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Posts Tagged ‘2004 World Series’


I’ve enjoyed sports and history as long as I can remember.  As a kid I would read lots of sports biographies- including some of the dreaded Yankees.  My dislike for the Yankees didn’t keep me from appreciating the skill of some of their players.  Of course most of the ones I appreciated were from eras when the Red Sox were essentially uncompetitive.

Sometimes books come along that allow me to revisit sports and history.  Sean Deveney’s The Original Curse is one of those books.  Deveney puts the 1918 World Series into its historical context, and that context is vital to his main thesis.  His thesis, which he admits cannot prove, is that the Cubs threw the 1918 World Series.  This is particularly intriguing as a result of the futility that plagued both teams since that World Series.  The Red Sox’ futility has only recently ended, but the Cubs’ continues.  Such utter inability to win championships is astounding to say the least- particularly since they were both so successful before that time.  This was the 5th World Series victory for the Red Sox.

“Prosperity tends to provide a pretty big blind spot.”

Deveney focuses on a few things outside of baseball.  World War I wrecked havoc on the world economy.  While ball players were well paid, inflation in the few years leading up to the 1918 World Series was about 55%.  Their good paychecks did not go as far as they used to go.

World War I put pressure on the players themselves as well as the game.  Some of the players were drafted during the season.  There was controversy as to whether or not to end the season.  Players were viewed as slackers because they were not directly assisting the war effort.  The War Department had underestimated what it would take to get fully involved in the conflict.  They put off requests from baseball for clarification repeatedly.  Some players left the pros to work in the shipyards which often had ball teams.  Many of these guys didn’t work but just played ball.

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While I was on vacation, my dad gifted me with Dan Shaughnessy’s book Reversing the Curse: Inside the History-Making Red Sox Championship Season.  It is one of the MANY books to be written about the 2004 World Series Champions.  This book was actually written as the season progressed, and like the movie Fever Pitch, had the good fortune to be completed with the Sox actually winning the Series for the first time since 1918.

Dan Shaughnessy is an interesting figure in Boston sports.  He grew up in New England (not to far from where I grew up) so he loves Boston sports teams.  The down side is that he is incredibly cynical about Boston sports.  He’s seemingly omnipresent, but his presence is not necessarily a welcome one.  To his credit, he seems to actually show up in the locker rooms to talk to guys rather than hiding in the safe confines of his office after a particularly acerbic piece.  As a result, he is not as endearing a figure to people like me as, say, Bob Ryan or Peter Gammons (why doesn’t he have a book on this????).

The book covers the series from the horrific end, for Sox fans, of the 2003 ALDS.  It covers what happened then and how that event set up the changes that took place in the off season.  After chapters on both of those, he goes month by month to cover the season’s ups and downs.  He uses a nearly conversational-style, often changing time frames which can be confusing.  But he also offers some quick biographical sketches of some of the key figures, like Johnny Damon, David Ortiz etc.

Being CHB, he does not gloss over the various dramas that did inflict the team that season- Nomar’s nearly eternal pout, Pedro’s Dominican Diva act while trying to negotiate via the press, Manny Being Disruptive etc.  He also includes some “insider” information, such as Nomar being informed of the “Trade We Rejoice Never Happened” (that would be Manny for A-Fraud) as it happened.  His public shock and dismay was a sham.

At times the book is burdened by Dan’s cynicism.  He can’t let “the bag job”, as he refers to the Henry-Werner group’s purchase of the team, go.  It is wearisome at times.  But this does not outweigh the many positives of the book.  Nor do the quotes of players using profanity (not a book for the kiddies, folks).

As the Sox rallied to defeat the Yankees I found myself crying all over again.  Who could know that when the Yankees didn’t put them away, the Sox would not just win 4 in a row, but 8.  Kevin Millar was spot on that night.

He also covered some of the more immediate changes that took place after winning the World Series.  I caused me to ponder- what if they had signed Orlando Caberra as I’d wanted.  No Rent-a-Wreck and the wasted 2005 season.  No overpaying Julio Lugo for his weak offense and mastery of committing errors.  The Sox would be well-positioned for Jed Lowry to take over the shortstop position.  Orlando provided steady, often spectacular defense, and enough offense.

Either way… this book is a must for the Red Sox fan.  He writes as one of us, but with more behind the scenes knowledge than one of us.  Even if you don’t like CHB, you’ll appreciate his book.  After all, it has a happy ending.

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