I haven't paid as close attention to baseball in recent years since I was a kid, but it seemed like the game's winners were becoming focused in a select few sports capitals in North America. In some cases, I don't really have a problem with it, because the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox have been able to fill their long-empty trophy cases with World Series trophies. But it gets tiring after awhile, and that's why the story of the Tampa Bay Rays was compelling in 2008. Fielding a team of youngsters who few recognized, the Rays staved off the Red Sox and Yankees of the world and managed to get to the 2008 World Series.
By contrast, the Philadelphia Phillies have been around for awhile, but disappointment has been commonplace for them for years. In existence for more than 120 years, their only World Series title was in 1980. They are the only major league team to lose 10,000 games in Major League Baseball history, though in recent years, they've produced two of the last three National League Most Valuable Players (Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins) and have both grown and acquired excellent pitching talent in Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge, Chase Utley and Jamie Moyer, the latter known for his age. At 46, many players are home watching their kids graduate college. They overcame a New York Mets team who predicted postseason success (but in reality didn't even make the playoffs) and disposed of the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers in quick fashion.
No one really knew what to expect from the Series; both teams were young and had good pitching, but the Phillies seemed to have the early edge in Game 1, winning 3-2 behind strong outings from Hamels and Lidge. Tampa came back to win Game 2, 4-2, and the series moved to Philly (from Tampa), where the weather was, well, less than cooperative. Game 3 saw a rain delay and a Phillies win in the bottom of the ninth inning, and after four home runs by the Phillies (2 from Howard) in a convincing 10-2 win in Game 4, Game 5 was one game that wouldn't die. Starting on October 27, Philly got two runs in the first inning, and Tampa got one back in the fourth and again in the sixth. By that point, rain was becoming more and more prevalent, and in soaked conditions, made the umpires' decision to suspend the game all the easier. Normally, baseball rules would have allowed the game to end after the fifth inning, but a Philadelphia win in a weather-shortened clincher would have been viewed as a "cheap" win of sorts, so the game resumed two days later. The teams traded runs over the next inning and a half, and with the tying run in scoring position, Lidge struck out the final batter to cue the pandemonium.
The funny thing about the win is that not only does it relieve the stockpiled frustration of Philadelphia sports fans, but with Hamels, Howard, Rollins and almost all of the key components returning for another go at the crown, a repeat might even be in the works for the city of Brotherly Love. And since the Phillies won the Series, A&E has given them the obligatory massive multi-disc DVD treatment, with each game on a disc, not to mention their Game 4 and 5 triumphs over the Dodgers, along with an additional disc of extra material which totals eight discs and almost 19 hours of Phillies postseason heroics for you to enjoy.
In 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, these games are replicated from their original broadcasts, which looked good in the little action I actually watched when the games aired. No artifacts, edge enhancement or the like; they're straightforward and perfectly acceptable viewing.
All of the discs receive a two-channel stereo mix like all of the other World Series Collector's Edition sets. Unlike those sets though, this is the first that gives you the chance to spin through audio tracks from both Philly and Tampa broadcasters. Phillies fans will particularly enjoy this, since Harry Kalas is superior to Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Fox's Spanish broadcast audio is included as well. I've seen several different sets through the years, and this is both a new and welcome addition.
Like previous sets, you get a bonus disc which includes quick hits from memorable moments in and out of the season, like when Howard hit his 40th and 48th homers during the season and the locker room celebrations and trophy presentations which occurred when Philly won the Series. There are also team interviews, and from a packaging standpoint, the games themselves are packaged in slim line cases and contain a bevy of trivia and statistics printed on the outside of each case. I've always liked the presentation of these sets, and A&E continues to do an excellent job.
Baseball fans tend to have their loyalties, but for fans of the Phillies who might be disappointed that the games aren't in high definition or something, you do get the luxury of getting the games with Kalas' call, which (unless you were enterprising and recorded him against the game tapes) you probably don't have otherwise. A&E provides a nice touch here, and the set has the usual subtleties and extra material that make it essential for completists, so if you're in the 215, you should highly consider grabbing this.