SBS Film Vault: Eight Men Out

Written by :
Published on : June 27, 2017

 

Can you imagine if a major sports championship was rigged? If it happened in today’s world it would shake the very foundation of American entertainment. The Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup playoffs, these are institutions. That’s what makes the story told in 1988’s Eight Men Out that much more intriguing. It’s the story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox, forever known as the Black Sox.

 

They were the team that helped throw the World Series that year, but before all that they were arguably the best baseball team ever assembled up to that point. They were damn near unstoppable and before the series, it was a foregone conclusion that they would beat the Cincinnati Reds in decisive fashion. But a penny pinching owner, a team who played in an era in which they were held hostage by that owner, and some opportunistic bad guys made sure that never happened. Let’s open up the SBS Film Vault and have a look at Eight Men Out.

 

The Team

This was an all star team that White Sox owner, Chalres Comiskey (Clifton James) had assembled for the 1919 season. They were led by “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (DB Sweeney) who had a .351 average and 96 RBI’s, and star pitcher Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn) who finished the season 29-7 with a 1.82 ERA. The 1919 Chicago White Sox are still one of the greatest teams ever and finished 1st in the American League with a 88-52 record. There was no way they were going to lose to the Cincinnati Reds in the 9-game World Series. That is, until gamblers “Sleepy” Bill Burns (Christopher Lloyd) and Billy Maharg (Richard Edson), and famous gangster Arnold Rothstein (Michael Lerner), got involved.

 

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The Fix

Despite the fact that Chicago White Sox owner, Comiskey, had a historically talented roster, he was known for being cheap with his players and out of that grew a disdain for ownership. When word of the discontent among players on the team reaches Burns and Maharg, they convince a group of players on the team, including Cicotte, who was turned when Comiskey screwed him out of a $10,000 bonus.

 

Eventually Rothstein takes over the conspiracy and eight players including Happy Felsch (Charlie Sheen), Swede Risberg (Don Harvey), Joe Jackson, Chick Gandil (Michael Rooker), and Buck Weaver (John Cusack) get involved. Weaver maintained his innocence after the fact, claiming to have given it his all during the series, but he still had knowledge of the fix and didn’t bring it to the attention of the authorities.

 

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Up until Cicotte hit the leadoff hitter, Morrie Rath, with a pitch in game 1, sending the signal to Rothstein that the fix was in, no one was sure that the team would go through with it. Once they began to lose people became suspicious. It became obvious to some that the team wasn’t giving their full effort on the field. After the Reds won the series 5-3, the whispers of a fix in the World Series turned into shouts.

 

The Aftermath

A Chicago newsman writes an article condemning the White Sox, spurring an investigation into the World Series. All eight of the players tried in court and eventually acquitted of any wrongdoing but not before being implicated in some sort of underhanded behavior. Three players signed confessions but the documents were stolen before they could be presented to the court during trial, rendering them useless, but that didn’t stop the owners from taking the necessary precautions so nothing like that would ever happen again.

 

The owners came together to install the first ever league commissioner in baseball and he proceeded to ban seven players for their knowledge of the fix. Jackson was spared, but the rest never played professional baseball again. The new commissioner had the power to levy punishments against players and the position helped elevate Major League Baseball to a new level of legitimacy.

 

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Eight Men Out is a cautionary tale about what can happen when ownership and management squeeze labor and profit off the sweat of others without properly compensating those who do the heavy lifting. The players involved in the fix paid the ultimate price by losing the ability to play the game they loved at the highest level but the league had its reputation tarnished and it took years to recover. With an old timey feel and a star-studded cast, you should go watch this movie right now before you judge these players about the mistake they made.

 

 


The 9 Funniest Sports Movies. Ever.

Written by :
Published on : June 25, 2015

The Internet loves lists, we love sports, and everybody loves funny movies. So we felt it was only right to have a countdown of the 9 funniest sports movies of all time.

Why 9, and not 10? Because it’s my list and I can choose whichever arbitrary number pleases me.

