Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Eight Men Out

1988's Eight Men Out focuses on the 1919 World Series and the controversy and trial which followed involving eight members of the Chicago White Six cleared of criminal charges for taking money to lose baseball games but each still receiving a lifetime ban from baseball for their knowledge and participation in the conspiracy.

The film highlights Buck Weaver (John Cusack) as a player aware of the situation but whose play during the series could not be questioned (something he argued to his dying day). It's a little less successful in, and has taken criticism for, its depiction of the uneducated Shoeless Joe Jackson (D.B. Sweeney) who actually refused bribe money and tried to report the situation while it was occurring to White Sox owner Charles Comiskey (Clifton James), which are not covered in the film. However, the guilt of the other 6 men is more black and white. 

The scandal was a black eye for baseball and its effects made all major league sports keep a long arm from gambling for the better part of a century before the modern day sports betting boom. The contrast to today's absorbent contracts for professional athletes is in stark contrast to the lives of these players, barely scraping by on inadequate wages from an owner refusing to pay players money owed. 

The film is likely to going appeal more to baseball or history fans, but it stands up pretty well 35 years later. The baseball is well shot, time is taken to highlight different games and specific plays (some of them more humorous purposeful botches than others), and we get quite a lot of it as well. Along with the clothing during other sequences outside of the ballpark, the games really help sell the look and feel of the early 20th Century.

The amount of time the film spends on the gambling and how the conspiracy fell apart because of greed leaving nearly everyone involved with little to no winnings is also certainly one of the more intriguing aspects of the film. Other notable performances include David Strathairn, Charlie Sheen, Michael Rooker, and James Read as members of the White Sox, John Mahoney as the team manager (who despite his players actions still stood up for them in court), Michael Lerner, Christopher Lloyd, and Michael Mantell as various gambling interests, and Studs Terkel and John Sayles (who also directed the film) as the two sports journalists who broke the story.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Eight Men Out
  • IMDb: link

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