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Updating/Improving Ken Burns' Baseball

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  • #16
    Originally posted by 64Cards View Post
    Not a big fan of Burns but I do give him credit for his skill as a film maker in putting together the pieces for a documentary. Using the inning format was a clever concept but someone doing something regarding the history of baseball would be silly to try and copy it. Inevitably, by trying to encompass everything you are still going to leave plenty out which opens the door for criticism. My favorite baseball doc was the HBO series When It Was a Game" color footage that originally covered the 1930-1960 era. They also had a part two, which reused a lot of the original footage and a part 3 that covered the 60's. HBO & Showtime also did some solid doc's about Ted Williams, The Brooklyn Dodgers, Mantle, the 68 Tigers and a few other topics.
    Wow I forgot about When it Was a Game. Excellent documentary.
    "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

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    • #17
      Originally posted by bluesky5 View Post

      Wow I forgot about When it Was a Game. Excellent documentary.
      And full of Boomer nostalgia, which is why it was popular in its time. "When It Was a Game"? Presumably they mean when it was was just a game, in which case I would expect it to be a document about baseball before the Civil War. Even the title oozes with that generation's condescension.
      "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
      "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
      "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
      "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

      Comment


      • #18
        Back on topic, there are any number of people who would make for a good narrator for the series, but James Earl Jones (if he can still do voice work on the eve of his 90th birthday) would be an excellent choice. He's always had a clear, powerful and recognizable voice and he certainly has a baseball connection, which can't hurt.

        I had also thought of Morgan Freeman as the de facto choice for a narrator, but I'm not sure if his cadence would be best for a baseball documentary that covers 150+ years. Maybe Hank Azaria, another great voice actor? Or (for an off-beat type) Tim Allen?

        Tell you one thing, when they have certain actors read the quotes/letters of the actual baseball people, I can't imagine better voice options for Henry Chadwick and Harry Wright, respectively, as Jeremy Irons and Stephen Fry. Steven Pacey would be another excellent choice for these types of roles. (Anthony Hopkins and Derek Jacobi did several of the originals, but are either deceased or, arguably, too old now.)

        What kind of narrators and/or voice actors would you like in a re-make?
        "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
        "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
        "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
        "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

        Comment


        • #19
          Having an overall topical approach to baseball history is the right way to go. The big-picture issues should be what is highlighted; the beginnings, gambling, expansion, NY teams leaving, steroids, integration, globalization, baseball-as-industry/labor issues, etc.

          That being said, there are tons of great players, teams, and moments that do not fall into those categories. It would have been nice if Burns found a way to get some more homages to those players, etc. I know there is only so much time, but a lot of specific greatness got lost in the over-arching narratives.
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          • #20
            Originally posted by Chadwick View Post
            And full of Boomer nostalgia, which is why it was popular in its time. "When It Was a Game"? Presumably they mean when it was was just a game, in which case I would expect it to be a document about baseball before the Civil War. Even the title oozes with that generation's condescension.
            It was the 60's man we didn't have time for games anymore.
            "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

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            • #21
              If Burns used 30 or 40 or more hours on that series, there would still be some events, some teams, players that did not get their due.
              Impossible to do a complete justice to the history of the game.

              Were there a good number of inaccuracies, there were. Did not bother me that much, would be a tough job to get it all right. I did enjoy all the footage over the history of the game, some I had never seen before.
              Last edited by SHOELESSJOE3; 03-26-2020, 02:28 PM.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Macker View Post
                Maybe he could mention Harmon Killebrew just once.
                No crap. Or Al Kaline.

                This is a great thread. I'd like to weigh in...

                I like how Burns' documentary focused on the interplay between baseball and the society around it, although he too often used that as an opportunity to shoehorn in his politics. When Mario Cuomo gets 5 times more airtime than Stan Musial in a BASEBALL DOCUMENTARY, there's something seriously wrong with this picture.

