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Red Sox remembered - “The Ultimate Boston Red Sox Time Machine Book”

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It might be tough to fathom, considering we’re still in the deep freeze of winter, but baseball season is just around the corner. Spring training begins in just a matter of weeks; before you know it, there will be meaningful action on the diamond once again.

But maybe you’re looking for something to tide you over, to remind you of just why we love the game as much as we do. If that sounds like you – and you’re a Red Sox fan – I might have something for you.

Martin Gitlin’s “The Ultimate Boston Red Sox Time Machine Book” (Lyons Press, $18.95) is a lovely quick-hit journey through Red Sox history, from those early days of success at the dawning of the World Series era to the incredible success of recent days, as well as the long, long, LONG stretch of championship futility that dogged the team through most of the 20th century.

This book offers a condensed timeline of the team’s illustrious history, featuring a number of classic photos to go along with the tales of tribulation and triumph. And while many of these stories will ring familiar to longtime followers of the team, there’s something here for every level of fandom, from the neophytes to the diehards.

We spend some time with the teams from the earliest part of the 20th century, the Boston team that played in (and won) the first-ever World Series back in 1903. Those teams, featuring Hall of Fame legends like Cy Young and Tris Speaker as well as briefly shining meteors like Smokey Joe Wood, would have great success in the 1900s and 1910s. That latter decade ended with what would come to be the defining moment in much of Red Sox history.

You see, the Red Sox had a remarkable young left-handed pitcher who also proved to be quite adept at handling the bat. His prowess made him very valuable, and team owner and Broadway producer Harry Frazee needed a quick infusion of cash. And so George Herman Ruth – better known as Babe – was sold to the New York Yankees in 1919.

And we all know how THAT worked out.

Following the sale of Ruth, the Red Sox spend the next 80-plus years trying to find their way back to the championship promised land. It wasn’t that they didn’t have talent – some all-time greats graced the roster over the course of that four score stretch. Ted Williams was foremost among them, but Carl Yastrzemski was no slouch. Neither were Jim Rice or Dwight Evans or Carlton Fisk or Roger Clemens or Mo Vaughn or Nomar. So many great players – and zero rings.

Heck, they only made it the Series a handful of times, with each featuring plenty of drama and ending in heartbreak. Johnny Pesky holding the ball in 1946. Waking up from the Impossible Dream in 1967. Fisk’s legendary Game 6 homer in 1975 only prolonging the inevitable. A groundball between Bill Buckner’s legs in 1986. The Curse of the Bambino was real.

Now, there were other interesting teams in the mix over those many years, and some players that made their marks in Boston. But it wasn’t until the ascent of 21st century heroes like Pedro and Manny and Papi, single-named icons that carried Boston to an historic championship in 2004, finally ending the wretched curse. And they REALLY ended it – Boston went on to win titles in 2007, 2011 and 2018.

Essentially, this book is a walk down memory lane, an easy-to-read breakdown of the long history of this beloved franchise. Gatlin doesn’t tend to delve particularly deeply into any single aspect or era of the team; instead, he offers a much broader view. That isn’t to say there aren’t specifics – some of the older stuff is quite fascinating, and fans of all sorts should welcome the chance to remember not just the stars, but guys like the what-could-have-been Tony Conigliaro and all-time character Bill “Spaceman” Lee. Gatlin spins it all with a straightforward style, lighthearted and breezy. His prose matches nicely with the accompanying pictures, creating an easy and informative reading experience.

There’s a lot to know about a team with a history as long as the Red Sox; “The Ultimate Boston Red Sox Time Machine Book” serves as a wonderful introduction to that history. Today’s fans know a Red Sox organization steeped in success; books like this are a great reminder of how things used to be. Anyone looking for an engaging and easily-digested overview of Red Sox history will be well-served by picking this one up.

Last modified on Tuesday, 04 February 2020 06:03

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