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Book Review: How the Red Sox Explain New England

"How the Red Sox Explain New England," Triumph Books

“How the Red Sox Explain New England” is a very interesting account of the history of the Boston Red Sox. Rather than reading like a droll history novel, it is more of a collection of 13 different topics relating to the Red Sox, their players, their history and whatever other fun tidbits fans, athletes and media have come up with. In addition to media and team figures, the book features stories directly from fans that are the epitome of the loyalty and respect Boston fans have for their beloved baseball team.

Not only is the book packed with historical facts and trivia, but their are also some pictures scattered throughout to further illustrate topics; some of the pictures are quite old and rare, which makes it even more fun to have a direct link to the memories of the past, especially for those of us who happened to be alive during those famous (and sometimes infamous) moments. The occasional anecdote separated from the main body of a chapter makes the reader feel even more like they’re right there with everyone else instead of holding a stack of paper (or some sort of tablet, for the techie crowd).

Chapter 1: First Experiences

After a brief foreword, introduction and preface, the book kicks off its introduction with a few stories from some lifelong and die-hard fans about their introductions to the Boston Red Sox and Fenway Park. From a man whose father immigrated from Italy to native residents of Massachusetts, everyone just has a natural attraction to the Red Sox. The camaraderie and history of fans draw others to them and inspire great loyalty. The biggest fans among them even do everything in their power to make the Red Sox a part of their career.

Chapter 2: Little Fenway

The second chapter leaves Fenway Park to take a road trip to Vermont, where one man had the dream and vision to bring Fenway to the state, and created a 23% scale replica of the park in his backyard. Rather than hosting baseball games, wiffle ball is played on the smaller version of Fenway. Tournaments are hosted for the sport, and various Red Sox players have even made the trip up to visit. Little Fenway has taken on a life of its own, and shows what some fans will do to get closer to their team.

Chapter 3: Comedy

The third chapter leaves the direct baseball realm for a bit and heads into New England’s comedy clubs. The chapter allows a few area comedians to discuss the influence they’ve received from the Red Sox for their routines, especially prior to 2004. Before Boston got good, the misery experienced by every loyal fan made for some great jokes at the Red Sox’ own expense, and was a good way to cope for another year.

Chapter 4: Tim Wakefield

Chapter 4 is a brief but informative interview with Red Sox legend Tim Wakefield. He discusses his favorite times with the Red Sox and favorite things about New England.

Chapter 5: Fenway Weddings

Chapter 5 talks about an experience few get have but many would love, getting married at Fenway Park. Going out on the field, walking the warning track and even experiencing being on top of the Green Monster, all are breathtaking experiences that some people have waited lifetimes to take in. Even stripping down the length of the ceremony to get married between innings mid-game serves to heighten the Fenway experience, with a wedding party of thousands.

Chapter 6: Inspiration

Many people follow the Red Sox religiously, and have extensive collections of baseball cards and other memorabilia. This chapter details those who have been inspired by the team to use writing as a means to get closer to their favorite club. Be it fan fiction or sports writing, having a way with words allows one to put themselves right there with the greats, and maybe get on the field now and then. What better way to enjoy Fenway than by making a career of it?

Chapter 7: Connecticut

Most of New England is firmly attached to the Red Sox, but Connecticut is the exception. The chapter examines the divide that exists in the state between fans of the Red Sox and the Yankees, and attempts to look for where the dividing line might be. It’s interesting the different proportions of fans you find in various towns, especially when a town’s government is divided between the two teams.

Chapter 8: Twitter

This chapter details the tweets some fans sent out Twitter during the Red Sox / Yankees game on August 19, 2012 over the course of the game. Since the Red Sox were in the middle of their worst season in a very long time, this didn’t have the usual feel of a game in this legendary rivalry, which gave the fans ample opportunity to take pot shots at their favorite targets. (Surprisingly, Bobby Valentine wasn’t the most “popular.”)

Chapter 9: Bartending

Without being at Fenway, the next best way to be part of a Red Sox crowd is to go to a local bar and hang out, especially in the postseason. Few things are more gut-wrenching than leaving the bar dejected after the 2003 loss to the Yankees. Of course, 2004 more than made up for it, although the first three games started out the same way. By the time 2007 came around, the whole atmosphere changed among the bar crowds, who went from hoping for a victory to expecting it in just a few short years.

Chapter 10: New England Sox

This chapter looks at the direct connection made between team and sport by profiling baseball players from New England who have been fortunate enough to play for their home team. Who can forget Carlton Fisk, Mo Vaughn and Jerry Remy, among others? The book tabs them along with other New England native Red Sox players from the past to create Boston’s All-New England team. It really does create a unique look at Boston’s native sons.

Chapter 11: Bill “Spaceman” Lee

This chapter serves as a biography of the career of noted Boston pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee. It gives descriptions of some of his most notable moments and games, all within a couple of paragraphs each. The most amazing part? Even approaching old age, he can still mix it up in a game here and there.

Chapter 12: Johnny Pesky

Similarly, Chapter 12 goes over the career of Johnny Pesky, though in the form of a continuous story instead of bits and pieces. And of course, it had to be discussed how much personality he brought to the Red Sox, Fenway and spring training even up to his final days. To that end, the chapter concludes with a touching eulogy presented at Pesky’s funeral that’s sure to have you choking up.

Chapter 13: Changing Teams

As a fitting ending, the book discusses the endings of the Red Sox careers of various players throughout team history, and the fans’ reactions. They don’t necessarily blame a player just for leaving, unless of course they head on over to the Evil Empire in New York. The management is blamed for making lopsided trades without getting much in return or letting loved players leave to free agency. Injuries can shorten careers in very unfortunate circumstances as well, and such players are sent off with loving hearts. Whatever the case, it’s a wide range of reactions to be sure.

How the Red Sox Explain New England” is available at online retailers and bookstores everywhere.

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