For many Americans, the month of March is the time when sports frenzy reaches its apex. Most of these enthusiastic fans are followers of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s men’s basketball tournament, an event that brings 65 teams together, sets the stage for thrilling underdog stories, and produces a national champion. A small number of crazed March sports fanatics are less interested in the college basketball crown than Major League Baseball Spring Training. These are the people for whom watching sports is not a celebration of high drama but an occasion to indulge in statistical minutiae and arcane factual knowledge. Baseball training, after all, appeals most strongly to fans seeking to preview the athletes they hope to place on their fantasy teams. New installments in a video series from Major League Baseball and A&E Home Video will definitely satisfy such diehard fans. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to find much of an audience outside this select group.
Each year, Major League Baseball produces a retrospective that discusses in detail the highlights of the season’s World Series. The Vintage World Series DVDs are a collection devoted to these retrospectives. The newest installments in this set celebrate the World Series victories of the Anaheim Angels, the Toronto Blue Jays, and the Detroit Tigers. Every disc is a collection of all the World Series retrospectives from each team’s victorious seasons. Although the basic format is the same for each disc, the overall success of each collection varies sharply.
Vintage World Series
(A&E Home Video)
US DVD: 27 Mar 2007
Minnesota Twins 1987 World Series Collector's Edition
(A&E Home Video)
US DVD: 27 Mar 2007
The least successful of the new World Series DVDs is the one that covers the Angels’ 2002 win. The 2002 World Series, a seven-game California showdown between the Angels and the San Francisco Giants, was one of the most exciting World Series in recent history, The games featured tight competition and high scores, and they produced compelling stories such as the offensive heroics of the ever-controversial Barry Bonds, who hit an astounding four homeruns. The magic of these events, however, is lost in the transfer to disc.
The obvious problem with the Angels DVD is its length. An hour and a half of footage covering one baseball series just feels excessive. Perhaps, though, the real problem is not length but presentation style. The film is a collection of in-game footage and interviews, but the conversations with players and managers are unenlightening. All the interviewees possess rich knowledge, but they use their camera time for clichés. Even more disappointing than the interview footage is the film’s overall lack of charm. A good illustration of this characteristic is found in a scene in which Giants manager Dusty Baker’s young son runs out onto the playing field. This incident was spontaneous and cute, but it comes across as sterile and matter-of-fact on the film.
The Toronto Blue Jays DVD does a better job. It chronicles the success of two teams, the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays. At only an hour apiece, each documentary is less overwhelming than the Angels retrospective. One consequence of the abbreviated length is a more condensed presentation, which improves the narrative structure of each film. The Blue Jays disc also includes fewer interviews and focuses more on the original broadcast commentary. Finally, the Blue Jays DVD just has more character than the Angles disc. Perhaps the added color should be attributed to the fanatical Canadians who come to the Skydome to cheer their team on to a baseball championship that was unprecedented by any team in their country.
The best Vintage World Series DVD is the one that pays tribute to the Detroit Tigers. Three teams, the 1945, 1968, and 1984 Tigers, are featured on the disc. The Tigers are one of the oldest teams in Major League Baseball, and the team’s rich history is reflected in footage that spans four decades. The vintage black-and-white clips of the old Tiger Stadium and the city of Detroit alone are worth the price of the DVD. Even non-baseball fans might be interested to see how sports broadcasting evolved between the 1945 series and the 1984 contest. The team with the famous Old English “D” on its cap is an American institution, and the Tigers DVD has a general historical value that the other Vintage World Series films lack.
The Vintage World Series discs were created for serious baseball fans. The most ardent baseball enthusiasts, however, will not be satisfied with any highlights disc, no matter how thorough. They will want to watch the entire World Series in its original broadcast form. For these fans, A&E and MLB have created the World Series Collector’s Edition sets. These DVDs are collections of the complete broadcasts of some of the most famous World Series in history, including seven-game wins by the 1975 Cincinnati Reds and the 1986 New York Mets (Ironically, both of these teams defeated the ill-fated Boston Red Sox). The latest installment in the Collector’s Edition series is the matchup in which the 1987 Minnesota Twins defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.
The first question one might ask upon discovering the Twins DVD set is, “Why was this series chosen?” Viewed from a strictly competitive standpoint, the contest wasn’t especially thrilling. None of the games were decided by fewer than two runs. Two of the Minnesota wins were blowouts (10-1, 11-5). Many other World Series are much more worthy of Collector’s Edition treatment than the 1987 Twins-Cardinals contest.
Although it wasn’t exactly a nail-biter, the 1987 Series was historic for several reasons. It was the first series played under a dome (the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome), it was the first time the home team won every game, and it was the first championship for the Minnesota Twins. Thanks to the almost rabid fanaticism of the Homer Hanky-waving crowd members and the electric atmosphere of the Metrodome (some opposing pitchers chose to wear earplugs), the ‘87 Series also has great sentimental appeal. Perhaps these were the reasons A&E and MLB chose the 1987 Series.
Whatever the motivation behind the companies’ selection, the final package is a treat for baseball and Twins fans alike. Each game comes in its own case adorned with “Sleevestats”, facts such as boxscores, game time temperature, and attendance numbers. In addition to complete footage of the games, the set includes extras such as trophy presentation and parade footage, a Twins retrospective, and Reggie Jackson’s brief postgame interview with the late Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.
The new World Series DVDs should satisfy many types of baseball fans. Casual team fans or general baseball enthusiasts should enjoy the Vintage World Series films, although they might be disappointed with the discs’ complete lack of extras. More serious fans or Twins completists should be grateful for the World Series Collector’s Edition package. Not many people will or should buy all the discs, but everyone can be happy that A&E and Major League Baseball are making such a wide range of World Series footage and, by extension, American history available on home video.