The release of Game 7 of the 1960 World Series under the MLB's "Baseball's Greatest Games" tagline is easily one of the most niche releases in the sports DVD genre. Viewers who purchase or just merely watch the disc will get exactly what is advertised: the complete (sans commercials) telecast of the final game in the 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees. Originally broadcast on NBC, this recording, which was sourced from a telecine found in Bing Crosby's cellar (Crosby owned the Pirates at one time), the historical value of the program found on the disc is far more noteworthy than the ultimate novelty value of the game, which wears thing rather quickly; even with the alternate audio track which is a radio recording of the game. It's worth noting that the contrast between the televised commentary and radio commentary is striking. Mel Allen and Bob Prince are strictly business, providing a steady play-by-play of the action on screen; Chuck Thompson and Jack Quinlan on the other hand are tasked with not only giving the standard running commentary, but also building a level of excitement that helps sell the radio's classic "theater of the mind" adage.
First and foremost, I am not a huge baseball fan, but like many, understand the importance of the game to this country and the rich legacy associated with the game, especially in the heyday of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Having the opportunity to see such a historic game was source of huge excitement and for the first few innings, seeing the game, as it aired over 50 years ago, I was like a wide-eyed child, discovering something magical. Sadly, the novelty of seeing great players come up to the plate for their turn at bat and working their magic in the field and on the mound grows tiresome quickly. It's a 50-year-old game and we know how it will end; the result is long stretches of typical baseball punctuated by the occasional exciting highlight.
Fortunately, this game has a few great highlights, my personal favorite being a late in the game triple homerun from Hal Smith, pushing the Pirates into the lead. Not long after that, the Yankees would tie it up and the Pirates' second baseman, Bill Mazeroski would approach the plate in the bottom of the ninth and belt a solo homerun to win the game: the first and one of only two players to do so in the seventh game of a World Series. Mazeroski's place in history is rightly deserved, but it's a shame that the real magic of Smith's own accomplishment, is pushed to the side for the dramatic finish. Two hours and 15 minutes after it began, the game was over, and I despite the initial fun and historical significance of the game (and recording), I couldn't help but feel I had wasted my time.
This release is a classic example of why the highlight reel exists (and one for this game is found on disc two). The highlights are what fans remember and that few to several minute compilation is a much more efficient and practical way of relieving an old game. The moments that stuck out here, were all highlight material, from the previously mentioned homeruns, to a tense moment where Tony Kubek is struck in the throat from a bouncing ball. All these little things nicely fit in that perfect, "greatest hits" of the game segment. All those moments in between range from slow to merely tolerable. The only people I can see getting more out of this program are the hardcore Pirates fanatic or the hardcore Baseball historian; everyone else, is better off with that magic reel, that is a sports institution.
The 1.33:1 original aspect ratio is very rough looking, although the disc does open with a disclaimer warning of minor A/V errors. The footage, sourced from a black-and-white kinescope has a consistent jitter, print damage, and most noticeable, a thin black line that bounces up and down across the middle of the screen from time to time. The image is a bit washed out (possibly due to the original broadcast being in color) and detail is almost non-existent. That said, it's still a very watchable image and the sheer miracle the footage exists makes the poor quality more than tolerable. In fact, the biggest distraction comes from a small, MLB logo burnt into the upper right corner of the frame.
The English stereo audio is much better off. The TV announcers are very clear and there's a very quiet level of audio hiss. As noted, there are some A/V errors, but these are limited to transitions between innings; here the audio momentarily slows down and then speeds up to sync with the footage, it's odd, but understandable. On the flipside, the radio broadcast is in much rougher shape, featuring a fair amount of distortion, some light static and having a largely hollow sound.
While the main feature is ultimately a let down, the bonus disc helps ease the blow. The 1960s World Series film runs around 45-minutes and gives full color recaps and highlights of all seven games; it's a much more satisfying alternative to the full game seven. Additional footage includes highlights from the 1960s Pirates season, and interviews with Pirates players, Vern Law, Bill Mazeroski, Bob Skinner, and Hal Smith. These comments are entirely fascinating and in retrospect, having the full game to refer back to, makes some of their recollections more poignant. Lastly, are three, shorter interviews with Yankees players, Yogi Berra, Johnny Blanchard, Whitey Ford, Bobby Richardson, and Ralph Terry.
Historical significance and rarity issues aside, the main feature of this program doesn't begin to build a case for renting the disc, let alone buying it. Such a specific moment in Pirates and Yankees history is truly a niche item. However, the disc does deliver some very interesting bonus features that Pirates fans will want to check out, if not add to their collection. In short, a good game, but a nearly pointless release. Rent It.