Sports Running time: 4:00
IMDB rating: 8.3 Aspect: Wide; Languages: English, Spanish; Subtitles: None; Audio: DD 5.1
Unlike his usual long forays into our nation's distant past, Ken Burns turns his eye to recent history with this engrossing four-hour addition to his popular 1990s documentary series Baseball. Spanning the last 20 years, Baseball: The Tenth Inning chronicles the memorable and infamous personalities, teams, games, and scandals that make the national pastime such a topic of significance beyond sport. Disc 1 examines the labor stoppage of the '90s, the rise of Latino players from countries like the Dominican Republic, the resurgence of the New York Yankees, and Mark McGwire's and Sammy Sosa's pursuit of the single-season home-run record in 1998. The coverage of the home-run chase is particularly effective in showing how baseball simultaneously serves as an escape from and a reflection of the era in which it is played. A country weary of the scandal of President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky eagerly turned its attention to the two men hitting towering home runs. And yet there was scandal, too, at the heart of their exploits, the truth of which would be avoided by owners, players, the press, and fans for many more years. Disc 2 spends a significant amount of time on the way the steroid scandal fully came to light in the 2000s. The sour reception to Barry Bonds's pursuit of Hank Aaron's all-time home-run record was not just a reaction to how fans felt about Bonds but also how they perceived what they saw on the field with either greater knowledge or less willful ignorance of how it was achieved. Another compelling chapter on a serious topic focuses on the resumption of baseball after 9/11, one of the few times in history that more than New Yorkers were rooting for the Yankees in the World Series. Burns still gives plenty of time in the second disc to lighter subjects, including the rise of the Boston Red Sox to World Series champions twice in three years after so many seasons of futility or how globalization of the game brought us outstanding talent from beyond the Western Hemisphere in the form of Japan's Ichiro Suzuki.