Fenway Park The Centennial worth the read

Looking for a coffee table book that’s light enough to carry around from room to room, or even out of the house? Searching for that book that is rich in narrative and illustration?

Saul Wisnia has produced such a read with “Fenway Park The Centennial, 100 Years of Red Sox Baseball”.

The cover photo of Fenway during a day game makes you feel like you’re at the park and all but makes you want to order a hot dog. And aside from the 176 pages of memories the book offers, there’s also a companion DVD narrated by Carlton Fisk, the Hall of Fame catcher.

Wisnia covers every generation of Fenway, and even includes a prologue of Boston’s 40 years of professional baseball before the “lyric little ballpark” was invented.

The Grand Opening in 1912  is covered in rich detail, as Wisnia informs readers of the three straight rainouts before the park finally opened, and of course, the backdrop of a much bigger story taking place at the time — the sinking of the Titanic.  Did you know that the deepest part of center field at Fenway during its opening was 550 feet? The right-field power alley was 405. Hard to imagine Big Papi would have put up many power numbers in Fenway’s first version.

The book sweetly transitions from the Babe Ruth Years to the beginning of Tom Yawkey’s regime, when the park underwent major renovations.

There’s all the requisite information you would want about Ted Williams, including a photo of “The Kid” taken in Life Magazine.

You want to see how high Boo Ferris’s leg kid was? Check out page 71 in the Near Misses chapter. A grand stand ticket to the 1946 World Series — illustrated on page 75 — went for $6.

The Red Sox weren’t the only local team to inhabit Fenway. The Boston Patriots, long before the glory days of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, spent Sundays in the Fenwas from 1963-68. The photo on page 96 with the yard-lines in the middle of the baseball diamond is surreal.

The 1967 Impossible Dream, the best thing to happen to Sox fans until 2004, is covered in all its glory.

Did you know soccer star Pele played at Fenway in 1968? That’s another interesting side note from this book.

Most of you know all about modern Sox history, from Fisk waving it fair to the heartbreaks of Bucky Dent, Mookie Wilson and Aaron Boone, all the way to the championship glory in 2004 and ’07. But that doesn’t make it any less exciting to look back on it through Wisnia’s words and the pictures in the book. There’s a great shot of Pete Rose, dressed in civillian clothes, sitting in box seats behind home plate as the Red Sox take batting practice during the pre-World Series workout in ’75.

There are sweet vignettes throughout the book, such as that Aug. 7 game in 1982, when Jim Rice helped care for a four-year-old boy who was struck by a foul ball.

From Mike Greenwell riding a horse after the ’95 Division clincher to Mo Vaughn facing Toronto’s Roger Clemens to Nomar Garciaparra signing autographs for his adoring fans, this book takes you back through the years. There is Pedro Martinez lighting up the 1999 All-Star Game with a giant All-Star Game logo jumping out of the picture from the top of the Green Monster.

A former journalist for the Washington Post, Saul Wisnia is now the publications editor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the cancer-fighting institution that has worked in tandem with the Red Sox for more than half a century.

His book is a great way to get Sox fans primed for the 100th season of Fenway, which will be celebrated in a big way before the April 20, 2012 home game against the Yankees.

 

2 Comments

The deepest part of Fenway when it opened in 1912 was not 550 feet – it was that far to the back edge of the property, but the center field bleachers were far in front of that. Neither was it 405 feet to the power alley – it was more than 500 feet, as the only fence in right field when Fenway Park opened was at the back edge of the property. As Glen Stout’s Fenway 1912 explains, there were no stands in right field until just beofre the 1912 World Series

I’m sure the book is well worth the read. If I could actually afford it, I’d read it sooner! Hmmm… I can wish… Thanks, Ian! GO SOX!

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