it. From the discredited legend of Colonel Abner Doubleday supposedly inventing baseball to the Owner's Collusion and Price-Fixing Scandal of the 1980's, "Baseball" presents a lengthy narrative that covers the major events and people who populated the sport at the nation-wide level of the American public consciousness, each of which could be a documentary by itself. The derivation of baseball from Rounders and Cricket, the first baseball scandal of the late 19th century, the many company teams of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the African-American Black leagues, the first African-American players who were driven from the white leagues, the first successful female player, the press' role in covering games, the "curse" of the Boston Red Sox (with an amazing story by Bob Costas) and the mediocre Chicago Cubs who at one point were garnering more attendance than the Yankees paint an historical portrait with all the colors and subtleties that tell us so much about what is good and not so good in America.

    Burns I think chose those incidents that either reflected the historical context of their times or captured the spirit of America's strangest yet most-loved pastime. Of course the price was the absence of lesser-known teams and personalities. However, if he had left out the likes of Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, or Joe Dimagio, baseball historians and fanatics would have cried foul that you can't have a baseball documentary without these people. And other incidents, such as the Black Sox scandal of 1919 demonstrated that baseball players were still little better off than working class Americans. My personal favorite episodes chronicled the early years of professional baseball with the likes of Christie Mathewson, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner, and Ty Cobb. Cobb was probably the most controversial of all American sports figures, and some sports writers view him as an embarrassment to baseball despite his lifetime batting average which still stands. (Later in his life, Cobb was kicked out of a San Francisco men's club for cheating at poker.) Love him or vilify him, Cobb was a personification of what was (and is) best and worst in America. And I must mention the little piece about Rube Waddall who was possibly the strangest character to infiltrate major league pitching. His story is worth the price of admission as he makes Billy Martin appear like a very stable and confident person.

    One of the historical facts that is explored is the race discrimination that was enforced by all the white-run major league baseball teams until the 1940's. In response, African-Americans created the so-called Black Leagues which ended up making almost as much revenue as their white counterparts. Some have criticized that the documentary spent too much time on this issue, but I strongly disagree. This is a very important issue as it showed how professional baseball was, at first, as racially segregated as other American institutions, but then became a beacon for racial integration. The willingness of Jackie Robinson, who realized he was in the for the fight of his life, and the foresightedness of Branch Rickey, then owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, put Baseball on the forefront of racial integration. I think if there was ever a documentary that could instill in children, both black and white, the injustice of racism and prejudice, "Baseball" would probably impress them beyond other kinds of documentary material since it deals with baseball, a sport many of them are probably playing. Ironically, Major League Baseball ended up making tons of money when Jackie Robinson signed up with the Dodgers, as many African-American fans came to see his games when Brooklyn was on the road. Racial segregation was not only wrong, it was unprofitable!

    An all-inclusive history of baseball would have been 90 hours long instead of 20, and therefore impossible. Thoroughly documenting every team's history would have taken over Burns' entire film-making career. Being an SF Giants fan myself, I was a bit disappointed that very little was spoken about my team after its move from New York, except an off-hand remark about Willie McCovey's shot that went right at the Yankee's short-stop in the 9th inning of the 7th game that ended the 1964 World Series. Some Yankee and Giants fans attending the game said it was the hardest hit ball they had ever seen. (I was not alive at the time but I have heard it oft-repeated from older Giants fans.) Simultaneously, I prefer subjects explored with depth than just glossing over names and dates. This is just about as good as American documentaries get. Maybe Major League Baseball teams should document their histories with Burns-like style.
  • 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.
  • Score 6/10 Ken Burns has created a documentary that resembles baseball itself. Overlong with not enough action and everyone around you yapping how owners, players and fans have ruined the game. On the plus side disk nine's coverage of the Red Sox curse is a delight. You can see the pain on the faces of the fans as they discuss Bucky Dent's home run or game six. This segment also highlights another strength of using non-experts to discuss the game they love. It is quite refreshing.

    On the bad side outside of sheer length is the constant drumbeat about racism in the game. While Burn's jazz miniseries and certainly the civil war had a place to discuss racism it starts to seem out of place here. There is not a disk or a segment that escapes the constant barrage of how racist baseball was and is. Truth be told baseball reflected America at the times it was played and was neither significantly more or less racist than America as a whole.

