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A&E Home Video presents
The St. Louis Cardinals: Greatest Games of Busch Stadium 1966-2005 (1966-2005)

"Smith corks one into right, down the line, it may go! Go crazy, folks, go crazy! It's a home run, and the Cardinals have won the game by the score of 3-2, on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!"
- Jack Buck, 1985 NLCS Game 5

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: May 01, 2006

Stars: Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Tim McCarver, Willie McGee, Bruce Sutter, Keith Hernandez, Darrell Porter, Tommy Herr, Joaquin Andujar, Ozzie Smith, John Tudor, Todd Worrell, Vince Coleman, Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 14h:10m:00s
Release Date: May 09, 2006
UPC: 733961747157
Genre: sports


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- BC-C+ B

DVD Review

If you're a baseball fan, you've no doubt heard about St. Louis and what a great baseball town it is. Generally, that's true; baseball has always been number one among sports there, with the comically inept football Cardinals (at least until they blessedly left in 1987—thanks, Arizona!), the Rams, and the hockey Blues all trailing behind. In the last decade, Cardinal fans have had a good deal to cheer about, with the successful run of Tony LaRussa as manager and a host of great players coming through town. Like just about everybody who grows up in St. Louis, I grew up a Cardinals fan, though the strike of 1994 largely killed any real diehard interest that I had in baseball, and the pharmaceutically-fueled freak show of the late '90s was another turnoff. Today, I am the definition of a fair-weather fan, generally watching only when the playoffs roll around and even then it's a push. But I have plenty of fond memories of going to Busch Stadium (first game: opening day 1980 against Pittsburgh), memories rekindled by a new six-disc DVD set dedicated to Busch Stadium's "greatest games." "Most noteworthy" games might be a better descriptor, but for most fans, this set will provide a lot of good memories to celebrate the now demolished ballpark, which made room for the third incarnation of Busch Stadium, newly opened for the 2006 season.

Busch Stadium II, which replaced Sportsman's Park (renamed Busch Stadium in 1953), slotted into that period of stadium building when the buildings were intended to be multipurpose. Busch served as home to the godawful football Cardinals and Rams, high school football, soccer, and concerts in addition to its baseball duties. Consequently, Busch, and other stadiums in this mold, like Veterans Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium, came off as sterile, lifeless structures, all concrete and astroturf, devoid of the old-time charm of a Fenway or Wrigley. During the last decade, Cardinals ownership did their best to pump some life into the park, converting to a grass field and adding a hand-operated scoreboard among other touches to make the park much more aesthetically pleasing.

This set presents six full games, reaching back to Busch's early years for the first, Bob Gibson's commanding 17-strikeout performance against the Detroit Tigers in the 1968 World Series. In a year of dominant pitching, Gibson was awe-inspiring, finishing with a 22-9 record and a 1.12 ERA. A powerful presence on the mound, he carried his domination into the first game of the Series, leading the defending champion Cardinals to a 4-0 win, though they would lose the Series in seven games. Future felon Denny McClain (who had a 1.96 ERA himself) faced Gibson and took the loss. What was most interesting to me watching this game was the opportunity to see an actual game with Cardinals I had only heard about or seen in brief highlights, guys like Gibson, Lou Brock, Julian Javier, Roger Maris, Curt Flood, and others. The game also shows the vast gulf in coverage between then and even a few years later, as the now ubiquitous centerfield camera wasn't yet in constant use, as many pitches were shown from behind the plate. Something that hasn't changed is the inanity of most announcers, as Curt Gowdy and Harry Caray provide their share of eye-rollingly obvious comments.

The years after that Series loss were pretty lean ones; the club meandered through the 1970s, winning nothing. Whitey Herzog, still a legend in town today, joined midseason in 1980 as GM and manager, bringing in players like Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, and Bruce Sutter. After narrowly missing the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1981 season, the team won the National League East and swept the Atlanta Braves in the playoffs, setting up a World Series between the speed-oriented Cardinals and the slugging Milwaukee Brewers. The Cardinals won the Series in seven games, winning the final two games at Busch to wrap up their first title in fifteen years. Here we get Game 7, a 6-3 Cards win. Joaquin Andujar, one of my favorite Cardinals, mainly because he was crazy, started against Pete Vukovich, an ex-Cardinal traded away by Herzog. The game was fairly quiet until the sixth, when the Cardinals came back from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead. Two more runs in the eighth sealed it, and Sutter threw two perfect innings for the save. Most disappointing about this disc is the abrupt cut-off after the game's final out, where we see the start of the clubhouse celebration. Announcer Joe Garagiola tells viewers that more from the clubhouse is coming, but the fade to commercial heralds only the end of the disc. Why not show more of the celebration? I for one would have liked to see it, and it's not as if there wasn't room on the disc, containing as it does only the game.

