A Quintessential Addition
By 4th Horseman
For anyone who, with a childlike enthusiasm ground deep in tradition, ever impatiently endured a trip in the stationwagon from home to the stadium. To those who marvelled at the immaculately manicured grass or took in the smells of the hotdogs and popcorn. To those who remember the vendors who still roam the stadium yelling "Get your peanuts". To those who still love the sound of the crack of the bat, this documentary should be part of your collection. Covering the mythos of Abner Doubleday's "discovery" of baseball, a claim he never made, to archived footage of games being played in America's heartland, in cornfields, dusty, weed infested fields where the catcher stood instead of crouching like today. To the early heroes of the game, where great players such as Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Rogers Hornsby, Hank Greenberg, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth all relied on their own natural physical talents to succeed. To Ty Cobb, considered by some to be the greatest overall player in the history of the game, alienating so much of the baseball world, that at his funeral only 3 of his contemporaries choose to attend. To the still embarrassing ostracization of black player until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, thus denying to all but a very few the opportunity to see such greats as Josh Gibson, who it was thought hit a total of 800 homeruns (unconfirmed). To the talents of Satchel Paige, Buck O'Neil, and a myriad of black players who never had the chance to become household legends, who many, but the most astute baseball fans struggle to remember. Continuing through the years, the documentary touches on those players who sacrificed portions of their careers to enlist in the Armed Forces during World War 2. Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, Yogi Berra are only 4 of the many who put their lives on the line for their country. Through the 50's and Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, the Yankee dominance, to Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth's homerun record in 1961 on the last day of the season, through the Marvin Miller of the 70's, when the reserve clause was repealed in 1975 in favor of free agency at the expense of Curt Flood's career, who in 1970 filed a lawsuit against MLB and its reserve clause, setting into motion the system we have today. Through the 80's when MLB was found to be working in collusion to prevent higher salaries and eventually had to pay 280 million dollars in fines, to the increasing number of players being recruited and signed from foreign countries, Puerto Rico, South America, etc. Some will say the documentary does not delve deep enough into the "skeletons" jangling around in MLB's closets. Some will say it minumizes the Negro League's affect on MLB by providing talented hall of fame players even after Robinson in 1947. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays are just two athletes who played in the Negro League prior to becoming legends in the Major Leagues. However, I think the documentary is just the right length, had it been required to cover all of the background elements which comprise the organization as it stands today, holes and all, Mr. Burns might still be working on it or considered it too burdensome to attempt. You are not going to please everyone, in particular those fans passionate about every little detail that makes the mosaic complete. Now with the additional material which delves into the recent developments, McGuire and Sosa, Bonds, etc, the documentary reaches even a higher pinnacle. In an every changing environment such as MLB, Ken Burns has done an other-worldly job of bringing it all together.