The Philadelphia Phillies may be out of the running for a possible postseason berth in 2012, but there is little denying they have had a nice run of playoff and even World Series success in recent years. So the folks at Major League Baseball video and A&E have decided to put together a small compilation of memorable performances by recent and somewhat older Phillies teams that will hopefully make fans forget about what goes on the last 6 weeks of baseball season.
In terms of selection, the set is spread over four discs, one for each game selected by MLB video. One of the games took place at as Astrodome while another was at Veterans Stadium, the Phillies' old haunts for several decades before moving to their current location at Citizens Bank Park. The first game is from the 1980 National League Championship Series, where the Phillies came from behind to defeat the Houston Astros 8-7 in a wild extra innings affair in Houston. During this game the Phils scored five runs in the eighth inning to take a two-run lead that they would promptly lose in the bottom of the eighth, but would win in the 10th inning.
Disc Two focuses on the 1993 NLCS where the Phillies played host to the Atlanta Braves. The Braves of the '90s included superb pitching and timely hitting performances, though their World Series appearances were scant. Game 6 of the NLCS did them no additional favors, as Tommy Greene held the Braves to three runs and five hits over seven innings, and separate two-run extra base hits by Darren Daulton, Mickey Morandini and Dave Hollins (the latter of which was a home run) helped propel the Phillies to a 6-3 win where they would go on to play the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series.
They would lose the Series to Toronto, but this feeling was remedied 15 years later in 2008 when the Phils played the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. After taking a three games to one lead in the series and waiting almost two days to complete the game due to rain in Philadelphia, the Phillies would down the Rays in a close 4-3 battle. In 2010 the Phillies hosted the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Divisional Series, and after scoring four runs in the first two innings, the game was turned over to Roy Halladay, who contributed to the offense by driving in a runner and scoring later. Halladay pitched a perfect game earlier in the year and would throw a no-hitter in the game, only the second such effort in baseball history.
In terms of the game selection, in the past since the Phillies had so little to crow about, the dearth of decent games to pick from in the Vet was cumbersome. So we get Howard Cosell handling the 1980 game and the CBS era of baseball coverage of the early '90s. And since the Phillies eventually won the 1980 World Series over the Kansas City Royals, why not include the series-clinching win? If there is a 1980 Series box set out there which serves as justification NOT to include it, one would assume since a game from the already in existence 2008 Series set is in this set, the '80 Series would be in here in some manner or fashion.
So does the selection of games, dubbed 'Essential' by MLB and A&E, live up to the moniker? Not completely in my thinking, but it does make for a respectable variety of athletic competitions nevertheless. Instead of watching another team from the National League East perhaps threaten to make a deep playoff run, Phillies fans can take comfort with this set and embrace the nostalgia.
The first two discs are in full frame, with the last two being in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. I'm told 'these historic programs contain technical imperfections that are inherent in the original recordings,' so the quality of each game improves as the years get closer and closer to this one. There are some artifacts from time to time, but these games are straightforward reproductions of the original broadcasts, imperfections and everything. All of them look as good as they are going to get.
All four discs come with two-channel Dolby stereo tracks, and there are various alternate tracks to enjoy when watching the games. The discs usually have either the original televised audio or the Phillies' radio play by play, with the exception of Disc Three, which includes a Spanish audio track along with the Tampa radio call of the game. Kudos for being completists I guess, all of the action in the front channels sounds clear and without distraction.
Zip, zero, zilch.
The Essential Games of the Philadelphia Phillies may not be absolutely 100% for a fan of Phillies baseball, but by a peripheral look three of the four games in this set have not been available on video before, which is a testament to keeping things new and fresh in the MLB video arsenal. It's nothing special technically (and even less than same supplementally), and a solid pickup for the Philadelphia baseball fan in your life.