When I watched the 1991 World Series as it occurred, I thought at the time was that the Series (while being well-played), was a little bit predictable in that the road time looked so feeble. The Minnesota Twins had previously won the 1987 World Series winning all four of its home games, and playing in the Metrodome allowed the team to take advantage of an intimidating crowd presence. But in playing the Atlanta Braves this time, the teams were closer in performance than anyone, myself included, could have realized.
The two finished the season with nearly identical regular season records (the Twins had a 95-67 record, the Braves 94-68). Both teams had managers (the Twins' Tom Kelly and the Braves' Bobby Cox) who were named Managers of the Year. The Twins had a formidable core of talent with first baseman Kent Hrbek, outfielder Kirby Puckett and Chili Davis, with pitchers Jack Morris, Scott Erickson and Rick Aguilera making for a respectable pitching foundation. For all of their talent, the players were omitted from regular season honors. The Braves however, had the Most Valuable Player (third baseman Terry Pendleton) and Cy Young winner (Tom Glavine) to go with slugging outfielders Ron Gant and David Justice, and Glavine was part of what was recognized as one of the best pitching staffs in the league. And while the Twins breezed through the playoffs, dispatching the Toronto Blue Jays in five games of a Best of Seven series 4 games to 1, the Braves had a tougher time. Facing the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Braves were stretched to the full seven games, winning behind quality pitching from John Smoltz as the Pirates were shut out from scoring for the second consecutive game (the fifth overall shutout in the series). And the Series loomed.
For all of the talk about pitching being an equalizer in baseball, it largely proved to live up to the statement in the Series. Twins pitcher Jack Morris limited the Braves to two runs and five hits over seven innings while Greg Gagne hit a three-run homer to win the first game for Minnesota 5-2. Game 2 was more of a pitchers' duel, with Glavine limiting the Twins to four hits, though two of those were home runs, including a home run by third baseman Scott Leius in the eighth inning to win the second game 3-2. This was the first of three straight one-run ballgames, as the Braves won Game 3 in Atlanta 5-4 in 12 innings and Game 4 3-2 behind a suspenseful play at home plate where Mark Lemke avoided the tag by Brian Harper to level the series. One teams' offense managed to break out in Game 5, and it turned out to be Atlanta's, winning 14-5 behind 5 RBIs by Justice and two run-scoring triples by Lemke (a feat only accomplished five times prior in World Series history). So, moving back to Minnesota with a 3-2 Series lead, the Braves had to feel comfortable in winning one of those, albeit in chaotic surroundings with their pitching staff.
Game 6 started quickly, with the Twins putting up two runs in the first inning and holding the lead before Pendleton hit a homer with a man on base to equalize in the fifth. The tie was short-lived as Puckett hit a sacrifice fly to bring in Dan Gladden in the bottom half of the fifth to take a 3-2 lead, which was safe until the seventh inning when Gant beat out a ground ball which brought in Lemke and tied the game. It would remain this way until the 11th inning when Puckett hit a home run off Charlie Leibrandt (a starter pitching in reserve duty) to level the series. In Game 7, Smoltz and Morris shut out their opponents, and in the eighth the Braves threatened to take the lead, but outfielder Lonnie Smith held up at third base on a hit and run where he certainly would have scored with ease. It would appear that Smith fell for a decoy made by a Twins fielder indicating the ball was coming into the infield quicker than expected (Smith has denied he fell for it), and Smith would eventually be stranded on base with the game still tied. It would remain so until the tenth inning, where Gladden's leadoff double (the result of legging out a base hit) eventually led to a sacrifice fly by Larkin to bring him home for a 1-0 win and the second World Series win in five years for the Twins.
Both teams' pitching staffs providing great challenges for the managers, so things like running a single into a double, sacrifice bunts and fielders decoying runners really helped elevate the play of the game in the Series. It was the little stuff, the nuance that helped the Series be as well-played as it was. It also helped introduce the Braves onto the horizon in baseball, as they would be a perennial playoff contender for more than a decade. But for the Twins and their moment of enjoyment, they celebrated knowing that everything was left on the field in what was possibly the fullest Series of competition that the sport has borne witness to. 20 years after the Series played out to a rapt audience, its appearance on DVD for the first time is a welcome one.The Discs:
Full frame video for all seven games. Any flaws in the video are from imperfections in the source material, which looks good for the most part. There is no edge enhancement, haloing or additional post-processing in the image, things are a straightforward representation from the original broadcasts and finally having them on DVD is a good thing. A note to purists: the MLB watermark is present when viewing the games, so be prepared.The Sound:
Two-channel Dolby stereo for all of the games. All of the activity occurs in the front channels and there is little to no use of the rear speakers and subwoofer for the sporting activities. As is the case with recent World Series boxed sets (and a welcome one at that), there is an audio option to select the Twins radio broadcast as the track of choice. So far those of you who yearn for the days of Herb Carneal and John Gordon (the latter of whom was the Twins' radio voice in Little Big League), you're fortunate to get another chance at them, or listen to Jack Buck and Tim McCarver's call from the CBS broadcasts.Extras:
Nary a peep of bonus material. No trophy ceremony? Boo indeed.Final Thoughts:
It's very likely that few (if any) copies of this Series are around as is, so I'd definitely recommend that people visit the 1991 World Series to enjoy superbly executed baseball in all aspects. Twins fans should add this to their library if they haven't already, and get out your Homer Hankies for nostalgia's sake if you feel so inclined.