Continuing with the theme of celebrating the 100 year anniversary of Fenway Park, I read Glenn Stout’s incredible account of the construction of the Red Sox home and the subsequent first season, Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark, a Championship Season, and Fenway's Remarkable First Year. The casual fan of baseball history might have some awareness of this incredible year in the game’s earlier and more offensively challenged era. The Red Sox World Series victory over the New York Giants is often most closely tied with name Snodgrass, in same way that the 1986 Series is tied to the name Buckner. Fred Snodgrass’s error on a routine fly ball might be the most recounted event of that season, but it hardly the year’s only memorable moment. Some incredible baseball moments from that inaugural year, both for the Boston Red Sox and for
Stout does not begin with Charles or John I. Taylor, the Red Sox owners, or with architect James McLuaghlin, who designed the timeless baseball venue, but with Jerome Kelley, a Irish immigrant labor, who served as the groundskeeper for the Red Sox, first at the Huntington Ave Grounds and then at the newly built Fenway Park. This choice, along with Stout’s dedications ("to the fans in the stands- particularly the bleachers…") clues you in to the author’s allegiances. While this story is largely about the deeds of wealth and powerful men who created a park to fatten their pockets, and it is perhaps primarily the story of great athletes who made their living on at that Park, it is the inclusion of people like Jerome Kelley that elevates this book into the upper realms of baseball and history writing. It is not just the actions of the players on the field that Stout brings to life, but the cheers and groans of the fans as they can to embrace this team and this ballpark for the first time.
That is not to say that the Irvings and other baseball magnates like Ban Johnson and his toadie Jimmy McAleer are not front-and-center in the telling. Stout covers the construction of Fenway and its first season from all angles and always with an even hand. He unearths precious gems of insight into the back room dealing that ruled the game in those far less transparent days, when cronyism ruled not only baseball, but much of American life. The reader is privy to the hushed dealing that lead to the
The construction of
The final third of the book focuses heavily on the Fall Classic. And it was one of the great series of the age with the surprising Red Sox team, led by Tris Speaker and Smokey Joe Wood, meeting the great
Around the eight games of the 1912 World Series (a tie necessitated an 8th game), we are given the full story of