Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Baseball's Seasons: The 1980s DVD Review

Reviewed by Allie Schembra
Miracles, earthquakes, backflips and that's just the beginning. Some of the most entertaining baseball was played in the '80s, with Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines stealing bases at a historic pace. And Fernando Valenzuela? The sport had never seen anything like it. The '86 Mets were as controversial as they were dominant, taking New York on the ride of its life. Not to mention Kirk Gibson in '88. From pine tar to dominant pitching, Don Mattingly to Bo Jackson, the '80s were an incredible time to watch America's Pastime. This DVD set provides the definitive look at 1980s baseball with ten episodes of Baseball's Seasons, produced by Major League Baseball Productions and seen on MLB Network.

Show (3 out of 5 stars)
Here’s my disclaimer – I love baseball. I’ve played softball since I was eight years old, and I am a born and bred San Francisco Giants fan, who has appreciation for a few other teams (Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Angels, San Diego Padres, Milwaukee Brewers, and New York Yankees). I watch many games a year, yell at the television, can hold my own during statistical conversations about the game and probably know more about the sport than the average girl. My family has always been involved with baseball – from family members playing in the Pacific Coast League to working for the Oakland A’s organization to growing up hearing stories from my grandfather about his friends, Billy Martin, Whitey Ford, Joe DiMaggio and many other classic baseball players. That said, I was the perfect person to sit down over two days and binge watch this documentary.

When the 1980s began, I was too little to remember many of these players’ rookie seasons, but I remember growing up watching them play and listening to them on the radio, whenever they came to town and played against the San Francisco Giants or Oakland A’s. Baseball hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years, but in a way, it has changed so much. You still see amazing plays, long home runs, rabid fans, passionate players, fights, and so many more things that make this game so exciting. Now, though, players make significantly more money than they did, earning hundreds of millions of dollars over multiple year contracts, you don’t see many players spend their whole career with one team, and in recent years, with the steroid scandal, players who genuinely play well are questioned.

The 1980s was a decade with so many wonderful players on all teams, they are still highly revered today and the children who collected baseball cards between those years treasure those cards and kids who collect baseball cards today have no idea what kind of players we watched… today, many of those players – Kirk Gibson, George Brett, Bruce Bochy, and many more are coaches and are passing on their knowledge and love of the game to the players of today. Baseball’s Seasons: The 1980s celebrates those players and gives you a glimpse into game during a time that helped shaped the games you see today.

Disc One:
  1. 1980: Hot Corner Champions – Looking at the 1980 Philadelphia Phillies and Kansas City Royals and their race for a World Series ring. Both teams were depending on their respective third basemen – Mike Schmidt and one of my favorites from the 80s, George Brett. The episode takes a look back at the 1980 season and all its ups and downs.
  2. 1981: A Season Interrupted – When the 1981 season was interrupted by a players strike, owners scramble to make a deal, but after more than a month, a federal mediator and an agreement not on the table, the season was in danger of being cancelled. Once the season resumed, the season started all over again and the pre-strike league leaders would play in the playoffs against the post-strike league leaders. This was the first time a split season was used. And ultimately, the World Series pit the New York Yankees against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  3. 1982: Anything Can Happen – In 1982, baseball had a tough road ahead with trying to erase the bad memories from the previous season and its strike. Teams came out stronger than ever with new coaches and players including Steve Sax, Ozzie Smith and one of the greatest players of all-time, Cal Ripken, Jr.
  4. 1983: Charm City – Trades of some of teams’ more popular player changed the teams, pitchers began setting strikeout records, and the White Sox have their “ugly season.” Cal Ripken, Jr. and Steve Garvey fight for the longest consecutive game record, with Garvey dropping out due to injury. This opened the door for Ripken, Jr. to begin his lone run for the record.

