Eight Men Out
Baseball’s blackest moment was in 1919, when players on the Chicago White Sox took money to throw the World Series. This movie lays it all out as it happened, game by game, and does a swell job of it. Without in any way apologizing for the conduct of the players, it should be pointed out (and the movie does so) that the team owner, Charles “The Other Cocksucker” Comiskey, treated his players like slaves, and refused to pay them what they were worth. (This was just what all owners did until the era of free agency, but still.) He actually did reward his team with flat champagne after winning the World Series, in lieu of money. It was said that his team was called the Black Sox even before the scandal because he refused to pay to launder their uniforms. He promised Eddie Cicotte a $10,000 bonus if he won 30 games. Eddie won 29, and pointed out that Comiskey benched him for weeks to prepare him for the series. Tough titty, Eddie. Twenty-nine ain’t thirty. God, if any owner in baseball today heard of a pitcher who won 29 games in a season you know what he’d say? “Drop your pants, dude, because I’m giving you fifty million dollars and throwing in a free blowjob.”
The eight accused players were tried for conspiracy and acquitted by a Chicago jury, but when the case came before the newly crowned Commissioner of Baseball (for life!), Judge Kennesaw Mountain “Cocksucker” Landis, he ruled that they were banned from Major League baseball for life. Now, at least 6 of the players deserved this, but two, Buck Weaver and Shoeless Joe Jackson, almost certainly did not. They didn’t take money, and they didn’t blow any plays. But Landis said that any player who had knowledge of wrongdoing and didn’t come forward should be punished, too. Now, that’s a good rule, but it wasn’t in place when these events happened and I, for one, sympathize with their dilemma.
All this was set up by a piece-of-shit New York mobster named Arnold Rothstein. Naturally, he got away with no punishment at all … at least not then. Nine years later he was shot and killed. He is currently into his eighty-first year of an eternal sentence in Hell, where he is Adolf Hitler’s permanent butt boy. His cell is right next to the one where sweethearts Comiskey and Landis are forced to use baseball bats on each other in a way that is too shocking to detail here. (Hint: As Billy Bob Thornton shouted in Bad Santa, “You won’t shit right for a week!”)
This is the second baseball movie starring Charlie Sheen that we’ve seen recently, the other being Major League. He looked pretty good as a pitcher in that one, and I just learned that it’s because he was a pitcher in high school with a fastball in the high 80s. That’s not major league material, but it’s good enough to fan most college hitters.
A few details: There a couple of shots where a fielder at the end of an inning tosses his glove over his shoulder before jogging into the dugout. I thought that was strange. There was a note about it at the IMDb. It seems that, until the ‘20s, it was common practice to share gloves! I was stunned to hear that. Couldn’t they afford their own gloves? Would you want to share a glove? Also, Shoeless Joe always seems to have a golf ball in his cheek. I remember when I was a kid, most major leaguers chewed tobacco. I’d be surprised if any of them do now; you see them chewing on sunflower seeds and spitting out the hulls. I don’t know about you, but though smoking tobacco is a disgusting habit, chewing it is about as nasty as habits get. I’m glad to see the last of it, even if sunflower seeds sound like a sissy chew.
One of the best things about the movie is the two-man Greek chorus of sportswriters, Ring Lardner and Hugh Fullerton, played by the writer/director, John Sayles, and Chicago legend Studs Terkel. If you are anything near my age, you’ll think of Mutt and Jeff. Sayles is 6’4” and Terkel was a little squirt. Lee commented that Sayles looked a lot like Ring Lardner. I didn’t know what he looked like so I looked him up, and the resemblance is uncanny. They could be brothers. Hell, they could be twin brothers.