By all accounts, the 1975 World Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox was one of the best ever. It featured arguably the best team of the decade (Cincy’s fearsome “Big Red Machine”) against the squad that defeated the reigning three-time MLB Champions, the Oakland A’s. A difference of one run decided five of the seven games. The MVPs from both the National League and American League participated (Joe Morgan and Fred Lynn, respectively). Both line-ups were teaming with additional talent, including the Reds’ Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Pete Rose, and Boston’s Dwight Evans, Carlton Fisk and Carl Yastrzemski. Fisk’s game-winning homerun off the foulpole in Game 6 is constantly replayed, his flailing, “stay fair” gestures solidly engrained in any baseball fan’s mind.
Yet a question remains. Namely, does this series, as fantastic as it was, deserve a box set that includes virtually every pitch thrown? For Major League Baseball Properties, in conjunction with A & E Home Video, the answer is a resounding yes. With exception of the top of the 2nd inning in Game 2 and one and a half innings in Game 3, the recently released The Cincinnati Reds 1975 World Series (Collector’s Edition) gives fans the opportunity to relive the seven games over 17-plus hours of footage.
To any sane person, this might seem excessive. But sports fans, the same people who buy $2,000 tickets, $9 beers and $7 hotdogs, while encouraging their favorite team to offer their favorite player a contract that rivals the GDP of a small nation, aren’t the most rational of humans. We live and die with our teams; for a Reds fan, this product offers 17 hours of pure bliss.
Yet the curious aspect of this DVD is the choice of teams. While certainly a great series, who, aside from Cincinnati fans, is going to purchase such a product? Red Sox fans certainly aren’t going to spend $50 to watch their team lose. They might have two years ago, before their 2004 World Series victory. Since then, however, retailers looking to make a quick buck have flooded the market with videos, books and other paraphernalia targeted to capitalize on the team’s overcoming of an 86-year curse. In the age of the Internet, 1975 seems like forever ago. The rivalry of the new millennium is the Sox-Yankees, not the Sox-Reds.
The producers must be hoping that true baseball fans pick-up the seven-disc package to appreciate the game itself. This is, after all, the series that Good Will Hunting immortalized for a new generation in the classic scene in which Robin Williams explains how he missed Game 6 to stay with his future wife at a bar. None other than baseball legend Sparky Anderson called the seven-game epic “the greatest series ever.” (Granted, he was the Reds coach, so one could make the case he had a slight bias). But Sox fans are unlikely to purchase the set and the Cincy faithful too few to make it financially viable. The “true baseball” fan must be the target audience.
At first glance, this “buy it for the baseball” business strategy is a hard sell. But A & E and MLB Productions did it right. The sleeve of each game includes incredibly detailed stats including box score, line-ups and an inning-by-inning summary. Want to know what happened in the bottom of the 12th before Fisk’s undying home run? Just pull out Game 6 (Answer: nothing, Fisk led off the inning. Darcy got the loss after pitching a perfect 10th and 11th). The sleeves also provide viewers with priceless trivia such as the fact that Game 3 featured a World Series record six home runs but was decided by a bunt and Boston second baseman Denny Doyle had a hit in all seven games. For baseball aficionados who pride themselves on knowing the minutiae of the sport, this information is priceless.
Equally so are the special features included on disc seven. Highlights are interviews with Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Fred Lynn and anyone else who mattered, as well as bonus footage of the Reds’ clubhouse celebration and the downtown rally. The players’ desire, determination, joy and pain come through spectacularly well, even 30 years later. For a franchise that hasn’t made the postseason since 1995, a compilation that relives its glory days is a welcome reminder that fortunes change.
Yet no matter how much one enjoys America’s national pastime, watching The Cincinnati Reds 1975 World Series is still an exercise in supreme patience. It’s akin to witnessing a 1-0 pitcher’s duel. But just as there’s something undeniably beautiful and enthralling about witnessing two-world class hurlers mow down opposing batters, the box set captures these same emotions. Like a catcher setting up a batter, the discs are carefully thought-out and brilliantly executed. Really, a baseball fan couldn’t ask for more.