Disc Two:
  1. 1984: Year of the Tiger – The race for the 1984 World Series showing the contending teams and their path to the series. The Tigers had little competition, but in the National League, the San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs went down to the wire in the National League Championship Series.
  2. 1985: Diamond Royalty – Pete Rose chases Ty Cobb’s record on most hits and more pitching records in 1985 are what made the season so much fun. Dwight Gooden starts his second year as a starting pitcher for the New York Mets. This year, the chase for the World Series ends with the Kansas City Royals facing off against the St. Louis Cardinals.
  3. 1986: Expect the Unexpected –Roger “Rocket” Clemens joins the Boston Red Sox and just blows everything by his opponents with 20 strikeouts in his first game. The theme of the 1896 season was as the title implies – expecting the unexpected. The 1986 Mets players were full of pranksters, brawlers and ejections. A fighting team. Every team that year has surprising players making good plays, great hits, setting more records and ultimately, the New York Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

Disc Three:
  1. 1987: What a Blast – 1987 brought MLB still looking for a back-to-back World Series winner. Unfortunately, that wasn’t what happened, but what did happen was more home runs averaged per game than ever before. Jose Canseco became the first player to make the 40-40 club – which today seems like nothing. The Twins win their first World Series in Franchise history.
  2. 1988: Hollywood Ending – In 1988, the Oakland A’s have become the team to beat with Dennis Eckersley, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco dominating the field. In Los Angeles, the Dodgers are rallying behind their star pitcher Orel Hersheiser. When October arrived, the A’s faced off against the Dodgers , only to lose the series.
  3. 1989: Seismic Changes – 1989 brought redemption for the A’s who against were the team to beat. After the defeat the previous year, the A’s came out of the gate running. In the National League, teams were searching for dominance and the defending champions Los Angeles Dodgers were trying to repeat. In the American League and 19-year-old rookie was lighting up the league. Ken Griffey, Jr. joined the Seattle Mariners and set all sorts of rookie records in the league. After an exciting season, the first (and to date, only) Bay Bridge Series was played when the Oakland A’s took on the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. After Game 3 was delayed by the devastating Loma Prieta earthquake, the A’s ended up sweeping the Giants and finally winning a World Series.
Video (3 out of 5 stars)
You can’t really fault the series for bad video since a lot of it is stock footage from the 1980s. As the decade went on, the picture quality got a little better, but was still grainy and blurry at times. That said, the wide-screen 1.78:1 presentation of Baseball’s Seasons: The 1980s was average. In spite of the grainy and blurry footage, colors were mostly bright and interviews with players and coaching staff were really good. It’s amazing how different picture quality is from then to now, and hard to believe that at one time, what we were watching was, what we thought, a good picture.
Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio was really good. Like the video, much of the audio is from stock footage, but it’s still really good. It’s clear and intelligible and really brings back the memory of the 1980s baseball seasons. The narration was good and the script was well-written. It had the “documentary” feel, but it wasn’t boring or monotonous.
Extras (0 out of 5 stars)
There are no special features on the DVD. I wasn’t expecting any since the whole series is footage of games from throughout the decade.
Summary (2 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The absolute only reason for the low score for Baseball’s Seasons: The 1980s is because there are no special features. Baseball has been in my blood my whole life and will continue to flow through my veins. After watching this series, I have a new appreciation for the sport than I did. When you are kid in the 1980s, you tend to not pay attention to the details and just watch for the fun of it. I remember spending time freezing at Candlestick Park with my mom and dad and my little brother, going to the Oakland Coliseum to watch the Oakland A’s play and returning home on October 17, 1989, and seeing my dad standing the middle of the street watching me as I rode my bike home from school during an earthquake that devastated much of San Francisco and other areas. These are memories that I will always have with me and they all revolve around baseball. Every kid should have similar memories and every kid should have a favorite player, who even as an adult, they still love. For me, that is (in m opinion) the best first baseman in the game, San Francisco Giants number 22, Will “The Thrill” Clark. Baseball’s Seasons: The 1980s is a DVD set that I will be passing along to my dad and to my grandfather… the two biggest baseball influences in my life.

Order your copy today!

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