Judge Ryan Keefer can't-hit he-can't-hit he cannot sah-wing bah-tah!
A grand slam of fascinating stories from the players who were there when baseball history was in the making!
Like it or not, the comprehensive video document for America's great pastime is an exhaustive documentary by Ken Burns, simply titled Baseball. That series was set up over nine video "innings" and featured recollection by many of the writers, players, and included narration by others as the game was discussed from origins through the eras to the current state it's in today.
In this set, Baseball's Greatest Legends: Diamond Memories (or Diamond Memories as I'll refer to it), the structure is similar to a multi-disc set comprising nine video "innings." However, where the Burns documentary focused more on eras and the players in them, Diamond Memories seems to only focus on specific players most of the time, and doesn't focus on them effectively. It would have been nice to see some of the peers, or even some crusty old sportswriter with more hair in his ears than his scalp, talk about how good a player Babe Ruth was. Instead, you are treated to a lot of old footage, 98 percent of which the average baseball fan has probably already seen and is familiar with.
In short, the set covers various idols spanning over a three-disc set. The first inning talks about the lure of the game and what it means to and for America. Inning Two covers Ruth, Inning Three focuses on Joe DiMaggio, while Four focuses on Roger Maris and his pursuit of Ruth's home run record in 1961. Disc Two finally gets away from the New York Yankees for a second when Inning Five talks about Willie Mays, but it doesn't take long for Inning Six to come back to the Bronx to discuss Mickey Mantle. Inning Seven talks about Jackie Robinson, and then in the "seventh inning stretch," players like Mike Piazza and Yogi Berra talk about some things that they enjoy about the game. Disc Three concludes with a look at Dodger Pee Wee Reese in Inning Eight and Lou Gehrig in Inning Nine, with some additional bonus material included as an "extra inning."
Now, I completely understand the urge to point out a bias or two. I mean, Burns' documentary covered the tragedy of the Red Sox, his favorite team, but it was a quick hit. Here in Diamond Memories, there is way, way too much focus placed on the teams from New York and Brooklyn, so much so that if an alien landed on earth and had no comprehension of what baseball was and watched this set, he'd think the sport has basically sucked since the days of Mantle and Mays (which I only slightly agree with), and the alien would never know about Hank Aaron, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Roger Clemens or Cy Young. To paraphrase Goose and Slider in Top Gun, the list of excisions for this set is long and distinguished, much like my Johnson.
That isn't the set's most egregious sin. The features themselves present information that, for baseball fans, is very remedial, and the subjects of the features aren't given alternative interviews. If they have recent television footage, it's here, otherwise, don't count on it. The only other voice you hear is from the narrator, who sounds like he's discussing footage from my old high school science classes. I wanted to know what the hell Pee Wee Reese was doing with a paramecium, but then I realized I was waking up from the haze that I had been enduring after listening to this guy talk.
So is it worth throwing down money on this Diamond Memories set? Well, if you like to listen to discussions about the "Yanks and the Sawx," then this may be the thing for you. However, for a better, truer and more entertaining video collective of baseball's past, present and future greats, go check out the Ken Burns documentary. It's longer, more comprehensive and more entertaining. I never thought I'd see a sports documentary equate to oral surgery, but this one comes pretty close.
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