Judge Erich Asperschlager knows he probably shouldn't use this blurb to make fun of the Yankees, but he just can't help it.
"The Boston Red Sox are one of the most storied franchises in all of sports, and the theme of those stories is their undying passion…"
"Accentuate the positive…eliminate the negative!" So the old song goes, and so seems to be the mantra of Red Sox Memories: The Greatest Moments in Boston Red Sox History, the newest feel-good fan lovefest from MLB productions. It's a great time to be a Sox fan, with two World Series victories notched in the last four seasons, and a team built around a core group of young players who promise to anchor the franchise for years to come. But even to this old fan, the recent back patting and foam finger waving is getting a bit old.
Red Sox Memories is split into three sections: "October Heroes," "Characters and Rookies," and "All-Time Team." "October" paints a rosy picture of Red Sox postseasons past. From the early days of the Royal Rooters to later World Series appearances—like 1967's "Impossible Dream," and their 1975 showdown with Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine"—Memories' semi-revisionist history assures fans that, even when the Sox lost (which they often did), they accomplished more than anyone thought they could (even if it wasn't enough) against favored teams at the top of their game (who went on to beat them). Even the 1986 Series against the Mets—which, until a few years ago made most Sox fans reach for the nearest antacids—scores an "A for effort" on a new curve that includes two recent world championships.
I suspect "October Memories" exists mostly to celebrate the Sox' recent World Series wins, recountings of which act as lengthy bookends to the section. Heck, I doubt this disc would even exist if the Yankees and Indians had made it past the Sox in the '04 and '07 American League Championship Series. Still, it's hard to blame MLB productions for wanting to tap into the excitement of an ever-growing Red Sox Nation. If ever there was a time to capitalize on feverish Sox fandom, it's now: after last year's championship, but before this year's potential failure.
Thankfully, the sections that follow "October Heroes" are backwards-looking enough to make sure new fans know that Boston baseball has been around for longer than five seasons.
"Rookies" begins with current players Jonathan Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia, but moves quickly to past greats like Bill "Spaceman" Lee, Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, Walt Dropo, and Don Schwall. It's a lighthearted look at some of the best and biggest personalities. Given how much this section overlaps with the disc-ending, position-by-position presentation of the Red Sox "All-Time Team," however, I wish they'd combined the two and not rushed through what should have been the focus of this disc.
"All-Time" deserves more than the 45 minutes it gets to profile the team's 53 best players—athletes like Johnny Pesky, Wade Boggs, Carlton Fisk, Dom DiMaggio, Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, and (of course) Ted Williams. While still a great primer on Red Sox history, at times it feels like getting hit by a machine gun loaded with statistics.
The extras, at least, look back further than the past decade: There are highlights of Yaz's Hall of Fame speech, a short feature on pitching great Dick "The Monster" Radatz, 10 electrifying minutes of Pedro Martinez's 1999 All-Star Game performance, and two features on the greatest Sox player of them all: Ted Williams.
The widescreen video varies in quality, as one would expect, depending on the age of the footage, and the 2.0 stereo track is clear. Considering the ephemeral nature of televised sports, the presentation works just fine.
At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I keep coming back to the feeling that this disc could have been really great had the people who put it together resisted the temptation to highlight the recent "excitement" and put more energy into fleshing out the team's full history. Even when the disc delves into the past, the ain't-we-great filter does the team (and its fans) a disservice by ignoring the disappointments and failures that made its eventual success so impressive.
There's a lot about this disc to recommend to fans, especially those looking to educate youngsters about the heroes of Boston's past, but there's also the overwhelming sense that Red Sox Memories could have been so much more. Even though the DVD presents the team's "greatest moments" as advertised, I wish it also took the time to put those great moments in perspective.
It's gonna be a close play at the plate. Here comes the throw and…he's out! Oh, my! The fans aren't going to like that call!
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