Ken Burns to premiere ‘The Tenth Inning’ at Dartmouth

By Tatiana Cooke

Documentarian Ken Burns will present the world premiere of his new film “The Tenth Inning” this Friday and Saturday at Dartmouth College. The film is a continuation of his 1992 project entitled “Baseball” and showcases the last 15 years of baseball history.

“Baseball has always been, since its inception, a really precise mirror of our larger country,” Burns said. “All of the things, good and ill, that are part of us are written in baseball so it acts as a way to gain access to the American psyche.”

The last 20 years have been among the most consequential in the history of baseball and included conflicts ranging from the strikes of the early ’90s to the steroids scandals that have plagued the sport, he said.

The original “Baseball” series — the most watched series in the history of PBS — came out in 1994 as nine episodes that, over the course of its 18.5 hours, traced the history of baseball from the Civil War to 1992, Burns said. The new program picks up where “Baseball” left off and focuses on more recent developments in the sport. The film includes interviews, footage from games and Burns’s distinctive use of still photographs as a part of documentary’s features.

“The Tenth Inning” covers Barry Bonds’ success and part in the steroid scandal as well as the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire during the mid-1990s. While the game did see a spike in the sheer numbers of home runs during the late 1990s and early 2000s, the game has begun to return to normalcy, Burns said.

The film does not limit itself to American baseball, but also looks at the baseball culture of countries like the Dominican Republic and Japan, Burns said.

“I think [baseball] has a huge potential to expand — in the 19th century the Japanese and Latin countries adapted it and took it as their own,” he said.

Baseball continues to grow and create exciting new talent like Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg — the “most-hyped pick in draft history,” Burns said. Burns had the opportunity to throw the first pitch of his debut game, he said.

“I think [baseball is] the greatest game that has ever been invented,” Burns said. “It’s so unique and cerebral that I can’t imagine there being anything that could supplant it.”

“The Tenth Inning” was originally intended to be a two hour special but grew into a two-part four-hour program, Burns said. Even with the additional time, a lot of footage was set aside during the editing process, according to Burns.

“Our cutting floor is always filled with scenes that were fantastic but just didn’t fit,” Burns said.

The film features figures from the original series and has “lots of surprises and lots of good humor,” Burns said. Highlights from the four-hour segment include interviews with former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and Boston Red Sox fan Mike Barnacle, he said.

In an important moment in baseball history, the film captures the game when an umpire’s call ruined Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga’s perfect game and the following public apology. These incidences reflect the way that instant replay and the media are changing the nature of spectator sports, according to Burns.

Issues that pertain to the United States on a larger scale, like immigration patterns and financial instability, are also prominent in the film, Burns said.

“The Tenth Inning” will premiere on New Hampshire Public Television on September 28 and 29.

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