Cosh: On the verge of Opening Day, ‘Eight Myths Out’ is a consumer advisory for baseball history

From Colby Cosh at the National Post on March 25, 2019:

I suppose I will always have time for John Sayles’s movie Eight Men Out (1988), which tells the story of the “Black Sox” baseball scandal of 1919. Sayles is a tough, cynical guy who has an old-left view of history. His movie was made with affection for the game, and care in its depiction. His ballplayers are craftsmen plying a trade, not saints or comic-book underdogs.

Unfortunately, as history, the movie is horrendous nonsense. Which is not John Sayles’s fault. Most of the blame belongs to Eliot Asinof (1919-2008), the writer whose book Eight Men Out (1963) Sayles adapted. It is still the basis of most everything anyone knows about the corrupt 1919 Chicago White Sox. And much of it is wrong. This springtime consumer advisory comes to you courtesy of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

This year marks the centennial of the crooked World Series, or perhaps I should say “the crooked World Series we know about.” At the time Sayles made his movie, which will not seem long ago to those of us who watched it in the theatre, critics and specialists already knew there were big holes in Asinof’s book. Asinof was a novelist playing sportswriter, and held himself to sportswriter standards, which were even more elastic back then.

His book invents dialogue for scenes he had no living witness for, which is obvious to the reader and frankly confessed. His fans also knew from interviews and other books that Asinof had invented one major plot point to trap plagiarists — “Harry F.”, the Arnold Rothstein thug who threatens pitcher Lefty Williams in order the clinch the fix in the deciding game after the players rebel.

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Originally published: March 25, 2019. Last Updated: March 25, 2019.