"Baseball's Greatest Games: Collectors Set" gathers ten separate games important to baseball's history in their entirety in one place for consumption by the most rabid baseball aficionado. The games included are as follows:
1960 World Series Game 7: New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates:
While Bill Mazeroski's now famous ninth inning, out-of-nowhere, game winning home run remains the game's lasting legacy, for the collector, having this game preserved at all is a miracle, as it remains the only complete televised broadcast of the series left in existence and comes from the estate of Bing Crosby. Ultimately, the drama of the game comes at the end, with the runs racking up and the score tied going into the bottom of the ninth. My earlier assessment still stands that to a casual fan of baseball, watching this game in its entirety is a reminder of why highlight reels exist, although in hindsight the novelty of seeing a vintage game (not to mention a powerhouse Yankee squad) does make the case for sitting through it at least once.
1975 World Series Game 6: Cincinnati Reds vs. Boston Red Sox:
The MLB network ranked this game at the top of their Greatest Games list and it's hard to argue against it. A very tight game following an early lead by Boston, the tension mounts as the game goes to 12-innings with neither team showing signs of letting their guard down. Of course, Carlton Fisk's bottom of the 12th, game ender cements a victory for Boston and through a simple in-the-moment theatrics by Fisk, goes down as a defining moment in baseball lore, even being immortalized in a pivotal scene in "Good Will Hunting."
1979 Wrigley Field Slugfest: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Chicago Cubs:
Wow. If there is one game that must be seen to be believed in this set it's this one. If your jaw isn't on the floor by the time the second inning starts with the score an astonishing 7-6, it will be at the end of the fifth when the Cubs, 12 runs behind the Phillies' mind-blowing 21, rack up an additional 7, to mount a comeback that doesn't quite pan out, taking the game into an extra inning. Multiple players score multiple home runs and when the dust settles, the final tally, 23-22, still seems hard to fathom, but it's captured here for posterity and is another solid addition to this collection.
1985 NCLS Game 7: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals:
Another game in the vein of the first in the set, in between the highlights: two-run homer that would tie-up the game until the ninth and Ozzie Smith's first left-handed homer to seal the deal for the Cardinals. Ultimately, this is one more for the fans of the teams playing.
1986 World Series Game 6: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Mets:
Full disclosure, when it comes to the Mets of the 80s, I'm biased, so on a personal level, this game was a treat. In general, this is a fun game to watch, with the lead traded back and forth with good regularity, culminating in a tense extra inning. For Boston fans it was a heartbreaking game because it sent the series to a game seven, which they ultimately failed to conquer. For Mets fans though, it was a glimmer of hope that this was their year, due in no small part to a classic, do-or-die play that closes this game.
1991 World Series Game 7: Atlanta Braves vs. Minnesota Twins:
This game, at a glance, on paper doesn't seem all that exciting. When actually watching the Braves and the Twins close out inning after inning with no runs scored until the bottom of the first extra inning, it becomes apparent why this one was included. The highlight for both viewers and the history books is Twins pitcher, Jack Morris pitching a shutout, which is no easy feat in the regular season, not to mention the final game of the World Series. This is one of the few, "slower" games that is compelling, if only for Morris' performance, which would play a larger factor in him taking the MVP title and start a three-year run of playing for series winning teams. An added bonus is a young John Smoltz taking the mound for the rival Braves.
1992 NLCS Game 7: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves:
A seventh game in a series is always a tense game, and the defending Braves were determined to secure another trip to the World Series. Entering the seventh though, the Pirates looked to have things wrapped up, nailing a 2-0 lead, that would hold until a dramatic bottom of the ninth comeback by the Braves. Like many other historic games, this is one that plays out in the final act and while the build up to the three run comeback isn't the most exciting and like some other games, emphasizes why the highlight reel is important, nothing can take away from the tension of the final moments of this game.
1993 World Series Game 6: Philadelphia Phillies vs. Toronto Blue Jays:
The Toronto Blues Jays entered the 1993 World Series as defending champions and the game presented here is a high scoring, back and forth contest that proved both teams were worthy of their respective spots. Like the previous game in this set, the bottom of the ninth looked like the leading team (the Phillies) would be taking things to a seventh and final game, but a three-run homer by Joe Carter would be the nail in Philadelphia's coffin, the Blue Jays' second consecutive World Series title and the last time they'd make it to the big show. In the modern era of Baseball it's sometimes hard to remember that the Yankees didn't always run the show, and this nearly 20-year old contest is a fine example of such a time.
2003 ALCS Game 7: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees:
The last two matches in the set are a two-fer with a lot of historical significance behind them. You don't have to be a Boston or Yankees fan to know of Boston's curse and the rivalry between the two teams is still heated and legendary. For Boston fans, this was possibly the year the curse would be broken, but for Yankees fans this was a chance to stick it to their rivals and get back into the World Series after a two-year absence following a three-year winning streak. The Yankees would crush the Red Sox' dreams yet again with an 11th inning home run, but it was a sign of a hungry Boston not willing to go out defenseless.
2004 ALCS Game 4: New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox:
The set ends with the ultimate underdog story set against the backdrop of history and rivalry. After losing in game seven to the Yankees, the Red Sox tried their best to send the Yankees packing a year later, but as the fourth game opened, they were facing a 3-0 deficit and history dictated no team ever turned the table. Boston though was ready to rewrite history and starting with one of those fairy tale, bottom of the ninth runs that would send the game into three more extra innings, culminating in not one, but two runs that sent the Yankees and world at large a message: Boston wasn't backing down. This isn't a game that captures the close of a series, it's one that shows the start of the greatest comeback in baseball history, that Boston rode to the World Series, sweeping the Cardinals and breaking the infamous curse. The emotion can be felt in the crowd and on the faces of every player, making this a fitting close to the set and one of the best inclusions.
Nearly 30 hours of vintage baseball games are an exhausting but enlightening experience and this set is not one to be taken lightly. Ultimately, the target audience is the baseball nut, not the casual fan of one team. There's not really a bias towards any specific team and all the games are available separately at a much-reduced cost. For that hardcore nut out there, this might be worth owning, although, while there are some truly gripping games included, there are some dull ones that only prove their historical significance at the eleventh hour.
With the exception of the last games in the set, the programs are presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios. The transfers are never impressive, with the oldest suffering some print damage, the middle exhibiting technical hang-ups associated with the original video format (some tracking issues at the very top of the frame on some games) and the most recent game, despite being presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, leaving viewers with moderate detail, noticeable compression artifacts, edge enhancement and slightly muted colors.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track varies from game to game with the oldest game having the roughest audio, complete with hiss and brief distortion between inning transitions. Even when it comes to the more modern era games, the audio is serviceable but lacking any true depth. The alternate radio play-by-play tracks are exactly what one would expect from a radio broadcast and do not match the quality of the TV commentaries.
On the previous standalone release of the 1960 World Series Game 7, there was a second bonus disc that featured a 45-minute World Series film giving a good overview of the game in context to the entire series, as well as series highlights and a set of interviews with the some of the players. In this collection, a lone bonus disc covers each of the ten games through interviews only. I can confirm the 1960 game 7 interviews are not the same as the standalone release and the interview segments are really lightweight as a whole.
The audio and video presentation is a bit rough due to the source material, but provided a prospective buyer understands the content of the set, "Baseball's Greatest Games: Collectors Edition" and feels the games will have high replay value, a purchase is a safe bet. For the average baseball fan, watching most of these games once is enough and securing games of special meaning (i.e. team allegiance) via the individual releases is the better route to take. Recommended.