September 13, 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 yesterday, 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 third review is of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
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.
Game six of the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds is considered by many to be the greatest world series game ever played. Even though I am a Red Sox fan, this is a game I had never seen before I watched this DVD from the Greatest Games collection. When it was played I was on the road driving somewhere out in the middle of nowhere between the west coast and the midwest. I heard the game on the radio, but was not able to see it on television. I missed a great game. It was interesting, seeing the game now, all these years later. It is a bit of a time capsule. The game announcers talk about upcoming TV shows with legendary show business stars Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Lucile Ball, all dead now, and an upcoming football broadcast featuring the Buffalo Bills' great running back, O.J. Simpson, now utterly disgraced, rotting away in jail. We see in the Fenway Park crowd the great John Havlicek, young again. I saw the game at the Garden celebrating Havlicek's retirement a few years later.
The NBC broadcast crew was somewhat unusual for this game. The play by play was handled by a very young Dick Stockton, who is still active, along with former players Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek. Hall of Fame broadcaster Curt Gowdy, who covered 13 World Series in his career, including all the play-by-play announcing for the 1966 through 1974 World Series, did not call this game for NBC television. He was replaced by Garagiola after the series because of his criticism of an umpiring call involving Reds player Ed Armbrister in game three of this same series. Gowdy was replaced at the insistence of broadcast sponsor Chrysler Corporation, for whom Garagiola was a spokesman, according to Wikipedia. Gowdy did color commentary for legendary Red Sox radio announcer Ned Martin at this game. Gowdy, a Red Sox fan, can be seen in the crowd shots at the Game Four, 2004 ALCS broadcast in this series.
The play-by-play call of the game seems to be sort of a mix between radio and TV announcing styles. In later years, announcers would let the camera work tell more of the story. The other two disks in this series I have seen had an alternate soundtrack with the radio play by play of the game. This one does not.
The game starts off with a three-run home run by Rookie of the Year and MVP Fred Lynn for the Red Sox, to the delight of the Fenway Park crowd. Veteran pitcher Luis Tiant dazzles the Reds, holding them scoreless in the first four innings. It looks like it is going to be an easy win for the Red Sox, but it isn't. The Big Red Machine led by Ken Griffey (senior), Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, George Foster and Joe Morgan, claws its way back to tie the game at three, then it knocked out Tiant, taking a three run lead in the process. Legendary manager Sparky Anderson, also known as “Captain Hook” replaced pitchers at a furious pace, never letting them bat while there was still a pinch hitter available on his deep bench (this was before the designated hitter rule was adopted). He had one of his best pitchers on the mound, however, Rawly Eastwick, at the crucial moment when Bernie Carbo came to bat as a pinch hitter in the eighth inning with two out and two on. Eastwick had already struck out Dwight Evans and needed just one more out to escape the inning unscathed. Carbo looked overmatched, barely getting his bat on Eastwick's pitches to desperately foul them off and stay alive at the plate. Suddenly, Carbo hit a dramatic three run homer to tie the game, which would ultimately go to 12 innings.
The game is won by one of the most dramatic walk-off home runs ever seen. Oddly enough, the iconic shot of Carlton Fisk waving his hands desperately to the right, trying to will the ball into fair territory, is shown in the broadcast almost as an afterthought, one of the last replays after the game is over, but that is the one single scene everyone remembers from this game. Wait for it. It's there. John Filippelli, an associate director that night for NBC recalled the shot in a New York times article in 2000, he said, “They didn't even know they had that shot at first,” which is why it was shown so long after the home run.
That famous shot, taken by NBC cameraman Lou Gerard was taken by the TV camera placed inside the Green Monster, the nickname for the unique, 36-foot-high, left field wall at Fenway Park. This unusual camera location is commented upon several times during the broadcast and the camera itself is shown several times. It turns out Gerard had been instructed to follow the flight of the ball, which was standard operating procedure in those days. It was also impractical, given the camera's location. Gerard was distracted at the key moment by a large rat creeping towards him and he decided to keep the camera on Fisk instead. This iconic video shot by Gerard was so memorable and effective it changed the way games were filmed forever. Filippelli is quoted as saying, “It was a wonderful aberration that changed television. No one had ever thought of isolating on an individual.” After this, coverage of individual players reactions, not just the ball, became the norm instead of the exception. Great idea.
After the homer, a lot of people swarm onto the field to celebrate. So many people are on the field, Fisk has trouble getting past them to make his way around the bases in order to touch home plate. The crowd doesn't want to leave. They stay to celebrate, an amazing sight. It's like they want that magic moment to last. It doesn't of course, the Red Sox lose the series, again, but it isn't as tragic a loss as the 1978 playoff loss to the Yankees or the 1986 series loss to the Mets. Who knew on that glorious night it would take the dawn of a new century, a new millenium in fact, for the Red Sox to finally win another World Series? What a game! Sorry I missed it the first time. Good to see it now. It rates an A.
There is a disclaimer at the beginning of this and the 2003 game 6 ALCS DVD in this collection about audio and video imperfections inherent in the master tapes. This disclaimer does not appear on some other DVDs in the collection. The video quality varies quite a bit from one disk to another in the collection. These differences 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. Like the first disk in the collection I reviewed, it has the older 4:3 “full screen” aspect ratio. Unlike that disk, there was no distortion at the top of the screen on this one, but there were occasional brief audio and video dropouts and the video resolution wasn't quite as good as it was on that first disk.
The video resolution of this is similar to VHS tape that one might record from a TV broadcast, about 480 lines of resolution. The image is not as sharp as a standard DVD of a conventional film, let alone high definition. The image is acceptable on a TV, like my 42-inch Vizio E420VL high definition TV, but the bigger you try to blow up the image, the fuzzier it gets. This is probably due to the relatively ancient video technology behind the source material. I ended up using the zoom lens on my projector to shrink the image down from the usual 78 inches down to about four feet to reduce the fuzziness of the image. I also tried watching this game with a standard DVD player hooked up to my TV with component cables at 480p resolution. It looked O.K. that way, with similar resolution to the big screen setup, but it looks a little better because the smaller image makes the imperfections in the video less obvious.
In contrast to this is the greatly superior video quality of the 2004 ALCS game I watched from this same DVD collection. I suspect the difference is due to low-resolution analog tape compared to high-resolution digital source material. 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 for 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.