Extra Innings

No sport, leisure activity, TV content, radio show, or anything that I can think of has been so over-romanticized, dissected, chewed on, and gushed over more than baseball.

Fans hold up signs in protest of the looming major league baseball players' strike on August 10, 1994, during a game between the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Getty Images

Speaking as a fan, we love it to pieces, but it doesn’t always love us back. Anyone with a memory grimaces when asked about 1995, or Barry Bonds’ metamorphosis from star to action figure, or Sammy Sosa’s senate testimony. Greed can turn the fields of dreams into piles of greenbacks.

And yet…

And yet.

We come back to the game like the sparrows at Capistrano because it’s been around so long, has been ingrained in our childhood, and mostly been so good to us that we can’t stay mad. Rhapsodizing about the sights, sounds, and scents of ballparks is redundant to those who get goosebumps when they see the first patch of green while walking into a stadium. It’s like your dream backyard, perfectly manicured and ready to be played on.

No matter how much players get paid, they are still kids playing a kids game. And if you don’t believe it, try interviewing a typical player and ask them a deep question. Only a select few can utter a good response, and those players are generally avoided by other players.

Ken Burns led us down this path in 1994, with a storytelling technique that relied heavily on epic people: The Babe. Jackie Robinson. The Splendid Splinter.

The last chapter – covering the 1980s – was intentionally thin, because Burns felt that history hadn’t decided yet what was truly historical. Now, brace yourself for the larger-than-life figures of Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken Jr., Sammy Sosa, Bobby Cox and a magnificent pitching staff, the Yankees return to greatness, and the end of a curse.

From USA Today:
How does Ken Burns follow up on a baseball series that was seen by more than 43 million viewers and was the most-watched program in PBS history? He doesn’t.

“We didn’t want to do a sequel,” says the 57-year-old documentary filmmaker. “We wanted something that would stand on its own and be a testament.”

There was plenty of new material since Baseball was completed — a 1994 work stoppage that canceled the World Series, Roger Maris’ single-season home run record shattered by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 and Barry Bonds in 2001, the ensuing steroid scandal that tainted them and the rising influence of Asian and Latino players — for a second baseball film.

Baseball: The Tenth Inning, which is broken into two two-hour installments, debuts Sept. 28 and 29 on PBS. Burns discussed it last week with USA TODAY

THE TENTH INNING premieres September 28 & 29 at 8pm on WOSU TV.

THE TENTH INNING is a two-part, four-hour documentary film directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. A new chapter in Burns’s landmark 1994 series, BASEBALL, THE TENTH INNING tells the tumultuous story of the national pastime from the 1990s to the present day.

– Scott