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  • Fall Classic at Fenway Park (Blu-Ray)

    Posted in: Disc Reviews by Michael Durr on October 14th, 2011

    Overall
    Film
    Video
    Audio
    Extras
    (out of 5)

    For those who do not know, I am not a typical sports fan. I primarily watch three sports, none of which are football. I love me some wrestling, hockey, and the legendary sport of baseball. The Phillies have been my team for over 30 years and even though they took it hard this year in the playoffs, I look forward to more baseball in the years to come. I also appreciate the history of baseball so I was certainly curious to see a couple of great Red Sox teams come to Blu-Ray in this A&E presentation.

    The 2004 Boston Red Sox (narrated by Dennis Leary) were expected to do some great things right out of the gate in spring training. But this was the Red Sox we were talking about, they had the curse of the Bambino to contend with for the last eighty-six years. They had failed at every opportunity, even years when it looked like a sure thing that the Red Sox were going to get the big one. But this year was poised to be different from the very start.

    In the offseason, ace pitcher Curt Schilling was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks for a bunch of pitchers who would never amount to a hill of beans. (warning, I can be crass when I talk about baseball) Their pitching staff was set with Schilling and ace Pedro Martinez as the cornerstones of their rotation. The first month would prove that they were well on their way and cruised to a 15-6 record.

    However, in the next two months that followed, they would slowly descend into near .500 ball with a low point on July 4th of 43-37 after being swept by the Yankees and losing 2 of 3 to the Braves. But that would the lowest they would ever go. The true catalyst would come on July 31st at the trade deadline when the Red Sox would trade the popular shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Chicago Cubs (where players who want no shot at the World Series usually go) in a multi-team swap around.

    From there, the Red Sox went nowhere but up and finished the season at 98-64 earning them the wildcard position. They would go on to face the AL West Champion, Anaheim Angels. They would go on to sweep the Angels with the highlight coming in the third game. Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels had hit a grand slam in the seventh to tie it up at six and the game went to extra innings. In the 10th, David Ortiz also known as “Big Papi” would hit a walk-off two home run shot to seal the victory.

    This set up the infamous AL Championship series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The Yankees took the first three games and were poised to run right to the World Series with a particularly crushing 19-8 victory in Game Three. Even in Game 4, things were going pretty badly, down 4-3 in the ninth and arguably one of the best closers ever in Mariano Rivera for the Yankees was on the mound. But curse be damned and Ortiz again to the rescue would change the series forever.

    2004 was the year that the Red Sox finally reversed the curse and broke through against and Yankees and eventually sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. To be honest, the World Series was an after thought after what happened between the Yanks and the Sox. For all intents and purposes, the real World Series was between these two. So while this part of the disc they did discuss the famous ALCS in detail, it seemed to play second fiddle to the rollover that Boston performed at St Louie.

    Here is the other thing that consistently makes me laugh (I am going to piss off Red Sox fans but it needs to be said) but they consistently play the Red Sox to be the underdog in this video. They have consistently under performed until 2004, this is true but it was not as a result of failing to spend money. Red Sox teams are right up there with the Yankees when it comes to spending the big bucks on players. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that the Red Sox are just wannabe Yankees. And I can’t stand the Yankees. On to 2007.

    The 2007 Boston Red Sox (narrated by Matt Damon) had come off a really disappointing 2006 season when they failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. There were many new faces but the heroes of the team were still firmly in place along the likes of Ortiz, Schilling and Manny Ramirez. Expectations were again high after the Red Sox had signed international sensation, Daisuke (Dice K) Matsuzaka was signed to a 6 year contract.

    That year they also signed J.D. Drew since they were in desperate need of a right fielder. But the season was never really in doubt behind the bats of Ortiz, Ramirez, third baseman Mike Lowell, and first baseman Kevin Youkillis. On the mound, the staff was led by ace, Josh Beckett who would go on to win twenty games. Jonathan Papelbon was the star closer and the team was off to the playoffs.

    After winning the division and cruising to the playoffs with 96 wins, they faced the ever familiar Angels in the ALDS. Again, like a redheaded step-child, they swept the Angels and sent them home packing. Heroes came from all angles including Josh Beckett in Game 1, Manny Ramirez in Game 2 and both Ortiz and Schilling in Game 3. This set up a championship series with the Cleveland Indians who had taken care of the dastardly Yankees.

    But the Boston Red Sox had centerfielder, Coco “Don’t Call Me Fruity Pebbles” Crisp, why should they worry? Well, the Indians had bats of their own in Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, and Grady Sizemore. It also helped that on the mound was legendary pitcher C.C. Sabathia. After four games, the Red Sox found themselves down three games to one. Here we go again, can the Sox come back?

    Again, I mention the fact that the series between the Indians and the Red Sox was the real World Series. The Red Sox would eventually win the ALCS and go on to face the Colorado Rockies in the World Series. This gets funny as the program spends in an inordinate amount of time on the Rockies building them up as a World Series contender only for the Red Sox to absolutely crush them in four games. This program spends a lot of time on the series with the Rockies and neglects to focus on how close to elimination they were with the Indians.

    This is also the weaker program in my opinion as they have a hard time telling a convincing story. I can go along with the fact that the 2004 Boston Red Sox had a real legendary story. It had the Bambino curse, Curt Schilling, and that unbelievable comeback against the Yankees. What exactly did 2007 have? Schilling was not himself (until the playoffs) and it was really hard to get excited about players like J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo. They were supposed to be the best and pulled it off, no questions asked.

