baseball movies

100 Years of the World Series – Truly For Those With Love of the Game

When talking about baseball, you can usually find a variety of opinions about any subject. There’s probably none more passionate and debated among fans than key plays of the World Series that end up with one team being crowned “Champions” while the other team goes home to the words “just wait ’til next year…”

In 100 Years of the World Series, Bob Costas narrates a quick look at the World Series through each year that it’s been played, from beginning in 1903 and running through the fall classic of 2002. The introduction consists of a variety of ballplayers discussing what the World Series means to them with clips from probably as many years as they have been filming the game. It’s powerful to fans who understand what it’s like to believe in a team and root for them from year to year, especially those teams that don’t make it to the World Series on a regular basis.

Bob Costas does a terrific job as the narrator for this look of the ultimate championship in baseball. There are very few commentators that stand out through the years I’ve been a fan that I don’t associate with one particular team, and Costas is one of them. He is neutral as far as his narration and it doesn’t make it seem like it’s focusing too much on one team, even when one name that I hate keeps coming up again and again.

Way back when the National League was the sole league for major league baseball, it was easy to see who was the ultimate champion for the season. In 1901, the American League was formed. By the third season, it was decided that the champions from these two leagues would meet in what would become the fall classic. The rules were written for the 1905 season after a dispute prevented a series from being played in 1904.

Hearing about the early days is really interesting. I know the names of players such as Christy Mathewson, but never realize what they have done to be so famous. Mathewson threw three consecutive complete-game shutouts in the World Series! That amazed me to no end. Other tidbits that I found to be quite interesting were that the Brooklyn Dodgers were originally known as the Robins.

Each World Series is touched on briefly, so it goes year by year rather than jumping around or trying to highlight Series that were “meaningful”. Let’s face it, what’s “meaningful” to the New York fan might not be the same to the Chicago fan and it was probably a good decision to just cover all of them.

It’s mostly baseball writers talking about the early years of the World Series. Ken Burns, who produced the mega-documentary Baseball weighs in at times with the benefit of all he during his research. Representatives of baseball’s Hall of Fame also discuss the early years of the game.

As the years go on, there are interviews with some of the players involved in the Series. An interview from 1984 has “Smokey” Joe Wood talking about the 1912 World Series when he earned a whopping $4,025.70 as the winner’s share. It’s the earliest Series recollection by a player involved. Gradually it changes from being mostly writers and baseball historians to players until the main voices weighing in on each year of the Series are that of the players. This is nice because there just seems to be a deeper meaning and emotional weight when a player tells of his experience in the Series and what a key play meant to them or what they felt at the time. It’s surprising how many players think the World Series they played in featured “one of the best games ever”! Homage is also given to some of the great players of the game who never had the chance to play in the World Series.

It’s not just the highlights through the years that are talked about, but some of baseball’s low moments are given their due as well. The scandal of the 1919 White Sox isn’t glossed over but is talked about in a very upfront manner. It seemed that every moment baseball sunk to a low, something brought it out. Following the 1919 Black Sox Scandal came Babe Ruth and all of the excitement surrounding him. The baseball strike of 1981 led to numerous years when it seemed that anything could and did happen in the World Series. The baseball strike of 1994, which canceled a good part of that season as well as the World Series, led into a decade of record-shattering hitting.

Some of the issues in the world that affected the Series are also touched on, such as both World Wars, desegregation when Jackie Robinson broke into the Major Leagues, the earthquake during the 1989 World Series between San Francisco and Oakland, as well as 9/11. 100 Years of the World Series doesn’t delve as deeply into the social issues as Burns did in his documentary, but it does help put the game in the context of the times.

100 Years of the World Series is about 3 hours long, and it feels it. I was fortunate to watch it a little at a time so it didn’t feel that drawn out to me. Even for as big of a fan as I am, it would be hard to sit through the entire thing straight through. I did think it was very interesting and I learned a lot about the history of the game that I never knew before. I would definitely add it to my collection of baseball-related DVDs.

You know, I still bust out crying watching Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, and it’s not because I feel bad for Bill Buckner…