Boys of a Summer Long Ago

As most of my readers know, I am a baseball fan. We are currently winding down that time of year I call "The Void," that empty space between the final out of the World Series and the first pitch of Opening Day.

Major League Baseball has various ways of trying to keep its fans interested this time of year. But I must say that I'm not big on either Spring Training games or the World Baseball Classic. They're okay, but I just don't get excited about them.

But, boy, has MLB hit a home run recently! If you are an MLB.TV subscriber you simply must check out a new feature on the MLB At Bat app. If you click on the TV icon at the upper right you will see a tab called "Classic." There you will find a gigantic roster of timeless, classic baseball games for your enjoyment, going all the way back to Game 7 of the 1952 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbetts Field.

Let me regale you with its glories. I have never watched a baseball game from the "black and white" era of television. I have never even wanted to. And, frankly, I have to lay the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of Ken Burns. Yes. Ken Burns. I thoroughly enjoyed his epic documentary on baseball, but now (and only now) I have a real bone to pick. Almost all footage he uses from that era give the impression that television broadcasts were primitive affairs. He always shows plays from one camera angle, and it is always one in which I cannot even see the ball, much less see up close intricacies of the game. I've always thought it would be burdensome to watch a baseball game without multiple camera angles and close up shots.

Well, I just got done watching Game 7 of the 1952 season, and Ken Burns has been lying to me. I am astonished, speechless really, at how sophisticated the broadcast was. There were no less than six or seven camera angles that switched seamlessly during play action. There were up close shots of the players standing in the batters box or on the mound. They even superimposed the batter's name on the screen. And, most wondrous of all, they superimposed two cameras at the same time when there was a base runner on first. We now have split-screens or boxes that show the runner leading off first, but they did the same thing in 1952! Why did I not know any of this?

I got to see Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, and all the rest play a baseball game like they played it yesterday. The broadcast was really that good. I am a 21st century baseball fan and I didn't feel like I was missing anything in the broadcast that I would have today. The commentators were of a totally different caliber, even. The sole missing thing was this thing called instant replay. But I didn't find myself pining away for it. And the play! I saw double plays turned as beautifully and athletically as anything I see on ESPN. I was struck by, more than anything else, the incredible continuity of our game over time. I saw everything I would see if I turned on a present-day game, heard the same analysis, the same cliches, saw the same strategies, the same mannerisms of pitchers and hitters, and on and on. Watching the boys of summer of sixty years ago. Technology blows me away.

I pay MLB a good chunk of change for MLB.TV, and have found that they really work to improve their product year after year. I appreciate that. That's why I don't complain about the price. I get more entertainment out of that subscription each year than I can imagine anything else giving me. But giving me these treasured games is really icing on the cake. For that I thank them.

Oh, there is one thing I really didn't like about it.

The outcome: Yankees 4, Dodgers 2. Disgusting, really.

Brian Mattson