For years, I've been waiting for the 1984 World Series to show up on DVD. Frankly, I thought it would never happen--despite having one of the most remarkable seasons in MLB history, this 1984 Tigers team is still inexplicably and wrongly dismissed by fans and sportswriters who (a) still regret that the Chicago Cubs, despite taking a 2-0 lead in the N.L.C.S., would fail to win the pennant after a remarkable San Diego Padres comeback, and (b) preferred to focus on the riots which occurred in the streets of Detroit in the aftermath of the Series victory.
Needless to say, there is very little mention of the Cubs and no mention of the riots in this set. To finally own all five of these games on DVD (or any medium) is a dream come true. However, as this is the first complete World Series DVD box that I have ever purchased, I was taken aback by certain aspects of this set--I don't know if my expectations were too high; I'll just discuss the thoughts I had as I made my way through these games.
First of all, I was disappointed by the packaging. Other such collections, including the "Essential Games Of The Detroit Tigers" box, very nicely packaged each individual disc in a slim DVD case complete with artwork and a boxscore. This set, in contrast, crams all five discs into a single DVD case; box scores are included in an enclosed booklet. Still--no big deal.
According to the outer packaging, the set includes "RADIO CALLS--listen to local radio broadcasts for all five World Series games." This was good news--a highlight of the "Essential Games Of The Detroit Tigers" box was the inclusion of the original WJR radio broadcast with Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey as an alternate audio track for Game 5. Naturally, I assumed that Games 1 through 4 would also include the original WJR broadcasts. Unfortunately for fans of Ernie and Paul, Games 1 and 2 instead contained audio from the CBS Radio Sports network broadcast with Jack Buck and Brent Musburger. In addition, the audio quality ranges from fair to poor--during the 7th inning of game one, it stops completely and does not pick up again until the bottom of the 7th, where it sounds even worse.
Still the video for games 1 and 2 isn't bad at all; each DVD opens with a disclaimer as to how the presentations reflect the quality of the existing materials, yet the problems that crop up on the first two discs are comparatively minor. It would be nice if these presentations included the pre-game shows--player introductions and the national anthem--but they do not.
But the real problems with this set start with Games Three and Four. The good news: the WJR broadcasts with Ernie and Paul are available as a bonus audio track for games 3, 4 and 5, and the audio quality is outstanding---at least, I don't remember ever picking up WJR signal this clearly, and it was a 50,000-watt station.
The bad news--the quality of the video is jaw-droppingly poor. The video source does not appear to be a broadcast master, but a poor dub from a VHS recording of the game. NBC's on-screen graphics, which did not appear at all during the first two games, are now in evidence, but the picture is fuzzy, the picture rolls in spots and strobes in others, and worst of all--during the first inning of Game 3, the Scully/Garagiola NBC audio cuts out completely, and is replaced by...the Buck/Musberger radio call. FOR THE NEXT TWO INNINGS. Scully and Garagiola return during the top of the third inning (at the 52-minute mark of this 2:34 presentation, but Buck and Musberger audio is again substituted at the top of the 5th.
Also in my notes, I wrote: "Picture at the middle of the 4th is horrible beyond belief." The picture was blurring into ghost-like blobs, as though what I was watching was in the process of being chewed up by a top-loading Betamax. I stopped noting such individual moments; suffice to say that Game 4 contained more of the same, although it never needed to fall back on any more Buck/Musburger audio.
Don't get me wrong--I'm not one of these people that yaks about "artifacts" and "edge enhancement" like I even know what that stuff is. But when the clearest image on the screen is the MLB watermark in the upper right hand corner, I at least have to wonder why MLB thinks that anybody would want to bootleg such a crummy picture.
The Game 5 disc appears to essentially replicate the disc from "Essential Games Of The Detroit Tigers" (save for the menu); like that disc, it ends before the moment at the end of the game where Kirk Gibson was seen shoving a fan during the postgame on-field melee.
Here's the thing: I'm not sure I can blame A & E for this, to the extent that it is apparent that somebody, somewhere went to a certain amount of trouble to create the best presentation that they could with what they had. All five games are essentially complete, albeit without any pre- or post-game coverage.
So I'm not sure if I should necessarily find fault with the discs, or instead with who--if anybody--was responsible for archiving these games in the first place. Yes, these games were played twenty-nine years ago, but one would think that an archival copy of a national network television broadcast from 1984 would be in significantly better condition than this---this video plays more like a salvaged kinescope of a Boston Braves broadcast on the Dumont network. I'm tempted to describe the quality of this video as "bootleg quality", but the fact of the matter is that bootleggers actually tend to put quite a bit more care into the reproduction and presentation of the material they are bootlegging---as with these World Series broadcasts, the "Star Wars Holiday Special" was broadcast exactly one time in the U.S., yet the circulating bootlegs are of Criterion Collection audio and video quality compared to this.
Did anybody within either MLB or NBC ever think to take measures to preserve the recordings of these broadcasts once the World Series had ended, or did both parties wrongly assume that the other party was taking appropriate preservation action? Because, frankly, my concern really isn't with any Tigers fans who may or may not pick up this DVD set--my concern is that as I type this, these broadcasts are simply being left somewhere to deteriorate even further. Lord knows I wouldn't expect the spineless car salesman lame-duck commissioner of baseball to do anything that might be described as doing "something," but aren't there people in Cooperstown who take it upon themselves to archive and catalog something as significant as a World Series telecast? Because what truly depresses me is that if this set is meant to represent the best existing/available video copies of the five games of the 1984 World Series; I shudder to think of how much other historic game footage--not from eighty or ninety years ago, but from twenty or thirty years ago--is simply being left to rot by those that control the rights to it.