4 StarsWhat is it about the sport of Baseball that so easily translates to the screen? If you were to make a list of the best sports movies of all-time, I’m positive movies about baseball would comprise the majority of the spots. On that proverbial list, would surely be John Sayles’ excellent film Eight Men Out. This is a picture as concerned with organized crime, greed, workers unions, and sports writers as much as it has to do with the game itself. From the opening shot of a young boy running through the crowed streets of Chicago circa 1919 on his way to the ballpark to catch the White Sox, Sayles establishes an authoritative tone on the story, which is told with clarity, and a level of sympathy towards the outcast players.
The Chicago White Sox were considered the favorite to win the 1919 World Series. The team was compromised with some of the greatest names to ever play in the game’s early era, Joe Jackson, Buck Weaver, Eddie Cicotte, etc. After clinching a divisional pennant, the Sox birth themselves into the Series. This success is typically accompanied by a bonus, but tight-fisted team owner Charlie Comiskey stiffs the squad by offering (warm) champagne in their locker room and little else. This slighting leaves a number of players smarting and ripe for organized crime figures to enter the picture.
Noted mob figure Arnold Rothstein (Michael Lerner) is the powerful money man behind the financial backing that allows two underlings to start ‘buying’ up Sox players. After a few payoffs, word spreads and before the first game most of the squad is on the ‘take’. Their lackluster play on the diamond doesn’t go unnoticed by either Coach Gleason (John Mahoney), or nosey sports journalist, Ring Lardner (John Sayles).
Eight Men Out chronicles with great detail the first National scandal in American sports. Though, it plays coy on certain elements; Did Weaver and Jackson take money? Did they still play hard despite being paid to lose? This isn’t a movie with condemnation on the agenda. The creative team behind the project are far more interested in providing a though provoking, historical narration on the corruption of a seemingly infallible institutions. Fantastic acting from John Cusack, Michael Rooker, David Strathairn and a dozen others adds to the dramatic tension of scenes involving back-room dealings and peer pressure among the team. John Sayles’ Eight Men Out is one of the best movies ever made about our Country’s oldest running sporting organization.
Director: John Sayles
Stars: John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, Michael Rooker