Friday, March 10, 2006

"When It Was A Game": Required Viewing For All Baseball Fans

Get your hands on this -- NOW

If you haven't already seen it, then I insist you rent -- or buy -- When It Was A Game. This is a marvelous video consisting of nothing but home movie footage of baseball in the 1940's and 1950's. They also came out with WIWAG II, and III. It was produced by Black Canyon, and originally aired on HBO some 15 years ago.

It's narrated throughout, and interspersed with guest narrators, ranging from actor Jason Robards to author Robert Creamer. There's also a cool music soundtrack that flits in the background -- all from that time period, of course.

But the moving images are what makes this an absolute must-see for baseball fans. You could watch this in complete silence and enjoy it, but the narration and the dubbed in sound effects, like the soft thud of baseballs hitting mitts and bats being tossed around, are spiffy.

What WIWAG tries to do is simply present baseball in the raw during those glorious decades. Most of the footage is, like I said, shot by amateurs and was contributed by ancestors. And, bonus: IT'S ALL IN COLOR.

Yes -- every inch of film, save a few, is presented in color. And REAL color -- not this Ted Turner/tinted jazz. HBO may have used computer technology to punch up the hues, but it's --for the most part -- original color film.

WIWAG doesn't try to present anything in any sort of chronological order. It touches on issues of the day, such as the lack of black ballplayers in the majors and the low salaries, etc., but the wonderful thing about this production is you can start or stop watching it at any point and not lose the luster. Because the allure is the color footage, and there's tons of it, from beginning to end. I believe it runs about 60-90 minutes, if memory serves. It was so popular they came out with II and, I'm pretty sure, III.

And I learned a few things about baseball in those days. What stands out is the fact that ballplayers of that time period, when a half inning was complete, simply tossed their gloves into the shallow outfield. They didn't take them into the dugout! And there's some great footage of players jogging out to the infield to take their positions, but not before ambling out to the outfield grass to retrieve their gloves. Beautiful. Also makes you wonder how or why that routine ceased in favor of carrying the gloves to the dugout.

The other cool thing about WIWAG is trying to identify the players who appear in the film. I'm a pretty historian-type guy, as you probably have guessed, so I might recognize more dudes than the average shmoe, but it's still a kick to see guys like Johnny Mize and Bill Dickey and Dom DiMaggio in living color.

Also, the special promotional events that teams put on, especially during the war years, are interesting. Foot races around the basepaths, comedy sketches before games -- that players participated in -- were all a part of major league baseball in order to help sell war bonds, etc.

Do me a favor and rent WIWAG immediately. Or, if you've already seen it, perhaps you have the itch to see it again? I have my videotaped copy in the basement. I taped it the first night it aired, in July 1991.

No, you cannot have it -- or even borrow it.

As the Cheez-Its people would say, "Get your OWN copy."


Blogger Ian C. said...

Those are great films. I have 'em all on DVD now, and they kept me warm during those Iowa winters when I couldn't watch my favorite Detroit sports teams.

I should watch 'em again this weekend.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

I have yet to purchase these in DVD yet, but it's on my List of Things To Do. It's great, great footage.

Love the new blog, Greg. Quality stuff, per usual.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Greg Eno said...

Thanks for the comments, guys. We should have a WIWAG viewing party!

And thanks for visiting the new blog!

5:52 PM  

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