In 10 Words or Less
An inside look at six of the greatest Yankees
One of the best aspects of the New York Yankees' television network is "Yankeeography," a 40-minute biography on individual stars of the legendary baseball franchise. They aren't probing in any way, and avoid controversy, but they do give a good, positive overview of each player's life and baseball career. Unexpectedly, the shows don't eliminate the player's non-Yankees history, and give those years as much time as needed to tell those tales.
In this set, the first of three planned collections, the YES Network pointed the spotlight at six of the most popular men in the team's history. It also highlighted one of the more tragic stories in the team's history, that of a big man named Thurman Munson. A big part of the Yankees' late '70s team, he was the heart of the two-time champions of 1977 and 1978, as well as the heartbreak, when he died at the age of 32 in a plane crash. His episode is as much about the world Munson left behind as it is about him.
The stories behind three of the Yankees' greatest fielders and personalities are included here, in the form of Babe Ruth, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter, each of whom represents an era in the team's history. Of course, Ruth is the immortal who "built" Yankee Stadium, and changed the game. His tale is about baseball in mainly tangential terms, as he was bigger than the sport, becoming part of the fabric of America.
Mattingly never had the success Ruth and Jeter enjoyed, but the love he receives from the Bronx fanatics might even eclipse that enjoyed by his fellow legends. A shining example of everything right about baseball, he rose above a team that couldn't get it done, using effort and driver to overcome an amount of ability that trailed that of the greats. The everyman from Indiana, he was a guy that could be cheered without fear that his head would get too big.
Many of Mattingly's best qualities were passed down to the man who succeeded him as Yankees captain, his teammate, Derek Jeter. Jeter, a superstar like few before him, is described in glowing terms by everyone, as it is nearly impossible to find something wrong in a man who gives his all every night, despite truly being able to get by on talent alone. The same is said about Ron Guidry, one of the team's greatest pitchers, an eccentric man who went by the name of "Gator." His stories of secret sleep and hunting humanize an amazing man who once stated he was the closest thing to God on Earth when he pitched. His Southern-fried history is a hoot to watch.
Though he never pulled on a Yankees jersey as a player, and, in fact, was a one-time Met, Joe Torre may have done more for the team's legacy than anyone, creating a new dynasty in the late '90s. His episode covers plenty of bases, giving the complete story of one of the most interesting managers in the game. Like Mattingly, he came up short as a player, learning to succeed once he hung up his glove. Coincidentally, Mattingly now sits down the bench from Torre as one of his assistants.
Covering six of the best New York baseball players, this set is as near-perfect as the set could possibly get, while still leaving a few big names for later collections. No one could question why any of the six men profiled here would be included, which is traditionally the litmus test for lists of sports greats. First time out, the producers set a high standard for "Yankeeography" collections.
"Yankeeography" Vol. 1 is presented on three DVDs, packaged in a three-tray cardboard digipack with a pocket for a well-designed booklet that lists the chapter stops for each episode. The case is held inside a classy, cardboard slipcase. The six episodes are split evenly over the first two discs, while the third disc holds the bonus material. The main menus are animated, while the following screens, including scene selections, are static. The audio is available in 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo Surround, except on the Torre episode, which only has a 5.1 track (which is explained in "The Extras.")
YES knocked it out of the park with these full-screen, shot-on-video shows. The production values are on par with any documentary show in recent history, with new interviews and set-up shots that look brilliant in terms of color and clarity. Even the old-time footage looks good...or as good as it possibly could look. The audio tracks, presented in 5.1 and 2.0, sounds great in both formats, but won't give your system a work-out.
On Disc Three, the bonus sections "Unforgettable Moments," "How 'Bout That!," and "Sound on Tape" each present more of the six New York legends, with a mix of game tape, intimate moments and sit-down interviews that were edited into the episodes. If there's an important moment missed, I can't think of it, but there are bigger baseball fans out there than me. Also found on the bonus disc are credits for MLB Productions and YES Network, Special Thanks, Copyright information and a list for Further Reading.
On the second disc's Joe Torre episode, instead of a 2.0 soundtrack, there is a commentary track with Torre and Sterling. Sterling says right up front that he's good friends with Torre, so don't expect many penetrating questions. There's some mention of the show that's playing on-screen, but it's mostly a separate, though interesting interview, with the guys chatting about Torre's playing days and Yankees memories. It's not much different from the episode, but feels a bit more intimate.
The Bottom Line
Yankee fanatics really shouldn't be without this set. Having these memories of the great ones, like Ruth and Mattingly, readily available is a Godsend after a bad loss or during a rain-out. General baseball fans, despite the narrow focus of the series, can find something of value here, as a Yankees legend is normally a baseball legend as well, simply by succeeding on the sport's biggest stage. This is truly a very well-done DVD set... or a home run, if you prefer.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.