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Ken Burns' 'Tenth Inning' coming to PBS Sept. 28 and 29

I had the good fortune of being invited Tuesday night to a "friends and family" screening of Part I of Ken Burns' two-part, four-hour update of his 1994 "Baseball" series, which he is calling "The Tenth Inning."

It is slated to air Sept. 28 and 29 on PBS.

Burns said the events of the past 16 years were "the most consequential you can imagine" and demanded a sequel, one that originally was supposed to last only two hours but eventually expanded to twice that.

The first two hours run through the McGwire/Sosa home run race of 1998.

It is clear from the start the thread that will tie together the four hours is Barry Bonds, a wise and appropriate choice, and one who is humanized through Burns' familiar storytelling skills.

The issue of performance enhancing drugs is not ignored by any means, but the generally reverential tone in talking about the sport that was evident in 1994 is seen again here.

The central challenge of the update is that for anyone under 25, the big events of the past 16 years largely are familiar, so much of the material will strike avid fans as review more than revelation.

I asked Burns about that and he conceded it was a concern. He said one way he addressed it is subtly: Rather than mention steroids as McGwire and other sluggers of the era see their home run totals rise, he maintains the initial combination of awe and skepticism that developed slowly over time.

The idea was to allow fans old enough to remember the late 1980s and the '90s to re-experience the era with what they knew - and didn't know - at the time.

I spoke to Keith Olbermann (Cornell Class of '79) after the screening, and he said he found the two hours to be 100 percent accurate historically.

That was a reference to Olbermann's complaints about mistakes in the original series, but he and Burns since have made up, and Olbermann is interviewed for the update.

Here is a post based on my interview of Burns in January.

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