It’s Been Happening since 1919
Major League Baseball stopped being a game a long time ago (at least one hundred years ago since I’ll be referencing the 1919 World Series). MLB has been in the news of late due to current political issues. I’m not going to address MLB’s decisions and whether they were right of wrong (in any political sense at least). What I want to do is take a moment to look at the movie Eight Men Out and show how that movie can provide a long view of the business that is baseball and how MLB sold out the game.
I remember going to the theater way back in 1988 to see this movie. I didn’t know then or now how true and accurate the movie is to the actual events surrounding the 1919 World Series scandal, but the movie has a well written script and is played by an ensemble cast of talented actors. I viewed Eight Men Out as a good movie and an interesting piece of baseball history until 1994 and the MLB strike. The movie took on a different meaning for me after the strike and so did baseball. The idea of what Major League Baseball meant to me and/or could mean to me was lost after the strike (not even W.P. Kinsella could change how I viewed MLB after the strike). The MLB strike put Eight Men Out in perspective. I lost faith in the game and could better see how many lost their faith in the game after 1919. I don’t want to spoil the movie for you (you probably know how it ends) but the last ten minutes can really get you in the feels if you are fan of the game. A close viewing shows how the league treated the players and to some extent the fans. The league was more than willing to sell out eight men, and what has really changed in 100 years?
People still have a fascination with Major League Baseball, a desire to see it through rose colored glasses. It’s a fascination and view that the league banks (specific word choice here) on from the fans. MLB wants fans to think baseball is something more than a game, something other than a business. There was a time when fields and stadiums were compared to cathedrals, when poets referred to them as holy sites. There may have been a time when such views were applicable but those times have long passed. Today, fields and stadiums are nothing more than a variation of a big box retailer looking to take your money in exchange for a so-so product. Don’t be angry with MLB if you think they sold out. Give Eight Men Out a watch and you’ll see the league sold out the game of baseball a century ago.
Eight Men Out (1988) with John Cusak and Clifton James. Directed by John Sayles.