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DVD Review: World Series 1945, 1946, 1947

Tonight corwin and I continued our time warp through history, watching the next three World Series films in order with 1945, 1946, and 1947. In my mind these three series’ were The Goat Curse Series, Slaughter’s Dash, and Jackie’s First.

As the 1945 film begins there is no sound, presumably because the soundtrack was lost or damaged, which only serves to intensify the feeling that what we’re watching is archival. It picks up quickly enough in the intro, though, and it’s clear that in this, the third World Series film in a row done by Lew Fonseca and crew, they are still pushing the envelope and searching for ways to make the film more entertaining and watchable. This time the key players on each club are introduced with little bios and accomplishments, and then the lineups are given. There are also some faces here that reinforce that notion that pitchers are greyhounds–made of long limbs and graceful faces–while catchers are pugs and bulldogs–embodiments of flat-faced, broadshouldered cragginess. The two examples that epitomize these standards, pitcher Hal Newhouser and Tiger’s manager Steve O’Neill (a former backstop).

Another lively little feature in the film shows shots of ballplayers who are back in the major leagues after finishing their military service, including Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller.

The Cubs get off to a grand start in Game One at old Briggs Stadium in Detroit, and just watching this made me nostalgic for old Tiger Stadium even though I never saw a game there. (The city never should have torn it down. Unbelievable.) Meanwhile Wrigley Field looks much the same now as it did then. Game 6 was the real nail-biter, a 12-inning battle that comes across as tense and gripping even in the archival format. But of course in Game 7, Hank Greenberg and the Tigers exploded all over the hapless Cubs to take the championship in a cakewalk. There is no mention of a goat anywhere in the film.

Then came 1946. It opens by trumpeting the fact that over 18 million fans attended big league games that year, too, and has shots of various parks and their attendance figures, including Yankee Stadium, which drew over 2 million. The film gets even fancier here, incorporating for the first time an encapsulation of that year’s All-Star Game, too. That year, the AL won by a score of 12-0 in Fenway Park and Ted Williams hit two homers in the game. They showed the footage of Williams taking an “eephus” pitch from Rip Sewell, and then hitting a homer on the next one. (Decades later Alex Rodriguez would do the same thing off the Yankees’ Orlando Hernandez in a regular season game. El Duque showed him the pitch once. Later, he tried it again only to see it leave the park in a hurry.)

I have to wonder if part of the reason the All Star Game is included in the film is not just the great footage they had, but also to make up for the fact that Ted Williams doesn’t hit like expected in the Fall Classic–having gotten hurt a few days before the World Series while playing in a Red Sox exhibition game that has been arranged so the players would “stay sharp.”

The film features a new, improved camera angle, and much more of the camera tracking the ball’s flight. They do also show that the Cardinals employed a shift against Ted Williams, who finally bunted up the vacated third base line for a hit in Game 3. There are lots of stop-motion plays and it is amazing how young Joe Garagiola looks. It’s clear as one watches the film that these were the days of pitchers taking a really full windup and also the days before sunglasses in the outfield.

In watching the footage of the seventh game, of course, there were two moments I looked for, one of which is clearly visible, the other is not. One is Dom DiMaggio, tripping on his way around first base on his crucial base hit, meaning he had to leave the game and wasn’t in center in the Cardinal top of the ninth. The other is the throw to Pesky to try to mail Slaughter at the plate… did Pesky hold the ball? The announcer says he hesitated but it really doesn’t look like much if he did. It took until 2004 for Sox fans to believe it, though, I think.

Finally we capped off our night watching the 1947 series, which was Dodgers versus Yankees.

This time the film opens extolling the 20 million attendance figure and also talking about how various major league teams went to veterans’ hospitals and the like to play exhibition games for the disabled vets who otherwise would never be able to travel to a game. There is again an All Star Game recap, this time another AL win at Wrigley Field. And they also have some footage from the College National Championship (they didn’t yet call it the ‘College World Series,’ I guess) played that year between Yale and UC Berkeley. Oh how times have changed, eh? The films talks about how major league umpires were tapped for the game and it was played on neutral ground in Kalamazoo, MI. They didn’t say who won, though.

Then the action begins. There is of course no mention at all about the controversy of Jackie Robinson. He is just shown and mentioned like any other ballplayer.

Perhaps it was just that corwin and I are so much more familiar with the players on this roster, or maybe the play really was not only more dramatic but presented in a slightly more dramatic way, but this one really had us on the edge of our seats, even though we knew the Yankees won it. Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Yogi Berra… they’re all in this series.

It feels like the most “modern” style baseball we’ve seen in the DVDs, as well, with lots of guys working unintentional walks, more power hitting and pinch hitting, and much more bullpen use and pitching changes. Also take a look at Brooklyn’s batting cage which looks indistinguishable from a modern one.

This is the World Series with one of the most uncanny games ever, the one in which Bill Bevens takes a no hitter for the Yankees into the ninth inning and ends up losing it and the game in Brooklyn. It’s also the one where Al Gionfriddo makes an incredible catch to rob DiMaggio of what would have easily been the three game-tying RBIs, DiMag who kicks the dirt in a rare display of emotion. Yes, they show the dirt-kicking, and also in the outfield you can see the two monuments there on the field of play.

The Yankees do win it in seven games, to cap off three years in a row when it went to seven each time.

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