I've been a Sox fan since I was a kid and throughout the years no amount of victories or loses have changed that. I'm not fanatical about sports like some and I don't want around chanting "Yankees suck!" (though that does hold some appeal) but whenever there's a game to watch or opportunity to get a seat at Fenway you better believe I'm going to do it. If you're anything like me then chances are good that MLB's latest release may hold some interest for you. The Boston Red Sox: Essential Games of Fenway Park features six games and bonus material dating all the way back to 1967.
This six disc set comes packaged in a regular sized steelbook style case so naturally it is aesthetically pleasing in your collection. The included games here are the September 30, 1967 game against the Twins, 1975 World Series game 6 vs. the Reds, April 29, 1986 game against the Mariners, the 1999 MLB All Star Game, the 1999 ALCS Game 3 against the Yankees, and the April 22, 2007 game vs. the Yankees once again. While some of these inclusions aren't exactly what you'd call "essential" for Fenway Park there are a few gems hidden in their midst.
The first disc which features the 1967 game is probably the biggest treat you're going to find on this set. In this particular game Carl Yastrzemski hit his 44th home run as the Sox rallied from behind to take the Twins. This game happened in the midst of a four way heat in the American League pennant race between the Sox, Twins, White Sox, and Tigers. With this game the Red Sox went on to win the American League and made their way to the World Series. Unfortunately the Cardinals won the series but at least this game versus the Twins was a nice snapshot of the time period.
The second disc in this set features the sixth game of the 1975 World Series between the Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds. In this game both teams slugged it out for twelve innings but it was the Sox that came ahead 7 to 6. This was all thanks to Carlton Fisk's walk-off home run in the 12th inning which game the Sox that necessary score. This obviously tied the series and forced a Game 7 but you can figure out what happened during that one. At any rate this game was another nice trip back in time to a Red Sox team most of us never saw.
From this point the set moves on into somewhat more recent memory with a 23 year old Roger Clemens pitching twenty strikeouts. He set a record with this game against the Mariners and it's one that he repeated later on as well. Watching this game was really a treat as it was truly a stellar performance by the Rocket and proved why he became such a figure in Boston (until he went to the Yankees that is). From there the set jumps to 1999 with the All-Star Game which was held at Fenway and game three of the ALCS against the Yankees. This particular game provided a nice contrast to the previous Clemens as Pedro Martinez virtually handed The Rocket his butt on a platter. Finishing things off here is another game against the Yankees which took place on April 22, 2007. There's nothing too fascinating about this game aside from a smattering of homeruns in the third inning.
All in all this six disc set is a nice treat for diehard Boston Red Sox fans who want to reminisce some fine moments of the franchise. Gems such as the 1967 game against the Twins and 1975 game against the Reds will undoubtedly entertain the most but even so this is hours of entertainment for baseball enthusiasts. For what you get, the cost of admission is a tad steep much like an elusive Fenway Park ticket but this is still a release that most Sox fans will want to see. Unfortunately this one is probably more of a rental unless you're a collector.
The video quality of this release is quit diverse as you'd expect given the fact that the footage dates back over forty years. The more recent games feature some nice quality with clean video and an overall polished look while the older outings a loaded with grain, dirt, softness, and issues pertaining to color. None of this comes as a surprise though because can we really expect a baseball game from 1967 to look as good as a more recent high definition broadcast? Not exactly. If you come knowing what you're getting then you'll be pleased.
Much like the video quality, the audio features similar presentational merits. The older games have less accurate sound, muffled audio, and a more subdued output while the more recent games offer some sharper quality that captures more detail. The stereo presentation is all around suitable for this release and it doesn't come as a surprise given the material.
The final disc on this collection houses all of the bonus material though some of it has been released before such as Buckholtz's no-hitter. For the most part each of these features is just a snapshot of material with only a few minutes of runtime. Even so they are definitely worth checking out if you enjoy highlights; just don't expect good video and audio quality. The compression rate is very poor for these features is very poor though I suppose it doesn't have to be outstanding in order to be enjoyed.
Included here is a look at "The Origins of Fenway Park", "Ted Williams: Fenway's Hometown Hero", "Ted Williams Throws Out First Pitch at 1999 MLB All-Star Game", and "Vintage Film: Yaz 1968 World Series Highlights at Fenway Park". Keeping things going is "Yaz 400th HR and 3000th hit", "Red Sox Clinch 1986 ALCS in Fenway Park" and "Brunansky's Amazing Catch Clinches 1990 AL East Crown". Those are all nice looks at older players and teams that have gone down in Red Sox history. More recently the extras here also take a look at "Derek Lowe's No-Hitter" from 4/27/02, Mueller's Walk-off HR vs. Mariano Rivera on 7/24/04, Dave Roberts' steal from 2004 ALCS Game 4, and Big Papi's postseason walk-off hits. The most interesting clip from recent memory is a 2003 game against the Mariners where the Red Sox scored 10 runs before receiving their first out in the game.
If you happen to love the Red Sox, or no someone who does, then The Boston Red Sox: Essential Games of Fenway Park is definitely a tempting treat. The six games that are included here are all entertaining in their own right though I do feel that the selection could have been better. A more complete look at a particular season or series of games would have gone a lot further than a haphazard collection of games but even so the stuff here is good enough.
I guess the bottom line is whether or not this set is worth purchasing. Most ever Red Sox fan should at least watch it but the question about buying the release brings up the replay value. I simply don't see anyone going back to watch these games again and again. Once you've seen the set it will undoubtedly be closed for good and because of that it's probably better served as a rental unless you're a collector.