Eight Men Out (1988): John Sayles Chronicle of 1919 Black Sox Scandal



“Eight Men Out,” John Sayles’s most ambitious film to date, is the chronicle of the 1919 Black Sox scandal that rocked the baseball world, when eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of “fixing” the World Series.


The tale, scripted by Sayles based on the well-received book by Eliot Asinof, examines the controversy through the eyes of individual ball players. Rather than simple caricatures, each man is seen as having complex reasons for agreeing or refusing to throw the World Series.


Among the players are pitcher Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn), third baseman Buck Weaver (John Cusack), who spent most of his life protesting his innocence, and “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (D.B. Sweeney), whose baseball career ironically ended by a motorcycle accident.


It’s hard to think of another film in 1988 that was so flawlessly cast.  The rest of the ensemble includes Studs Terkle, the famed Chicago journalist and author, who plays sportswriter Hugh Fullerton, and John Sayles himself, as Ring Lardner.


Unlike other Hollywood’s pictures about sports scandals, “Eight Men Out” takes into greater account the broader context and the issue of social class (manifest in the owners versus workers conflict).


Compared with his previous, ultra-modest features, this one is made on a bigger canvas, relying more on the visuals, courtesy of the estimable lenser Robert Richardson, and other technical values, with impressive lighting and scrupulous production design, all helping to capture this pivotal period of American history.


Despite critical acclaim, the movie was a box-office flop, probably due to the downbeat subject matter and non-generic approach to a sports picture.




Dickie Kerr (Jace Alexander)

Buck Weaver (John Cusack)

Ray Schalk (Gordon Clapp)

Swede Risberg (Don Harvey)

Eddie Collins (Bill Irwin)

Fred McMulin (Perry Lang)

Kid Gleason (John Mahoney)

Lefty Williams (James Read)

Chick Gandil (Michael Rooker)

Hap Felsch (Charlie Sheen)




Produced by Sarak Pillsbury and Midge Sanford

Directed and written by John Sayles, based on the book by Eliot Asinoff

Camera: Robert Richardson

Editor: John Tintori

Music: Mason Daring

Production design: Nora Chavooshian

Costumes: Cynthia Flynt


Running Time: 119