There are certain stories that never get old to me. My copies of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are dogeared and worn from being read almost every year since I was eight. My copies of the Anne of Green Gables series (yes, all eight books) are the same. Ken Burns’ Baseball, the 11-part documentary that premiered on PBS in 1994, and was updated with the top and bottom of the tenth inning in 2010, rises to the same level of stories that feel like being wrapped in a warm blanket as I eat my grandmother’s tortillas and posole. I am reasonably certain I’ve had the entire documentary saved on my TiVo since I got my first DVR when I moved to Boston - you know, just in case I needed to lose myself in the history of baseball on a snow day.
Three Days into my “Life Without Baseball” diary I highlighted that Baseball was available to stream for free on PBS. Whether you caught that viewing or not, MLB Network has you covered for the next few weeks as they air Burns’ classic in HD for the first time. You will not want to miss this updated version in widescreen with improved video detail. You can hear Burns talk about the amount of detail and care this project entailed on Hot Stove below:
I am unable to wrap my head around the amount of work this entailed (from the above clip):
“Nothing’s changed in the content of [Baseball] unless you think seeing things so clearly and in wide-screen format is giving you an even more intimate view of it” Burns said on Hot Stove. He continued “My thumbnail is the size of an old 16 millimeter negative. It’s really tiny and it’s in this square version. So what we’ve done is we’ve taken 90,000 feet of film, that’s 3,600,000 frames and painstakingly — at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York — inspected, repaired, cleaned every single one of those images...then at Technicolor Post Works in New York City, they changed it to the widescreen 16:9 format.”
Burns also noted that 12 teams, including the Cubs, were instrumental in helping his team upgrade that incredible amount of footage.
It’s hard to describe how much I’m anticipating the archival footage from the early episodes updated to HD. Baseball includes footage and images from the earliest baseball games plus interviews with historic baseball figures like former Cubs coach Buck O’Neil, Bob Feller, Ted Williams, Curt Flood and more. The original version made my heart catch in my throat when I saw Wrigley Field — I can’t even imagine what the HD version will bring.
While I know a lot of people who love baseball balk at the 18-hour commitment to watch the entire series, committing to an episode a night during the long night of baseball’s offseason is more than reasonable — it’s not even as long as a Kyle Hendricks Maddux.
You can begin this enhanced journey through the history of our nation’s pastime tonight when the First Inning airs at 7 p.m. CT on MLB Network. The series will continue on select weeknights through November 25.