Tenth Inning, The 4x52
Ken Burns’s four-hour special program to bring the landmark nine-part documentary film series, BASEBALL, up to date. The Tenth Inning showcases the unforgettable heroics and achievements on the field over the past fifteen years, vividly presented against a backdrop of the social and cultural history of the U.S. in this same period. The film starts with the strike-shortened season of 1994, which caused many observers to conclude that many of baseball’s fans would abandon the game they loved. But just a few spectacular seasons later, beginning with Cal Ripken’s astonishing feat of endurance and commitment, a number of remarkable players and extraordinary teams reminded millions of Americans why baseball remains. The unprecedented dominance of the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves and the thrilling hitting performances of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds brought back old fans and endeared the game to a new generation as well. And when, on September 11, 2001, the nation was shaken and unnerved, the game of baseball provided what the country desperately needed: normalcy and solace.
In 1994, the national pastime faces its worst crisis in 70 years, when a bitter and prolonged strike over power and money forces the World Series to be canceled, infuriating fans who were dismayed by the athletes and teams they once worshiped. Cal Ripken Jr. sets an amazing record of consecutive games played, helping rekindle the country’s love of the game. Barry Bonds, son of the great right fielder Bobby Bonds, signs the most lucrative contract to date in baseball history, and thrills San Francisco fans. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, more and more players are making life-altering decisions about how far they are willing to go to succeed.
The New York Yankees, led by manager Joe Torre, assemble a team of homegrown prospects and seasoned veterans and return to glory after two decades of disappointment. Players from Latin America bring their enormous talent, drive and determination north to the United States and make an indelible mark on the game. Bulked up sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa electrify the nation as they chase Roger Maris’s hallowed single-season home run record.
In an age of home runs and power, Pedro Martinez and a handful of other superb pitchers still manage to dominate. The astonishingly talented right fielder Ichiro Suzuki becomes MLB’s first Japanese position player, and a hero back home. As America reels from the horror of the 9/11 attacks, baseball provides solace, and in an incredible World Series gives the country something to cheer about. Barry Bonds demolishes Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record and sets his sights on Henry Aaron’s revered all time mark. Baseball is more popular and profitable than ever before, but the confessions of several recently retired players raise new concerns about steroids.
As the rivalry between the Yankees and the Red Sox reaches the boiling point, long-suffering Boston fans rejoice in their first World Series victory in 86 years. Barry Bonds eclipses Hank Aaron’s career home run record, while revelations about steroids cast a shadow on many of the era’s greatest stars and their historic accomplishments.