Now Playing: Game 1: 1975 World Series
I just watched the opening game of the 1975 World Series, courtesy of A&E Home Video and Major League Baseball, who have teamed up to present several new DVD box sets of historical baseball games. In addition to the '75 Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox, sets include the 2005 World Series, the 1979 World Series, the 1986 World Series and THE ST. LOUIS CARDINALS: GREATEST GAMES OF BUSCH STADIUM 1966-2005.
My set is officially titled THE CINCINNATI REDS: 1975 WORLD SERIES COLLECTOR'S EDITION and offers all seven games in their entirety (pre- and postgame shows are not included). 1975 was the year I became a baseball fan and the first year that I watched the World Series. I began playing Little League that summer, and played organized baseball every year until I graduated high school, including four years at Farmer City-Mansfield High School, where I lettered in baseball. The first MLB game I saw in person was at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium that year (Reds over the Giants 8-4). That, combined with my mother's relatives who lived in Cincy and helped hook me on Reds baseball, made me a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan. Sure, those were the years of the Big Red Machine and stars like Rose, Bench and Morgan, but I suffered through the Bruce Berenyi, Paul Householder and Alan Knicely years too.
The 1975 World Series is considered by most fans to be the greatest of all time. With the exception of Game 1, in which Boston beat the Reds 6-0, all of the games were close, and five were decided by one run. Game 6 may be the most famous baseball game ever played; that's the one Carlton Fisk won in the 12th inning with a homer off the left-field foul pole. Also, both teams were unquestionably the two best teams in all of baseball that season. Today, with too many divisions, too many playoff rounds, and wild card teams, it's easier for the 4th or 5th best team to sneak into the World Series. In 1975, there were two leagues of two divisions each and just one round of playoffs. The Reds won the National League West by a whopping 20 games, an amazing season of dominance.
* Six future Hall of Famers were involved in Game 1: Carl Yastremski and Carlton Fisk (Red Sox); Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and manager Sparky Anderson (Reds). Pete Rose would obviously be in if he were eligible. Many believe Dave Concepcion should be in too. Also playing: Ken Griffey (father of current Reds star Ken Griffey, Jr.), Fred Lynn (the American League's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player) and Luis Tiant.
* Tiant pitched a five-hit shutout for the 6-0 win. "Looie" was a great entertainer and a bitch for opposing batters to hit. Tiant had a herky-jerky motion that distracted hitters; he flailed his glove, his head bobbed, he spun around 180 degrees, he changed speeds, his arm always came from a different angle. His changeup or "lob" pitch was amazing. He probably didn't throw it faster than 40 mph. In fact, it was so slow that you can see Reds hitters double-pumping to try to hit it.
* Curt Gowdy, Dick Stockton and Tony Kubek were in the broadcast booth for Game 1. Gowdy, who died earlier this year, is one of the all-time great sports broadcasters, as well as a longtime Red Sox announcer (as was Stockton). Kubek is my favorite color man, a very knowledgable and candid former player who meshed well in the booth with whomever his partner was. Kubek and Joe Garagiola was the team I grew up with on NBC's Saturday GAME OF THE WEEK, and the only baseball tandems I ever saw who were (arguably) better were Kubek and Bob Costas and Garagiola and Vin Scully as the two NBC teams during the early 1980's. There is no one working the network circuit today, be it Fox or ESPN, who comes even close.
* The technical advances in television broadcasting in the 31 years since are obvious. Cameras are better (and smaller and cheaper, meaning there are more of them and they can be more quickly and easily moved). Audio is better. Chyron is definitely better; whoever was doing Game 1 had trouble spelling simple words. Like "sports". I do believe that today's telecasts are much too graphic-heavy, but I do like the band at the top of the screen that continually shows the score, the count, number of outs, etc.
* For a sport that lives and dies by statistics, the 1975 telecasts don't tell you much about them. You get batting average, home runs, runs batted in, and that's about it. Nobody cared much about pitch counts, and there were no such things as OPS and WHIP. Of course, baseball networks still haven't caught up with sabermetrics. They like to throw stats at the viewer, but they have little idea what they mean. For instance, I was watching a Cubs/Reds game over the weekend. WGN put up a graphic that said the Cubs were batting .186 (or something like that) with two outs and runners in scoring position. Well, so? In and of itself, that's a worthless stat. How does that average fit in with the rest of the league? If the National League average is, say, .174 in those situations, then the Cubs are actually doing quite well, and that .186 would actually be a positive stat, rather than the negative one WGN intended.
* Game 1 was played on a Saturday afternoon: October 11, 1975. Curt Gowdy read a promo for a new show debuting that evening on NBC, something called NBC'S SATURDAY NIGHT, a new live program with special guest George Carlin. Future guests would include Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel and "Bob Reiner of ALL IN THE FAMILY" (sic). Of course, that was the first episode of what is now known as SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, a series still running 31 years later.