                For a documentary that purported to be about baseball's place in society, there wasn't one word about kids collecting baseball cards (I'm not talking about the professional collectors highlighted in the 9th Inning). For millions of kids who grew up from the 1950s-80s, baseball cards were an important part of growing up.

                And, of course, there were the vicious, unfounded lies about Ty Cobb; anyone calling themselves a documentarian who would release that level of misinformation ought to be ashamed of themselves.

                I would've liked to have seen more about "superfans" in other places besides Brooklyn. We all know about Hilda Chester; how many people know about Joe the Brow from Tiger Stadium, or Wild Bill Hagy in Baltimore?

                And, while Burns touched on the Pittsburgh cocaine scandal, how could he have omitted the fact that the PARROT MASCOT WAS THE PLAYERS' COKE DEALER????

                Oh, and if I may sneak in a final partisan plug: The 1968 Tigers were far more interesting than Joe DiMaggio kicking dirt when he flew out in the 1947 World Series, or Doris Goodwin's boyfriend not liking baseball.
                Last edited by Victory Faust; 03-28-2020, 01:42 PM.
                "Hey Mr. McGraw! Can I pitch to-day?"

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                • #23
                  Haha....great points all. (Ms. Goodwin's dominance in the series is a particular "meh" for me, too.)

                  Looking into some of these interviews, I find that more than a few are connected only by virtue of a PBS connection. Then there are others who are just particularly useless for a number of reasons (Gerald Early, for example.)

                  I have always loved his featuring of Buck O'Neil, but even then, he's got Buck doing nothing but opining on commonly known (or believed) narratives far too often when it adds nothing. Buck talking to us about the 1919 Black Sox when Buck would have been 8 or 9 years old. What the heck did he know about the scandal that wasn't told to him years after it happened? His Babe Ruth stories are similar - not so much firsthand "here's my interaction with Ruth", but little more than recitations of popular legends. It's not that O'Neil's wrong or not charming, but what's the relevance of O'Neil being the one to discuss it.

                  Contrast those with stories like Studs Terkel missing the Howard Ehmke World Series game because he didn't go with his childhood friend, or the old man (I forget his name) who was talking about personally watching the 1917-1920 Black Sox team when he was a boy. (I looked him up and his grandfather was a close friend of Comiskey's, which is why he was so close to the team.)

                  Another one of the head-scratchers was the presence of John Sayles, a B-list Hollywood writer/director whose only connection to baseball (insofar as I could ascertain) was having made the movie Eight Men Out. For those who know, that movie was chock full of historical inaccuracies and errors, moreso than the book upon which it was based. Yet Burns has Sayles spouting off repeatedly on all sorts of baseball topics throughout the film. Why not interview Eliot Asinof himself? Or how about a legitimate historian (who has covered both baseball and that era) like David Pietrusza, who happened to be President of SABR when Burns was making the film? Hell, I'd have loved to see someone like the late Gene "Two Finger" Carney interviewed on the Black Sox part!

                  I suppose it boils down to that this documentary was really "Baseball: How PBS Sees It" than a genuine, independent and scholarly work.

                  Again, it's sad that this is the best we've had (so far).
                  "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                  "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                  "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                  "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Victory Faust View Post
                    I like how Burns' documentary focused on the interplay between baseball and the society around it, although he too often used that as an opportunity to shoehorn in his politics. When Mario Cuomo gets 5 times more airtime than Stan Musial in a BASEBALL DOCUMENTARY, there's something seriously wrong with this picture..
                    This is a great point and I don't know what Burns' politics are - nor do I care - but where is the interview with George H.W. Bush, a "celebrity" baseball fan, well-known at the time, or his son (who announced a gubernatorial campaign in Texas nine months before the documentary aired), who himself was (a) a former owner, (b) the driving force for construction of The Ballpark at Arlington, and (c) a popular choice to replace Fay Vincent as commissioner?

