My Book Report: Fenway Park: A Salute to the Coolest, Cruelest, Longest-Running Major League Baseball Stadium in America by Jon Powers and Ron Driscoll.

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With the 100th Anniversary season of Fenway Park upon us, there is no shortage of tributes to the "Most Beloved Ballpark in America" coming our way. Among them, in elegant coffee table book form, is Fenway Park: A Salute to the Coolest, Cruelest, Longest-Running Major League Baseball Stadium in America by Jon Powers and Ron Driscoll. Powers and Driscoll both write for the Boston Globe and the book is a collection of photos and some past work from the Globe woven together with a decade by decade history of the park and its primary tenant, The Boston Red Sox.

It is fitting that such an excellent tribute to the 100 year old park should come from the Globe; the paper and the team are inseparably linked. In 1912, it was Boston Globe publisher Charles Taylor bought the team in 1904 and bequeathed it to his son, John I. Taylor, who became the team’s owner and president. In 1911, Taylor sold half of his stake in the club to finance the construction of Fenway Park, which he would own in full until 1914. His son Benjamin Taylor, also a publisher of the Globe for a time, contributes a special introduction for the book, touching on his own personal relationship with the club.

Powers and Driscoll write a concise and highly readable history of the team and the park, focusing in on the seasons and players that have made Fenway the iconic place it is. The two writers are aided by a wealth of inserts and additional material. Each decade has a timeline of memorable events that took place in Fenway from Red Sox and Braves World Series games to speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eamon De Valera. The People of the Park segments are especially engaging. These one page tributes highlight important men and women who had a particularly close relationship to FenwayPark. These brief pieces bring to life a vast array of characters who all had a hand in shaping the legacy of Fenway Park, from fans like Isabelle Stewart Gardener and Lillian Hopkins to players like Johnny Pesky and Duffy Lewis, for whom the steep hill leading up to the original way was named, to team personnel and owners like the villainous Harry Frazee and the beloved Jerry Remy. Even Tessie, the Royal Rooters’ mocking little tune, which assaulted Honus Wagner in the first ever World Series before becoming the team’s modern anthem through the Dropkick Murphy’s reimaging, gets a loving breakdown in the series.

The large format book also features some pieces by Globe mainstays Bob Ryan and Dan Shaughnessy. Ryan writes about his desire to be Smokey Joe Wood back in 1912 and about the legacy that Carl Yastrzemski created in his 22 seasons with the Red Sox. Shaughnessy revels in a cab driver knocking out Harry Frazee and in the equally violent destruction of a man’s hat by a certain Ted Williams home run ball. Other inserts pull the focus away from the Red Sox and baseball, recounting the many other teams and sports that have enjoyed the use of Fenway Park, from the NFL’s Boston Redskins to the New Year’s Day Winter Classic game between the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers to start 2010. In every respect, the book is a thorough and detailed summation of 100 years of the great Fenway Park, in all its forms and iterations.

Power and Driscoll write with the ease and skill one would expect from two long time pros, but their most impressive work here is not their words, but the incredible job they do in mining the Globe’s archives to allow the figures of Fenway’s past to speak again. Pulling quotes from writers and players of days now long gone, the writers create a palpable sense of the present even when recouting events like the 1918 World Series, William’s .406 season and the incredible 1967 "impossible dream" pennant.

However, by far the biggest reason Red Sox fans should consider shelling out the $30 cover price for this book is the quality of thousands of color glossy images that bring to life the men and women the writers are talking about. From the two page balck and white photo of the bleacher crowd amassed for the 1912 World Series on the third page to the large, fold out blueprint from the 1933 renovation of the Park that is included at the back of the book, this 273 page tome is a treasure trove of incredible photography. Virtually every story is accompanied by an equally memorable image. Some images, like the full page print of Jason Vartiek sparing the world from Alex Rodriquez’s face with his catcher’s mitt, are wonderfully familiar to Red Sox fans, but many of images are startlingly new. A young Harry Hooper takes a cut in one small reprint. Smokey Joe warms up in a another, his glove looking like little more than an oven mit. There is a image of a young Babe Ruth, just 20 years old, looking lean and hard in blank Red Sox uniform. More than anything else, these pictures make this book a must-have for Red Sox fans and anyone looking for a view into the history of the greatest place ever built for the sport of baseball.

FenwayPark: A Salute to the Coolest, Cruelest, Longest-Running Major League Baseball Stadium in America by Jon Powers and Ron Driscoll is available now from Running Press and you can order a copy from amazon here if you like. I highly recommend the book for serious fans as the images alone are worth the cost and the myriad of bite-size articles on every topic related to the Red Sox and Fenway will give casual readers something to pick at for a long time, while the decade by decade history is a solid summation of 100 years in the life of the "lyric, little bandbox"

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