Moriah: Ken Burns reflects on impact of ‘Baseball’ after 20 years

From SABR member David Moriah at on September 18, 2014:

Twenty years ago, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns changed the way fans of all ages view and appreciate the game when one of his finest works, “Baseball,” first aired. Last week, Burns sat down with MLB Publishing inside MLB’s headquarters to discuss the film and the sport he so dearly loves. The full version of this story will appear in the League Championship Series program and in a digital edition available through’s At Bat and At the Ballpark apps.

“Baseball,” the Emmy Award-winning documentary that Burns deems “a complicated, passionate love letter to the game of baseball,” was a magnificent, sprawling, 18 1/2-hour production that covered the history of the game. Two decades ago, the production aired over 11 nights and became the most watched mini-series in public television history, attracting an audience of 41.3 million viewers.

“Baseball” was divided into nine chronological episodes, fittingly called innings. Each inning covered a specific era of baseball history, from the game’s origins in 19th-century America right up through the beginning of the 1994 season.

In addition to its titanic length, “Baseball” distinguished itself from other documentaries and histories of the game in the compelling way it connected the sport with the story of America. Burns had recently completed another award-winning documentary, “The Civil War,” when he took on the four-year project.

In an ironic twist of fate, “Baseball” went on the air in the middle of a labor dispute that forced the cancellation of the 1994 postseason. In the absence of the actual game, the documentary assured baseball-starved fans that the sport would recover and go on despite the turmoil of the moment.

On the 20th anniversary of the epic, Burns reflected on the film, the state of the game today and, most of all, his deep love for our pastime.

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Originally published: September 19, 2014. Last Updated: September 19, 2014.