In recent years, on or around Feb. 23, Cubs fans often find themselves sitting in a virtual waiting room, watching one (or sometimes several) computer screens constantly refreshing as they wait for their turn to be "let in" to buy tickets. The Cubs are one of the few teams I'm aware of in the majors where there is such a crush of people wanting tickets that the "waiting room" process had to be implimented a few years ago. By the end of the first day of ticket sales, many games are sold out and many others have only limited seating left. Even after the White Sox won the World Series on the other side of town a couple of years ago, you could still get tickets rather easily the next season after.
Meanwhile, the Cubs (no offense to the North siders) may not always be the best team in the majors, but even in their lesser seasons of recent years, Wrigley still often remains jam-packed. People come out to Wrigley Field because they support the Cubs, but also because they want to see a ballgame in one of the few historic stadiums left (Wrigley's the second-oldest ballpark in the major leagues, followed by Fenway Park being the oldest) for that classic, old-fashioned ballgame feel that you just don't get in a lot of the sleeker new parks.
Prices have gone up in the years since I saw some of the players included in this set as a kid, but memories of those games can be relived through this enjoyable (and extensive) box set available from A & E. While A & E has recently been putting out complete sets of World Series games, this is one of the first to organize a set of games for fans of a specific team. The set includes 8 complete and unedited games that look at some of the best games from Cub greats of the 80's, 90's and 00's.
The games included are:
-Ryne Sandberg: June 23, 1984-5 for 6, 2 HR, 7 RBI
-Rick Sutcliffe: 1984 NLCS game 1-no ER allowed, one HR hit
-Andre Dawson: Aug. 1, 1987-3 for 4, 3 HR, 5 RBI
-Mark Grace: 1989 NLCS game 2-3 for 4, 4 RBI
-Kerry Wood: May 6, 1998-20 strikeouts
-Sammy Sosa: September 13, 1998-61st and 62nd home runs
-Greg Maddux: Aug. 7, 2004-300th career win
-Derrek Lee: June 1, 2005-5 for 5, 1 HR, 4 RBI
The set provides a good mix of games for Cubs fans (and if Wrigley was smart, they'd sell the set in the park), starting with Hall of Famer Sandberg's 7 RBI game against the rival St. Louis Cardinals, which saw the cubs down 7-1 after two innings, only to manage a comeback in the 11th inning, winning the game 12-11. Andre Dawson is another example of a classic Cubs player. In 21 seasons, Dawson recorded an amazing 2,774 hits and was so eager to join the Cubs that he let General Manager Dallas Green determine his salary. It's a surprise that Dawson hasn't gotten inducted into the Hall of Fame yet (Sandberg tried to push for Dawson in his Hall of Fame speech.) As for newer highlights, one disc offers Kerry Wood's 20 strikeout game from 1998 versus the Astros. The 20-year-old Wood's 20 strikeouts tied a Major League record set by Roger Clemens.
What does disappoint me again here - and I've mentioned it in every review of a Major League Baseball product on DVD - is that the MLB logo is once again seen throughout the entire program. While the logo is fairly small, it's sizable enough to be distracting. I was hoping that, for a set as expensive as this, it would be gone, as people who are buying this set have spent a lot to have to view the entire games with the logo in the top corner.
A positive note that must be mentioned is the set's use of the inserts for each of the discs. Instead of just slapping on some basic graphics, the inserts (both inside and out) provide a scorecard, game highlights, trivia, attendance, number of pitches, game running time and trivia. All the information you need to know about each game has been fit onto the cover. Additionally, the scene selection menu allows viewers to skip to the top/bottom of a specific inning.
VIDEO: The games are presented in 1.33:1 full-frame by A & E and, as noted before the menu, the games do have some imperfections that were in the original broadcast recordings. While they have made efforts to try and correct some of these issues, some do remain. As one would expect, since some of these games are over 20 years old, they do look their age, both in terms of graphics used in the broadcast and general wear. Some of the older broadcasts in the set do look mildly soft/grainy, while the newer broadcasts look a tad sharper. The one issue I noticed was in the Derrek Lee broadcast, which seemed to have a small/thin horizontal band appeared slightly distorted and that stretched across the lower half of the screen. This wasn't horribly distracting, but it was noticable throughout much of the broadcast and it's too bad that this couldn't be cleared up somehow. Otherwise, these games look about broadcast quality and on-par with the games shown in other A & E baseball sets.
SOUND: Clear, crisp stereo audio.
EXTRAS: While this is not one of A & E's World Series sets, the box set does include a similar set of additional bonus footage relating to the material. Footage includes:
Billy Williams Day speech to Wrigley Field fans
National Baseball Hall of Fame speech highlights: Harry Caray, Ryne Sandberg
Ernie Banks: MLB All-Century Team member
Rare Ernie Banks postgame interview on 500th HR
Special game footage:
Ernie Banks 500th HR
Wrigley Field highlights: Billy Williams, Ron Santo
Last two outs of Ken Holtzman's no-hitter
Dunston, Sandberg, Dawson 1990 All-Star Game intros at Wrigley Field
Aramis Ramirez hits three HR in a game twice in 2004
Cubs clinch 1984 NL East title
Cubs clinch 1989 NL East title
Cubs clinch 2003 NL Central title
Final Thoughts: This is a great set for Cubs fans, offering a set of entertaining games from recent years, complete and unedited. Audio/video quality is mostly fine, and the bonus footage is a nice addition. Recommended.