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THE CINCINNATI REDS: 1975 WORLD SERIES COLLECTOR'S EDITION

Review by Michael Jacobson

Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  A&E
Features:  See Review
Length:  1033 Minutes
Release Date:  June 13, 2006

“Don’t you wish you were this strong, Pete?” Carlton Fisk to Pete Rose, while rounding the bases on his Game 6 winning home run

Film ****

To this day, it remains one of baseball’s most heralded moments.  It was Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.  The Boston Red Sox were down 3 games to 2 to the Cincinnati Reds.  It was tied 6-6 in the twelfth inning.  Carlton Fisk of the Bosox hit a towering line drive down the left field line off of pitcher Pat Darcy.  Would it be fair or foul?  Fisk stuttered toward first base, eyes on his ball, waving his arms frantically as if to will it to stay fair.  It hit the foul pole, giving him the game winning home run and proving that baseball is indeed a game of inches.  But in 1975, the supposed curse of the Red Sox was still in full swing, so the glory was short lived.  The Big Red Machine would come back in Game 7 to take back the history that was rightfully theirs.

When I was a kid, there was no team like The Big Red Machine.  There were guys like Johnny Bench, who revolutionized the role of the catcher with his power.  Pete Rose, not known as “Charlie Hustle” for nothing.  Joe Morgan, with his speed and surprising power for his size.  The agile Dave Concepcion, whom the girl next door to me had a huge crush on.  And who could forget Tony Perez, Ken Griffey Sr., George Foster and more?  They had a fearsome line-up from top to bottom.

Johnny Bench was my first baseball hero.  I had the “Johnny Bench’s Batter-Up” to help me practice for little league.  I even had the “Pete Rose All-Star Baseball Game”, a silly little contraption that preceded video games.  I did not, however, have the “Pete Rose Gambling Bonanza”.  That came later.

Watching A&E’s complete seven disc set of the classic 1975 World Series was a jog around the bases of my memory, and will give all baseball fans a chance to relive the glory of one of the greatest teams in the history of the game.  The Reds’ lineup was chock full of future Hall-Of-Famers.  The Red Sox weren’t so bad themselves, with greats like Fred Lynn, Carl Yastzremski and Carlton Fisk.  Lynn and Joe Morgan were the respective league MVP winners of that year.  And both teams came ready to play in an era where the game just seemed bigger and better than it has in recent years.

That Series will always be remembered for Fisk’s Game 6 heroics that put the Sox in position to finish off the mighty Reds at home in the final deciding game.  But the fireworks had only just begun.  The Sox would jump to a 3-0 lead in the finale, but couldn’t hang on to it.  The Big Red Machine simply would not be dismantled in 1975.

Watching a great past Series like this, with so many legends in their prime doing what they did best, was like a tonic for me.  I’ve always loved baseball, and always will, but there hasn’t been much in recent years to cheer about.  The steroid scandal rocked the game, tainting some of the great moments of years before like the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run chase.  Now, in 2006, fans had to watch another juicer, Barry Bonds, topple Babe Ruth on the home run list.  It left a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who didn’t live in San Francisco.

But in 1975, you saw lean guys with power and speed.  Guys who didn’t need 40 pounds of body armor just to step into the batters’ box.  Guys who cared more about the game than the endorsement deal.  Not everyone can agree on what’s ailing the game today, but one need only look back 30 years to remember what was once so right about it.

America’s pastime may be hobbling a bit now, but it once strode fast and proud like Joe Morgan stealing second base, or Johnny Bench running down a foul ball behind the plate.  If you’re a fan like me, this set is just the thing to get you pumped up about the game, and to remind you what it was like to get pumped up before EVERY game.

The Big Red Machine went down in history as one of the greatest teams ever, maybe second only to the 1929 Yankees and their Murderer’s Row.  It was talent, grace and power on display in an unforgettable showcase of athleticism and sportsmanship.  The game just doesn’t get any better than that.  For modern fans, that’s kind of a shame.

Video **

The quality is about as good as you can expect for 1975 television standards.  The NBC broadcasts can’t help but show a little age; images are a bit soft and colors aren’t always as pure as they could be, but I don’t think much could have been done to improve it.  Just enjoy the umpires and their outfits…burgundy jackets with deep blue trousers?  God bless the 70s, man.

Audio **

The same can be said about the audio.  There’s no problem with the commentators or the overall sound of the game, but like most old TV broadcasts, it’s not entirely clean, and dynamic range is flat.  It’s as good as it needs to be.

Features ***1/2

As a fan of the Big Red Machine, I really dug the extras in this set.  You can watch the final clubhouse celebration and downtown rally as Cincinnati welcomed their champions home, see some pre-game interviews, and enjoy some classic conversations with Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, Pete Rose, Sparky Anderson, Ken Griffey, Don Gullet, Marty Brenneman, Bernie Carbo, Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn.

I also like the menus, which presented the scorecard for each game so that you could navigate each one by half-innings.  It makes it easy to find your favorite moments.

Summary:

The word ‘classic’ gets bandied about too easily these days, but there’s no better word to describe The Big Red Machine or the unforgettable 1975 World Series.  This terrific box set from A&E preserves a classic piece of sports history for all time, and if you love baseball, you’ll enjoy this one again and again.

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