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On Sept. 2, 1988, ‘Eight Men Out’ hit the silver screen, portraying the 1919 Black Sox team which intentionally lost the World Series for money, resulting in eight of their players receiving lifetime bans. Twenty-five years later the film still resonates in MLB as suspensions are being delivered and fought in the Biogenesis doping scandal.

The John Sayles directed film highlights the corruption and cheating with baseball in 1919. A theme still relevant in 2013.

The three men were all Williams College students who overlapped by a couple years when they studied in Williamstown, Mass. in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. The eldest, Gordon Clapp, befriended David Strathairn and John Sayles. They would later end up together at a North Conway, N.H. summer stock playhouse, carving their acting chops over several summers in Clapp’s hometown, while Sayles quietly perfected his writing skills on the side.

The Schenectady, N.Y.-born Sayles, a self-professed “big fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates” and Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, became intrigued with the 1963 Eliot Asinof book, “Eight Men Out” after college, but it wasn’t until after he moved to Hollywood and worked for renowned director and producer Roger Corman that Sayles began writing the screenplay for a movie about the 1919 Black Sox scandal, in which eight of the team’s players (including Shoeless Joe Jackson) helped throw the World Series against Cincinnati, a scam that ultimately resulted in the biggest baseball scandal of all time with all eight men receiving lifetime bans.

By the time he directed his first movie, “Return of the Secaucus Seven” — which starred Strathairn, Clapp and Sayles himself and was released in 1979 — Sayles had already begun to pitch “Eight Men Out,” even doing story boards of how he envisioned the baseball action to unfold on the screen. He would not get the green light for the film, however, for more than a decade.

“There seemed to be a curse on this thing,” Sayles says of the road to bring the book adaptation of “Eight Men Out” to the silver screen. “It was the first screenplay I wrote. But Orion (the now-defunct Hollywood production company) turned it down twice. There were a couple lawsuits from people who were family members of players. Years progressed, some of the obstacles were cleared. It took 11 years before we made the movie, and Orion ended up doing it after all.”

Twenty-five years ago, on Sept. 2, 1988, “Eight Men Out” was released, and garnered strong reviews, not to mention serving as a springboard for many of the young actors in the film, including Charlie Sheen, John Cusack and Long Island product, D.B. Sweeney. The Daily News spoke with numerous principals attached to the film, including the director, Sayles, about what they think of bringing one of sport’s biggest scandals to the screen, whether the film stands the test of time, and their thoughts on the current baseball scandal involving Biogenesis, performance-enhancing drugs and the suspensions of players tied up in doping.

Does Alex Rodriguez’s plight compare with that of Jackson’s? Is the crime of gambling on baseball greater than that of cheating the hallowed records of America’s pastime through chemical enhancement?

“I’m a huge baseball fan and follow it very closely,” says Sweeney, 51. “I think (doping) is a terrible thing, but I think the gambling was worse. These guys (today) are cheating to try and win. If you cheat to try and lose, it’s a house of cards. The whole enterprise falls apart if the fans don’t think that the games are actually being competed honestly.”

Read the full article at NY Daily News.


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