September 12, 2011 -- Major League Baseball Productions And A&E Networks Home Entertainment have just released a new collection of 10 classic baseball game DVDs based on the original television broadcasts of those games. These are being advertised as “available for the first time on DVD.” In this review, I'll be talking about one of the three DVDs I received in the mail the other day, all of which involve my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox. Two of these DVDs also feature the powerful New York Yankees, while the other features Cincinnati's Big Red Machine that dominated all of baseball in the early to mid-1970s. This second review is of game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Red Sox.
The 10 games in this collection, available in stores and at MLB.com and other online venues, are: Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, Game 6, 1975 World Series, the May 17, 1979 slugfest at Wrigley Field (the only regular season game in the collection, featuring one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history) Game 5, 1985 National League Championship Series, Game 6, 1986 World Series, Game 7, 1991 World Series, Game 7, 1992 National League Championship Series, Game 6, 1993 World Series, Game 7, 2003 American League Championship Series, Game 4, 2004 American League Championship Series. Individual games in this collection are available for purchase. Note that the technical characteristics of these DVDs varies quite a bit from one to the next, as discussed in the technical section of the review below.
I chose to watch game 7 of the 2003 ALCS first to get it out of the way, being a very painful memory for us Red Sox fans, so naturally this game would come next on my list. One year later, the same two teams were once again battling for the American League pennant, and it looked like the result was going to be even worse for the Sox than it was the year before, when the series went seven games. This year, it looked like the Red Sox would loose the series in four straight games. After losing the first three games of the series, some by ridiculously lopsided scores, the Sox were on the verge of losing again. Down a run in the ninth inning, Mariano Rivera, the best closer in the history of baseball, was on the mound for the Yankees to finish the Sox off again, as he had done so many times before. Everything was going the Yankees way. The Red Sox looked finished, some Sox fans in the stands of historic Fenway Park were wearing paper bags over their heads in shame. But the Red Sox weren't quite dead yet.
Before this long night was over (the game took over five hours to play) the Red Sox would somehow rise up from the dead to defeat the Yankees, starting the greatest comeback in the history of baseball, winning the first of eight straight playoff games to sweep aside the Yankees (at Yankee Stadium no less) and then the mighty St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years, during a total eclipse of the moon, no less. This wildly improbable set of circumstances will probably never happen again as long as any sport is played anywhere by anybody. This is truly a classic baseball game and it rates an A, less than that if you are a Yankees fan.
This epic game has been cut down from five hours to four hours by judicious editing, cutting out the time between innings, pitching change delays, and sometimes even cutting out the time between the end of one play and the next batter facing his first pitch. None of the actual plays in the game has been lost, and it is still plenty long, but it moves along quicker with the edits. The sound editing is also pretty good, a lot better than the sound editing on the first disk I reviewed. This disk, like the first has both the original Fox Network audio, plus the original home radio broadcast (in this case WEEI's Red Sox radio team of Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano) audio. The commercial breaks on radio and TV don't match, so there are some silences on the radio audio, but not nearly as many, or as long, as on the first disk. I listen to the WEEI broadcasts a lot over the internet and the radio sound on this disk sounded different than what I am used to, a bit muted. The radio audio isn't quite as good as the sound quality of the Fox audio, but the announcers are better.
There was a disclaimer at the beginning of the first DVD I watched about audio and video imperfections inherent in the master tapes. This disclaimer does not appear on this DVD. The video quality is also superior to the first disk in the collection that I reviewed. I found the technical aspects of the video, such as resolution, aspect ratio, sound quality, etc. varies considerably from disk to disk in the collection. These difference will be discussed in each review of individual disks in the collection.
I tested this particular disk on my home theater setup (Infocus IN-76 projector connected to a Sony BDPS360 blu-ray player). This setup does a good job of up scaling a standard DVD to a high definition image suitable for my 80-inch wide high-gain movie screen. Unlike the first disk in the series I reviewed, it does not have the older 4:3 “full screen” aspect ratio. The image is a standard widescreen image with about the same resolution as an average film on DVD. The video quality is very good when viewed on a big screen, not quite high definition, but close to it, when properly up scaled.
There are two audio tracks available, as I mentioned above. I found myself switching back and forth, using the audio button on my Sony remote, less often between the two soundtracks than I did on the first disk due to better audio editing. I ran some plays twice to get the different perspectives of the two sets of knowledgeable commentaries. I also switched to the TV commentaries to hear interviews with players and other commentary during breaks in the radio audio. The bit of video distortion at the top of the screen I saw on the first disk was not present on this one. I like the scene selection menu on the disk, instead of the usual thumbnails and descriptions, it is basically a baseball mouse-like pointer with a standard line score of the game as a menu. You put the pointer on the half-inning you want to see and click, you are there. Very slick.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.