Boston Sports Review: The Impossible Dream ... In Full Technicolor

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I just finished watching a Red Sox game on television, and here's a list of what I didn't see: rotating billboards behind home plate, people with cell phones, batters stepping out of the box after every pitch, RemDawg signs, promos for reality programs, Wally the Green Monster, and insurance company ducks walking across the screen. You see, instead of a 2007 game, I was watching the penultimate game of 1967 between the Red Sox and the Twins.
This game, which is the longest surviving color broadcast of a baseball game, is included on a new DVD about the 1967 team called "Impossible to Forget." The DVD is well worth getting just to see the fascinating differences between yesterday's baseball experience and today's. In short, there were a lot more coats and ties in the crowd then and a lot fewer "Yankees suck" t-shirts. Not that you could really see the crowd much. Unlike today, there were no close-ups of fans, except for one of a young and rather svelte Ted Kennedy sitting in the front row with Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. The home-made signs and banners were also much simpler. My favorite was one that read, "God Bless Red Sox Win or Lose," which isn't exactly the kind of sign you see as much of these days.

Meanwhile, on the field, the pitchers still did a full wind-up, and the batters looked almost naked without today's body armor and batting gloves. The umpires all wore ties and looked so dapper that they just seemed to be making better calls.

I watched part of the game with my father who was especially excited. He wasn't at this game, but he did go to the final game of the 1967 season. He doesn't remember exactly how he got the tickets, but in stark contrast to today he doesn't think it was all that difficult. He certainly doesn't remember paying any exorbitant brokerage fees or using elaborate auction systems on mainframe computers networked to one another through telephone wires. "I think I just went up to the ticket office earlier in the week," he explained.

As for the announcers, it's a treat to listen to the great Ken Coleman and the even greater Ned Martin. The game was good too, or as Ned Martin put it, "Boy, this has been a real tingler!" I also love Mel Parnell as the color man, primarily because he didn't really say much. Seriously, he talked less in one game than Tim McCarver does in a half-inning. It's as if you've brought along a knowledgeable friend who's too busy watching the game to say anything unless it's really important.

The announcers also didn't waste time telling fans what they already knew. Entering the day, the Red Sox were tied for second with the Tigers, one game behind the Twins, but this is barely mentioned. The closest anyone comes to explaining the situation is when Coleman says in the 9th, "I'm sure you're aware of all the contingencies of the pennant race at this time." The implication seems to be that if you're not aware of the contingencies, you had better go get a newspaper and catch up with everyone else.

Despite this, there were moments of levity. One of the strangest was when Coleman told us in the 7th inning, "The reason you're hearing that intermittent roar from the crowd is down behind the screen somebody's got a balloon that's bouncing up and down." He says this in a bemused, stunned tone, as if to say "What will they think of next?" The answer to that question, of course, is the obscene blow-up doll, but thankfully for Ken no one will think to bring that to a game for another decade or two.

The fun soon came to an end when a man in the front row stood up and popped the balloon with his cigarette, which is at the very least a compelling argument for allowing smoking at Fenway Park today.

I love this guy. I imagine him as a gruff, older man wearing a coat and tie and thinking, "Who the hell brought a balloon to the ballpark? There's a god damned ballgame going on here." I'm guessing he could also put out a cell phone conversation with that cigarette too. For his sake, I just hope he died before the wave came along.

At any rate, the cigarette guy had a point. The Red Sox held a tenuous one-run lead at this point, and it was no time for balloons. Shortly thereafter, Yaz hit a three-run homer to give the Red Sox a 6-2 lead. The Sox would survive a Harmon Killebrew ninth-inning homer to win the game 6-4 and move into a first place tie. And both the fan who brought the balloon and the guy who popped it were no doubt equally happy.

Unfortunately, the full broadcast of the next and final game of the season has apparently not survived, but if it's ever found, I'll be watching. I bet that one's a real tingler too.
  • http://JoeLavin.com

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