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Hero Ball

Ken Burns talks about his new Jackie Robinson film

IN SEPTEMBER 1994, Ken Burns's documentary Baseball debuted on PBS. The nine-part, 18½-hour epic covered more than a century of the game's past, but it was at its best when telling the story of Jackie Robinson. More than 20 years later, Burns and coproducers Sarah Burns and David McMahon have come out with a two-part, four-hour film on the color-barrier pioneer. Jackie Robinson debuts on PBS on April 11.

Why return to the subject of Jackie Robinson?

KB: We didn't go as deep as we could have. This one allowed us to liberate not only Jackie but ourselves from the prison of that sentimental mythology. I'm so happy Rachel, his widow, started bothering me by the mid-aughts, saying he deserves a standalone biography and [I was] the one to do it.

What were some of the new things you discovered about him?

KB: It's a totally different Jackie Robinson. We were committed to scraping off the barnacles of sentimentality that were attached to him. This was a fiercely competitive person who would not accept second-class status and citizenship. You learn a phenomenal love story. And it's a multigenerational story of an African-American family.

You updated Baseball with a "Tenth Inning" in 2010. Do you have any plans to do more?

KB: I can't say it's official, and it won't happen before 2020, but we're already collecting the material and once it reaches critical mass, maybe if the Cubs win the World Series, we'll go back to MLB and say we'd like to do an "Eleventh Inning."

You're a well-known Red Sox fan. Who do you think will win the World Series this year?

KB: I'm convinced the Red Sox will. I am every year. The Cubs will have to wait another year.

THEY SAID IT

"IT WAS A NO-BRAINER FOR ME."

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Explaining the ease but hopefully not the value of his decision to donate his brain to concussion researchers.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

After three years without a fullback, the Eagles decided to add one—so they signed Ryan Mueller, a former defensive end at Kansas State who spent last season on the Chargers' practice squad as a linebacker.

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JOHN DOMINIS/TIME LIFE PICTURES/GETTY IMAGES (ROBINSON)

42, ALL NEW Burns (inset) says he has dispelled parts of the Robinson myth.

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ALBERTO E. RODRIGUEZ/GETTY IMAGES (BURNS)

[See caption above]

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KEVIN TERRELL/AP (MUELLER)

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SEAN GARDNER/GETTY IMAGES (EARNHARDT JR.)