The (most) recent breakdown in bargaining negotiations between the National Hockey League and its Players' Union has incurred mass bemoaning. For those who simply just do not have a fondness for football, the counting down to baseball's spring training has begun in earnest, and with History of the Fall Classic, a six-hour, four-disc set, we get an extensive appreciation of Major League Baseball's signature event from one of its most visible ambassadors.
Narrated by Bob Costas, the feature spans the decades and individual World Series, spending several minutes on each, as they recount the games' collective transpiration. In the older era, interviews with historians, writers and fans of the game are shown as the remembrances about moments in the games, or the games themselves, are discussed. The first disc spends most of its time in the pre-televised era, as things such as the Black Sox scandal (where a team conspired to throw a World Series), Babe Ruth's called shot home run and other memorable jewels from those old Series are examined and elaborated.
The second part of the feature focuses on the modern era and includes participation on the games played by some of the players who helped shape how fondly those games are recalled. The interviews with historians and writers still remain mind you, but those interviews are somewhat reduced with the players' role in the games taking center stage. Mixing the interviews with game footage is an easier task to match up to as the Series rapidly approach the most recent one (2011 in this case), with the older ones being more of a chore to address for obvious reasons. Still, Costas manages to serve as a capable host, with acceptable narration before and after interviews, and over game footage as need be.
While the Major League Baseball video folks have put together an admirable package of material, I think the personal level of enjoyment depends on how familiar one is with the subject being discussed. If you are a hardcore baseball fan, not a lot of what is presented will be new science, so to speak, but from a superficial perspective things are meatier and more entertaining. With four hours and more than a century to cover, there are always going to be some things left out, so take what you can get, you know?
While imperfect to some, History of the Fall Classic proves to have ambitious intentions, and removing the familiarity aspect of it for me, is a nice and somewhat extensive look at one of the things that makes Major League Baseball so fun. With the oncoming winter dearth of sports for some, at least this set is here to keep your proverbial toes warm.
There is a bit of a mix here, with the feature presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and the vintage footage is reformatted to suit that ratio. This proves to be slightly curious because on the bonus material, the old film's 1.33:1 aspect ratio remains intact. All of the film looks fine, or as good as it is going to look, with occasional flaws inherent in the source. The interviews and newly shot transitional footage looks fine and untouched from an image processing perspective, and the discs look as good as one would expect. It should be noted the MLB watermark is missing from most of the feature, but all over the bonus material.
The two-channel Dolby stereo track is fine, albeit a fair representation of the filmed events either via studio or the televised footage. There are no dropouts or chirping through the channels and the narration and action sounds clear without distortions. You are not going to be wowed or disappointed, the material is what it is.
The first two discs cover the feature, the last two include bonus footage. Disc Three (59:21) includes pictures of World Series programs, tickets or other memorabilia from the Fall Classic from 1905 onward. The disc then segues to interviews with writers, historians, players and managers of various Series as they talk about memorable moments from the eras. The piece moves on to bloopers, cool moments, post-game interviews and the like. Disc Four (1:41:49) is straightforward, capturing the last outs and in some cases trophy presentations from World Series from 1952 on. There are some gaps along the way, but the footage is fun to watch, particularly as the years go and celebrating players throw down and/or punch fans who have rushed the field to take part in the joyousness.
History of the Fall Classic may not serve as the "La Rousse Gastronomique" for Major League Baseball videos, but its walk through the mythology and lore of the World Series proves to be well-paced and informative regardless. Technically it is about on par with previous MLB/A&E releases, and from a bonus material point of view proves to be surprisingly entertaining. I would certainly give it a spin for the baseball fan you may be acquainted with.