A&E // 2009 // 2955 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Chris Claro (Retired) // January 13th, 2010
Take me out to the ballgames. All 66 years of them.
Every so often, a box set is more about the box than the set. Sometimes the contents have been hanging around in various formats or compilations for years, well past their freshness date. But like a new entitlement on a stadium -- "welcome to Kansas City's Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs Pavilion!" -- once in a while refurbishing the exterior makes the inside look brand-new, too. Such is the case with The Official Major League Baseball World Series Film Collection.
The twenty-disc set is comprised of World Series highlight films stretching back to 1943. As with any league-produced video, familiarity is the byword: the content is as worn-in and comfy as well-oiled fielder's mitt and MLB doesn't do anything with it that would scare traditionalists. From Jackie Robinson stealing home (Was he really safe? You make the call.) to Willie Mays robbing Vic Wertz with a catch that looked as if it could only be made by Bugs Bunny, The Official Major League Baseball World Series Film Collection gathers all the moments and serves them up in a package that can only be described as sumptuous. (Actually, it could also be described as "ungainly," given that the box weighs, according to a kitchen scale, eight pounds, but we're talking almost seventy years of history, so it's bound to have some heft.)
As befits the legends it portrays, the box itself resembles a giant storybook, filled with heavy posterboard pages depicting the players and moments contained on the discs, which are housed in die-cut slots on each page. The discs themselves represent the succession of eras beginning in World War II and continuing through such themes as the New York-dominated fifties and the rise of western teams in the sixties.
One of the most revealing through-lines of The Official Major League Baseball World Series Film Collection for even a casual fan is how the coverage of the game changes over time. The highlights in the early discs in the set, from the World War II era, are unaccompanied by any crowd noise or ambient sound, making the baseball action seem almost kabuki-like. Though there is an announcer, the rat-a-tat recounting of the action makes him sound as if he has a flight to catch. It's interesting to see how, as television starts to take hold in the fifties, the highlights are goosed with bat-hitting-ball effects and crowd noise. By the time the set moves into the nineties, the action is almost an afterthought to the coverage, when extreme close-ups were giving every bead of sweat on a pitcher's face prominence.
Though some of the earliest segments show scratches and wear, the producers have done a stellar job of restoring and remastering the footage. The early audio of the pre-digital era is nothing special, but as the set progresses into the nineties and early aughts, the sound feels immersive, and adds an element of ambiance that makes the highlights that much more effective.
The Official Major League Baseball World Series Film Collection certainly isn't for everybody, what with its two days worth of footage and pokey early discs. But the set is packed with enough moments of Series thrill -- "the ball gets through Buckner's legs!" -- to make even a casual fan sit down and say "hey, I remember that!"
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 2955 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Major League Baseball