                    If I wanted to hear why a native New Yorker grew up loving baseball and what it meant to him, we've got more than enough interviews with Billy Crystal (who at least has "baseball" scenes in several of his movies and later made the excellent *61 as his love-letter to the M&M boys). We didn't need a former presidential candidate holding court on the same subject more-or-less. It was overkill.

                    I should point out that there are lots of interviews well worth keeping in (or adding to) a future edition/documentary. Many of the bits with Buck O'Neil are priceless. Stuff like Bob Creamer's firsthand account of meeting Gehrig and Ruth in their hotel room add something special to the thing. George Will and Tom Boswell and Bob Costas and John Thorn offer wonderful insights. (Far more than Roger Angell, for example.)

                    But Gerald Early and John Sayles and Doris Kearns Goodwin? We can do without them and nobody would miss a thing.
                    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Chadwick View Post
                      What kind of narrators and/or voice actors would you like in a re-make?
                      For whatever priceless moments he could offer at this stage of his life, Vin.Scully could serve as a contributor and add immeasurably.

                      For general voice over, could we ask more than Bob Costas?

                      Okay... general defense of all things Ken Burns. His ambition on topics has always astounded this viewer. I am no historian or history buff, but Burns must recognize the deep waters he dives into with no more qualification than average fan or voter.

                      Re: Baseball as a doc, he surely knew some criticism would result. The length of this doc was unprecedented, and to address every possible complaint would only add more. Meanwhile, he had to work within the confines of public broadcasting. To address every conceivable angle globally and domestically would lead to another half dozen innings to broadcast. Producing that much and then have PBS cherry pick which 'inings' would be a different form of controversy laid at PBS doorstep. Burns recognized that, and IMHO, chose to produce a Jackie doc separately at a later date. His Jackie doc had a very similar look, and when he had time he assembled that for PBS. IMHO, this is how he addressed the missing backstory of the Negro Leagues.

                      He must have known it would annoy more avid fans. Yet again, he knew he could depend on PBS support for more docs. What he could not do was produce a doc so monstrous that its broadcast would become a greater callenge, nor reduce the marketability of video and DVDs. If he does not ensure such marketability, then all other pending doc ideas he had planned would be endangered.

                      He was doing all that through PBS. He had to know which side his bread was buttered.
                      Last edited by abolishthedh; 03-30-2020, 03:43 PM.
                      Catfish Hunter, RIP. Mark Fidrych, RIP. Skip Caray, RIP. Tony Gwynn, #19, RIP

                      A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. -- Winston Churchill. (Please take note that I've recently become aware of how this quote applies to a certain US president. This is a coincidence, and the quote was first added to this signature too far back to remember when).

                      Experience is the hardest teacher. She gives the test first and the lesson later. -- Dan Quisenberry.

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by abolishthedh View Post
                        For whatever priceless moments he could offer at this stage of his life, Vin.Scully could serve as a contributor and add immeasurably.

                        For general voice over, could we ask more than Bob Costas?
                        I strongly endorse both suggestions.

                        Scully would be a "modern" version of those Red Barber interviews from the original (which were informative and delightful).

                        My only "concern" about Costas as the series narrator is that his voice is so ubiquitous for all sports documentaries, particularly baseball. There's a reason for that - he's excellent - but I don't know whether that would add or detract from a series we would want to set apart and stand above the rest. Hard to argue with Costas, however. Probably the first choice.
                        "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                        "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                        "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                        "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          Burns spent too much time on Jackie Robinson. Nothing on Gene Mauch;s 1964 Phillies?
                          nealp19078

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Chadwick View Post

                            Baseball is a great accomplishment. How could it be modernized, improved upon or replaced? Let’s hear your thoughts.
                            Perhaps, this is Step One:

                            Get rid of everything he said and wrote Ty Cobb, and tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

                            1. https://www.amazon.com/Ty-Cobb-Terri...0198532&sr=8-1

                            2. https://www.amazon.com/War-Basepaths...0198590&sr=8-3

                            3. https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Tiger-G...0198625&sr=8-1

                            4. Bill Burgess. http://baseballguru.com/bburgess/

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