    To long and slow for its own good Ken Burns baseball sounds like the old uncle repeating the same stories long after he made his point.
  • jalbert32 February 2003
    10/10
    Bravo
    Fantastic. Captures the spirit and rich tradition of our historical national pastime. A must see for every fan of the game. I feel that this is Ken Burn's finest work- even better then his documentary on the Civil War.
  • Hey, nobody's knocking Ken Burns for his ability to nail down old film clips and collect obscure information. Lengthy documentary on America's past-time is chock full of good stuff for fans of old-time baseball. But the presentation is Sports Illustrated smug, like they knew what was going to happen all along. And it's more than a little pretentious to title hours worth of obsession with the miseries of Boston Red Sox fans (and to a lesser extent Cubs fans) as "Baseball", as if you actually thought of giving equal time to the other 14 long-time franchises. Case in point - I'm a Phillies fan and I think we won one World Series GAME before 1980. If I recall, our 1980 championship was a footnote dropped without fanfare late in this series. Here's hoping somebody with more interest in the other baseball teams comes along and gives this a more balanced shot. 7 out of 10
  • And those are just the P words. The Civil War was an important, even pivotal, event in our nation's history. Baseball is just a game. Not even a very interesting game, witness the declining viewership and participation relative to other sports. Yet we have nine episodes -- excuse me, innings -- of everyone from George Will to Mario Cuomo to Billy Crystal bloviating on what a just and democratic game baseball is. Spare me. It's a game. It's no more intellectual than basketball, or football. It isn't more virtuous just because nothing's happening most of the time. I don't care how many guys in tweed jackets Ken Burns tracks down to tell me otherwise, a bug is not a feature.

    To be clear, I have nothing at all against baseball per se, or against Ken Burns. But for crissakes this is an interminable series, redundant in the extreme (yeah we get it, the Negro Leagues were great, Ty Cobb was an a--hole), and and others have pointed out, pretty heavy on New York and Boston. This should've been a 2-3 parter at most, along the lines of his Prohibition series.
  • Anyone complaining about the New York bias of this series is just too narrow minded to see beyond their own bias to the team they root for. OK, I live in New York, but I'm not a New York fan. I'm not even American. Professional baseball isn't played my country. This documentary begins before the Civil War, none of the New York teams moved west until the late fifties. This documentary is a masterpiece. From start to finish. I owned it on video, I now own it on DVD. I've seen it many times and I find it mesmerizing. It is about so much more than baseball. It is a modern history of the USA. It explores the social and political development of this country on so many levels. The narration and commentary are perfect. And the cinematography, albeit often shots of photographs is just beautiful. Everybody has their likes and dislikes regarding certain personalities, but I found mine were transcended here. Everyone has an interesting and compelling story to tell. Even Billy Crystal who I generally find somewhat annoying. My favorite is someone I had never previously heard of. Buck O'Neil. I'm so glad to have been able to see this man talk about baseball. "Baseball" is worth watching for him alone. I would recommend this to anyone whether they're a fan or not.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Baseball", the series by Ken Burns, sets out to be the definitive documentary on the sport, but falls short of the mark.

    Everyone is aware that the history of baseball is long and complex. It is so long and complex that even the best attempts to chronicle it fall flat. This being said, Burns's documentary falls short in so many ways. Rather than tell the story, the film falls victim to waves of intense social commentary, as though the film has to redress every last wart and blemish ever associated with the game.

    What's regrettable about this stance is that iconic figures of the game get the short shrift. As an example, as near as I can tell, there's not a single mention of Mike Schmidt, arguably the games greatest third baseman. There is, however, plenty of time spent on three areas: the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Negro Leagues. Judging by the whole of the film, you might think they were the only areas that mattered. This, sadly, is what the film is: Yankees, Red Sox, Negro Leagues, with everybody else in a supporting role, as though it were a movie, complete with a triangle at the top and supporting players down below.

    Do not get me wrong - there is a treasure trove of beautiful footage from the game's early days that make this essential for anybody to spent a few minutes with. It's just a pity that Burns can never move too far away from wielding a social hammer instead of the proverbial peanuts & cracker jack a lot of us may have preferred.
  • Being only a casual baseball fan, I was concerned about devoting 19 hours to this miniseries. I did so partly because of IMDb's unusually high 9.2 rating and my love of other Ken Burns efforts like "The Civil War" & "Lewis & Clark."

    The first 2 or 3 "innings" on the early days of baseball were wonderful--chock full of interesting things I didn't know about the game and organized and presented as beautifully as I have come to expect from Burns. However, the end of the Ty Cobb era ushered in a heavy East Coast (especially New York area) bias that remained for the rest of the series. I didn't time it, but I'm sure there was substantially more time devoted to New York players and teams than to all other players and teams combined. For New York fans I recommend it highly. For me and probably a lot of other non-New Yorkers it got tiresome after a while. Like the endless renditions of "Take Me Out To the Ball Game" it was way too much of a good thing.
  • Wheather you are a baseball fan or not, this documentary mini series is well worth watching(and purchasing). Ken Burns has once again proved his talent. I was really impressed with all the material on the old Negro Leagues, a personal interest of mine. I highly recommend this series to all history buffs and baseball fans alike.
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