Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: 1964 All Star Game (Partial)

The 1964 All-Star Game is considered one of the most exciting games in the classic’s history.  Only 3 of the 9 innings didn’t feature scoring.  The game featured two solo homeruns by Ken Boyer and Billy Williams in the 4th.   The National League would come from behind to win on a 3-run walk off homerun by Johnny Callison.  

Unfortunately, we don’t see any of that.

After the jump, we will discuss this recent offering of yet another 1960’s All-Star Game.

Like the 1962 game we covered last year, all that has survived is a partial broadcast.  This offering is only the 2nd reel of the game.  With a game time of 2 hours and 37 minutes, the game would have been split over approximately 5 reels.  This reel runs around 24 minutes.  What we are missing is any pregame material and the first half inning of the game. The top half of the inning featured early scoring, as Jim Fergosi (who reached on a single) advanced on a passed ball and was driven in by a Harmon Killebrew base hit.  

The kinescope picks up coming back from commercial in the bottom of the 1st inning.  When I say ‘coming back from commercial’, there are actually no commercials on this kinescope but the fade outs remain.  They have all been edited out at the original source.  Highlighting how the defense is set up, we get shots of future HOF’ers Harmon Killebrew, Brooks Robinson, and Mickey Mantle.   The leading vote getter, Bobby Richardson, started at 2B and the reigning AL MVP, Elston Howard, was behind the plate. 

Another All-Star Game, another chance to see Willie Mays wearing the wrong batting helmet.  As we wrote before, Mays has a history of borrowing other player’s helmets during All-Star Games.  Mays, playing in his 11th Midsummer Classic, is sporting a helmet adorned with the M of the Milwaukee Braves.  

The only real action we get from the bottom of the 1st thru the top of the 3rd comes in the form of long fly balls and a botched groundball off the bat of Boyer ruled a single. The fly balls give us a chance to compare the styles of three Hall of Fame outfielders.  Mays, with all the casual coolness that the ‘Say Hey Kid’ was known for, Mantle, with his powerful strides going back on the ball, Clemente with the appearance of it being an inconvenience that he has to move to record the out.  You can see how people formed perceptions of these players.  You can imagine kids going out in the backyard after this game, staring into the sun as they emulate these mannerisms on self-thrown pop-ups, flipping the ball back in to imaginary cutoff men.

Finally, some action! Ron Hunt, becoming the first New York Met to be voted a starter at the All-Star Game raps a single into left field to the roar of the partisan home crowd.  Drysdale is lifted for pinch-hitter Willie Stargell, who moves Hunt into scoring position with a groundout to the pitcher.  Clemente took two of his iconic wild hacks before grounding out to Jim Fergosi at shortstop.  Groat bounced a grounder to Richardson and the inning (and the reel) ends.  

Usually with NBC telecasts of the era, the pregame would feature a showcasing of the ballpark.  Without that, we get a few glimpses of the new, state of the art stadium in Flushings, New York.  You can see, repeatedly, the iconic gargantuan scoreboard, the massive parking lots beyond the outfield fence, as well as the standing area overhangs down both foul lines.  For my money, the most beautiful feature of pre-‘blue plastic’ Shea Stadium was the brick walls beyond the outfield fence down both foul lines.  These shots of both bullpens, as well as this foul ball tracked by Billy Williams, of the brick wall show it gave Shea an elegant 60’s look.    

Former St. Louis Cardinal Buddy Blattner is on the call for these first 3 innings.  Blattner, a table tennis HOF’er, had an often forgotten but historic broadcasting career.  After signing with the Browns and Falstaff beer as a broadcaster, owner Bill Veeck attempted to sign the retired player to a player contract for the sole purpose of having him broadcast a game from right-field using a walkie-talkie.  His association with Falstaff would pair him with Dizzy Dean and the two would go on the air for the first ever Game of the Week in 1953.  The two made up the highest rated broadcast team, working both locally and nationally until they had a falling out over Dean’s refusal to let Blattner call the 1959 NL Playoff on television without him.  His resume featured work for the Browns, Cardinals, Angels and Royals.  Nationally, Blattner broadcast on the radio for the Mutual and Liberty networks and did the television ‘Game Of The Week’ for ABC and CBS.

Twice Blattner would call the All-Star Game for NBC, this game in 1964 on TV and in 1967 on the radio.  His style is informational, in the vein of Vin Scully.  He fills the between pitch time with loads of background information about the players, right down to identifying each player by their hometown.   One of the more fascinating fillers Blattner gives is the claim that Tony Oliva’s name is actually ‘Pedro’ and that he is in the United States falsely using his brother’s passport.

The camera set-up by NBC gives us a variety of angles.  The behind home plate view features both the traditional high position (giving an aerial view of the action) and a low zoomed position.  The low zoomed position focuses over the umpires shoulder and tries to replicate the experience of being in the batter’s box.  The viewer at home gets a real treat during Dick Groat’s at-bat.  Chance uncorks a wild pitch over the head of Elston Howard and seemingly into the viewer’s living room from that low zoomed angle. The producers also use the traditional high first and third base angles to give zoomed closeups of the player’s and coach’s faces.

Conclusion: This is a great offering from the kinescope era.  Although it is missing many of the iconic moments from this game, we get to see many of the stars from the era in action.  The picture quality on this transfer by RareSportsFilms is one of the crispest I have seen of film from the era. 

Runtime: approx. 24 minutes
Network: NBC
Complete: No, Partial Bottom 1st thru Bottom 3rd
Commercially available: Yes
Color: No
Video/Kinescope: Kinescope
Audio: Television broadcast


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