MLB Bloopers: Baseball’s Best Blunders (DVD Review)31 May, 2010 By: Mike Clark
You go into one of these amusing grab-bags — this one seems like the millionth since the dawn of the VHS era — wondering if it will pay deep and deserved homage to the May 23, 1993, Indians-Rangers game in which a fly ball hit Texas outfielder Jose Canseco in the head and bounced into the stands for a home run. It is, after all, the Citizen Kane of all baseball bloopers.
This set does and the bounce heard ’round the world is, in fact, the DVD’s opening selection — tantamount to it landing the prestigious opening or closing night slot at a major film festival with Jose’s noggin getting red carpet treatment. What I didn’t recall is that Kenny Rogers — that is, the other Kenny Rogers — was the Rangers pitcher. And he, who could be kind of churlish, wasn’t amused. This is funny.
So is the DVD — fitfully, at least — though you sense that these MLB assemblages are at least the equals of my ecologically sensitive brother-in-law when it comes to recycling of material. It also, for better or ill-focused worse, includes more than bloopers: think song-time in the dugout during rain delays or players tarp sliding in the same situation, recalling the parallel, if messier, mud mayhem in Michael Wadleigh’s Woodstock.
The DVD does make an uneven attempt to update its by now familiar core collection of humiliating classics — as with Yankees pitcher A.J. Burnett’s pie-in-the-face routine initiated last year to celebrate the team’s walk-off wins. But the best material plucks from chestnuts that likely will never lose their taste.
A major highlight is that on-field killer kitten (or maybe an underfed adult cat) that threw a literal hissy-fit and then repeatedly bit the hell out of a Seattle Kingdome groundskeeper in 1984. There are also adventures with game-halting bees — where, in a clutch situation, a showman beekeeper with theatrical flair locates and kills the queen (which doesn’t look easy). See also a clip in which a flock of birds takes over the outfield — though missing here is the famed 1983 incident when then Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield actually got arrested for hitting and killing an on-field seagull, prompting manager Billy Martin to crack that it was the first time Winfield had hit the cutoff man all year.
We also get the famed bit where former player and current-day announcer Steve Lyons slid into first and got so distracted by an on-field discussion that he pulled down his pants to shake out dirt — on television. And some base running by ex-Giant Ruben Rivera that announcer Jon Miller called the worst in MLB history (it suggests a flight from Chicago to St. Louis by way of Anchorage and Albany). And a memorable montage of players (Larry Walker, Johnny Damon, Benny Agbayani) who, thinking there were three outs, tossed the ball in the stands or, worse, handed it to a youngster brandishing one of those Oliver Twist gazes as opposing runners still circled the bases. C’mon, kid, give it back. Please.
You can’t look at one of these collections without wondering what kind of job it would be to watch hundreds of plays each week from which to cull blunders headed for Cooperstown. The sad thing is — and this is true of baseball archival preservation in general — that no one thought to keep track of or even hold onto game broadcasts until the ’70s (and then just barely, though a handful of games from before then do exist) or ’80s. So when I watch the players singing here, I think back to Dizzy Dean warbling Wabash Cannonball, The Great Speckled Bird and the rest of the Roy Acuff Songbook during his CBS Game of the Week broadcasts with Pee-wee Reese throughout my youth (have another Falstaff, Diz). Or what it would be like to see the always unbridled Jimmy Piersall dousing the plate with a squirt gun so that the umpire could get better view of the strike zone.
Oh, well. Even with the limited pool of what exists, it’s pretty tough to top the clip here of onetime Reds right fielder Paul O’Neill muffing a play and, in one of his typical rages, somehow kicking the ball toward second base perfectly to complete the play successfully. I can believe this. After he went to the Yankees, I can remember the extremely self-critical O’Neill (one of my favorite players of the era) slamming his bat to the ground in frustration after hitting a fly ball in a key situation. This was three or four seconds before it went into the seats for a home run.