One of the greatest moments in recent (relatively speaking) Cardinals history comes next, with Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS against the LA Dodgers. In the first of two successive victimizations of Dodgers closer Tom Niedenfuer, Ozzie Smith delivered the first left-handed home run of his career in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 2-2 tie, giving the Redbirds a 3-2 lead in the series. To be honest, I remember Jack Clark's Game 6 homer off Niedenfuer more vividly, but there's no denying the indelible nature of broadcaster Jack Buck's call of "Go crazy folks, go crazy!" which most of us certainly did. That call is available among the extras, in the short section dedicated to Ozzie.

After a miserable 1986, the Redbirds rebounded to win the NL East again in 1987, and after a contentious seven game series against the San Francisco Giants, the unlikely foe in the World Series was the Minnesota Twins, winners of just 85 games in the regular season. They had beaten the Tigers in the ALCS and were lucky enough to benefit from the rule that rotated home field advantage in the Series. The home team won every game in this Series, with the Twins coming out on top in their dome. Here however, we get Game 3, where John Tudor pitched seven solid innings in a 3-1 win. Frankly, this was something of a dull affair, with only two half innings where anything happened. If this had honestly been one of the greatest games of Busch Stadium, it would be depressing. That said, I always liked Tudor, and it was good to see him pitch again here. But if they were going to include a 1987 playoff game, why not the 1-0 win in Game 6 of the NLCS?

Insert a series of lean years, which saw Herzog's eventual resignation and Joe Torre's hiring and firing. In 1995, new ownership brought in general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Tony LaRussa, who immediately re-invigorated the club. This coincides with, to me, the least interesting portion of the set, the 1998 game in which Mark McGwire broke the single season home run record. Conveniently for the media, the game came against the Cards' main rivals, the Cubs, and in particular Sammy Sosa, who had been battling McGwire all season in the home run race. At the time, I was torn; it was exciting seeing a Cardinal at the heart of the chase for one of baseball's most revered records, but I also felt like McGwire, Sosa, and various others had to be using illegal substances to suddenly start jacking balls out of the park with such regularity. McGwire's subsequent cowardly performance in front of Congress, and Sosa's own weasely testimony didn't make them look any less guilty, though no definitive proof has ever been given for either using the juice. But yes, the game, what about the game? The Cardinals were average at best that year (hard to believe with legends like Delino DeShields and Fernando Tatis on hand), and McGwire's record shot was, dramatically speaking, a dud, a line drive that barely cleared the left field fence in Busch. It was something of an anti-climax after some of the moon shots he had launched in the previous 61. He did it though, and the game was paused for what seemed like an eternity, as they had to go through all the sentimental congratulatory stuff. Of course, all this would be rendered moot the next season, as an even bigger cheat did his own part to make a mockery of the game. But enough of this, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

In 2004, the Cardinals reeled off a league high 105 wins on their way to an easy division title, but the late surging Houston Astros provided a tough opponent in the NLCS. With each team winning their home games through the first six, the deciding Game 7 would pit Astros' ace Roger Clemens against the unheralded Jeff Suppan. The game lived up to the hype, as the Cardinals prevailed 5-2, rallying from a 2-0 deficit with home runs from Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen. Suppan outpitched the mighty Clemens, a pitcher the Cards had struggled against all season. I watched most of this series, and this game was a real nailbiter, given the stakes. But in the end, the Cardinals' big players came through like the best payers need to in such games. The team had nothing left in the World Series, but this series was at least fun.

I enjoyed seeing some of the great teams here (1998 excepted), and it brought back my own memories of going to Busch. I remembered that home opener in '80, when me and a friend royally cheesed off this shirtless fat guy in the next section down by flicking empty peanut shells at him. Or sitting in the bleachers and making fun of Darryl Strawberry. Going to a twi-night doubleheader (a sweep of the Braves) when they actually let you see both games with one ticket. Getting free tickets for having straight A's. And more. I now live in the Detroit area, and thanks to interleague play, I've seen the Cardinals play once at Tiger Stadium and then at Comerica Park, but it's never as good as the park you grew up going to. I imagine that if I ever get to a game at the new Busch, it'll be nice, but it won't be the same.

A set like this is limited by the availability of games, something we forget in this age of seemingly every game being broadcast somewhere. So I suppose the games chosen are a good enough representation of the Cardinals' time at Busch II. Any fan of the team will find something here to enjoy, from the great '60s team to the Whiteyball teams of the '80s, to the more recent squads still fresh in the memory. So, get yourself an Imo's pizza, grab some beer (preferably not Busch, it's swill), and enjoy this set.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Taken straight from the respective broadcasts, these games look fairly average at best, with even the 2004 game looking fairly unimpressive. The 1968 game suffers most, with numerous picture defects and plenty of interlacing. The rest are more watchable, but nothing you're going to be wowed by. All materials on each disc have an MLB logo in the top right corner.

