Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two divisions, one series

For 100 years, Major League Baseball had existed in the simplest form of 2 leagues. Whether it be 154 games or 162 games, the pennants of each league were award to those who finished the marathon with the most wins. Yet, because of expansion in 1961(62) and 1969, MLB felt that with 4 new teams in each league, each league needed to be divided up into 2 divisions. To facilitate this, a league championship series was created in which the champions from each division would compete in a best of 5 series.

During the kinescope era (until 1976) there were 14 league championship series played. In the National League, that accounts for 27 games. Not a single full broadcast copy of any of those 27 games exists. In fact, the only American League Championship Series broadcast that exists prior to 1976 is of Game 2 of the 1972 series.

What we have left is snippets, brief little glimpses of actual broadcast footage. Most of these continue to exist thanks to whatever footage was used for nightly news broadcasts. Generally, those feature only the audio from the actual sports anchor in the studio and not the original television crew.

So, where to begin? The first LCS seems as good a place as any. 1969 is a year that features the oldest known copy of a color World Series broadcast. Luckily, some enterprising people had the warewithal to preserve the color 'truck feed' tapes from the 3 World Series games played at Shea Stadium. The first two games in Baltimore are preserved via CBC kinescopes. Due to this, we are able to see this series in it's entirity.

Yet, those same enterprising folks did not seem to see fit to preserve the first ever League Championship Series. The Miracle Mets were pitted against the West Champion Atlanta Braves and their offense with Hammerin' Hank and The Baby Bull Cepeda in the middle of the lineup. The Mets made quick work of said Braves in 3 games.

It is that Game 3, at Shea Stadium again, that we have SOME color footage. What we have is a Hank Aaron HR in the 1st inning off of Gary Gentry:

It was a 2 run homerun as you can see Tony Gonzalez waiting at home along with the following batter Rico Carty.

The only other broadcast glimpse we get is of Braves starter Pat Jarvis. The clip is spliced together with some MLB Films footage in the Baseball Seasons: 1969 broadcast that all these shots come from. In that scene, Mets 2B Ken Boswell takes Jarvis deep. This happened in the bottom of the 4th inning.

Obviously, if a full broadcast of this game existed, MLB would have made it availible in one way, shape or form over the last few years. Somewhere in the trading community we would have seen it pop up. Even with the lack of a full broadcast, once it again it would fantastic to see just how much of this broadcast truly exists in the MLB vault. It is a real treat to see Hank Aaron in broadcast footage as an Atlanta Braves slugger other than 715, 714 and the 1971 All-Star Game.