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John Sayles bore such a striking resemblance to newspaper writer Ring Lardner that he played the part himself.
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In many scenes, players toss their gloves down on the field near their positions before they head to the dugout. Until the 1950s, players frequently left their gloves on the field while at bat. Because of the danger of players stepping or tripping on them, and batted or thrown balls bouncing of of them in odd directions, the leagues requested, then demanded that players take their gloves with them to the dugout. They finally complied after a rule change and fines.
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Director John Sayles was contractually obligated to a running time under two hours. To inspire the cast to talk fast, he showed them the film City for Conquest (1940). The final cut of the film is 1:59:48.
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Initially, John Sayles envisioned himself in a minor role as a member of the Chicago White Sox. After working over a decade to get the script turned into a movie, he was too old to convincingly portray a ballplayer when filming started. Instead, he cast himself as sportswriter Ring Lardner.
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John Sayles used cardboard cutouts to fill the stands in the ballpark. He needed 1,000 extras to film close-ups and panning shouts of live fans. To lure the extras, Charlie Sheen volunteered to take part in a contest for one extra to have a lunch with him.
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A child in the movie utters the famous quote, "Say it ain't so, Joe!" In real life, a Chicago reporter was standing close by when a boy said something to the effect of "Say it didn't really happen, Joe." The reporter took creative license, and created the "Say it ain't so, Joe!" quote, to give the story more emotional impact.
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The film doesn't mention why baseball owners decided to name Kenesaw M. Landis baseball commissioner. Many baseball historians feel he got the job because he ruled in favor of the American and National leagues when the Federal League sued both leagues in 1914.
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According to some sources, the Chicago White Sox were called the Black Sox long before the World Series fixing scandal. Charles Comiskey refusing to launder the team uniforms, forcing the players to do it themselves, and the uniforms became filthy. Other sources, including Eliot Asinof's book "Eight Men Out", do not mention that.
In 1922, a petition signed by 14,000 White Sox fans was delivered to Kenesaw M. Landis, demanding Buck Weaver be reinstated. Landis denied the request.
D.B. Sweeney, who is right-handed, played the left-handed hitting "Shoeless" Joe Jackson. He initially suggested filming his hitting scenes in reverse, a process used in The Pride of the Yankees (1942). John Sayles didn't have the budget for such effects. Sweeney arranged to work out with a Class A Minor League Baseball team to learn how to hit left-handed. Sweeney came to feel that the conditions and atmosphere around Class A ball were comparable to those around big league baseball in 1919.
Arnold "Chick" Gandil met Joseph "Sport" Sullivan while Gandil was a member of the Washington Senators. Sullivan was one of the key members of the scheme to throw the 1919 World Series.
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Lefty Williams, one of the eight men out, missed most of 1918 season serving in the military.
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On the stand, White Sox manager Kid Gleason tells the lawyer that he was a pitcher during his playing days. He pitched about 400 games, and played second base in almost 1,600 games.
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While much is made about "Shoeless" Joe Jackson's lack of education, Swede Risberg dropped out of school after the third grade.
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John Sayles wanted to cast Gene Hackman and Martin Sheen in the movie, but he lost out because development took so long. David Strathairn was originally cast to play "Shoeless" Joe Jackson.
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In an interview, Michael Rooker said he had a loud argument with the casting director because he was upset that John Sayles was not present at the audition. The casting director felt that he had the right attitude to play "Chick" Gandil. The producers didn't want to cast Rooker because he was an unknown. They decided to cast him after he sent the producers a clip of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986).
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John Sayles said he felt the film was cursed. In the eleven years it took to get the film made, Orion Pictures turned it down twice, and family members of the players portrayed sued.
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Studs Terkel was 75 when he played Chicago sports writer Hal Fullerton, who was 46 at the time.
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Field of Dreams (1989), another depiction of the 1919 White Sox, was released a little over six months later. The films are credited with increasing public awareness and sympathy towards the team's plight. Public sentiment in favor of overturning "Shoeless" Joe Jackson's lifetime ban from Major League Baseball grew.
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The Chicago White Sox didn't make it to the World Series again until 1959, where they ultimately lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers four games to two. They finally won a World Series in 2005, defeating the Houston Astros 4-0.
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The ballpark used to make the film, Bush Stadium in Indianapolis, was converted to a dirt race track, the 16th Street Speedway, in 1997. In 2011, the property was sold and developed into luxury apartments. Stadium Lofts opened in August 2013, overlooking the former playing field.
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The weather during the 1919 World Series was mostly sunny and unseasonably warm. The game scenes were filmed in Indiana in October 1987, when the weather was largely overcast, and in one case, brutally cold.
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In the final scene, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson plays for a minor league team in New Jersey in 1925. The outfield wall has an ad for Harry Kurkjian confections. He was a real merchant in Queens, New York during the 1920s and '30s.
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The scroll of names in the opening credits follows the path of a fly ball.
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The byline of a newspaper column "Do or Die!; Kerr Hurls Against Reds" is John Tintori. Tintori is the film's editor.
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While playing for the minor league Los Angeles Angels in 1914, one of Fred McMullin's teammates was a journeyman pitcher named "Sleepy" Bill Burns, the same character portrayed in the movie.
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In an early scene, Eddie Cicotte walks by a Chicago storefront with the name Oppenheimer's in the window. In Day One (1989), Strathairn plays Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, leader of the Manhattan Project, the program that eventually developed the atomic bomb. John Cusack appeared in Fat Man and Little Boy (1989), which told the story behind the the atomic bombs dropped on Japan.
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Early in the film, Eddie Collins (Bill Irwin) takes a piece of chewing gum out of his mouth, and places it on the button of his cap, which Collins did in real life. He would put the gum back in his mouth if he had two strikes during an at-bat.
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This movie was made long before CGI could make realistic backgrounds so Bush Stadium in Indianapolis stood in for both Comiskey Park and Crosley Field. Set designers changed the decoration to give the appearance of two different stadiums. Bush stadium was also not built until 1931 and didn't really look much like either Comiskey Park or Crosley field. Nevertheless the design of the field was universally praised by baseball historians who felt they did an excellent job of creating the proper atmosphere for the era.
The baseball scenes for the movie were filmed in Indianapolis which is almost halfway between Chicago and Cincinnati. Their train trips would've gone right through Indianapolis as well.
The film inaccurately portrayed Dickie Kerr as a right-handed pitcher when in fact he was a lefty.
In the film, Claude "Lefty" Williams intends to pitch an honest game in his final start, and changes his mind after a mobster threatens to kill his wife. Eliot Asinof included it in his book, on which the film is based. He later admitted he'd made the incident up, to thwart anyone trying to plagiarize the book.
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The movie suggests that Eddie Cicotte helped throw the 1919 World Series because the White Sox's owner denied him a $10,000 bonus. Adjusted for inflation, the bonus would be almost $135,000 in 2013.
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