Baseball: The Tenth Inning, Ken Burns


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.

5 thoughts on “Baseball: The Tenth Inning, Ken Burns

  1. I agree with you in that a documentary about baseball shouldn’t devote so much time to one particular player. There are many heroes in baseball – famous and infamous. Why devote so much time to one drug user?

    As far as steroids go, wow, that’s a tough one. Drug enhancers for athletes, like Pandora’s Box, once opened, can’t be closed again. The problem, from my perspective, is that eventually they are going to have to allow it as athletes are not going to stop doing it, and then, where do you draw the line? Down the road are we going to see pitchers with bionics in their arms, batters with computer assisted hand-eye coordination, and catchers with reinforced reflexes? Will we even go so far as to selectively breed for baseball players as we do thoroughbreds or cattle? Why not? If the line isn’t drawn, or can’t be held, where does it stop? And should it?

    1. Yeah, steroids are definitely a tough issue. As Chris Rock points out in the documentary, who *wouldn’t* take a pill to be better at their job? But as you point out, it’s only a step away from synthetically produced ballplayers. I really hate to see baseball – or any sport – go that way. It takes away from the purity of the game, and how can you call someone an “athlete” when their abilities are artificially manufactured?

      1. It is going to be such a tough call to make for the person who ultimately has to make it. One thing I’m sure of, is that the decision will be made based on money. If the majority of the fans don’t seem to care, then it will eventually become a standard practice. In a way though, I think it’s going to happen, because with something like this, there is no going back.

        I would rather not see it happen. I’d rather see the players do it on skill and ability alone. I think it’s more exciting that way. Time is going to tell the story sooner or later.

  2. nice review of what is definitely worth having in the collection …all 10 chapters or innings.
    the “negative capability” george will spoke about in the 10th inning…this seeing with fresh eyes if i understand the concept…..
    Bonds hit home runs, the most ever in major league baseball. And even more newsworthy is the scandal behind it.
    Maybe you’re right. there was too much bonds, but he is a big story, an american story.
    the burns documentary is definitely not a world series recap and there is bias and what not, but bonds, for good or bad had to be covered and obsessed just like babe ruth was or who am i? i don’t know what “had” to be covered, but i enjoyed the obsession, especially putting barry in the context of being Bobby’s son….alibi? excuses excuses? maybe, but still insightful.

Leave a Reply