Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.
Rob: And I’m Rob DiCristino.
Adam: I think that’s one of the strengths of the movie. I texted you while I was watching Eight Men Out that I was maybe learning the wrong lessons from it and that was because I started from the sanctity of baseball place but was slowly being seduced in the rationale of why these guys threw the World Series. Of course it’s not the right thing to do and bastardized the game, but they certainly had a logical motivation not brought out of greed but more from hurt and retaliation.
Rob: Agreed. I was revisiting Bull Durham recently, and while I still like it, a lot of Ron Shelton’s script “tells” baseball love instead of “showing” it (to use reductive and overly simplistic terms) the way Eight Men Out does.
Overall, what stood out most to me in Eight Men Out were those interpersonal conflicts between the players who were in on the fix and those who weren’t. That tension says so many things about the great undertaking inherent in every competition and the way that tacit understanding between teammates — that which says each one will do their best to support the team — is corrupted. It’s so hard to watch one player giving his all while another drops balls on purpose or delays an easy throw at the expense of an out. The actors in Eight Men Out really sell that, I think, especially in those early games when manager Kid Gleason (John Mahoney) and the sportswriters get wise to the scam and are trying to figure out who’s in and who’s out.
Adam: I felt so bad for Gordon Clapp. He played the catcher, Ray Schalk, and was also Detective Medavoy on NYPD Blue. That’s my boy.
Adam: It’s absolutely insane. There’s more hits than at a Chicago Dogs game (independent baseball team near me where no one can pitch and I mean NO ONE CAN PITCH).
I haven’t read the book either. I don’t know among older Sox fans how they feel about the Black Sox, but my impression is that most fans begin keeping score (so to speak) with the 1959 “Go-Go White Sox” led by Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Sherm Lollar, Billy Pierce, Al Smith, and Early Wynn. That team is still beloved here. They went to the World Series but lost to Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Comiskey’s reputation isn’t really discussed anymore either probably because his name hasn’t been on the ballpark since it turned into U.S. Cellular Field back in 2003. I laughed a little that the film showed the White Sox being cheap even back then because there’s definitely that sentiment among fans today.
Rob: This is good for me, a baseball fan who recently adopted the Sox as his AL team, to know.
Adam: Go Phillies! What did you think of the subplots with the mobsters, gamblers, and sportswriters? This was the area where I felt like the movie lost its footing the most. For example, Kevin Tighe as “Sport” Sullivan is a great and interesting character; so are Michael Lerner as Arnold Rothstein and John Mahoney as the manager. But then they disappear for huge stretches of the movie. It’s like Sayles was so breathless in trying to get everything in that he didn’t savor what he had. Who gave your favorite performance in the movie?
Say Anything when — rightfully accused of extortion by his daughter — he shouts, “I make their LIVES better!” In both performances, you can see how the internal conflict infects his delivery. He was so good.
Adam: I miss John Mahoney. He was so great in everything. Mark Ahn for me for Eight Men Out. What are we reviewing next week?
Rob: Mark Ahn for me, as well. This is one that I like so much more after our discussion. Our All Pacino series returns next week with 1993’s Pacino/De Palma reunion, Carlito’s Way.
Adam: So many leather jackets in that one. Until next time…
Rob: These seats are reserved.