Thursday was supposed to be Opening Day for the 2020 MLB season, an annual holiday for baseball fans. Sunshine, cracker jacks, and the smell of freshly cut grass eludes us this year, but filmmaker Ken Burns is keeping baseball alive through film. Burns has released his Emmy-winning documentary “Baseball” to stream for free on PBS. The doc is a nine-part film representing nine innings. It details the history of Major League Baseball from the 1850s to the 1990s. You can’t watch your favorite team start the season today, so brush up on some baseball history in the meantime.
Ken Burns has a rich portfolio of sports documentaries
“Baseball” isn’t the only Ken Burns project about sports. The legendary filmmaker has also released films about Jackie Robinson and Jack Johnson, the first African-American boxer. Burns also has a film in progress which will detail the life of Muhammad Ali.
“Jackie Robinson” is one of Burns’ most famous films. It is a two-part, four-hour documentary about the famous baseball activist on and off the field. The racial barriers Robinson had to overcome were unlike anything an African American ever experienced at the time. His story is of defiance and belief, something Burns highlights extremely well in the film.
His first sports documentary, however, was “Baseball” in 1994. He later updated the masterpiece with a film titled “The Tenth Inning,” a sequel to the nine-inning original. In all, Burns created over 24 hours of baseball documentary content fans can watch while the MLB is on hiatus.
“Baseball” can take the place of Opening Day games for MLB fans
Ken Burns’ “Baseball” is a work of art that documents nearly 200 years of baseball history in nine parts. It features some of the most famous baseball players from the distant past, including Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Shoeless Joe Jackson and more.
Most baseball fans know these names, but they might not know their full stories. “Baseball” takes an in-depth look at these careers and many others from the 19th century and beyond.
Burns integrates the history of baseball with the history of race in America. He documents the parallels between the two and how the sport helped pave the way for African American rights in the U.S. Our national pastime is more than just a game, but also an accelerant that aided the end of segregation.
No, it isn’t the live baseball we hoped for in late March, but it’s an excellent substitute.
What Opening Day would have looked like Thursday
If the world was back to normal and the coronavirus pandemic never started in the first place, 2020 Opening Day would have been a grand event.
Mookie Betts would be making his debut in Dodger blue. Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon would be making their first appearances with their new clubs. The Houston Astros would be playing their first game since being exposed for stealing signs, while the Washington Nationals would be raising their 2019 championship banner.
Opening Day is a festival that baseball fans wait months for, but they will have to hold on for a few more than usual. In the meantime, Ken Burns’ “Baseball” can feed fans’ hunger for baseball while we wait out the start of the 2020 season. Stream “Baseball” today for free here.