If there is any financial protection at all for ballplayers today, it is probably because, over 80 years later, we are still haunted by the 1919 World Series scandal which inspired John Sayles to write and direct "Eight Men Out" . The film reveals how vulnerable the underpaid Chicago White Sox were to self-serving operators like Arnold Rothstein, Bill Burns and Abe Attell. The team's grievances against club owner Charles Comiskey were real, but their decision to profit by throwing the series was a sickening one. The games in which the players listlessly go through the motions are as painful to watch as they must have been for the original players to experience. Sayles also shows, on at least one occasion, the threat of physical violence, when a thug threatens to kill a team player's wife if he doesn't comply with the fix.
"Eight Men Out" succeeds in making its point that good people can and do go wrong under certain circumstances and it also fills today's audiences with sadness that eight gifted players lost their careers and their reputations when they allowed themselves to be manipulated by opportunistic gamblers. For a movie with so many stellar names in the cast, there is a real ensemble feel to the production which greatly enhances its message. John Cusack, Charlie Sheen & D.B. Sweeney deliver three of the eight extremely effective performances by the team, & John Mahoney does another solid character turn as their coach. Michael Lerner & Christopher Lloyd are appropriately slimy as Rothstein & Burns, and the late John Anderson (1922-92) steals a magnificent scene as the new baseball commissioner. Robert Richardson's cinematography helps to capture the atmosphere of the era, particularly in the film's striking conclusion . With Sayles at the helm (and in a cameo as Ring Lardner), "Eight Men Out" is highly recommended even if you don't particularly care for baseball.
© 2002 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 6/19/02
Eight Men Out
USA - 1988