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A documentary on the history of the sport with major topics including Afro-American players, player/team owner relations and the resilience of the game.




2010   1994  
Won 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Series cast summary:
John Chancellor ...  Narrator 9 episodes, 1994
Daniel Okrent ...  Himself 8 episodes, 1994-2010
Ossie Davis ...  Various / ... 7 episodes, 1994
Paul Roebling Paul Roebling ...  Various / ... 7 episodes, 1994
Studs Terkel ...  Himself / ... 7 episodes, 1994
Eli Wallach ...  Various / ... 7 episodes, 1994
John Thorn ...  Himself 6 episodes, 1994-2010
George Will ...  Himself 6 episodes, 1994-2010
Adam Arkin ...  Various / ... 6 episodes, 1994
Charles McDowell Charles McDowell ...  Himself / ... 6 episodes, 1994
Buck O'Neil Buck O'Neil ...  Himself 6 episodes, 1994
George Plimpton ...  Himself / ... 6 episodes, 1994
Gerald Early ...  Himself 5 episodes, 1994-2010
Doris Kearns Goodwin ...  Herself 5 episodes, 1994-2010
Roger Angell Roger Angell ...  Himself 5 episodes, 1994
Keith Carradine ...  Various / ... 5 episodes, 1994
Shelby Foote ...  Himself 5 episodes, 1994
Garrison Keillor ...  Various / ... 5 episodes, 1994
Amy Madigan ...  Various / ... 5 episodes, 1994
Jason Robards ...  Various / ... 5 episodes, 1994
John Turturro ...  Himself / ... 5 episodes, 1994
Bob Costas ...  Himself 4 episodes, 1994-2010
Red Barber Red Barber ...  Himself 4 episodes, 1994
Philip Bosco ...  Various 4 episodes, 1994
Robert W. Creamer Robert W. Creamer ...  Himself 4 episodes, 1994
Mario Cuomo ...  Himself 4 episodes, 1994
Donald Hall Donald Hall ...  Himself 4 episodes, 1994
Arthur Miller ...  Various / ... 4 episodes, 1994
Gregory Peck ...  Various / ... 4 episodes, 1994
Vin Scully ...  Himself 4 episodes, 1994


Ken Burns relates the history of baseball in a fashion similar to that of his Civil War mini series. Old-time photos and illustrations depict the games early years, while newsreels and video clips highlight more recent developments. Players and participants speak in their own words, and sports writers and broadcasters offer commentary on the sport and events they witnessed. Written by Eric Sorensen <Eric_Sorensen@fc.mcps.k12.md.us>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis








Release Date:

18 September 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Baseball See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

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Did You Know?


The series is structured in baseball fashion: divided into "innings", each with a top and bottom half; opens with the national anthem; is given "play by play" by the narrator along with "color commentary" by various experts; eventually goes to extra innings; etc. See more »


Narrator: It is played everywhere. In parks and playgrounds and prison yards. In back alleys and farmers' fields. By small children and old men. Raw amateurs and millionaire professionals. It is a leisurely game that demands blinding speed. The only game in which the defense has the ball. It follows the seasons, beginning each year with the fond expectancy of springtime, and ending with the hard facts of autumn. It is a haunted game, in which every player is measured against the ghosts of all who have ...
See more »


Referenced in B.T.K. Killer (2005) See more »

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User Reviews

It constantly brought a smile to my face.
11 June 2003 | by Pavel-8See all my reviews

What makes this documentary great is, well, everything. At the foundation, it is meticulously researched. Without that wealth of background information, all the style in the world wouldn't have saved the doc. From that fount of knowledge springs a geyser of historical glory.

The music is pitch perfect. Burns sticks with an Americana theme for his soundtrack. Variations on "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" provide the primary background music. They are joined by a number of classic baseball songs and tunes that defined generations. The music puts you in the era and adds to the simultaneous definitions of the game and the country.

The storytelling style was a bit jilting at first. Each inning is told in segments. A title pops up on the screen, and then that story is related. At the end of that segment, a postscript is added that may or may not have anything to do with the preceding tale. Initially that was disorienting, but once one realizes how the doc is going to work, it's no longer bothersome.

Ken Burns' defining technique is his use of still pictures, panning and zooming over and around them in a fashion that nearly brings them to life. Accompanied by various ballpark sound effects, that style is perfect for the game of baseball. The deliberate pace of the documentary matches the deliberate pace of the game. But most remarkable about "Baseball" is the archival footage. Antique film of early century heroes like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth literally caused my jaw to drop at times. I had no idea such video existed, and seeing all the classic footage for the first time is like being introduced to a whole new ballgame and cast of characters. Oddly enough, the entire film works better before colorized film and photos are introduced. Perhaps because of the romantic nature of monochromatic hues. Perhaps because they seem new and fresh when compared to the colors we are bombarded with today. Whatever the reason, the first two-thirds of "Baseball" stand out, due in part to the simple yet elegant pictures.

Aside from the archival footage, the highlights of the documentary were not the historical accounts themselves, but rather the commentary by various people who expound upon the intricacies of baseball. Bob Costas reminds us that baseball is a beautiful game. Robert Creamer explains the social aspect of baseball. Billy Crystal tells of his wide-eyed attitude as a youngster. Moments like these will bring a smile to your face, as you nod your head enthusiastically in agreement.

Through the 1950s, Burns covers everything I could think of, along with many great tangents. A major theme to that point is race, as Burns consistently makes a point to explain how baseball is not just a game but also a social barometer. Side stories such as the history of the ballpark frank and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" provide the documentary with a well-roundedness that appeals to people besides the hard-core baseball fan.

My only complaint about this piece of work is a common one. A little too much Northeast bias once the series hit the 1960s. Up to that point, I didn't notice much, probably because baseball did more or less revolve around New York and Boston until expansion. But since the 1960s, the game has truly become national, even international, and I feel that the documentary didn't quite reflect that. Admittedly, the expansion of the game made it more difficult to cover all that has happened in the last quarter century. Also, part of the reason I felt shortchanged was undoubtedly because I am familiar with a larger number of recent events and knew more about what was absent. I realize that with the final 25 years crammed into one two hour episode, many great events had to be truncated or eliminated, but I was still left mildly disappointed.

Like the players that participated in the game it describes, this mini-series is not perfect. However, to maintain the baseball analogy, Ken Burns' documentary is both Hank Aaron and Roger Maris...er, Barry Bonds. It has phenomenal singular moments and also has the longevity to attain Hall of Fame status.

Bottom Line: The scope of "Baseball" combines with the dead-on moments to present a near perfect history and explanation of why baseball is the greatest game ever. 10 of 10.

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