Though the Boston Red Sox are out of the Major League Baseball playoffs again and are looking for looking for a new manager...again, overshadowing the clubhouse drama for the second straight year is that Fenway Park was celebrating its 100th anniversary. The Boston park remains one of baseball's most adored despite its lack of modern conveniences (like wider seats, to name a couple), and as part of the centennial, A&E and Major League Baseball Video has put together a massive multi-disc set to celebrate.
The set is a dozen discs full of memorable moments in the Park's history, and from a packaging perspective reminds me of the Yankeeography set from last year. The set looks like a photo album in 11"x17" landscape, with a sturdy cardboard outer case. When the 'album' is pulled out, the pages house the discs inside them (to the point where it was slightly tough to pull them out, though fingerprint smudges are temporary). The pages within the book cover some of the great players and moments in shorter form, along with some of the quirks and history about the stadium itself, such as Pesky's pole and other nuances inside the park located on Yawkey Way.
As for the discs themselves? There are a ton of them, with twelve(!) discs to enjoy, with half of the set film-based and the latter half with some of the games that occurred in Fenway. Disc One starts with "Fenway Park: 100 Years at the Heart of Red Sox Nation" (1:33:22), which examines the stadium and events which have occurred in it. Featuring a host of interviews with players and writers, it also includes a historians' perspective on the park and the team in general. It is an extensive piece and well worth seeing if you are even familiar with the park. Along with this is a pregame ceremony for the 100th anniversary proper at the park (47:55), where tons of players, notable or not, are brought back to the team and mingle with the current roster. There are also the ceremonial first pitches thrown in there too. Discs Two and Three are highlight films of the Red Sox seasons, many of them narrated by Curt Gowdy. It is fun to watch the films evolve from the early days. The films from the 1955, 1957, 1967, 1975, 1978, 1986 and 1990 years are here, with the runtime ranging from 14:31 on one to (1:16:49) for the longest. Disc Three also includes the "Greatest Rivalries," (44:23) a presumed ongoing-produced show by MLB, with this installment focusing on the Red Sox rivalry with the New York Yankees.
Discs 4 and 5 look at the recent World Series championship years, with Disc 4 looking at 2004 and 5 in 2007. The 2004 Regular Season Film (1:26:19) and World Series Film (1:31:13) show us the highs, lows and memorable moments from that year, while the 2007 film (1:20:53) and World Series reel (1:11:56) do the same. Disc 6 is titled "Red Sox Memories" and looks at the moments in October that the team has witnessed. Working from (presumably) 2007 backwards, the film includes interviews with players and writers, much in the same vein of the films mentioned earlier, and the discussion about an all-time Red Sox team is discussed, taking up more than half of the 1:53:37 run time. The material is certainly compelling, particularly on the first two discs, but I do not know why it takes almost two hours to cover ground in "Red Sox Memories" which could have been covered in 75 or even 90 minutes.
Moving onto the games, Disc 7 kicks things off with a late season matchup against the Minnesota Twins on September 30, 1967. The Sox would win the game behind a key Carl Yastrzemski home run and would later take the American League pennant, moving onto the World Series. Disc 8 includes Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, an extra-innings affair with the Cincinnati Reds that some consider the greatest game played in the modern era. It was a back and forth game with tension and drama, until Carlton Fisk's home run in the 12th won it for the Red Legs. Disc 9 looks at Game 7 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS), where the Sox won 8-1 and completed a rally after being down three games to one, and moved onto the World Series.
Disc 10 is the 1999 All-Star Game, a fun and leisurely affair that introduced the best team of the century for baseball, and their on-field introduction, including the legendary Williams. Disc 11 focuses on Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, where pinch-runner Dave Roberts' stolen base led to the Sox tying the game, eventually winning that in extra innings, rallying the Sox after a 3-0 games lead to win the Series and onto the World Series to boot. The last disc looks at Game 7 of the 2007 ALCS, where the Sox had evened up the Series after being down three games to one, and blowing out the Cleveland Indians 11-2 and onto the World Series where they would romp again.
Some of the game inclusions in this set are natural, such as the '75 Series or the '07 ALCS Game 7. Both of which occurred at Fenway and both prove to be amazing moments for those who were there. That said, much of what is in the game selection, and in the set in general, has been recycled from other sets. Three of the games are included in the earlier Essential Games of Fenway Park set that exists. The 2004 ALCS game (along with the World Series film) and the 2007 ALCS game can be found on the 2004 and 2007 Collector's Edition sets, respectively. And the All-Star Game, while remaining memorable, lacks the pregame activities that make it so. So looking at things strictly from a financial perspective, I could buy a third of this set for a fraction of the cost of this behemoth, and not have to get bled for this thing. With that said, is the disc in and of itself worthy of the anniversary that it celebrates? To quote the great Omar Little, 'Oh indeed.'
The set itself is a variety of footage, going from full frame video to 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen the closer things get to present day. As is the case with past releases most (if not all) of the flaws in the material are inherent in the source. I mean, we are talking about some things that are more than four decades old. No edge enhancement or haloing is going to be found here, the discs are faithful to the broadcast footage and have not been cleaned up in any apparent way. And yes, virtually all of the discs in the set include the MLB watermark in the upper right corner of the screen.
Two-channel Dolby stereo is the norm, with some mono tossed into the mix for the older material. None of what occurs in the small soundstage was surprising, as game action and broadcasting all sounds fine in the front channels, and panning to/from either channel was sparse if not nil. The more polished products (like the highlight films from the recent World Series victories) sound better though it is to be expected. All in all this is straightforward stuff.
You really want to bemoan a lack of bonus material on a 12-disc set? Well, I guess that's on you I suppose.
The Collector's Edition of the triumphs occurring in Fenway Park includes more than a full day of video of games, highlights, interviews and remembrances of all things Boston Red Sox, and purely from a home team's perspective is as complete as you are likely to see. The large disclaimer here is that a good portion of said material is already out there in the wild, so if a Red Sox fan has purchased that, he is deciding whether or not to spend anywhere from $75-$100 on what amounts to six or seven discs and fancy packaging. That is something for each to consider on their own, but individually and in a vacuum, this set is the bee's knees for Fenway Park junkies and Red Sox fans in general.