It's here! The 2007 World Series box set hits stores today.
Its eight discs include the four World Series games, ALCS Games 5-6-7 and a bonus disc. One fantastic highlight: three audio options -- the radio teams from both the Red Sox and Rockies, in addition to the Fox TV team.
MLB joined the television box set craze in 2004 by releasing (through A&E) a 12-DVD Red Sox collection. A total of nine World Series boxes have been released to date: 1975, 1977, 1979, 1986, 1987, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.
(Disclosure: Earlier this year, A&E asked me to review a couple of the collections. They sent me 1986 and 2004. The 2004 was a mistake; I was supposed to get 1975. I used 2004 as part of the prize in the JoS W-L contest and bought 1975 on my own. I'll be ordering 2007 soon.)
More box sets are on the way. An A&E spokeswoman told me that the 1978 and 1988 World Series will be released next year (for the 30th and 20th anniversaries, respectively). She didn't know if the sets will go back earlier than 1975, but it sounds like every year after that will be available eventually. (I would think that a 1969 Mets box, even if the games are not 100% complete, packaged for the 40th anniversary, would sell quite well.)
After 2004, MLB produced a Yankees Fall Classic box covering 1996-2001. There are five World Series games -- 1996 Game 4, 1998 Game 3, 1999 Game 3, 2000 Game 4, 2001 Game 4 -- yet none of them are series-clinchers. At the time, I thought it was an interesting statement of how MLB viewed the purchasing habits of Red Sox and Yankees fans. Now, with the concept humming along nicely, and the Yankees/Dodgers 1977 World Series available in its entirety, I assume that each (sorta) recent Yankee championships will be getting its own box. MLB has also released collections of Cubs and Cardinals games (including Game 1 of the 1968 World Series) and a Cal Ripken-themed Orioles set.
I love these collections. They are beautifully boxed and reasonably priced for the amount of discs included. Every so often, I have the urge to buy them all. Would I actually sit down and watch every game of the 1979 World Series? Probably not, but the urge to own the box is strong. The chronological flow of the spines appeals to the collector in me, as it probably does to many other fans as well.
Each game disc is packaged in a thin, clear plastic case containing various bits of trivia about the game/series, with the box score on the back cover and the play-by-play on the inside of the case. The menu features the game's line score so viewers can start at any half-inning.
The 1975 box contains all seven games between Cincinnati and Boston. Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek, Dick Stockton and Ned Martin call the action for NBC. It's a joy and a revelation to watch these games -- minimal replays, laughably crude graphics, no quick-cut close-ups from pitcher to batter to fan to bench to pitcher (a horrible disruption to the game's natural flow and tension) and an astonishing lack of hype, even at the start of Game 7. ... Actually, it's not a total joy; Larry Barnett can burn in hell.
For bonus material, the 1975 set features 30 clips, including a few pre-game interviews, an on-field interview with Fisk after his Game 6-winning home run and Cincinnati's championship rally. Most of the clips are interviews conducted specifically for this set.
The 1986 set includes the Mets' 16-inning, pennant-clinching win over Houston. The bonus disc, in addition to the lockerroom celebration and interviews, has highlights from the NLCS. It's also a bit uncomfortable to watch Bill Buckner stutter and fidget during the first few minutes of his interview. I've also always wondered if the "Congratulations Red Sox" message on the Shea scoreboard was a myth (to my knowledge, no photo exists), but both Knight and Dwight Evans acknowledge looking up with two outs and seeing it.
An Interesting Discovery: 2004 and 2007 have allowed me to watch the 10th inning of Game 6 (and listen to Ray Knight talk about it) as a normal baseball fan. No serious anger or sadness -- more of a mix of wistful disbelief and wonder. Did that really happen?
Re 1986: In the 10th inning of Game 6, 1918 is mentioned only once -- right after Boston secures the second out -- in an on-screen graphic showing how many years have passed since the Cubs, White Sox and Red Sox each won their last title. Vin Scully's only comment is to mention the vast financial differences in the players' shares of 1918 versus 1986. That's it. Nothing about Boston's championship drought or how Red Sox fans are so long-suffering -- and certainly no mention of a curse. The media had not yet invented that. Even in the intro to Game 7, two days later, and during Buckner's first at-bat, there is no direct mention of the error and no replay at all. (There is plenty of curse talk in the voiceover to some bonus clips, however.)
The sets, while wonderfully packaged, are not perfect. First, while I have not had any issues with any of the games I've watched so far, I have read complaints about the sound and video quality of some of the sets.
Second, there is very little pre-game coverage on the 1975 and 1986 sets. All of the discs begin with the broadcast already underway, joining the announcers for the starting lineups or as the home team takes the field. I can't think of any reason why MLB could not include the complete broadcast.
The play-by-play on the 1986 cases is imprecise, with vague descriptions such as "Evans makes an out to left" and "Hernandez makes an out to right". The 1975 and 2004 sets rightly include "flies out", "lines out" and "pops out". I understand this many not matter to most people.
In the 2007 World Series, Fox missed several pitches because it was trying to cram extra commercials in between innings. This is inexcusable and I'll assume that the recent box includes the pitches Fox failed to show us in October.
There is also the issue of completeness. Because of the historical importance (and complete awesomeness!) of Boston's ALCS comeback and its long-awaited championship, including as many games in the 2004 collection made sense. But why did MLB omit the ALDS? The set was already 12 discs -- why not 15?
For the 2007 set, only the final three (must-win) games of the ALCS are included. Why not the entire Red Sox post-season -- or at least Boston's other four victories? The answer is likely cost: more games = more discs = higher price and presumably fewer customers.
But the vast majority of people buying this set (or receiving it as a gift) will be Red Sox fans! And the serious fans among us want the entire thing. MLB is selling individual DVDs of the 2007 World Series games at its website, but not any other post-season games. Why not? If those other Red Sox playoff games were available for separate purchase, obsessed fans could happily own the entire post-season.
I have my issues with many things MLB does, but considering the inability to please everyone with a project like this, MLB has done a fantastic job making these games available at a relatively modest price.
The older boxes are a godsend. Red Sox fans can re-watch the 1975 series (and younger fans can watch the games for the first time); Yankee fans can go back in time to 1977; and Pirate fans can enjoy 1979. And the addition of the enhanced audio on the 2007 set shows that MLB is open to improving the sets as time goes on.