Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Eight Men Out

In 1988 I was actively involved in Greenville South Carolina with attempting to get The Greenville Braves Double A Baseball Affiliate to display a memorial plaque for Shoeless Joe Jackson at the baseball stadium/field. Joe Jackson grew up in Greenville South Carolina and retired in that area. He is likely, next to Pete Rose, the most well known, deserving player to ever be banned from the game of Major League Baseball. This simple man who started out playing as a child for the local mill teams was one of the best players in the history of the game. I appreciate the history of the game and him so much that while living some years in Greenville South Carolina I used to visit his grave on a regular basis. The cemetery where Joe Jackson is buried didn't allow flowers so I did something unique, I used to empty a pack of chewing tobacco on his grave. For those that know the history of Joe Jackson, you know the appropriateness of this act. 

Eight Men out came out in 1988 and to the surprise of many actually lost money. The movie tells the story of the 1918 Chicago White Sox who was charged with throwing the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. Eight players from the White Sox, including Joe Jackson who was on the team later named The Black Sox. Jackson and seven others due to the allegations were banned for life from the game of baseball. In a trial before a jury the eight were acquitted of all charges. The new Commissioner of Baseball however, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, decided to ban all players allegedly associated with the scandal from Major League Baseball for life. Two of the players fought until their death to have their names exonerated. Those two, Bucky Weaver and Joe Jackson were banned not for their play or attempt to throw the World Series, but for their complacency in knowing about it and not reporting it. These two, especially Joe Jackson over the years have drawn the support of fans and had numerous attempts to have them reinstated into the game of Baseball so they could be considered for Hall of Fame induction. Even after death for both of these men, fans still adamantly believe they should be reinstated.

www.thevirtualpew.comSome have called Eight Men Out the best baseball movie ever made. I personally think it falls short of that category and while well done in many regards, unfortunately, also just short as a film. The film labors at times in the editing and flow of the story as there is so much to contain for such a historic event. While it does a good job in numerous other categories, the one I think it does an exceptional job is how it used actors at the time, not that well known who had experience in the game of baseball. From college players to players who had some minor league experience the actors were able to carry off the game and the images presented on screen. It also well done for the low budget it had, only around 6 1/2 million dollars, but it only grossed 5 1/2 million dollars. Over the years though, the film has lasted and done well in DVD sales and television airings.

It should also be noted that director/writer of the script John Sayles did a terrific job on the film working with what he had. He was able to use unique film sequences depending on the weather to get the shot for the day he wanted and his use of actors with baseball abilities such as Charlie Sheen, John Cusak, and DB Sweeny, having quite advanced baseball experience was a quality move. For the baseball fan, it is tough to watch a movie knowing that it is obvious the actors can not play the game of baseball. That was not the case in Eight Men Out. 

One of the things I thought of as I watched this film again is the situation that put the players into the position of being open to throwing the game when confronted by gamblers. The team was owned by Charles Comiskey who was noted for being a cheap skate and not rewarding his players. The White Sox of the era was recognized not only as a great team but by many, as one of the best teams in the history of the game, yet, they were among the lowest paid teams and Comiskey seldom did anything to reward his players or show them appreciation for their talents. When approached by gamblers with promises of large sums of money to throw the series, many were open to the idea. It was the days before players unions, which brought their own issues but it certainly showed a need, in an era, where the players wanted to be rightly compensated for their efforts.  While the movie shows this to a large extent, we are also fortunate to see that even when given options of selling out, some players held to their values of doing the best they could.

Over the years, I have loved, and studied the man known as Shoeless Joe Jackson. I will be blunt, I think he was wrongly convicted and while possibly knowing about the attempt to throw the series, gave an outstanding performance in the World Series that many baseball critics say was among the most outstanding performances ever in the history of The World Series. I would like to personally see the man reinstated to be considered for The Hall of Fame, as I would Bucky Weaver. There is a lesson for all of us. Sometimes we are guilty by association due to those we hang around with and the things we know and don't speak out against can have a level of impact on us, not just temporarily, but over the long haul. If this is true in life with the game of baseball, what parallels are there for those who know spiritual truths, such as the need to love all people, care for the orphan the widow, the poor and needy, or to worship a Holy and Just God who is also a Jealous God and despite knowing these things, we find reason to not do what we know needs to be done. For the people of faith who love the game of baseball, the lessons in this movie and in the real life Chicago Black Sox we can see and learn lessons related to our faith. How seriously will we take it? How much will we respect it?

www.mosaicwichita.comWhile I think the movie falls just a tad short as a movie, it is still a movie that especially during this time of year has things we can learn from. There are moral lessons for the person who doesn't worship or believe in God but also valuable lessons for the person who does. It reminded me of the awareness I need to have regarding the situations around me but also the need to make sure I work towards doing the best I can for the things I know. It is a reminder that just like Joe Jackson and Bucky Weaver, I may do my best, but still fall just short. I may be judged at times by the company I keep and while it is one thing to have associations with those who don't play the game whole heartedly, I need to make sure I do all I can to make sure I at the least have peace with the knowledge, that I did my best. Of course I am also grateful, that I believe my faith, my eternity is not based so much on how I do, but on who I know. That doesn't change the reality of doing my best, but it does at least give peace that I won't be banned from the ultimate outcome that comes out of my relationship with Christ.

Does Joe Jackson deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, check out the following video.  Click on the video and if that doesn't work, click on the link.


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