For all the talk about franchises who seem to be cursed or found a degree of bad luck, the Houston Astros quietly are on the radar in terms of franchises who have not seen any postseason success. The team has fielded their share of All-Stars and eventual Hall of Fame winners, but now in its 50th season, they only have one World Series appearance on their resume, a loss to the Chicago White Sox in 2005. Regardless, the team has a devoted following through the half century of existence, and this Collector's Edition helps show off the Astros' highlights through the years.
The five-disc boxed seat is composed of two different aspects of the Astros; four discs include the best moments in Astros history: Nolan Ryan's record-tying fifth no-hitter against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981, Mike Scott's division-clinching no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants in 1986, the Astros' winning game in the 2005 National League Divisional Series game against the Atlanta Braves, and Astros legend Craig Biggio's 3000th hit in 2007 against the Colorado Rockies. The fifth disc, an hour(ish)-long film titled Astros Memories, covers the team's history through the half century.
Addressing the game discs first, it is remarkable to see how modest the production values were for local broadcasts in the early 1980s (or at least seeing how Houston juggled this during that particular era). You had someone associated with both of the teams reading off the lineups before their respective halves of the first inning, the broadcast is quiet and devoid of much conversation, and at least in the first disc, you get to watch Nolan Ryan mowing down batters in one of many heroic performances by the Texan hurler. Moreover, seeing Scott no-hit the Giants reminded me of the era where (as a Mets fan for a brief period of time) I dreaded playing the Astros because Scott was such a vaunted pitcher, and while their lineup wasn't the most fearsome (Denny Walling? Alan Ashby? Pshaw!), their pitching staff kept the in many games and helped them win that much more.
As is seemingly the case with the Astros through the years, it was always a case of being close, but not quite close enough, and to the credit of Astros Memories, they try to avoid the heartache as much as possible. The film covers the team's modest openings, followed by their move into the Astrodome, the indoor stadium proclaimed by those who had a stake in it to be the Eighth Wonder of the World of that era. Players of that era and others who played under the roof like Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno and Larry Dierker give way to Jose Cruz, Nolan Ryan and Phil Garner, as they all recount their time playing for the team formerly known as the Colt .45s. Those players give way to Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, and surprisingly folks that may not have been included in the film are here too, such as Yankee star Andy Pettite who talks about his time back in Texas with his friend and teammate Roger Clemens. And yes, the rainbow uniforms are covered as well, because, well, they are part of the team's history and their remembrance is fond.
With that treatment said, compared to other similar sets that are out in the wild, the Astros set tends to feel slightly incomplete. I know many want to see their team through a sugarcoated lens, but maybe addressing the period heartbreak might have been nice to see. Additionally, the game discs include the box score on back, but any pitching and pinch-hitting substitutions are not included on the disc case. In fact, the home starting pitchers are not on the case at all. This is a little less forgivable in the Ryan/Scott no-hitters as both went the distance, but either this is a printing error or a lack of attention to detail, and I'm betting on the latter. If I were an Astros fan, would I invest the money in this set? Sure, but I'd also realize to temper my expectations accordingly.
The Astros Memories film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the games are presented in full frame, and the overall package is decent. The game footage appears untouched from its original broadcast, which is not necessarily a good thing as any flaws in the quality are inherent in the source material. The film looks good, with game footage reformatted to fit the widescreen format and interviews looking as sharp as can be expected. On the flip side of things, I did not readily spot the Major League Baseball watermark found on many other boxed sets, so that's a good thing, right?
Whether they are the discs or the film itself, all of the discs include Dolby two-channel stereo for your dining and dancing pleasure. There are no real revelations when it comes to listening to the games and film, all of the action occurs in front of the soundstage and is free of hissing or mosquito noise, and the dialogue sounds consistent and balanced as can be. No muss, no fuss.
As is the norm, additional footage on the Astros Memories DVD (30:16) includes various individual moments such as no-hitters, but also includes things like Dierker's list of All-Time Astros, and a look at Ryan's workout routine which helped extend his career past normal major leaguers.
This 50th anniversary Collector's Edition of Houston Astro DVD moments looks (and feels to a certain extent) thrown together and missing a bit of detail for the hardest core fan, but for longtime devotees of the baseball team in Houston, I don't know if you are going to get a better video treatment than this. Recommended purchasing for said fans.