On April 20, 2012, the Boston Red Sox staged an elaborate on-field celebration to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, the only baseball park ever to last a century as an active venue (Wrigley Field will probably make it to 2016, though.) It was the last moment of the 2012 season that Red Sox fans will want to remember, but not even the implosion of a gutless collection of overpaid and underachieving stars could sully the legacy of baseball’s most enduring and idiosyncratic stadium.
Fenway opened to instant success, first with the Red Sox outlasting the New York Highlanders (soon to become the Yankees) in a 7-6 win and later with an inaugural season culminating with a World Series victory over the New York Giants. By 1918, Fenway had seen four world championships in just seven years and the Red Sox were obviously ready to dominate for the rest of the century. Well, not the 20th century, but what’s 86 years between World Series titles?
It was quite literally a lifetime of frustration for most fans until the Red Sox broke the Curse in 2004, but that doesn’t mean Fenway didn’t host its share of great memories and great players in the interim. The 12-disc set “Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park: 100th Anniversary Collector’s DVD Set” pays tribute to just about all of them.
The set is designed to resemble a coffee table book with 24 thick cardboard “pages” featuring historical blurbs and photographs. The discs are tucked into different pages. More on this in the Extras section below. The 12 discs are as follows:
Disc One: Fenway Park: 100 Years as the Heart of Red Sox Nation (93 min.)
A new documentary that traces the park’s history back before its opening day and covers all the usual points: the early success, Babe Ruth, the Yawkeys, fires, Bucky F. Dent, Buckner, and finally a new and better century. It’s a solid if workmanlike program that does its best to compress 100 years of information into 93 minutes. This disc also offers one extra: the broadcast of the 100th Anniversary Pre-Game Ceremony (48 min.) on Sep 20, 2012 when dozens of Red Sox greats were gathered on field to celebrate the park’s big 100. Bill Buckner was not only there, but was forgiven.
Disc Two: Season Highlight Films from 1955 (21 min.), 1957 (21 min.), 1967 (48 min.), 1975 (14 min.), and 1978 (23 min.)
The first two are narrated by Curt Gowdy which is always a nice bonus. These are typical of the highlight films all fans are familiar with the exception of the baffling 1975 one which consists entirely of short clips of unidentified game play scored entirely (no commentary, no play-by-play) by the cheesiest disco instrumental I have ever heard. Yes, I know it was 1975, but come on. And the damned thing crops up again at the start of the 1978 film!
Disc Three: Season Highlights Films from 1986 (77 min.) and 1990 (55 min.)
The disc also includes an episode of the series “Greatest MLB Rivalries” (44 min.) which, of course, traces the heated history of the Red Sox vs. the Yankees.
Disc Four: 2004 Season Highlight Film (86 min.) and the Official 2004 World Series Film (91 min.)
Disc Five: 2007 Season Highlight Film (81 min.) and the Official 2007 World Series Film (72 min.)
Disc Six: Red Sox Memories: The Greatest Moments in Boston Red Sox History (114 min.)
I’m sure Sox fans will enjoy this, but it is a completely haphazard collection of previously existing programs. It begins with lengthy coverage of the 2007 World Series, glosses over other postseason highlights, provides brief portraits of “rookies and characters” from Red Sox History and then wraps up with a two-part presentation of the Red Sox All-Time Team. Even this latter portion of the program is bizarrely assembled as it proceeds from 2B to 3B to SS to SP and then on to the other positions, as if the order was just picked out of a hat. I can’t argue with most of the all-time selections, however,
The rest of the discs each include the full broadcast of a single game.
Disc Seven: Twins vs. Red Sox – Sep 30, 1967
This was a must-win for the Red Sox as they closed out the “Impossible Dream” season with a two game series against the Twins who entered a game ahead. Jose Santiago outdueled Jim Kaat to earn the Red Sox a share of first place and the chance to win the pennant the next day. Both Harmon Killebrew and Carl Yastrzemski hit their 44th home runs of the year, and would end up tied as Yaz won the Triple Crown. The broadcast is pretty spotty in audiovisual quality, but this one wasn’t even known to exist for a while, so viewers probably won’t be complaining.
