More than any other professional sport, Major League Baseball has a special bond with its history. The game we watch today is the same one our fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers watched. The heroes of the past are still revered as much as the present crop of all-stars who patrol the nation’s stadiums and ballparks.
That is why baseball fans will welcome “The Official Major League Baseball World Series Film Collection” (A&E, $229.95), a spectacular DVD set that contains 20 discs featuring extensive footage of 65 World Series from 1943 to 2008.
It comes packaged in a thick, elongated hard-cover book that chronicles many memorable World Series moments with a forward by multi-award winning sportscaster and avid baseball fan Bob Costas. The book is great but the discs, located in pockets throughout its hefty pages, are the big attractions.
Fittingly enough, the first World Series spotlighted (1943) has the New York Yankees disposing of the St. Louis Cardinals in five games. That marked the Bronx Bombers’ 10th championship. Talk about the past connecting with the present. The Yankees captured their 27th World Series this month by defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
The early black-and-white films, of course, don’t come close to matching the polish of current World Series productions but they offer us an opportunity to watch so many of the game’s legends in action. You can look into the faces of Stan Musial, Hank Greenberg, Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bob Feller and dozens more.
Magical plays unfold before your eyes, from Willie Mays’ great catch in 1954 and Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956 to Reggie Jackson’s three home runs in 1977 and Kirk Gibson’s dramatic shot in 1988.
Among some of the other things we get to see:
—The St. Louis Browns in their only Series (1944) against that other St. Louis team — the Cardinals.
—Cleveland’s Indians actually winning a World Series in 1948 against the Boston Braves.
—Bobby Thomson’s legendary three-run homer that won the 1951 playoff for the Giants against the Dodgers and put them in the series to face the Yankees.
—The New York Mets upsetting Baltimore in 1969 and then benefitting from the Red Sox’s Bill Buckner in 1986.
—The Red Sox finally breaking the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” with a miracle comeback against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and then going on to win the World Series.
Later series productions also include coverage of the Division playoffs and the League Championship Series.
Highlight films of the World Series originally were conceived to be shown to the servicemen and women around the globe during World War II in 1943 and 1944. So there is a heavy amount of patriotism in those films and it’s rather stirring.
Black-and-white first gave way to color for the 1958 World Series with the Milwaukee Braves taking on the Yankees. Use of videotape from the actual game broadcasts began in the 1980s and gradually increased over the years.
What you notice watching these early films is — with the exception of the designated hitter — how little baseball has changed during the past 65 years. The on-field strategy was the same in 2009 as it was in 1949. One difference you might notice: Most men and women dressed up to attend the series, with gentlemen wearing fancy suits and the ladies donning the latest fall fashions. No painted faces. No guys in wigs.
This is a terrific collection for any baseball fan, especially those interested in the game’s history. By the way, the book contains two empty pockets to add the 2009 and 2010 highlights. Baseball, after all, is forever.