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Baseball (1994) is an 18 1/2 hour, Emmy Award-winning documentary series by Ken Burns about the game of baseball. First broadcast on PBS, this was Burns' ninth documentary.



Baseball is similar to Burns' previous documentaries (most notably, The Civil War) in that he uses archived pictures and film footage mixed with interviews for his visual presentation. Actors provide voice over reciting written work (letters, speeches, etc.) over pictures and video. The episodes are interspersed with the music of the times, whether taken from previous Burns series, original played music, or recordings ranging from Louis Armstrong to Elvis Presley. The series was narrated by journalist John Chancellor.

The documentary is divided into nine parts (each appropriately referred to as an "inning", following the division of the game). Each "inning" reviews a particular era in time, and begins with a brief prologue that acts as an insight to the game during that era. The prologue ends with the playing of "The Star Spangled Banner" (just as a real baseball game would), with the particular rendition played as it might have been in the era being covered in that inning (most notably, while covering the 1960s, the rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" used is the version played by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock). In some "inning" episodes, a period version of the baseball anthem "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" is used. Before the main feature, a brief preview and the events of the time of the "inning" to come follows.

Major themes explored throughout the documentary are those of race, business, baseball and society, and labor relations.

The Nine Innings

1st Inning - Our Game
This inning serves as an introduction to the game and the series, and covers baseball's origins and the game as it evolved prior to the twentieth century.

Original airdate: Sunday, September 18, 1994.[1]

2nd Inning - Something Like A War
This inning covers approximately 1900 to 1910, and includes the formation of the American League and its integration with the National League, culminating in the establishment of the World Series. Ty Cobb is discussed in depth (the title of this inning comes from one of his many quotes). Many of the quotes used in this inning and of the other early innings are taken from Lawrence S. Ritter's The Glory of Their Times.

Original airdate: Monday, September 19, 1994.[1]

3rd Inning - The Faith of Fifty Million People
This inning covers approximately 1910 to 1920. It heavily focuses on the Black Sox Scandal, taking its title from a line in the novel The Great Gatsby. The line refers to how easy it was for gamblers to tamper with the faith that people put in the game's fairness.

Original airdate: Tuesday, September 20, 1994.[1]

4th Inning - A National Heirloom
This inning covers approximately 1920 to 1930, and focuses on baseball's recovery from the Black Sox Scandal, giving much of the credit to the increase in power hitting throughout the game, led by its savior Babe Ruth. During an interview given to MLB Network during the series' re-airing in 2009, Burns stated that he originally wanted to title the 4th Inning, "That Son-of-a-Bitch", a name given to Ruth by many in the game during that era.

Original airdate: Wednesday, September 21, 1994.[1]

5th Inning - Shadow Ball
This inning covers approximately 1930 to 1940. While Burns has not shied away from discussing the plight of African-Americans up to this point, a great deal of this inning covers the Negro Leagues, and the great players and organizers who were excluded from the Major Leagues. Also the episode deals with organized Baseball's response to the Great Depression.

Original airdate: Thursday, September 22, 1994.[1]

6th Inning - The National Pastime
This inning covers approximately 1940 to 1950. The emphasis here is on baseball finally becoming what it had always purported to be: A national game. As African-Americans are finally permitted for good into Major League Baseball, led by Jackie Robinson. This inning also looks at how the game was influenced as a result of World War II.

Original airdate: Sunday, September 25, 1994.[1]

7th Inning - The Capital of Baseball
This inning covers approximately 1950 to 1960. Burns emphasizes the greatness of the three teams based in New York (the New York Yankees, the New York Giants, and Brooklyn Dodgers). This inning also covers the major changes that are coming to baseball as teams begin to relocate.

Original airdate: Monday, September 26, 1994.[1]

8th Inning - A Whole New Ballgame
This inning covers approximately 1960 to 1970. As the nation underwent turbulent changes, baseball was not immune. Expansion and labor are major topics in this inning.

Original airdate: Tuesday, September 27, 1994.[1]

9th Inning - Home
The final inning covers approximately 1970 to 1993. While baseball survived the 1960s, the changes were not over, and in some ways its most bitter conflicts were just beginning. Major topics include the formation of the players' union, the owners' collusion, free agency, and drug scandals. The documentary ends with an ironic boast that baseball (and indirectly the World Series) had survived wars, depressions, pandemics, and numbers of scandals and thus could never be stopped. The 1994 World Series, the series to be played the year the film first aired on PBS, was canceled due to a players' strike. This marked the first time since 1904 that the World Series was not played.

Original airdate: Wednesday, September 28, 1994.[1]

10th Inning

At a preview screening of his 2007 documentary The War, Ken Burns spoke of very possibly coming up to date in the history of baseball with a "10th Inning" episode of his Baseball documentary, and it can be found on the Florentine Films web site. [1] This was officially confirmed by Burns in an MLB Network interview, and later to the NBC LA web site during the winter Television Critics Association media tour January 8, and will air in Spring, 2010 covering the period from the 1994 strike through the 2008 season.

During in-game coverage of a Texas Rangers game during July 2009, Ken was interviewed, and said the 10th inning would air "about a year from now" on PBS. He also went on to state that it would be two, two-hour programs. One would be the "top of the 10th", and the other would be the "bottom of the 10th". He also said that "the good Lord willing", there would be an 11th inning and a 12th inning some years down the road. While he made the comment in jest, he did seem to imply that there could be the possibility of his producing additional, extra innings at some undetermined time. Burns also said that Baseball is the only one of his documentaries to which he was ever interested in doing a "sequel" (of sorts).

Probable topics to be covered should include the effects and recovery from the 1994 players' strike, the home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998, the steroids era and Barry Bonds, the continued emergence of Latin American players, the debut of Japanese baseball players, Major League Baseball's reaction to the September 11th, 2001 Attacks, the Boston Red Sox finally winning the World Series in 2004 after an 86 year drought, the inaugural World Baseball Classic, the return of classically designed baseball only ballparks, and the closure of the original Yankee Stadium in 2008.

Original airdate: Fall 2010.[1]

Reairings on PBS and MLB Network

The documentary is made available to local PBS stations to air as part of their programming. Usually these can be found on weekends or during pledge drives.

Starting in 2009 the series also can be found on MLB Network Sunday nights at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT. These airings include commercial breaks which stretch the run time of each episode from around 1 hour to 2 or even 3 depending on how many breaks MLB Network adds to the episode. As the series was intended to air commercial free on public television the breaks are often quite abrupt. The first episode to air on the network also had utterances of the word "nigger" (as read from first person accounts or quotes from the time) bleeped out, despite the offensive language of the episode being heard uncensored on over-the-air PBS stations for years. Later episodes dropped this censoring but added a disclaimer at the beginning of the program warning that it contained offensive language.

Interview subjects

The following is a non-exhaustive list of people not involved in baseball who were interviewed in the documentary:

The following is a non-exhaustive list of people who were more involved in the game of baseball, and were interviewed in the documentary:

The following did voices of characters in Baseball:


The entire series was released on a ten-disc DVD set on September 28, 2004, with each inning on a separate disc and a tenth disc of unaired material titled Extra Innings featuring a making of Baseball among other features.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hits, Runs and Memories - New York Times

External links



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