Disc Eight: 1975 World Series Game 6
Carlton Fisk applies a little body English to coax an extra-inning fly ball off the foul pole. Never mind what happened the next day.
Disc Nine: 1986 ALCS Game 7
The Sox completed a come back from a 3-1 series deficit to beat the Angels and make it to the World Series against the Mets. Game 7 was a laugher once Roger Clemens had an early seven run lead.
Disc Ten: 1999 All Star Game – July 13, 1999
Unfortunately this disc doesn’t include any of the pre-game ceremonies, but the game mislabeled as the last All Star contest of the millennium was the first played at Fenway in nearly forty years, and featured an absurdly dominant Pedro Martinez as the AL starter against future Red Sox legend Curt Schilling.
Disc Eleven: 2004 ALCS Game 4
The game that started the most unlikely comeback in playoff history.
Disc Twelve: 2007 ALCS Game 7
Though it wasn’t as dramatic as 2004, this game was the capper on another huge playoff comeback by the Red Sox who had trailed the Indians three games to one. It will be difficult for anyone who watched the last few seasons to believe this, but Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched well in an important game.
It’s a somewhat unusual collection of games, but I assume they didn’t want to include the World Series clinchers in the set because just about every Red Sox fan who would be considering this set already owns them. There is inevitably some repetition among all of the compilation documentaries (the same interview will crop up multiple times) but generally speaking, the twelve discs provide a fairly comprehensive range of material, though perhaps a “Follies” type program would have been a nice addition to acknowledge some of the lesser players and moments that have also defined a fan’s experience with any franchise.
I’m not going to discuss each disc in detail. However, while it is no longer a surprise to me, I am still frequently befuddled by the poor quality of some of MLB’s video. Overall, the video quality is perfectly acceptable throughout, but there are shots, even in the recent documentary footage, where the image looks blocky as if it was blown up from a tiny YouTube video to fill a full screen, and resolution can be downright awful at times. There are also instances when MLB is using older clips from interviews shot in full-screen but stretching them out to fit into the widescreen ratio of its current program.
Audio varies throughout the set. The only outright problem I noticed was that the audio level on the 1955 Season Highlight Film was so low I had to crank up the volume button very high. No subtitles are offered.
I’ll take this opportunity to discuss the design of the set again, since it is clearly intended to be a holiday/birthday gift.
The set is designed to look like a long, rectangular book with 24 pages you can leaf through. The pages are actually thick cardboard with text blurbs touching on moments in Red Sox history and plenty of photos. The book is heavy on earth tones and is a very attractive product to look through. The 12 discs are stored inside various pages. The book slides into a thick cardboard outer case which has the same cover art (Fenway, of course) as the book.
So it looks nice and it’s fun to page through it. However, there is one meaningful problem you need to know about. The discs are tucked in very tightly. You will have to grip the edge of the disc that pokes out of the cardboard very firmly and tug hard, and you will inevitably wind up scraping the disc along the cardboard sleeve in which it is scored. Heck, these discs are stuffed in so tightly you might need a friend to hold the book while you pull on it.
I exaggerate only slightly. You’ll be able to wrestle the discs out, but I think it’s fair to be concerned that they will get scratched if you plan to watch them frequently and have to pry them out each time. You also need to be careful not to tear any of the pages while in the process of removing the discs. I don’t think this should stop you from buying the set by any means, but it’s something to be aware of. Perhaps you’ll want to store the discs separately once you’ve gotten them out.
This set is clearly being released as a holiday gift candidate and I think it’s a worthy addition to any Sox fans library. However, most of the Game Discs have already been released on other sets (that’s inevitable at this point) and some fans might wonder about the choices made (why Game 7 of the 1986 ALCS instead of the dramatic Game 5?) by the set’s producers. Also, in the Extras section, I discuss the problem with getting the discs out of their sleeves.
But it is a very attractively designed set that will look awfully good in anyone’s collection, and it doesn’t chintz on content at over 25 hours total running time. The $129.95 full retail price is hefty, but you can find some steep discounts online currently.