Warner Bros. // 2001 // 47 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Erick Harper (Retired) // October 12th, 2001
"You see it, and you hit it." -- Mark McGwire
Well, it's October, and another baseball season has just come to an end. Each of these 162-game journeys through the American summer comes complete with its own joys and frustrations; in my case, my beloved Twins were the hottest team in baseball before the All-Star Break, and then promptly folded like a cheap suit. As they say, there's always next year.
But wait! Now, for those of you who just can't get enough baseball until next April, it is possible to turn to your DVD players for consolation. Hitters on Hitting: Finding the Sweet Spot is a production of Major League Baseball, and is released by a company called Q Video.
Well, with Barry Bonds setting a new home run record in the past few days, the time seems right to examine the art and science of successfully hitting a round ball with a round bat. Hitters on Hitting talks with some of the greatest hitters of all time, including Ted Williams, the man who wrote the book on hitting -- literally. It's called The Science of Hitting. According to Williams, hitting is the hardest thing to do in baseball, and it's probably the reason your dad or mine didn't make it to the big leagues. And Ted should know -- he was the last player to hit over .400 in a season, hitting .406 back in 1941. His career statistics tell the story of one of the game's all-time great hitters: .344 lifetime batting average, 521 home runs, 1839 RBI and 2654 hits.
And so, Hitters on Hitting takes us on a journey through the finer points of hitting, broken down into the following segments:
* Students of the Game -- This segment focuses on
"scientific" hitters, people like Ted Williams, Wade Boggs, and Tony
Gwynn who study hard and concentrate to refine their skills with the bat.
* The Naturals -- On the other end of the spectrum are players like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, players who just seem to have a natural gift or the right genetics for hitting.
* Pitcher's Perspective -- Arizona's Randy Johnson and other big name pitchers tell what it is like to face the most skilled batters.
* Sluggers -- McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, Aaron. What else do you need to know?.
* Switch-Hitters -- No, not what you are thinking, this is a family show. We're talking about Pete Rose, Chipper Jones, and of course, Mickey Mantle -- guys who can attack from either side of the plate.
* Strange Stances -- They're all here, from Ty Cobb, Mel Ott, and Stan Musial to Tony Batista.
* Philosophies on Hitting -- A deep exploration of the metaphysics of hitting. Well, sort of. There is an interesting bit about good eyesight, and the change in bats since the days of Babe Ruth's 44-ounce behemoth.
All of the above are liberally spiced with highlight footage from actual games, as well as interview footage shot specifically for this DVD. But wait! There's more! In addition to the 47 minutes of the main program, there is an additional 50 minutes of bonus footage. This comes in the form of two additional segments. One is entitled "The Science of Swing," and is probably the most interesting thing on the disc. It features four mini-featurettes starring a physics professor. He shows us in turn what makes the "sweet spot" sweet, the damage a 130 mph baseball can do to a cardboard box, what happens in the mostly friction-free collision of bat and ball, and how the laws of conservation of momentum apply to baseball.
The other additional footage is in a section of the disc labeled "Home Run Derby Highlights." These show highlights of every All-Star Home Run Derby since 1989. The clips for each year vary in length from 40 seconds to about 4 minutes. There is also some interesting historical background on the Home Run Derby, as well as a list of the winners since they started keeping track of individual winners in 1990.
While interesting and somewhat informative, this DVD is not going to teach anyone how to hit like Ted Williams. It's mostly an excuse to show lots of highlight clips of the great hitters of today and yesterday. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. I enjoyed the footage and interview clips as much as anyone would. They are exciting, and it is quite interesting to hear players talking about the challenges involved in playing their game. I also liked the "behind the scenes" aspect of the presentation, which showed in some detail the various training regimens and assorted superstitions to which players seem to adhere. However, for me, the series of quickie physics "experiments" in the "Science of Swing" section were probably my favorite part of the disc.
The video presentation on this disc is quite good. All material is presented in the standard television aspect ratio of 4:3. This is only logical, since most of the footage originated as television broadcasts of baseball games. Almost everything is sharp and clear, although a few scenes seemed to be overly bright which caused whites to sparkle and shine a bit too much. Even the older footage looked quite good, although it was prone to a few more problems with faded colors and digital artifacts. Major League Baseball must have an extensive and well-maintained film library, because even the black and white footage of Ted Williams from the 1940s looked far better than expected.
The audio is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround. It is adequate for the task and sounds pleasant, with no noticeable hiss or distortion. The only problem I noted is that occasionally the background music track is mixed in too loudly, distracting from what is being said on screen.
It's our national pastime -- do you really think I'm going to say anything negative?
Well, okay. The Home Run Derby footage is boring as all get-out, especially if you watch more than one year's highlights in a single sitting. There, are you happy now?
This disc might make a nice treat for baseball fans -- especially younger ones -- whose teams didn't make the playoffs. Young players may find some interesting material here, and hopefully it will inspire them to learn more and practice harder. For the rest of us, it's moderately entertaining but nothing to write home about.
Case dismissed. Play ball!
We stand adjourned.
Review content copyright © 2001 Erick Harper; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 47 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "The Science of Swing" Bonus Footage
* "Home Run Derby Highlights" Bonus Footage
* Home Run Derby History
* Home Run Derby Winners
* Major League Baseball