    Video

    The video is in 1.78:1 widescreen presentation at 1080i resolution. This is basically an up-conversion from the dvds that were released a while back. As a result, the results are mixed. At times, it looks just as good as a hd baseball broadcast, at times I find to hard believe that this footage is only about 4-7 years old. Color is fairly good throughout, flesh tones seem to be accurate. It is just that the footage comes from a lot of different sources and it is hard to assign an accurate score to this one.

    Audio

    For the audio portion, we get a 2.0 DTS-HD track (it mistakenly says PCM 2.0 on the back of the box) in English. This fares a tiny bit better than the video as the dialog is very clear. The prototypical crack of the bat or fans at the game environment noise is present as well and comes through pretty well. For the two channels, we do get some sense of surround but I would be more interested to see blu-ray for sports when they sport the full 5.1. No subtitles could be found.

    Special Features

    2004 World Series Extras

    • Terry Francona Hiring Press Conference 1:35 : I don’t know about the rest of you but I feel like I want a Dunkin Donut.
    • David Ortiz ALCS Walk-Offs 1:48: Nice to see Big Papi jump into the crowd of Red Sox. Imagine a bowling ball hitting about fifteen pins.
    • ALCS Final Out 1:14: Poor Ruben Sierra, forever to be a trivia question.
    • ALCS Celebration 3:24: Much champagne was poured and even the Trophy gets a dousing. I’m always waiting in moments like these for the sucker to fall over and break. No such luck.
    • NLCS Final Out 1:13: Between the Cards and the Astros. The Astros worked so hard that year but came up short in the end.
    • World Series Final Out 1:01: Last at-bat against Edgar Renteria who was pretty much the only Cardinal that day to get any hits.
    • World Series Celebration 3:40: More animated celebrations. Even one involving Johnny Peksy (Mr. Red Sox) and Curt Schilling. I was really hoping that trophy would fall when Damon and others wanted to balance it on their head.
    • Postseason Pre-Game Sound 3:51: Comments during batting practice before a few of the games. Best was by Kevin Millar during Game 4 of ALCS.
    • ”The Storytellers” 6:32: Various Red Sox legends like Dwight Evans and Fred Lynn (who looks like Bruce Campbell) talk about the World Series that they went to and didn’t quite get there. No Bill Buckner, darn.

    2007 World Series Extras

    • AL East Clincher 5:09: These extras are a lot better than 2004, they actually set the table instead of throwing the highlight at you and walking away. The Red Sox were playing the Twins here. It is interesting because when the Red Sox won the game, they didn’t know if they won the division. The fans and players both actually stayed until the Orioles and Yankees game played out.
    • ALDS Final Out 2:26: The final out with the Angels who all looked like somebody just killed their puppy.
    • J.D. Drew ALCS Game 6 Grand Slam 4:30: Drew’s epic grand salami. Off a 3-1 count nevertheless. Interestingly, the pitcher Fausto Carmona is still with the Indians. Was even on the 2010 all-star team. However, 2011 was awful for him when he ended up 7-15 with a 5.25 ERA. Fun facts, fun facts.
    • Red Sox Win ALCS 2:30: And Coco Crisp with the amazing catch to end this one. I thought he was going to be shredded wheat after that grab. Yeah, if Coco Crisp ever gets his own dvd, don’t send me it to review. I would be making jokes like this one for hours.
    • Dustin Pedroia’s World Series Game 1 Lead Off HR 1:03: I love Lead Off Homers. Something about it just says, yeah this is going to be a bloodbath.
    • Josh Beckett K’s the Side in World Series Game 1 6:45: Beckett is still a very strong pitcher for the Red Sox these days but his last two starts in 2011 were part of the reason the Red Sox tanked in the end and missed the playoffs.
    • Final 3 Outs of World Series and Celebration 7:59: More celebration and champagne. Highlight here was Royce Clayton, a 17 year journey man veteran getting toasted. He had played most notably with the Giants and the Rangers but had only been there the last 8 games with the BoSox in 2007. Incidentally, he promptly retired after that point. I would have too.
    • World Series Trophy Presentation 4:17: Some chick who looks like she had way too much plastic surgery (and wearing really crappy pants) with Bud Selig (don’t even get me started) to present the World Series Trophy to the Red Sox.
    • World Series MVP Trophy Presentation 2:40: More trophy presenting, this time to Mike Lowell, the third baseman for his accomplishments in the World Series. He hit .400, had a homer, four RBI’s, 6 runs scored and a stolen base. This was certainly the highlight of Mike’s career which just ended last year. Not Hall of Fame worthy (.279, 223hrs, 952 runs batted in) but certainly a very respectable career.

    Final Thoughts

    It is interesting that they picked this time and year to put out this look back at two of the Red Sox’s glory years when they missed out completely on the playoffs. In fact, it was one of the worst collapses in recent memory of a team clearly in the lead only to completely lose the division and not even make the playoffs. This video does a good job of recreating those two special years even if the two important series with the Yankees and Indians aren’t mentioned as much as they should have.

    The set is basically average with modest video and decent audio and a good set of extras to thumb through from the Major League Baseball archives. Red Sox fans will jump all over this (if they don’t already own the dvds) but most baseball fans will find it hard to be interested in a team that went out and spent all of the money to get the best players. And guess what they dominated both the 2004 and 2007 World Series as a result. But it was nice to see Curt Schilling pitching and Big Papi swinging the bat. Rock on.

    Posted In: 1.78:1 Widescreen, 1080i, A&E Home Video, Blu-ray, Disc Reviews, DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English), Sports

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