Thank goodness for DVR! Through it's magic, I was able to finish Ken Burns's The Tenth Inning last night. The new documentary picks up approximately where his epic masterwork Baseball left off: the early 1990s.
Image via GetGlue
Burns did a reasonably good job of choosing material on which to focus but some of it is puzzling. First-ballot Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, for instance, barely warrants mention. The powerhouse Toronto Blue Jays of the early '90s are briefly glazed over in favor of the Braves and Yankees dynasties which followed.
At first, I was puzzled by the fact that a lengthy intro of Barry Bonds was followed immediately by a very brief feature on Ken Griffey, Jr. But over the rest of the documentary, I came to understand why. The story of Bonds is very much the story of the era and Burns does a nice job of exhibiting that, coming back to Bonds as the other themes of turn-of-the-century baseball unfold.
Photo via GCobb.com
I teared up again watching the Red Sox finally winning the World Series in '04. As previously discussed, while I live deep in the heart of Red Sox Nation, I've never been able to fully embrace the team. They do, after all, inhabit the same division as my Orioles. But I was very happy for them, and all of my friends and neighbors, when they finally won. Now that they've emerged as a power of the age, I can safely go back to detesting them.
I feel that Burns's treatment of the steroids issue is very fair. I have long felt that the steroids story has become merely a player witch hunt, mostly ignoring the fact that the commissioner, the union, the owners, management and, indeed, journalists themselves played a complicit role in the scandal. Burns does a nice job of holding everyone's feet to the fire.
Photo via Farther off the Wall
The new documentary deserves high praise for including a healthy dose of Costas. Among sportscasters, I believe that Bob Costas is in a class by himself. He is easily the most articulate commentator in the business. NBC could send him out to cover a craps game in the back alley and he would bring respect and dignity to the assignment. For all of the enthusiasm he brings to every sport, Costas is first and foremost a baseball man. When discussing his favorite game, his eyes light up and he becomes the proverbial kid in the candy store. Plus, Costas was right about steroids - long before anyone else was ready to make a story out of it.