July 16, 2012

Book Review: Fenway Park: A Salute To The Coolest, Cruelest, Longest-Running Major League Baseball Stadium In America, by John Powers and Ron Driscoll

In honour of Fenway Park's 100 years of existence, the Boston Globe has produced a beautiful coffee-table book (9x13) that, like the baseball park it celebrates, is a gem.

Its 250 pages include dozens of never-before-republished colour and black-and-white photographs, reproductions of newspaper pages, and interviews with past players. The book also comes with a poster of the blueprints for the extensive 1934 renovations. And at $30, it is very reasonably priced. (The anniversary book produced by the Red Sox is $75 online and $80 at the store across the street from the park.)

In addition to the decade-by-decade history, there are pages devoted to people who have worked in the Park, including switch board operator Helen Robinson (who worked the park's main switchboard for more than 60 years), organist John Kiley, and grounds keeper Joe Mooney, and superfan Lib Dooley (who attended 4,000+ consecutive home games).

Sidebars on other random things and events: Duffy's Cliff, the Red Seat, the extensive renovations during the winter of 1933-34, the day Ted Williams retired for the first time (in April 1952, when he went to fight in the Korean War), Fenway's first night game, the Citgo sign, Chuck "The Maniacal One" Waseleski, the true distance down the left field line, and the late '90s plans to destroy the park and move the Red Sox to a modern, replica stadium.

That plan was vigorously protested by many fans and groups like Save Fenway Park, and it was not until 2005 that the new ownership group led by John Henry formally announced that the park would remain intact and in use. Since then, there have been several rounds of renovations. They have been seamless - indeed, it now seems a little odd to see old footage of the screen atop the Wall - and the park has (for the most part) retained its coziness and magic.

Despite the cramped seats and increase in loud music between innings, Fenway Park remains one of my favourite places on Earth. This book does an excellent job of telling the story of why people have such a close attachment to Fenway Park. It celebrates the good, the bad, and the ugly about a baseball park that, at 101 years of age, is still going strong.

(Disclosure: I was sent two copies of this book by Running Press. The second copy is the prize in this year's W-L contest.)

No comments: