Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ken Burns "The Tenth Inning" Review: Top of the Tenth

Over the past two evenings there has been something much more pleasant to watch than the Minnesota Twins and their get healthy line-up on the field. PBS and Ken Burns have teamed up again to bring the documentary titled "Baseball" back to your TV. This newest installment of the documentary is called the "Tenth Inning," because innings one through nine were covered in the original series in 1994. The tenth inning is a two part, four hour series that focuses on everything that has happened in baseball since 1994 and there is a lot to cover in that short amount of time.

Here is a summary of some of the major topics covered in the "Top of the Tenth Inning:"

The Strike
Ken Burns does a remarkable job of connecting the sport of baseball to the world events that are surrounding the game. The first night started with a look at the strike year. I turned 10 shortly before the strike hit baseball and it hurt my personal following of baseball. Burns put together a great collection of film and interviews to give perspective on the strike now that we are almost two decades removed from it. The strike hurt baseball and the series looked at this. There could have been more focus on how much the game was hurt. It would take a homerun chase and many other factors to bring fans back to the sport.

The Rise of Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds is a very polarizing figure. He had run-ins with the media throughout his career was not a very fan friendly athlete. Burns does a great job of trying to show fans why Bonds might be the way that he is. There was a great interview with Barry's father, Bobby Bonds, that explained that Barry was all business when it came to baseball. The younger Bonds of the early '90s was something to behold. This series did a great job of showing just how good he was at all portions of the game. He hit for power, he stole bases, and he played great defense in centerfield. One point the series made was that Bonds was upset during the 1998 homerun race. He wanted the attention of being the first player ever to hit 400 homeruns and steal 400 bases in the 1998 season. But this story was thrown to the back-page of the paper because of McGwire and Sosa.

The Yankees Reemergence as Champions
The beginning of the 90's saw the Yankees change their team philosophy. They started to keep some of their homegrown talent to try and push for their ultimate goal of winning the World Series. The beginnings of a dynasty were in place. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte have all been integral parts to the the current Yankee dynasty. It was great that this series focused on the Yankees rise from not being able to qualify for the postseason to finally winning the 1996 title. The interviews with Joe Torre added a very personal touch to this portion of the episode.

1998 Homerun Chase
The strike had taken fans away from the game. Nothing bring fans back faster than a bunch of brawlers mashing homeruns further and faster than every seen before. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Ken Griffey Jr. all took a shot at the record of 61 homeruns set by Roger Maris. Fans flocked into stadiums for the chance to see moonshot after moonshot. Burns did a good job of showing how the chase impacted both McGwire and Sosa. Overnight Sosa went from being an above average player to a superstar. McGwire tried to hide from the spotlight very reminiscent of the Maris during his chase. The talk of the drug Andro in relation to McGwire really was very strongly written. Fans didn't want to look at the steroid side of the game. They wanted to see homeruns and they didn't care how it happened... for the time being.

The Rise of the Latino Player
Latino players have had a tremendous impact on the game and they continue to have an important place in the sport. Teams spend millions of dollars every year on training academies throughout the Caribbean and Central America. The focus of the episode on the fight that players go through just to make it was really amazing. Their families are counting on them to make it big so they can provide for them. The interviews with the current players in the training academies truly showed that all of their dreams are tied to making it to the show.

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