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Baseball: The Tenth Inning

The continuation of Ken Burns' documentary Baseball premieres on September 28 and 29 on your local PBS station.  The Tenth Inning covers the last two decades and, not surprisingly, the thread throughout is steroids and Barry Bonds.  For those tired of that story, the four hours will often be a chore to get through.  And since another frequent story is the resurgence and prominence of the New York Yankees, if you also can't stand the Yankees, you may find yourself flipping the channel.

If you're not bothered by those, or can simply DVR your way through them, there are a number of fascinating segments.  One of the primary themes of Baseball has been the ever-increasing multiculturalism of the game.  Unlike previously covered influxes, immigration or integration wasn't the driver.  In The Tenth Inning, it is the active recruitment of foreigners for their baseball skills.  Latin players have become far more prominent in the last thirty years and Omar Vizquel provides an amusing anecdote of his first experiences of this country as a 17 year old in the Pioneer League.  And, while not nearly as ubiquitous as Latinos, Asian players have also arrived and the segment on Ichiro is one of the best.

As previously noted by e-gus, the White Sox are noticeably (at least to their fans) absent.  When images do appear, they're often curiously associated with steroids.  In the second part, we hear mention of Jose Canseco - and images of him in White Sox uniforms appear.  Around the same time, there's a lengthily shown still image of Jerry Reinsdorf.  Later, when mentioning previous stains on the game, we see the obligatory footage of the Black Sox.  And then when describing the PED testing and punishment regime enacted in 2006, we see a photo of U.S. Cellular Field with shadowy images of players taking batting practice.  I only noticed these because I was specifically looking for appearances by the White Sox - and there are obviously many other players and teams associated with PEDs in the documentary - but it struck me as odd.  In the final sequence, we do see the final out from 2005.

The Tenth Inning will probably get better with age for those who saw the events of the past twenty years while they happened (which is most of us) because, like winningugly, we'll have forgotten that the Red Sox ever sucked.  There are still interesting tidbits ancillary to the main stories, like Pedro Martinez commenting on the psychology of the game and his attitude towards hitters, or seeing a young Jermaine Dye make a defensive screwup in the outfield.  For those who don't know the stories - the 2001 Diamondbacks, Albert Belle's corked bat, Greg Maddux and so on - it probably will be more immediately interesting.