With the Fall Classic rapidly coming our way, A&E productions has foisted another series of nostalgic baseball DVDs upon us. As usual, the Yankees take center stage, but this time at least, they’ve left room for another team of note to share the spotlight. That would be the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels, one of the most snake-bitten franchises in baseball without even the cold comfort of a famous curse to fall back on. The Angels celebrated their 50th anniversary this year, which A&E properly notes in a pair of DVD sets… as well as delivering another gorgeous piece of Yankee porn to keep the pinstriped faithful warm after their disappointing playoff departure this year. Hit the jump for my full review of Angels Memories, The Anaheim Angels 2002 World Series Collection, and Yankeeography Collectors Edition on DVD.
All three sets are built with hardcore fans in mind; laymen need not apply and indeed won’t find much of interest to occupy them. For the faithful, however, it’s hard to imagine a more indulgent gift, with countless hours of nostalgia to wallow in. Of the three, the shortest is also the weakest. Angels Memories constitutes a 90-minute sprint through the franchise’s highs and lows. It starts in 1961 when Hollywood cowboy Gene Autry went looking for So Cal radio rights and came away with an expansion team. From the get-go, the Angels were considered poor second cousins to the Dodgers: denied even their own stadium for a time and flirting with constant irrelevance despite the prominent placement of Hall of Famers like Rod Carew and Nolan Ryan on the team.
The video covers every significant Angel moment, with an early emphasis on the team’s early playoff appearances and the shocking array of injuries and deaths that have sprinkled the Angels’ history. Before their World Series victory in 2002, they experienced three epic playoff collapses: the most notable being in 1986 when, with one strike to go and a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Red Sox, closer Donnie Moore coughed up a home run to Dave Henderson that sparked an eventual Sox comeback. The Angels lost the next two games and Moore never recovered. Three years later, he killed himself following an altercation with his wife: just one of multiple Angels who died in mysterious and/or tragic circumstances over the years. (That may not have the longevity of the Bambino, kids, but it’s got teeth.)
The interplay between the teams’ darkest moments and its brightest – topped by its lone world championship win in 2002 – delivers a pretty comprehensive history. Unfortunately, Angels Memories is also unconscionably shallow: flitting from one subject to the next with a hummingbird’s attention span. We never gain anything but the most basic details, and while lifetime Angel Tim Salmon does his best as the narrator, he’s still an athlete rather than an actor.
The bigger Angels boxed set, The Anaheim Angels 2002 World Series Collection, is much more straightforward. It contains all seven games of the team’s improbable World Series win over the San Francisco Giants: a minor classic that saw the Halos bounce back from a seemingly insurmountable Game 6 deficit to finally claim a championship (and keep Barry Bonds ring-free; you’re welcome, baseball). Each game takes up one disc, along with pre- and post-game coverage and an alternate audio track carrying the radio play-by-play. Angels fans will love it, and more general baseball fans might enjoy the set simply because the series itself was quite exciting (four of the seven games were determined by a single run, and you will never see a ball hit as hard as the one Bonds hit at the end of Game 2).
Like other sets in A&E’s collection, however, this one lacks any sense of context save in the broadcast’s oblique references. Additional material covering the Angels’ road to the playoffs – and their equally thrilling victories over the Yankees and Twins in the ALDC and ALCS – is nonexistent, and would have helped matters immeasurably. It leaves the set feeling a little Spartan… but with over 20 hours of programming it’s hard to complain too loudly.
The Angels haven’t received much attention in the DVD market before now, save for a few commemorative specials back in 2002. The Yankees, on the other hand, are positively showered with it: everything from World Series coverage to documentaries on their rich history to a recent collection covering Derek Jeter’s quest for 3,000 hits. Even with such wealth surrounding it, the Yankeeography Collector’s Edition is notable. It covers a staggering forty-five individual episodes of the Yankees documentary series, most of them focusing on a single prominent player. Considering the team’s history, there are a lot of them; the set provides sterling, informative details on their careers and lives outside the diamond, as well as more comprehensive episodes covering key moments and groups of players. It contains a great deal of overlap from the 2007 Yankeeography set – 14 unreleased episodes are new, but the remainder have already seen a DVD release – though its handsome presentation and “comprehensive” sheen still make it a tempting purchase for any Yankee fan. (Or for any Red Sox fans you want to send into an apoplectic fit.)
All three sets are reasonably priced for the amount of material involved and make an excellent early Christmas present (as well as a salve for any wounds fans of both teams may be nursing at the moment).