As for the movies, these films are the greatest of their genre and they have the ability to uplift, entertain, inspire, and most importantly make people laugh. They are about the underdogs, the outcasts, the naturally gifted, the hopelessly talentless, the improbable, the odds and the defiance of those odds. If that isn’t special, I don’t know what is.

But enough talking about it, and let’s get to business. Here are my 9 Funniest Sports Movies. Ever.

The movie "Slap Shot", directed by George Roy Hill. Seen here of the Charlestown Chiefs hockey team, the Hanson Brothers. From left, David Hanson (as Jack Hanson). Steve Carlson (as Steve Hanson), Jeff Carlson (as Jeff Hanson). Initial theatrical release February 25, 1977. Screen capture. Copyright © 1977 Universal Pictures. Credit: © 1977 Universal Pictures / Courtesy: Pyxurz.

#9. Slap Shot (1977)

This hilariously violent and vulgar film stars Paul Newman as Reggie Dunlop, a player/coach with the Charlestown Chiefs, a team that just found out that local mill will be closing and 10,000 workers will be laid off.

In an attempt to save the team from a similar fate, Dunlop resorts to fighting with other teams as his go-to strategy for winning games. And it works..

By far the funniest thing in this film is the above-pictured Hanson Brothers. These spectacle wearing man-children leave more than a little to be desired when it comes to intelligence and actual game-skills, but they more than make up for it with bare-knuckled savagery. Some of the jokes in this film would have a hard time making it to screen in today P.C society but it is undeniable that this movie is still as funny as they come.

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#8. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)

As someone who isn’t an actual fan of racing I may be way off base here, but Talladega Nights so hilariously captures the general air of white-trashiness that surrounds the world of stock car racing. Will Ferrell’s portrayal of Ricky Bobby, a lowly pit crew member who is thrust into the drivers seat and onto stardom, is as close to his Old School/Anchorman greatness as he ever got again.

Ricky comes to consider himself untouchable, only to have everything, including his hot racing groupie wife, his under-appreciated teammate and best friend Cal Naughton Jr (John C Reilly), and his badass racing skills taken from him in a flash by his own arrogance and a French Formula 1 driver named Jean Girard (Sasha Baren-Cohen).

In the end Farrell and Reilly, who just do too good a job at caricaturing the hilarious mentality of the NASCAR world, carry this movie all the way to finish line.

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#7. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)

Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) is a street ball hustler who takes advantage of his non-assuming, good ol’ boy Caucasian looks in order to make the ball players of Los Angeles underestimate his game. When fate brings him together with Sidney Dean (Wesley Snipes) a working partnership, and eventually a friendship, is born. Together they set off to run the courts of LA, and make some money in the process.

There are a ton of yo-mama jokes and an almost never ending amount of overly dramatic slow-motion basketball scenes that are hilarious in their own right, if not only for the fact that they look so ridiculous.

The colors and fashion, and Rosie Perez, of this film are so perfectly 90’s. It takes me back to that era while making me laugh, and as someone whose formative years occurred in this time period, I can still remember renting this VHS from the Blockbuster video.

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#6. The Bad News Bears (1976)

This film starring Walter Matthau created an entire genre of sports comedy that would be copied, repackaged and remade many times in the future. The Mighty Ducks, The Little Giants and The Ladybugs would all go on to copy the formula of The Bad News Bears. But none of these other films are as good as this mid-seventies classic. It’s funnier than all those movies if merely for the fact that its much more R-rated than its future, kid-friendly imitators. And sometimes that’s enough.

Matthau’s character, Morris Buttermaker, is coaxed into coaching a team made up from all the worst players of a highly competitive little league, and he inspires his team by showing up drunk to games and practices, and just generally not caring about the whole thing.

After acquiring a couple of ringers (a necessary step in any sports comedy) they make it all the way to the championship game, only to lose to the obviously better team. In the end coach Buttermaker is kind enough to make them feel better about the loss in the only way he knows how, by letting them drink his beer (something that I’m sure the Hollywood of today would never let happen on the screen).

