The Red Sox Fan Handbook:About

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This was the preface to the 2005 edition of The Red Sox Fan Handbook, and it speaks for this website as well.

Most people don’t think of baseball as a soap opera. A lot of baseball fans would probably be a little offended at the characterization. But in a few key ways, baseball plays the same role in the lives of its fans that soap operas do for their viewers. For six months a year there is a baseball game on almost every night, a refreshing comfort in a world where little else is constant. As in a soap opera, we know the cast of characters in a baseball game, but not who the hero or villain will be on that particular night. Sometimes we’ll go out of our way to watch a game that guest stars someone especially famous, or a former cast member who is no longer with the team.

At a time where not much is certain in life there is certainty in baseball, and there is great comfort in that certainty.

And certainly the last few years have been particularly operatic times in the history of the Red Sox. The second edition of The Red Sox Fan Handbook came out in 2002. The team had just been sold, and nobody knew what to expect. The Red Sox were on their third manager since the preceding August, and a season that had started with high hopes had ended disappointingly . . . not an unusual occurrence for Red Sox fans.

Water passed under the bridge. Swordsmith Books, the publisher I ran at the time, stopped publishing its own books, a victim of a bankrupt distributor and life’s disasters: deaths in the family, a divorce. Through the rough times the Red Sox brought continuity, hope. The disaster that might have followed the sale of the team never happened—the new owners proved to be terrific, the teams they put on the field very good. The 2003 playoffs brought heartbreak but also hopefulness. Unlike the fluke of 1986 this team did not have to be lucky to win, did not fall apart in the aftermath of another crushing loss. Like many of us, I drew great personal comfort from their resilience, and the triumph of 2004 was in many ways a triumph for all of new England—always a cliché when a regional sports team wins a championship but literally true in this case. This book is about that triumph, and about many other triumphs and tragedies, stories and soap operas, and all of the things that make the Red Sox New England’s team, as well as the team of many non-New Englanders, as I was.

I’m 38 years old now, and I’ve been a Red Sox fan since 1979, when I was 12. I’m about average-aged for the contributors to this book, the oldest of whom saw his first Red Sox game in 1927. What made me a Red Sox fan? At the time, I wasn’t even a baseball fan. No one in my family played baseball. I lived near Atlantic City, New Jersey, close to eight hours’ drive from Boston. I’d been to a few Philadelphia Phillies games, in sterile Veterans Stadium, and had come away less than impressed.

My sister was in college in the Boston area, and I came up to visit her one summer. She and a bunch of friends dragged me to a Red Sox game. We sat in the bleachers, section 35. I was bored and being pretty obnoxious. Sometime during the game, something captured me. I don’t know if it was Fenway Park, or the crowd, or something magical about the game itself, but by the time Dwight Evans broke open a tie game with a ninth-inning grand slam, I was hooked.

Two summers later I traveled to Boston again, for a week this time. I walked from Somerville to Boston to buy Red Sox tickets, and went to every game I could afford, sometimes walking instead of taking public transit so I could save my money to go to more games. The night before I had to leave town, the Red Sox got into a 19-inning duel with the Seattle Mariners. I couldn’t bear to leave, even though the last bus back to Somerville left at 1:00 a.m.. After the game was finally suspended, I ended up walking back through Boston and Cambridge to my sister’s apartment in Somerville, showing up around 3:00 in the morning. She never said anything.

I took to listening to the Red Sox on the radio. From Atlantic City, on a clear night, you can just barely pull in WTIC-AM 1080 from Hartford. I’d go up to the highest point in the house and listen on the ancient clock radio that had the best reception of all the radios in the house—making tiny adjustments to try and preserve the signal when it faded. I still listen to most of the Red Sox games on the radio, even though I live in New England now and could probably watch more of them. But the Red Sox captured my imagination as much as my heart, and listening to games on the radio allows my imagination to do much of the work.

