Historian transferring classic games onto DVD

2013-08-30T18:00:00Z 2013-08-31T03:44:03Z Historian transferring classic games onto DVDJohn Burbridge john.burbridge@nwi.com, (219) 933-3371 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | The historic house Anthony Diaz and his wife recently purchased has ghosts in the basement.

No surprise there, especially to those familiar with the back-stories for most haunted house horror flicks.

The 120-year-old Holman Avenue home adjacent to Harrison Park is on the southern edge of Downtown Hammond. It was originally the home of Hammond Parks patriarch A. Murray Turner before becoming a funeral home in the 1920s.

"Down here was the morgue," Diaz said of the limestone-insulated basement that somehow remains cool during a day baking in the 90s.

"This part is really creepy," Diaz said. "Imagine being down here at night during a storm with the lightning flashing through this (half moon-shaped basement) window."

But if there are ghosts in the basement, Diaz likely brought them with him when he moved in. He's busily bringing them back to life to be placed in machines ... more precisely DVD machines.

"That's going to take a lifetime, maybe two as you can see here," said Diaz, who has acquired a multitude of film reels now stored in the basement. "To transfer all this will probably take a whole staff of help."

Many of the reels, including a cache of ancient VHS and BETA video tapes, consist of old television shows. But a good portion of the film and video tape are recordings of historic region events — most notably sporting events.

One reel has the entire Lake Central Indians' 1979 football season. Others have footage of the great East Chicago Roosevelt and Washington basketball teams ... the Hobart Brickies football dynasty days ... the final basketball and football seasons of Hammond Tech ... and much more.

"What I try to do is preserve history," said Diaz, a member of the Hammond Historical Society who recently founded the Mid-American Heritage Preservation Foundation where he serves as the director of imaging.

Diaz also is a collector who, if he's not careful, may be approached by the folks at the History Channel for yet another rarity and oddity-based show.

"You've got to have eye for certain things, what has historical significance and what really doesn't," said Diaz, who has a stack of giant photos of the region taken from an airplane. One is of the Hammond-Munster border before the distinct Borman Expressway outline.

Diaz also has vintage posters, signs, programs and vinyl records as big as man-hole covers.

"This one side is the radio recording of the first half of a Hammond Tech basketball game," Diaz said of a giant record. "The other side is the second half."

Good thing the game didn't go into overtime.

Diaz has made DVD copies of games and seasons, and has sold and distributed them. But one of the Diaz's favorite recordings he is prohibited from making copies of and distributing by mandate of Major League Baseball is the NBC "Game of the Week" featuring the Philadelphia Phillies and the Chicago Cubs during the summer of 1969.

"It's the first regular-season game recorded in kinescope," Diaz said of the process of filming the television monitor to record an event being aired live.

Diaz often plays this recording on an oval-screened, black-and-white TV whose horizontal hold often needs to be adjusted.

"The Cubs had a pretty good team back then," Diaz said of a lineup that included future Hall-of-Famers Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo and Fergie Jenkins, who pitched the Cubs to a 7-4 victory while helping maintain the team's comfortable first-place perch in the National League East.

It's fun to watch, but there's a wistfulness in viewing the Bleacher Bums of Cubbie past whoop it up with no idea of what lies ahead.

"They just ran out of gas," Diaz said of 1969 Cubs.

You can preserve history; you just can't change it.

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