Whenever the hell he feels like it, Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie or TV show for Walkoff Walk. Today in Cinema Varitek: The awkwardly-titled All-Star '76 - Champions of Pride, a mini-movie narrated by Joe Garagiola about the 1976 All-Star Game, held in Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.
While most baseball media is spending the baseball offseason endlessly tweeting about where Roy Halladay is going to end up, MLB Network has been showing a bunch of old All-Star Games. The more recent affairs get the full-game treatment, with the only differences a few on-screen graphics and introductions from Hazel Mae.
But the older games? Well, maybe MLB doesn't have the complete footage anymore, because we are treated to condensed, half-hour mini-movies, like the one from the 1976 game. I watched the full 1996 All-Star Game (also from Veterans Stadium), and for my money the half-hour mini-movies are much more entertaining. I don't really need to see Ricky Botallico pitching a scoreless fifth inning. I'm not saying I necessarily want all my baseball highlight packages to be trippy 1970s affairs (as you'll see in a moment). Obviously, there's a place for both full game broadcasts and condensed specials. I just hope that, as we move forward, the condensed specials continue to be made.
You're probably wondering why I enjoyed Champions of Pride so much. Well, how about the weird giant Electric Company-style words that open the broadcast?
Concentration! Power! Acclaim! Challenge! The old All-Star Games may not have had giant St. Louis Arch-shaped magnets, but they sure knew how to encapsulate the game in four words. If this isn't doing it for you, how about this dramatic re-telling of a Fred Lynn homer (the only run the AL got), also in the opening?
For some reason the 1976 All-Star Game was apparently played with a comet instead of a baseball.
After the awesome opening, the video really gets going with a dramatic voice-over by Garagiola describing how important the All-Star Game is.
But if you ask him why he's here, he'll tell you there's only one reason: To win. The All-Star Game may only be one game, but it's the game. If you lose here, it hurts. You have to wait all year to get even. It hurts your pride. Pride is something that can't be measured in salaries or statistics. And you don't pick it up overnight with the headlines of the morning newspaper. Pride comes with experience. The experience of winning.
And he goes on like this. The NL had won 12 of the last 13 games going into the 1976 contest, and the video does a little recapping of when the AL was dominant in the early days of the Midsummer Classic. Then we get Lefty Gomez talking about one George Herman Ruth while wearing a stylish jacket.
Champions of Pride then moves into its most entertaining portion, where people from Major League Baseball Films show all the All-Stars Babe Ruth's bat and ask them to comment on it. Yes, most of them just say, "Holy crap, this 42-ounce bat is heavy," but it's a pretty cool segment nonetheless.
Because Philadelphia is the birthplace of the U.S. Navy (at least according to a sign on the outfield wall), Champions of Pride is also a big ol' ad for the Navy as well, and members of the Navy are all on the field before the game.
According to this page about Champions of Pride, the VHS (Betamax?) version of the tape includes commercials for the U.S. Navy by both Rod Carew and Mike Schmidt. These have not been uploaded to YouTube, but if anyone out there has them I demand you put them up on the Internet right now. I mean, we all knew how entertaining the Mike Schmidt anti-cocaine PSA was.
There are also a bunch of All-Stars kids on the field, including two future major leaguers: Brian (son of Hal) McRae and Pete Rose Jr.
Brian's career OPS+ was 92, which is maybe why he stuck around for 10 seasons instead of Pete Rose Jr.'s 11 games in 1997 (career OPS+: 6).
Then Gerald Ford stopped by to sign an autograph for Tom Seaver! I told you this video was awesome.
It was the bicentennial, of course, and so naturally there is a bunch of rah-rah America celebrations. It's much more appropriate and much better than the America crap-fest at this year's All-Star Game. I mean, look, they have a model of Independence Hall in Center Field!
Then the game starts, and it's your standard affair. The National League won, 7-1, a result that would be downright shocking today. If you ever have a chance to catch All-Star '76 - Champions of Pride I highly recommend it. It's an entertaining little recap of the game, and you also get to wish America a happy birthday every time you watch it. No, really!