 

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#5. Happy Gilmore (1996)

Happy Gilmore (Adam Sandler) is an unlikely hero who has always had the dream of playing hockey. There’s just one problem, he’s not any good. He does, however, have a hell of a slap shot, which he parlays into an unlikely, but successful golf career, with a little guidance from perhaps the greatest on screen mentor ever, Chubbs Peterson (Carl Weathers).

Happy is violent. He curses and drinks. And could care less about the traditions or etiquette.

He is there to win and doesn’t care who he pisses off along the way.

Oh, and its hilarious.

For me the comedic highlight of the movie is a fight in which Bob Barker beats the hell out of Happy. Much of the humor is crude and violent, and is balanced out by golf environment that is supposed to be so refined and proper. Adam Sandler is at his peak in his first film after his debut in Billy Madison, and he would never again make a movie this great.

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#4. Kingpin (1996)

Woody Harrelson stars as Roy Munson, a once promising bowling champ who loses his good hand due to the negative influence of Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray), who takes the title of sleaziest sleazeball the moment he steps on screen.

Fast forward a couple decades and Munson has developed the kind of questionable morals and bleak outlook that can only be acquired through a lifetime of disappointment and shattered dreams. Munson eventually stumbles upon Ishmael (Randy Quaid), a previously undiscovered bowling prodigy who also happens to be from Amish country. Roy’s plan is to have Ishmael bowl in a big tournament and help them both win some money.

Ishmael’s kindhearted ignorance of modern society, along with some questionable influence from Munson, creates an opportunity for both slapstick and shock humor. The journey they undertake together proves to be one of self-discovery for both Roy and Ishmael, as they learn more about themselves and the world around them.

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#3. The Sandlot (1993)

What a great film this is. Not only is it one of the funniest sports movies ever, it also happens to be one of my favorite overall movies ever. It’s just that good.

Its amazing that The Sandlot can make me feel so nostalgic despite the fact that I didn’t grow up in a small town in middle America during the 1960’s and I wasn’t in love with the game of baseball during my youth in the way that I am now (I was a football kid). There’s just something totally relatable about the kids on the sandlot that makes you feel like it have been you or me out there playing for the love of the game and nothing else. The jokes may be juvenile at times but that doesn’t make them any less funny.

This is the second baseball movie on the list, and before I re-watched Major League it was actually the first. Despite being leapfrogged by Major League, this movie makes a very strong case for being higher on the list; the fact of the matter is that Major League is just a funnier movie. With that said, I absolutely love this film and it does a great job of giving the viewer the feeling of being a kid playing sports with your friends in the summer.

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#2. Major League (1989)

This is an amazing film and would probably be at the top of most people’s list. With late 80’s/early 90’s stalwarts like Charlie Sheen, Wesley Snipes, Rene Russo and Tom Berenger it’s pretty easy to see how this movie was such a home run (get it?). This movie provides constant laughs and the uplifting type of story that everyone who has ever been on a bad team dreams about living out, on and off the field.

Battling against their own ineptitude and a money-hungry new owner who wants to move the entire franchise to Miami, this motley crew of players, who includes washed up veterans, ex-cons, and a voodoo practitioner, must turn themselves around and save the team. By going from laughing stock of the league to winning the division in dramatic fashion, raise attendance to levels at which the owner can’t justify moving the team.

The laughs alone are enough to raise this movie up, but the solid sports-related plot puts it in the top 3.

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#1. Caddyshack (1980)

When the idea for this list was in its earliest stages, I knew immediately which movie was at the top. Caddyshack is not only my favorite sports comedy of all time; it is also one of my favorite overall movies of all time.

Caddyshack stars three of the greatest comedians of all time: Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield, whose performances help create one the most genuinely funny films ever. I’m not even going to try to list some of the hysterical things in this movie; if you don’t know them off the top of your head, you need to go and watch this film right now!

This movie has all of the necessary components of an all time epic sports story. Rag-tag group of underachieving but loveable characters? High Stakes? Antagonist who you just love to hate? With of these elements there’s no better film I could think of to top this list, and for that reason, Caddyshack takes the title of the funniest sports movie ever.

 

 


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