Note: There is a typo in this column that has been corrected. The Red Sox won the 2007 World Series, not the 2008 World Series.Comedian Jimmy Fallon is credited with having said this of fans of the Red Sox: “If you root for something that loses for 86 years, you’re a pretty good fan. You don’t have to win everything to be a fan of something.”
This seems to be at the heart of Red Sox fan devotion. New Englanders adore their sports teams, notably their Sox. And they don’t always have to win. By the time you read this on Friday, November 1, the Red Sox will have won or lost the 2013 World Series contest against the St. Louis Cardinals. Whether the Sox win or lose, most of their fans will remain just that. Loyal fans.
I didn’t grow up in a household of sports enthusiasts. I can’t even remember viewing a sports broadcast on my home television, but I do recall my fifth grade class listening on the radio to the start of the sixth game of the World Series in the fall of 1962. It was the year that Willie Mays played his last championship season for the San Francisco Giants against the New York Yankees. The National League Giants lost to the American League Yankees in the seventh game on October 16 at Candlestick Park.
The sole exciting aspect of my modest baseball memoir is that one of my closest high school friends was the daughter of Red Sox Manager Darrell Johnson. Johnson was raised in Nebraska, but he spent his adult years in the Bay Area of California and raised his family of four children there.
As a teenaged friend of his daughter Dara Johnson, I was a naive participant on the periphery of the baseball scene. Johnson was named pitching coach of the Red Sox in 1967 under manager Dick Williams. When Mr. Johnson was in town in Pinole, California, their home was often frequented by baseball celebrities. I was a gawker only, in awe of a sport I didn’t understand and names I didn't recognize. Darrell Johnson (1928 – 2004) managed the PawSox in 1973, and he managed the Red Sox for three seasons (1974-1976). This included the year they were matched with the Cincinnati Reds in the 1975 World Series that broke Boston’s heart. (Dara and I remain close friends 45 years later).
The Red Sox and Fenway Park have a mystique probably unknown to any other population in baseball history. There are only seven major league parks than can’t accommodate more than 40,000 fans and Fenway is one of them. Seats are at a premium at the Fenway, but that’s not the only reason that Red Sox seats are so beloved.
The Red Sox have won seven World Series – unfortunately none of them in the last 72 years of the 20th century. They won in 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918 before breaking the “curse” and triumphing once again in 2004 and 2007. After they won the 2007 series, Bill Nowlin and Jim Prime wrote “The Red Sox World Series Encyclopedia: No Longer the World’s Shortest Book” (2013). Nowlin and Prime also wrote “Amazing Tales from the Red Sox Dugout: A collection of the Greatest Red Sox Stories Ever Told” (2012). Nowlin is Vice President of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research and has written nearly two dozen books about the Red Sox including “75 The Red Sox Team That Saved Baseball” (2005).
The 1975 World Series was at that time the most watched World Series in history on television. (Today that record goes to the 7th game in the 1986 World Series when the New York Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox at Shea Stadium).
“How the Red Sox Explain New England” (2013) by Jon Chattman and Allie Tarantino notes the “unique affinity New Englanders have for their Red Sox” and the authors discuss it in depth. They include a description of Little Fenway – the 1/4th scale replica of the park in Essex, Vermont that was built by the O’Connors in their backyard. It’s used for Wiffle ball games. Charity Wiffle ball tournaments have raised over $2 million there. You can check it out at LittleFenwaydotcom.
Chattman and Tarantino also coauthored “I Love the Red Sox; I Hate the Yankees” (2012), in reversible book format that explores the celebrated rivalry of the Boston and New York teams.
For those of you who would rather watch than read, “Red Sox Memories: The Greatest Moments in Boston Red Sox History” (2011) is a 144 minute look complete with game footage produced by Major League Baseball Productions.
No discussions about the Red Sox would be complete without a study of The Fenway. Baseball researcher Bill Nowlin has written about his favorite place in the world, “Fenway Park at 100: Baseball’s Hometown” (2012). Other books that coincided with the 100th anniversary just last year are “Fenway Park: A Salute to the Coolest, Cruelest, Longest-Running Major League Baseball Park in America” (2012), written by John Powers and Ron Driscoll, and “Fenway Park” (2012) by David Hickey. The videos “Fenway Park: 100 Years as Heart of the Red Sox Nation” (2012 by MLBP) and “Fenway Park: The Golden Age” (2012) were also produced at the time of the Fenway Centennial.
If you’d love to share your love of Fenway with younger members of your family, “Fenway Park: America’s Most Beloved Ballpark: A Ballpark Pop-up Book” (2009) is a fun option.
Most importantly, the team at the Minuteman Library Network has prepared a list of all Red Sox items in the Minuteman Library catalog. The link can be found on the main Minuteman Library homepage under “Awards/Booklists – Other Booklists for Everyone – Red Sox Items”. There are hundreds of books and videos listed in the adult and children’s collections. Call the Morrill Memorial staff for help with the list or with help requesting any item, 781-769-0200.