Director: John Sayles
Producer: Sarah Pillsbury
Writers: Eliot Asinof (book), John Sayles (screenplay)
Stars: Jack Cusack, Clifton James, Jace Alexander, Gordon Clapp
Music: Mason Daring
Cinematography: Robert Richardson
Running Time: 119 min
Release Date: September 2, 1988 (United States)
Genre: Drama, History, Sport
John Cusack Buck Weaver
Clifton James Charles Comiskey
Gordon Clapp Ray Schalk
Jace Alexander Dickey Kerr
Michael Lerner Arnold Rothstein
Bill Irwin Eddie Collins
Christopher Lloyd Bill Burns
Richard Edson Billy Maharg
John Mahoney Kid Gleason
Kevin Tighe Sport Sullivan
Charlie Sheen Happy Felsch
Michael Mantell Abe Attell
John Anderson Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Michael Ruker Chick Gandil
David Strathairn Eddie Cicotte
Perry Lang Fred McMullin
Don Harvey Swede Risberg
James Read Lefty Willliams
Studs Terkel Hugh Fullerton
Set in 1919, Eight Men Out is a period piece showing how the Chicago White Sox; a team reckoned as the best baseball team set up ever, was involved in the infamous throwing of the sports’ premier event, the World Series.
Charles Comiskey, the greedy Chicago White Sox owner, not only underpays his players but also gives little attention to rewarding them after a superb season. Following the players’ dissatisfaction, gamblers Billy Maharg and Bill Burns approached Chick Gandil asking him to convince some of his teammates to play badly and throw the World Series.
The players agreeing to the scheme would get $10,000 each. The club’s players including star knuckleball pitcher Eddie Cicotte, Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg, Lefty Willliams, and shoeless Joe Jackson are aware of the plan.
Cicotte agrees to it considering how Comiskey had defrauded him the same amount he would get from the new deal. Some players however, stay loyal to the team and discard the plan.
When the Series begin, scenes of feuds among the players and prearranged misses are evident and rumors of match fixing are all over the headlines. The gamblers fail to meet part of their deal and some players seem to back out. However, their efforts are futile as they are intimated by the gamblers’ threats.
Chicago journalist Hugh Fullerton, writes an article reprehending the team. Investigations begin and Cicotte, Gandil, Williams, Felsch, Risberg, McMullin, Jackson, and Weaver are later tried in court. The hearing is a whitewash and the eight players are acquitted of any crime.
The judge is later appointed as the baseball commissioner and he expels the eight from the game because they knew of a fix, but they never reported.
A team deemed by many as the greatest throws away the World Series in 1919. Being the pride of the nation, they corrupted the sport by ushering it out of its era of innocence. Elliot Asinof wrote a book on the scandal but writer and director (John Sayles) succeeds by relating to the book and showing a clearer picture of what really happened.
He ensures that the scheme is comprehensively illustrated and the reasons why some players opted in and others not. This was so instrumental in familiarizing the viewers with the cast and the game itself since not all of the audience are baseball fans.
The casting of the film was exceptional. The producer manages to expertly select some characters (such as Charlie Sheen) that were currently renowned high school and college baseball players. This makes the film more realistic and interesting especially to the sport fans.
The movie also begins by showcasing the cast faces with their respective names heard on the background. For anyone and especially those viewers with the tendency of forgetting the actors’ names, the producer makes this easier.
The roles given to the characters perfectly fits them. For instance, Shoeless Joe Jackson is portrayed as an illiterate teammate who lands into trouble by agreeing with a scheme he barely knew about.
A clash between athletes, corporate interests, and the media is highly depicted in the film. It is no longer business as usual when money is involved. For anyone who highly rates integrity and virtues, Eight Men Out is the perfect fit.
The scriptwriter manages to expose the vice of corruption in a period where not many would. Schemes with no moral integrity are discouraged by the writer as he shows how the players and the gamblers later double-cross each other. The media and other relevant bodies are shown how they can use their investigative skills and ensure that the culprits face the wrath of the law.
The Blu-ray picture quality looks sharp, bright, and flawless. The movie quality is by far the best compared to those of other movies from the 80’s. The film was set at various locations, and each brings its own energy. The matches were held at the famous Bush Stadium and the producer ensured that there were thousands of supporters as you would expect in a World Series.
Unfortunately, the movie would not be a success in regions that are not associated with baseball. The film tends to be directly addressing baseball fans and those who know less about baseball would have a hard time understanding. The plot seems to be inclined towards the sport side and this still isn’t for everyone. And you might do with reading the book from which the storyline is based for you to have a proper grasp of events.
The book itself by Elliot Asinof is well-written, researched and interesting, however, disheartening. The writer is very good and even explains in his preface the challenges he faced during research and collecting information about the Black Sox scandal, since much of the official documentation had got lost and many of the participants had passed on.
On the sport side, viewers from other parts of the world apart from North America may have a difficult time understanding the baseball game, since it’s less known to them.
The scandal removed gambling from organized baseball and led to the rise of Babe Ruth as an American hero. In his 1963 baseball courtroom drama, Asinof has preserved this tale of personal greed and ego rivalries for future generations of baseball fanatics. Today, we can only hope that America’s sport will last for at least another century.
For all the drama that it brings, this film deserves it’s above average 7.2 rating.