FOR THE Mets fan,forget about it. The newly released DVD set, The New York Mets Essential Gamesof Shea Stadium, functions at the level of high-end porn. The action and thestirring climaxes of the six "historic games" (as the packaging billsthem) unfold without any layered subplots or contextual hype, aside fromwhatever was provided during the original broadcasts. That's as it should be,and several of the games are rich enough to enthrall not only a blue-and-orangebeliever, but also a baseball fan of any allegiance.
The one true tripto a bygone era is Game 4 of the 1969 World Series—it's a day game!—whichyields a 10-inning masterpiece by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver and manyother morsels: lean Frank Robinson on one knee in the on-deck circle; CaseyStengel, flanked by Joe DiMaggio, tossing out the ceremonial first ball. Thediscs' other Series game—1986's Game 6—would be included in any pantheon ofgreat games, featuring as it does a comeback that remains astonishing even uponrepeated viewings and a sequence of events that entered Bucknerian into thelexicon.
While thesix-disc set arrives on the occasion of Shea Stadium's final season, its bestmaterial, naturally, hinges more on baseball drama than on locale. Except, thatis, for the Braves-Mets game 10 days after Sept. 11, 2001, which, by virtue ofplace and moment, is the most emotionally powerful game in the set. On thereplica neon skyline behind Shea's outfield fence, the twin towers have beenblacked out and covered with a red-white-and-blue ribbon. U.S. flags adorn thedugouts and before the game, players on both teams stand along the foul lines,welling up during a ceremony that, some 10 miles from the smoldering rubble,includes bagpipers, New York City police officers and Diana Ross singing GodBless America. The scene of the Mets and Braves—ardent rivals in the NLEast—embracing before the first pitch is equaled only by Mike Piazza'streatment of an 0-and-1 fastball in the eighth.
That one knowsthe outcomes of the games in this set—the line scores are printed on eachdisc—hardly diminishes the pleasure; viewers, after all, know what's bound tohappen in high-end porn, too. If you're a baseball fan with $59.95 to partwith, you'd do well to spend it here.
June 8, 2008
The Pop CultureGrid