The book: “Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox”
The author: Harvey Frommer
The vital stats: Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 238 pages, $45.
The pitch: The Red Sox’s four-game series against the Angels in Anaheim — they don’t play each other in Boston until early next month (May 2-5) — gives us a hook to look back at Fenway from its birth in 1912 and as it readies for its 100th anniversary season in 2012.
And, again, we’re hooked.
Our one and only trip to Fenway in ’08 was at a very strange time. The rumors were strong that Manny Ramirez would be traded at the July 31 deadline. The Angels’ John Lackey took a no-hitter against the Red Sox into the ninth inning before Justin Pedroia broke it up.
We took a Fenway tour, and the guide pointed down to the door at the Green Monster. “They call it ‘Manny’s Door’ because, well, you know …” Yes, everyone knew.
The next day, Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers. Two seasons later, Lackey ended up with the Red Sox.
Frommer, who in 2008 came out with “Remembering Yankee Stadium” (linked here) just in time as it was being replaced by a newer version, gives the same careful treatment to Fenway Park, allowing the voices of nearly 150 people tell its tale in an enlarged display of culled photos and reproduced ticket stubs.
No baseball fan needs to be told why Fenway is special. But this reinforces it.
Photos that jump out, like page 70 and 71 — a two page spread that shows Ted Williams actually making his debut as a pitcher in August, 1940. A shot of the dugout from the 1946 All Star with Cy Young, Walter Johnson and Lefty Grove in attendance.
There’s an elevator man on the job in the 1940s, fans watching games from billboard support beams in the 1950s, four nuns sitting under umbrellas during a rain delay in the 1960s, Fred Lynn making a diving catch in Game 2 of the 1975 World Series, Red Sox Nation with a 2004 World Champion banner.
The text, which alternates narrative with recollections from players and fans, is also like reading the script of a famous play taking place.
Such as the one on Sept. 28, 1960 — Ted Williams’ final game.
Text: Overcast, dank, chilly, the fianl day of the final homestand of the 1960 season. Only 10,454 showed up. The game was not televised locally or nationally. ‘You Made Me Love You’ playing over the loudspeaker created a melancholy mood.
Frank Lamzone: I wish there was more people there. They didn’t realize, you know.
In the eighth inning, Curt Gowdy on the game call: “Everybody quiet now here at Fenway Park after they gave him a standing ovation of two minutes knowing this is probably his late time at bat. One out, nobody on.”
Bob Keaney: “Ted dug in, wiggled his fanny, and glared at pitcher Jack Fisher. Everyone stopped breathing …”
Gowdy: “Jack Fisher into his windup, here’s the pitch. Williams swings — and there’s a long drive to deep right! The ball is going and it is gone! A home run for Ted Williams in his last time at bat in the major leagues!”
Brooks Robinson: “I was playing third base. He went running around the bases and I looked at him as he passed second base. I had my arms folded as he passed me. That was absolutely a magical moment to be part of that history.”
Steve Ryder: “He had that regal trot around the bases. Didn’t tip his cap, didn’t look at the stands, just right into the dugout.”
Text: The inning ended and Williams went out to play left field in the top of the ninth. Just before the inning began, Carroll Hardy replaced him. The Kid ran in. The crowd had one more standing ovation in it.
Frank Malzone: “Typical Ted. Whoever was close by, he shook their hands and waved his hands to everybody else. ‘See you, gang.’ That was it.”
How it goes down in the scorebook: The book jacket alone is a piece of art — including the back, with Ramirez surfacing from the Green Monster door.
Again, we know. Just Fenway being Fenway.
The book itself may seem to be as big as the left-field wall, but it’s a classy way of showing off just how important a place this has been over the last 100 seasons. Any stadium in L.A. would be lucky to have a book made in its honor the way this one is.