It's one, two, three strikes, you're out at the old Judge Dave Ryan game.
The Greatest Moments In Philadelphia Phillies History! (All two of them.)
Of all the major four-sport cities in America, none have been as bereft of championships as Philadelphia. You can almost count on one hand the number of titles (seven) brought home by the town's teams in the history of history. One of the champion teams (the Warriors) isn't even in the city anymore. But hope springs eternal for the Citizens of Brotherly Love, and every, oh, 20 years or so, one of the local teams provides a spark of excitement. So it was in 2008, as the Phillies blasted their way to a World Series championship. It was the second title in team history, and the first Philadelphia title since the Sixers won the NBA Finals in 1983. Unsurprisingly, a plethora of Phillies-themed memorabilia appeared soon after the final out in the World Series.
Phillies Memories: The Greatest Moments In Philadelphia Phillies History is…well, it's an unusual way to celebrate a victory. Don't get me wrong—MLB Films and Shout! Factory have produced a high-quality product with a substantial amount of content. It's just…well, do we really need to vividly relive that vast tract of suck called "every Phillies season that wasn't 1980 or 2008?" Couldn't we just pretend that there was a 27-year-long strike in there? Or that the Seventies…and the Sixties…and the Fifties, Forties, Thirties, Twenties, and Teens…didn't actually happen? Please? Maybe?
I grew up in Philadelphia watching the Phillies squander some of the best players in baseball every year through a combination of bad luck and worse luck. The Phillies were always a day late and a dollar short—blessed with talent, but not blessed with enough talent to go all the way to the pennant. I was just a very young kid at the time, so a lot of that didn't register with me—I was more interested in (outfielder) Bake McBride's afro, which was approximately 4.5' high. But I knew that the Phils had a lot of good players—Mike Schmidt, possibly the best third baseman ever; shortstop Larry Bowa; catcher Bob Boone; fleet-footed Gold Glove center fielder Garry Maddox ("Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water—the rest is covered by Garry Maddox"); chunky "outfielder" Greg Luzinski ("Bull" was built like an offensive lineman—today he'd be a designated hitter or a first baseman—yet somehow wound up playing left field, despite having the speed and mobility of a heavy cruiser. Let's just say that Garry Maddox wound up playing center-field-and-a-half); reliever Tug McGraw, and the outstanding lefty pitcher Steve Carlton. These were great teams. But whenever they made the playoffs, they'd get smoked. The Phillies won the NL East three straight years, and went a collective 2-9 in the National League Championship Series.
Then I moved away, and they promptly won the World Series just when everyone had thought that their window of opportunity had slammed closed. Go figure. In any event, that's Greatest Moment #1, and it's covered in elaborate detail here. Because frankly, there's not much to talk about when it comes to any years before 1975. The Phils had actually made two World Series appearances before that. Their first was in 1915, which they achieved by riding the strong arm of Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander. They won the first game of the series—against the American League's dominant powerhouse, the Boston Red Sox—3-1, with Alexander taking the win. That was the last playoff game the Phillies won for 62 years. The Sox swept the last four games of the Series to win the first of three World Series they would win in the next four years. (After that, they had…a bit of a drought. But I digress.) Phillies Memories describes these early Phillie heartbreaks though a healthy dose of analysis from author and baseball historian Donald Honig. The Phillies had a number of good players, but no real success until 1950, when the "go-go" Phillies, led by Richie Ashburn, stormed to the NL title. Whereupon they were swept by the Yankees, losing by margins of 1, 1, 1, and 3. And that was it—while the Phillies still had great players like Ashburn and Robin Roberts on their roster, they never made it back to the Big Dance until the aforementioned 1980 season. A second World Series appearance in 1983 by the so-called "Wheeze Kids" (the team, with an average age of 32, was considered to be "old" by MLB standards) was not as successful, as the Baltimore Orioles (featuring a young Cal Ripken) took the crown.
They also appeared in the 1993 World Series, behind a motley crew of ne'er-do-wells, characters, and outright nuts such as John Kruk, Curt Schilling, Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, Lenny Dykstra, Larry Anderson, and Darren Daulton. But let's not talk about that World Series, shall we? (Stupid Canadians…)
Greatest Moment #2 is, of course, last year's win. After falling just short for two consecutive years, the Phils finally put together a sustained September/October run and took home their second championship. Obviously, there's a good deal of coverage of this on the disc as well—not as much as the official MLB Phillies championship disc, of course, but enough to get a good feel for the team and the season.
All of this content, which also includes a countdown of the Phabulous Phorty—the top 40 players in team history, weighs in at a hefty 147 minutes. That's a lot of content for a sports disc like this. MLB Productions has always been behind the juggernaut that is NFL Films when it comes to the heft and quality of its offerings which, while not terrible, weren't quite up to the incredibly high standards set by the Sabols at the NFL. That, however, appears to be rapidly changing. This is a high quality disc that compares favorably to the NFL's recent offerings, one that's sure to please Phillies fans.
But there's the rub—this is a product that's really only attractive for Phillies fans. If you're, say, a Minnesota Twins fan, there's really no reason (other than idle curiosity and/or an all-encompassing love of everything about the game) to purchase or rent this disc.
There's a bittersweet feel to this disc, too—it's narrated by the great Harry Kalas, voice of the Phillies (and John Facenda's successor as the voice of NFL Films), who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year while preparing for the broadcast of a Phillies-Nationals game. Kalas was one of the few remaining legendary voices in sports broadcasting, and by all accounts a kind gentleman away from the microphone. Kalas was a beloved figure in Philadelphia, and is sorely missed. Thankfully, this disc is a fitting bookend to his long and storied career.
Picture and sound quality on the disc are high, as is typically the case with discs from Shout! Factory. The feature is presented in anamorphic widescreen—including the archival footage, which appears to have been recropped into a widescreen format. Some may complain that this alters the original, but I don't think it detracts from the source material in the least. Plus, it makes for a more visually pleasing experience when the format isn't jumping from widescreen to full frame and back. Sound is provided in a Dolby stereo mix that accurately captures Kalas' dulcet tones. There are a handful of extra bits included as extras, too—the last outs of various Phillie no-hitters and playoff games, an impromptu rap version of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" by the always entertaining Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins, and—get this—an extended piece that shows Mitch Williams using a can of spray-on hair on Larry Andersen. Now, you're probably looking at that last item and thinking, "um…what?" But strangely, it's actually pretty funny. These extras don't amount to a huge haul, but given the length of the primary feature, that's not a negative.
I only have one knock against the disc: there's practically nothing about the 1983 World Series team. In fact, the 1983 World Series appearance is only mentioned in passing. I don't know why this is. Yes, it was a loss—but it was an interesting season and an interesting team. Given the plethora of information on all the other Phillie playoff teams, this glaring omission makes little sense.
All kidding aside, this is a great package for Phillies fans, who will
certainly enjoy the opportunity to boo Mike Schmidt, or Dallas Green, or Pete
Rose, or Santa Claus, or whomever in the comfort of their own home whenever they
choose. Hopefully there will be more discs like this forthcoming from Shout!
Factory and MLB Productions, so that fans of other teams can share in the fun,
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