[MLB] Riding the Pine DVD Review

Pure Heat: Ultimate MLB Flamethrowers

Featuring:
Nolan Ryan
Roger Clemens
Randy Johnson
Curt Schilling
Josh Beckett
AJ Burnett
Dontrelle Willis
Kerry Wood
Mark Prior
Pedro Martinez

Narrated By:
Curt Chaplin

The Documentary
Pure Heat: Ultimate MLB Flamethrowers looks at the fastball and the pitchers who are known for throwing them. The disc starts with a video montage of game clips and interviews with pitchers, coaches, and hitter talking about the fastball. The next chapter deals with the mechanics of the pitch. Many pitchers, from Ron Guidry to Dontelle Willis, discuss how pitchers are successful. Rick Peterson, pitching coach for the Mets, goes in depth about the motion and speed of the pitch. They also discuss the different body styles of the pitchers, from long and lanky (Randy Johnson) to small and muscular (Roger Clemens).

The disc then goes into the history of the pitchers. Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, and Bob Feller are all featured. There are also interviews from players of the time and baseball historians. One of the interesting parts was showing Feller throw a pitch next to a motorcycle going 90 miles per hour. They then move to some of the pitchers from the ’50s and ’60s, like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Robin Roberts. Many Hall of Famers discussed Koufax, his multiple awards, and the dominance of his pitches. Bob Gibson and his historical 1968 season are featured, since he set a record of 17 Ks in a game (in the World Series), had a 1.12 ERA, and how he changed baseball that season. The league lowered the pitchers mound and reduced the size of the strike zone.

The film then moves to the career of Nolan Ryan. They show numerous shots of Ryan blowing his pitches past hitters, including a player bringing a table leg to use as a bat (and everyone on the field laughing about it). There was a lot of Ryan talking about his career and pitches. Opponents said the worst part of facing him was you didn’t know where his pitches would go; they go into his control problems early into his career. It also showed his vigorous workout routine, which kept him pitching into his mid-40s. They showed clips from many of his 7 no-hitters (his last came at age 44) and his 5,000th K.

It then goes from one Texan who came home to pitch to another Texan who came home to pitch 2 years ago: Roger Clemens. Clemens starts by talking about watching Ryan pitch as a kid. He said the key he learned from Ryan was using his legs. Willie McGee said Clemens had “…Greg Maddux’s control with Ryan’s velocity.” The velocity and the workout routine were the only comparables of the 2; Clemens is known for his outstanding control. Clips of Clemen’s 20 K game and his move to Toronto are shown.

One of the interesting parts of the disc is seeing the fastball pitchers that “flame out.” Clips of Dwight Gooden short career lead into the segment. They document Doctor Ks rise to fame, and the fall from living the fast life and injuries. Another famous fast ball pitcher, Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, and his unique style of baseball was discussed. He would talk to himself, groom the mound, and act rather odd for a baseball player. He was Rookie of the Year and started an All Star Game. His unique style of pitching caused injury problems that would end his career. JR Richard (who was considered one of the up and comers in the ’70s until he had a stroke) and Rob Dibble (the original Nasty Boy) were also featured.

Dibble lead into the fast ball relievers. Billy Wagner, Mariano Rivera, and Eric Gagne are featured in the relievers section. They talk to all 3 and have hitter tell why they don’t like to face them.

The documentary shifts to the young rotation of the Florida Marlins. Josh Beckett and his amazing playoff performance from 2003 lead the way. They also feature teammates AJ Burnett and Dontrelle Willis. They show Burnett’s no hitter and Willis’ unique delivery. All three praise each other and speak about being teammates.

The Cubs rotation is also featured. They talk about Kerry Wood and Mark Prior with teammates Greg Maddux and Joe Girardi. The pitchers also talk about their mind set when they pitch. They, like the Marlin’s pitchers, praise each other. Wood’s 20 K game is then the focus. In his 5th career start, Wood pitched a complete game 1 hitter and embarrassed the Astro hitters.

The teammate theme continues with the one time Diamondbacks Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. They first feature Johnson’s 20 K game in 2001. They then rewind and show footage from his Montreal, Seattle, and Houston days, including the 1993 All Star game where Johnson threw a few feet above John Kruk’s head. They also show his 2004 perfect game against the Atlanta Braves. The focus then shifts to Johnson and Schilling pitching the D’backs to a world title and sharing the series MVP honors. Schilling, teammates, and opponents talk about his pitching.

The film then moves to Schilling’s 2004 teammate Pedro Martinez. They run over his resume and compare his appearance to other pitchers mentioned. Roberto Alomar goes as far as saying he “…isn’t intimidating…” by his appearance since he is so skinny.

The disc closes with some of the up and comers, like Johan Santana and Brad Lidge.

The Extras
By far, the best part of the disc is the extras. They show game clips from 5 of the pitchers. They start with the final 3 outs of Randy Johnson’s perfect game. Pedro Martinez’s 4 Ks in the 1999 All Star game is next. They then move to Roger Clemens 1st 2 innings of the 1986 All Star game (his first). The final inning from Kerry Wood’s 20 K game is shown. Lastly, the show the final outs from Nolan Ryan’s 5th, 6th, and 7th no-hitters.

The Verdict
The Documentary is very well done. The only thing it’s lacking is more about the turn of the century pitchers (from Walter Johnson’s time) and more of some of the new power pitchers (Jake Peavy, Carlos Zambrano). As a baseball fan, it was quite enjoyable and would recommend it to other fans, especially for the extras.

On a side note, I was supposed to have this up a few weeks ago and would like to apologize to Shout! Factory and the others waiting for this. Sorry.