Appellate Judge Erick Harper still waves his Homer Hanky as he remembers the good old days with Kirby, Herbie, and Frankie "Sweet Music" Viola.
This is the ultimate team effort.—Al Michaels, ABC Sports
Baseball fans remember the 1987 Minnesota Twins as an unlikely team to become world champions. They were a wisecracking, practical-joking bunch of guys that Sports Illustrated labeled the "Hogan's Heroes" of baseball—great fun in the dugout or the clubhouse to be sure, but not the kind of superstars that win pennants and titles. There was no one player the fans could point to as an overpowering presence that could lift the team above the competition. Instead, as ABC Sports commentator Al Michaels noted, the Twins made it to the AL West title, the American League pennant, and eventually the top of the heap based on the day in and day out contributions of every single person on the team. In recognition of this, the Twins became the first team—not an individual star, but a whole team—given the coveted place of honor on a box of Wheaties.
Facts of the Case
Presented here are all seven games of the 1987 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the St. Louis Cardinals. The Twins won in seven games, earning them the second World Series title in franchise history and the first since the team's move to Minnesota in 1961. They also became the first team in history to win a World Series without winning a single game in the opposing team's ballpark, making up for their lack of road wins with the awe-inspiring, ear-shattering home field advantage of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
The biggest worry I had upon receiving this set for review was the technical presentation. I was afraid that twenty-year-old videotape footage of baseball games would not have aged well, and that the DVDs would be painful to watch. For the most part, my fears were unfounded and the visual look and feel of these games has been a pleasant surprise. There is some tape noise or grain at times, as well as some occasional noise or blurring around hard edges, but the problems are fairly minimal. The picture is just a trifle soft most of the time compared to what we are used to today. I watched portions of various games on two separate systems—the Sony Trinitron television in my living room and a midrange InFocus DLP system I have access to in my workplace. On a normal television the problems in picture quality are minimal and easily ignored; most of the time, these discs could pass for a baseball game from 2007 being broadcast live. The projector system, of course, magnified what video flaws were present, but apart from some increased graininess at times, the images were still completely watchable and enjoyable. Colors are deep, solid, and lifelike, with only a hint of fading with age. Whites, like the Twins' home uniforms, do tend to be a little too hot and bright, especially under the intense lights of the Metrodome. Picture quality does vary quite a bit from game to game and sometimes from inning to inning, with the image sometimes getting so soft that objects like Twins closer Jeff Reardon's blue cap tend to blend into the blue background of the Dome's outfield fence. However, given the age of the material, the results overall are quite good.
The audio, like the video, is taken straight from ABC's broadcast footage of the Series. There are more problems here, with Al Michael's voice intermittently plagued by a buzzing or static-like quality. Some of this is due to the conditions under which it was initially recorded; the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency placed noise monitors in the Dome during the series, and readings routinely exceeded those for jet aircraft taking off. Oftentimes this crowd noise overpowers Michaels and his companions in the booth, making their commentary hard to make out. Perhaps most annoying is the constant refrain of "My Baby Does the Hanky-Panky" blasted by the Dome's organist, rewritten as "My Baby Waves a Homer Hanky" by 56,000 screaming, hanky-waving fans. (The "Homer Hanky," a creation of the local Minneapolis (Red) Star-Tribune, became such an institution that for at least a decade after this series, no sports team in Minnesota, from the pros down to high school, could be without their own version for their fans to wave.) Sadly, no effort has been made to pipe some of the crowd noise into the surround channels to give a more immersive listening experience, but given that the source is probably a single track that combines the commentary and any incidental noise, this might have proven difficult to do.
Special Features are included on the Game 7 disc and include highlights of the Twins' victories that got them to the World Series, as well as interview footage featuring World Series MVP Frank "Sweet Music" Viola and center fielder Kirby Puckett—interviewed by none other than Reggie Jackson. With Puckett's recent tragic death at age 45, seeing a young, vibrant, smiling Puck once again is enough to make a lump rise in the throat of any baseball fan with a heart. Other features include a short "History of the Twins" presentation with such former greats as Harmon Killebrew, Bert Blyleven, and Kent Hrbek. Also included is a short clip of Killebrew throwing out the first pitch in Game 1. Some stuff, like the highlights of the Twins' victory parade, is kind of lame, but overall these extra bits are nice to have.
A&E should be commended for the wealth of information included on the slimline cases of each disc. There are, naturally, seven discs in the set—one for every game in the Series—and each liner contains extensive "Sleevestats," including box scores, an inning-by-inning summary, interesting bits of trivia, and more. Also, the menus on each disc are a nice touch—quite simple by the standards of today's DVD industry as a whole, but they do have one very nice feature—each half-inning is its own chapter, so that fans wanting to watch just, say, Dan Gladden's grand slam in the bottom of the fourth in Game 1, won't have any trouble finding it. It's a nice touch, and makes these discs highly user-friendly.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I suppose that any diehard Cards fans out there might complain that this set focuses too much on the winners of the series and their improbable success story. No time is given to whatever personal stories (equally compelling, I'm sure) surrounded the 1987 Cardinals. Well, too bad—there's no place like Dome!
For me, the impact of this first World Series championship for the Twins was very personal. I was a freshman in high school, entering something of a new world myself, at a school that had just been created by merging the school systems of three small Minnesota towns. Rallying around the Twins helped forge a collection of strangers into a cohesive school and united us much faster than might otherwise have been the case. It was a time of promise for my friends and me, and the Twins' victory set a tone of optimism that seemed to last for the rest of our high school years. It would be a mighty stretch to suggest that all our subsequent accomplishments were inspired by this one sporting event, but it certainly didn't hurt.
Not Guilty! This is a great package that any Twins fan—any baseball fan, really—should not be without.
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