Ken Burns pitches extra ‘Inning’ this fall
Documentarian Ken Burns, whose epic Baseball series scored with millions of TV viewers in 1994, will take the field again this fall on PBS in The Tenth Inning.
The four-hour two-parter, to be officially announced today, airs Sept. 28-29. It picks up where Baseball ended, examining a tumultuous 16 years marked by a strike, player stats tainted by performance-enhancing drugs, escalating salaries and ticket prices.
Burns and longtime producing partner Lynn Novick balance the darker side of the sport with its resilience and enduring fan appeal, buoyed by interleague games, wildcard playoffs, new stadiums and the resurgence of storied franchises such as the New York Yankees and Burns’ beloved Boston Red Sox.
“It’s a timeless game that hasn’t changed much over the last 150 years ó and there’s little in American life you can say the same about,” says Burns, 56.
Tenth is filled with heartfelt observations from die-hard fans and observers, including Boston writer Mike Barnicle, who recalls his then-11-year-old son’s “tears as big as hubcaps” following the Sox’s 2003 playoff loss to the Yanks.
Burns (Jazz, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea) usually abhors covering old ground. But after 1990’s The Civil War, he and Novick produced another battlefront series, 2007’s The War, to honor World War II vets and educate young people. They’re now working on the Vietnam War.
A coda to Baseball held appeal because of recent events around the game ó and, for a long-suffering Sox fan such as Burns, as a way to celebrate the team’s 2004 World Series win. “I admit we would not be doing this had they not won,” Burns says. “But this will sit well with all fans.”
Novick says they reached out to players tied to steroid allegations. None would talk. But former Sox star Pedro Martinezó a Dominican among an early wave of foreign-born players initially hired as cheaper alternatives to higher-paid U.S.-born peers ó speaks at length about his start.
Obsessive fans, including historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and sportscaster Bob Costas, also are featured.
“If you like baseball, you’ll enjoy this,” Costas says. “Like Baseball, it’s good at seeing many sides of an issue.”