I just finished watching Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball: The Tenth Inning. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I have yet to watch the original Baseball documentary, but when I found The Tenth Inning at the public library, I had to jump on the opportunity to at least watch that much.
The Tenth Inning is a two-DVD set that covers the story of Major League Baseball through the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century. From the strike of 1994, to the influx of Latino players, to the home run race of 1998, and delving into a long look at the steroid scandal of recent years, this documentary does a good job of not only looking at the game itself, but also at the relationship between baseball and its fans. We see how baseball struggles against its own demons — greed, drug use — and consistently manages to rebound and draw its supporters back in.
My biggest criticism of the documentary lies in its extensive coverage of the steroid scandal. While hats were tipped to the likes of Ken Griffey, Jr., Cal Ripken, Jr., and Ichiro Suzuki, there were many moments throughout both DVDs that I felt like I was watching the Barry Bonds Show. We get an almost biographical look at Bonds’ background, his early years in baseball, his career as a whole, and his attitudes about the game through all of it. The focus of the second DVD primarily revolved around steroids, with Bonds right in the middle of it, of course. Meanwhile, all the teams that won World Series championships in the early 2000s received about twelve seconds of coverage each.
It’s unfortunate that such a negative chapter in baseball history has drawn so much attention. But as the documentary still reminds us, at the end of the day, it is baseball itself that keeps fans coming back. In spite of greed and scandal and steroids, baseball in itself is still a pretty great game.