Few, if any, sports teams have enjoyed success comparable to that of the New York Yankees. In the course of its history, the team has captured 26 league championships, a feat unparalleled in major American sports. The overwhelming abundance of Yankee victories has bred a legion of rabid fans who are convinced that their team’s success is inevitable. In several World Series, New York players have performed feats that apparently confirm such a belief and, further, almost seem to suggest that Yankee victory is a divine mandate. One of these series, the 1977 Fall Classic, has recently been released in full as a Collector’s Edition DVD, and baseball fans will now have a chance to witness the heroics of “Mr. October”, Reggie Jackson, in their original context.
In retrospect, the 1977 World Series wasn’t exactly a nail-biter. The contest lasted for only six games, only one of which was determined by one run. In all but two of the games, the first team to score ended up the victor. In strictly competitive terms, many World Series have been more memorable. Of course, no other Series featured the now immortal hitting of Reggie Jackson, who slugged an unprecedented three consecutive homeruns in the final game of the playoffs. Anyone familiar with baseball should be impressed by Jackson’s feat, but truly understanding the significance of his accomplishment requires a closer examination of the game’s culture.
The true baseball faithful view their sport with a quasi-religious reverence, and just like faithful worshippers, they also hold a number of questionable beliefs. One of the most hallowed yet doubtful tenets of the baseball faith is the idea of clutch hitting. Most baseball fans believe that certain players have an innate ability to hone their concentration and produce big hits in the moments when they face the greatest pressure. Despite statistical evidence that suggests that clutch hitting is a myth, fans cling to the notion dogmatically.
Baseball fans enamored of clutch hitting revere players such as Jackson who display their skills when games and series are on the line. Similarly, they cajole players such as Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who, despite being one of the very best players ever to swing a bat, has had poor performances in the postseason and is, therefore, not “clutch”. Perhaps this obsession with “clutchness” is not surprising. Baseball fans, who have long been eager to interpret their sport as an embodiment of American political ideals, love to celebrate the determined hero who controls his own destiny by applying concentration and force when facing the most difficult opposition.
Though it dominates much baseball discourse, clutch hitting is not the only reason why modern fans might enjoy the new Collector’s Edition DVD. The set offers a chance to see some of today’s most prominent baseball managers in their playing days. Watching Lou Piniella, the Yankees left fielder who now manages the Chicago Cubs, and Willie Randolph, the Yankees second baseman who currently manages the Bronx Bombers’ crosstown rival Mets, will surely be a treat for fans of today’s game. The 1977 World Series will also interest connoisseurs of baseball’s history. In the ‘40s and ‘50s, the World Series rivalry between the Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers was the fiercest in sports. The 1977 Series marked the second time that the Yankees faced the Dodgers in their new home, Los Angeles.
In the world of religious baseball fanaticism, DVDs such as the World Series Collector’s Editions are the equivalent of new translations of Scripture. They allow the members of the congregation to encounter honored performances on their own terms and uncover their own messages in the games of yesterday. The 1977 set is just the latest in a series of releases that includes canonized contests such as the 1975 match-up between the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox and the 1986 games between the New York Mets and the Red Sox. For the most part, A&E Home Entertainment has once again delivered a faithful version of the Series in question. Except for the fact that small sections at the top and bottom of the screen have been cropped out on several discs, the DVD set is a very faithful reproduction of the 1977 broadcast. The picture is as good as one would expect from 30-year-old sports footage.
The 1977 World Series DVD comes with a host of extras. A bonus DVD includes Game 5 from the ‘77 American League Championship game between the Yankees and the Kansas City Royals. It also includes footage from the World Series trophy presentation and victory celebration, interviews with players such as Jackson, Piniella, and Randolph, and analysis of key moments in the Series. Finally, each disc in the 7-DVD sets is packaged in a case covered in SleeveStats, which are box scores, line scores and trivia facts from each game.
Overall, the New York Yankees 1977 World Series Collector’s Edition is much like the other Collector’s Edition DVDs from A&E and Major League Baseball Productions. Its extensive footage and solid extras make it a desirable package for fans of the winning team. Its lack of status as a truly classic series will probably not endear it to a wide audience of baseball fans or casual viewers. If in the end, the set appeals most to diehard Yankee fans and admirers of clutch hitting, the makers of the DVD can at least be satisfied that they have marketed to two of the most ardent niche groups in baseball today.