What made me come up with the idea for this book? The Red Sox Fan Handbook is the book I wish I’d had when the team first captured my imagination. It’s easy to find a book about stats, or a dry analysis of a baseball team’s chances. It’s much harder to find the folklore of a team—not just who the important players were, but why people still care about them, what brought them to life for other fans watching games last year, a dozen years ago—or a hundred years ago. This is a book about Ted Williams and Babe Ruth and Curt Schilling and Manny Ramirez, but it’s also a book about Ed Jurak catching a rat in his glove, and Tom Maggard dying at the brink of the major leagues. There are stories about more than 400 players in this book—some of them famous, some of them funny, some of them tragic, some of them just about the lives of people that we care about, or that previous generations of fans cared about.

There is a history of the team in this book, but that history is part of an ongoing story of how the team and its fans became what they are today, not just an account of who won or lost or was traded.

There are questions and answers that I wanted when I first discovered the game—answers about the basic strategies of the game, about some of baseball’s confusing rules and procedures, and about the Red Sox themselves.

There is an account of Fenway Park—not just how to get tickets or where to park or eat (although that’s here) but what the experience of Fenway Park has been for other fans, and why a tiny, outdated facility is so beloved by so many people. There are stories by other fans of what captured their imaginations, in the same way that meaningless 1979 game captured mine.

And along the way there are all of the other things you would expect in a guide for Red Sox fans, new or long-suffering: a list of books and a guide to websites, information about visiting spring training or the Red Sox minor league teams.

Whether you read through or browse for favorite players and incidents, whether you are using this book to learn about the team for the first time or to relive a half-century of memories, this book is an attempt to capture the soul of a team that has captured the soul of New England and a good part of the nation.

This new edition has been updated through the 2005 preseason. More than 200 player entries were added or changed. (More than 400 players are profiled in all.) The history of the team is now complete through the 2004–05 offseason. The minor league prospects section has been completely revised and updated. The section on where to eat near Fenway Park has been expanded, as have the websites, quotes, and the bibliography of Red Sox books. Other sections have been updated or completely rewritten. Since the previous editions, many people have written in with their own stories, requests, or ideas. You’ll see some of those ideas here—more on the minor leagues, stories about Jim Pagliaroni, Dernell Stenson, and other favorites, some new stories of how people became fans.

The Red Sox Fan Handbook was a team effort, with dozens of people participating to some degree. The primary contributors to this book include Lyford P. Beverage Jr., Dave Bismo, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Joe Kuras, Robert P. Machemer, Heather Anne Nicoll, Toine Otten, Paul Ryan, Neil Serven, Val Vadeboncoeur, Eric Van, Donald J. Violette, and Edward R. Zartler. Others who contributed stories, information, or corrections include Jon Diamond, Don Fisher, Jim Freid, Dan Golden, Lee Harris, Bill Kirk, James J. Lyons, Mario Martinelli, Chris Morth, Thomas S. Parrott II, Colin Smith, Richard Smith, Jim Tiberio, Daryl Jasper and Jeff Ouimette of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Chris Cameron of the Portland Sea Dogs, Tripp Baum of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Pete Ehmke of the Capital City Bombers, and Todd Stephenson of the Gulf Coast Red Sox. Bill Nowlin, publisher of Rounder Books (and a well-known Red Sox scholar and author), acquired this new edition of the book and contributed both editorial changes and a remarkable store of Red Sox lore. Val Smith, my wonderful agent, helped keep me focused and productive, and made me laugh when I needed to. Brad San Martin and Steve Netsky at Rounder Books helped shepherd the book through the editiorial and production process, while Jamie Johnson, Elizabeth Glover, Wendy Goldberg, Stacy Cortigiano, and Matthew Peck assisted with previous editions that this work evolved from. Gus Anderson, a longtime friend, workout partner, and source of many baseball conversations was in my thoughts while writing, though prior commitments in Iraq prevented him from helping in person. And of course I have to thank Penny, Jen, and the crew of the Pomfret XTramart, who patiently cope with both my need for Boston newspapers and my late-night snack runs.

—Leigh Grossman

February, 2005

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