Image Transfer Grade: C-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The broadcast audio is, like the video, what it is. Nothing special, basic TV audio of the time. I would have loved to have the Cardinals' original radio broadcasts of each game available as an alternate track, but that's not the case, and it's too bad, since the national announcers are usually exercises in blandness.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 86 cues and remote access
16 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
6 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras are deposited on the sixth disc, though spreading them out by disc according to time period would have been more logical. With sixteen different items, a "play all" function would have been greatly appreciated, but viewers must instead select each one from the two menu screens. The materials give a general impression of being hastily put together, with occasionally sloppy editing and a canned feel, with footage taken straight from This Week in Baseball and other official MLB sources and quickly stitched together. With a project like this, there was potential to do something a little more special, and this set just comes off half-baked. With that said, here's what you'll find:

Bob Gibson: Classic Footage, Hall of Fame Speech, Number Retirement (06m:37s); Lou Brock: Classic Footage, Hall of Fame Speech, Number Retirement (07m:24s) Both of these do exactly what the title says. Brock's segment includes footage of his 3000th hit and 105th stolen base in 1974 to break Maury Wills' record. Joe Torre: On Hitting Success (01m:17s) comes from Torre's managerial run here, and he discusses his MVP year of 1971. Red Schoendienst: Joe Torre Comments, Hall of Fame Speech (03m:58s); Keith Hernandez: On Hitting (01m:21s); This is a clip from 1980, after Hernandez's co-MVP season of 1979. Bob Forsch: No-Hitter (:24s) This shows the final out of Forsch's second no-hitter from 1983. Ozzie Smith: Mike Shannon, Classic Footage, Hall of Fame Speech, Number Retirement (09m:45s) The longest section highlights one of the most popular Cardinals of all time, and includes his 1985 NLCS Game 5 home run with the call by Cardinals announcers Jack Buck and Mike Shannon, amongst other footage. Jose Oquendo: Classic Footage (01m:18s) Fairly pointless clip of the "Secret Weapon" commenting after his 1987 NLCS home run; was this really the best they could do? Darryl Kile: LaRussa's Thoughts, Classic Footage (03m:24s) Brief tribute to the late pitcher. Mark McGwire: Press Conferences During Maris Chase, Home Run Montage (:44s) Only one press conference, with LaRussa, and then footage of home runs 69 and 70 from 1998. Jack Buck: Hall of Fame Speech, 9/11 Poem, Joe Buck's Thoughts (05m:52s) The Cardinals announcer gets the spotlight here. Scott Rolen: On Joining the Cardinals, LaRussa's Thoughts (02m:35s); Jim Edmonds: 2004 NLCS Game 6 Home Run, His Thoughts (03m:18s); Albert Pujols: First Home Run, Classic Footage, 2004 NLCS Game 6 Home Run (04m:06s) These three feature the Cardinals' current stars, though the Pujols one is rather cheesy and pre-fab. Busch's Final Send-Off (04m:47s) A clip from the final weekend's festivities at Busch with a brief speech by Whitey Herzog, and mentions of much more to come over the weekend, which we see none of. Dumb, and lame on the part of the people making this to not include more of this type of footage, celebrating the very stadium the box is dedicated to. And finally, Recognition of St. Louis Fans, Thoughts From Mike Shannon, Joe Buck, Tony LaRussa (01m:33s) A brief series of clips discussing how wonderful we fans are. Yay for us!

All of that material is okay, but with a little more effort, some more meaningful material could have been included. With the 1982 World Series, why not the MLB video of it? Why not a general documentary on the stadium and its overall history? Why not highlights of great moments from the 30+ years the Cardinals were there? Why not do a few new interviews, instead of this old stuff? I know, I know, it all costs money, but sets like this will sell plenty to the fans, and the Cardinals have a healthy-sized fanbase. They could have included footage of the All-Star Game Busch hosted. Or the 1967 World Series the Cardinals won against the Red Sox. Or the Cardinals' 100th anniversary celebration that Busch hosted in 1992. And so on and so forth.

In terms of packaging, each disc is housed in a slimline case featuring a somewhat overdone design scheme with various facts about each game crammed on the front cover. I noticed that the 1982 disc has an error. Not a major deal, but it gives further credence to the idea that this was slapped together. More useful is the box score on the back of each case, and on the inside sleeve, an inning by inning recap of all action. This makes for easy viewing if you simply want to see highlights and skip the boring bits, which I was grateful for.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Some great memories from the Redbirds' days at the now-demolished Busch Stadiumare gathered here, and fans should find plenty to take them back to the old ballpark. The set smacks of a cheap cash-in, despite some glossy packaging, but most fans probably won't care too much.

 


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