October 19, 2011

100 years of Fenway Park

By Glenn Stout
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In Fenway 1912, veteran sportswriter and self-confessed Red Sox fanatic Glenn Stout essentially offers a blow-by-blow account of the historic season in which the Sox posted their best record ever (105-47), won the World Series, and did it all immediately after their new home, Fenway Park, had been freshly built and newly christened. While effectively dramatizing the behind-the-scenes negotiations that spurred the construction of the famous venue, Stout’s volume is mostly a rundown of the Red Sox players and their achievements in that special year, with legendary Hall of Fame outfielders Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper leading the way, not to mention the pitching triumvirate of Smoky Joe Wood, Buck O’Brien and rookie Hugh Bedient, who won 74 games among them. (Wood was an astonishing 34-5 that year, with 10 shutouts.) There are also many interesting side stories involving player-manager Jake Stahl, reserve catcher Forrest (“Hick”) Cady and other, less familiar but no less hallowed names from the Red Sox record book.

Stout’s text reflects the distinctive nature of a baseball era that included all-time greats like Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, and Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard of the New York Giants, the team that proved to be the Sox’s worthy foes in a tight battle for the world championship. As for the illustrious ballpark that continues to stand today, Stout relates a lot of interesting technical details via narrative, photos and architectural drawings, while setting the stage for the April 20 opening game, when 24,000 fans witnessed a 7-6 Red Sox victory over the American League’s eventual cellar-dwelling Yankees.

Stout further details the structural changes effected for the 1912 Series, which more or less fixed the park’s famously eccentric angularity from then on. Yet he doesn’t shy away from his frank assessment that modern-day fiscal policies “have priced most middle-class fans out of Fenway Park and done little to address cramped seating in the grandstands and bleachers.” The author further concludes bittersweetly that “nearly one hundred years after the first fans passed through the turnstiles, Fenway Park remains. It has been saved, but it has not, except in the most general sense, been preserved. Very little of the ballpark that opened in 1912 is still visible. What little that does remain has essentially been built over, built under and built on top of until the original design is almost unrecognizable.”

Baseball fans will surely gravitate to this volume, but Red Sox lovers will especially appreciate it, including its somewhat esoteric aspects.

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Fenway 1912

Fenway 1912

By Glenn Stout
ISBN 9780547195629

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