#3 of the Top Ten Baseball Movies
Eight Men Out (1988)
Directed by John Sayles
Based on the book by Eliot Asinof
Screenplay written by John Sayles
Starring: John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, Charlie Sheen, David Strathairn, D.B. Sweeney, Michael Rooker, Don Harvey, Gordon Clapp, James Read
It’s 1919 and the Chicago White Sox have one of the most talented teams in baseball. Players like “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (Sweeney), Eddie Cicotte (Strathairn), and Lefty Williams (Read) have taken them to the World Series where they are heavy favorites to win it all. As the series begins, the Sox begin playing poorly, bringing forth rumors of a fix amongst fans and sportswriters. Rumor soon become accusations when eight members of the team are charged with the fix. Their trial and later action by Major League Baseball would leave a permanent mark on the game.
Eliot Asinof’s book Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series was first published in 1963. As a work of non-fiction, the book worked to detail the events surrounding the scandal of the 1919 World Series. In the early eighties director John Sayles (Lone Star) began work on the screenplay for this movie which he also directed. The film features a number of great actors including John Cusack (The Paperboy), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Charlie Sheen (Platoon), and David Strathairn (Lincoln). The scat also includes D.B. Sweeney (Hard Ball), Michael Rooker (The Bone Collector), Don Harvey (The Thin Red Line), Gordon Clapp (Flags of Our Fathers), and James Read (Beaches).
Throughout this movie the story stays true to the history surrounding the 1919 World Series and the scandal that followed. The widely publicized events are nicely depicted from the point of view of the fans, players, and the media. This gives the story a sense of balance, and magnifies the effect this scandal had on the game and the fans. It’s also important that the writing gave each of the players their own story within the screenplay. In the years that followed the scandal, each of the eight players gave their own version of what happened. This film tries to give some credit to those accounts without buying into them completely.
This movie does a nice job recreating the era of the scandal. The acting is a big part of that success. Each of the people in the movie seems to know their history and the part their character played in it. It’s also important to know that Sayles cast the film with men who could actually play the game of baseball. This shows in their ability to look comfortable on the field. There isn’t a standout performance in this one. The collective efforts of the cast come together for one nicely acted movie.
This is a great film in the canon of baseball movies. The acting and the visual storytelling come together almost perfectly. The one issue I had with this film is the way they chose to portray certain characters. The filmmakers only had historical accounts to go off, but some of the characters seemed a little one-dimensional. Overall this is a great film for any baseball fan. I would also recommend this to anyone who likes drama. I give this one 4.6 out of 5 stars.