Basing his screenplay on a notorious moment in the history of American baseball, writer/director John Sayles offers an insightful look into the great Black Sox scandal of 1919 during which eight members of the 1919 White Sox were banned… More Basing his screenplay on a notorious moment in the history of American baseball, writer/director John Sayles offers an insightful look into the great Black Sox scandal of 1919 during which eight members of the 1919 White Sox were banned from baseball for life for their involvement in throwing the World Series with the Cincinnati Reds. Representatives of notorious gambler Arnold Rothstein (Michael Lerner) convince the eight ballplayers to loose to the Reds in lieu of substantial cash rewards. Shortstop Swede Risberg (Don Harvey) heads the group of disgruntled players, furious with the skinflint practices of their parsimonious owner Charles Comiskey (Clifton James). Star pitcher Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn) was promised a bonus of $10,000 by Comiskey if he won 30 games. With his victory total at 29, Comiskey orders White Sox manager Kid Gleason (John Mahoney) to refrain using Cicotte in the remaining games. The infuriated pitcher opts to throw the game and signals to the gamblers that the fix is on by hitting the first batter he faces. Centerfielder Happy Felsch (Charlie Sheen), third baseman Buck Weaver (John Cusack), infielder Fred McMullin (Perry Lang), first baseman Chick Gandil (Michael Rooker), pitcher Lefty Williams (James Read), and star left-fielder Shoeless Joe Jackson (D. B. Sweeney) all attend the meeting to discuss the fix. The heavily favored White Sox end up losing to the Cincinnati Reds, as rumors and speculation run rampant among fans and sportswriters. After the 1920 season, a courtroom battle led to the acquittal of the players, but Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis (John Anderson) banned the players for life after the season, and Weaver and Jackson would spend the rest of their lives trying to clear their names. Chicago literary legend Studs Terkel plays sportswriter Hugh Fullerton, with Bill Irwin playing future Hall Of Fame second baseman Eddie Collins, and Gordan Clapp as the fiery catcher Ray Schalk. Watch for director John Sayles as sportswriter Ring Larnder. Particular attention was paid to the illiterate Jackson, who is confronted by the little moppet on the courthouse steps who uttered the famous phase "Say it ain't so, Joe." A classic baseball film that will entertain even non-baseball fans, Eight Men Out boasts excellent production values and acting performances throughout.
Consensus: Perhaps less than absorbing for non-baseball fans, but nevertheless underpinned by strong performances from the cast and John Sayles' solid direction.