About this blog

This isn't designed to be a blog per se, but just a place to store things I've written for easy reference. Most of it will be book reviews, with a few random essays about the stuff that interests me outside work (i.e. nothing on politics and government).

Friday, December 21, 2012

Amazon Review of Fenway 1912

Amazon Review of Fenway 1912

Fenway 1912
Glenn Stout
2011, 416 pp.

Link to the Amazon review

Note: Fenway 1912 was recently awarded the Society of American Baseball Research's Seymour Medal (best book on baseball history) and Larry Ritter Award (best book on the deadball era). 

Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark, A Championship Season, and Fenway's Remarkable First Year is the latest in a string of books celebrating the storied ballpark's centennial next year. Three other books about Fenway have already been released this year and another six are on the horizon. In Fenway 1912, Glen Stout, the author of numerous team histories and other sports related books, covers "all the bases," surrounding the park's construction and the 1912 Boston Red Sox championship season.

The 1912 World Series between the Red Sox and Giants was
so monumental it earned the title "The First Fall Classic"
To read Fenway 1912 is to travel back to New England at the dawn of the 20th century. Readers will meet not only the players, but Fenway architect James McLaughlin and head groundskeeper Jerome Kelly while learning something about the early, pre-1920 game both on the field and from a business perspective. Another major character is Boston itself, and Stout spends some time discussing the spate of buildings that had gone up near Fenway Park that still stand, enjoying iconic status in their own right. The Irish pols that took over the reins of city government before the turn of the century and were comfortably ensconced by the time the book opens also play an important role that Stout does not neglect. Street cars weren't just used for travel downtown, but in between towns as well. "Nuf Ced" McGreevy and the Royal Rooters make their appearances as well throughout.
Michael "Nuf Said" McGreevy
The Sox's  most ardent supporter

Fenway is, of course, iconic - its odd shape instantly recognizable to even the most casual baseball fan. Stout opines, however, that Fenway has actually changed so much in its 100 year history that today's Fenway regular, transported back in time to the days of Howard Taft and Smokey Joe Wood would not recognize the ball park he was sitting in. This constant change, not its unchanging image, is the real reason that Fenway has survived while other stadiums from the same era such as Ebbets Field, Shibe (Connie Mack) and Tiger Stadium have fallen victim to the wrecking ball, he writes. Besides dispelling the myth of a timeless, never changing Fenway, Stout demolishes some other myths. For instance, Fenway's shape was dictated by the shape of the land parcel purchased by the owners. There was still undeveloped area around the stadium. Given how far the ball flew in 1912, however, Fenway's dimensions were considered more than adequate and few home runs were anticipated. Of course, the city grew up around Fenway, closing it in and making expansion difficult once the game changed in 1920 with the livelier ball and free swinging, homer seeking batsmen.

Stout demolishes the myth that Fenway's odd shape was
attributable to the scarcity of available land
The Red Sox themselves come alive in Stout's description of the 1912 season and World Series, and the epilogue fills in the rest of their story after 1912. Still, the book's largest character is the park itself. Fortunately, an enlightened ownership and fan base has made the concessions and changes necessary to preserve Fenway, so its story is still being written. While Red Sox fans and Frequent Fenway goers will enjoy 1912 the most, any fan of the game and its history will want to give Fenway 1912 five stars.

To this day, the 1912 team is the winningist in Red Sox history. While fans will be celebrating Fenway's 100 year anniversary with the gorgeous coffee table books spewing forth, they'll also want this excellent history of the stadium's birth and the team that inaugurated it.

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