August 17, 2019

Starting Something Great

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

When the Red Sox assembled their dream roster last offseason, many wrote them into the World Series without hesitation. We still don’t understand all that went wrong, but what we do know is that the “greatest team ever” label was not to be. Author Thomas J. Whalen argues that even the 2004 title winner did not deserve that distinction. Before you shake your head any more, pick up “When the Red Sox Ruled: Baseball’s First Dynasty, 1912-1918.”

  Read this book because:

1. It is a great read as we approach Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary.

“[Just] as Boston was the cradle of liberty for the nation, so also it was the cradle in which the infant game was helped to a healthy maturity,” legendary pitcher Albert Spalding said (1, When.) The Red Sox budding run picked up steam with the acquisition of Garland “Jake” Stahl months before the new ballpark opened. Stahl, who sat on the Boston bench during the first-ever World Series (a Boston win) in 1903, returned to the Red Sox as a player-manager and led in every sense.

Fenway Park officially opened on April 20, 1912. With red seat backs and a red brick facade, one writer likened it to a New England sampler. It also bore distinct dimensions – 321 ft. to left, 488 to center and 314 to right – along with a 25-foot wooden fence in left. The fence, with accompanying 10-foot high embankment, went by “Duffy’s Cliff,” a nod to Duffy Lewis’ deft patrol of deep left. The embankment later disappeared, and the “Green Monster” established its own lore in place of its predecessor.

2. Boston’s Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, Smokey Joe Wood and others always kept things interesting.

Ruth’s hygiene caused teammates to call him ‘the Big Baboon.” Once, fed up teammates sawed his bats in two. No matter. He was and always would be “The Babe,” content with his exploits on and off the field. Speaker was a southerner and a Texan, short on patience and conversation, tall in his estimation of himself. Hooper earned the nickname “Ty Cobb of the State League” in the minors, and he did not disappoint from there on. Hooper and Speaker may have been teammates, but that didn’t mean they had to talk to one another. They avoided speaking for an entire season, one source said at the time. Wood was “The Big Train,” Walter Johnson. “My friend, there isn’t a man alive who throws harder than Smokey Joe Wood (45).” Wood won 37 games in 1912. Three of those victories came with all the pressure on his shoulders in the postseason, and yet, a year later he barely managed a third of that total.

3. The Red Sox won the World Series four times in seven seasons and finished second twice more, but that doesn’t mean times were not turbulent.

Somehow or other, Boston’s pitching staff usually fell short of striking fear in the hearts of opponents. If, by a stroke of good fortune, the staff was strong, hitters did not correspond. Besides Wood’s precipitous decline in 1913, two hurlers responsible for a combined 40 wins in the team’s triumphant 1912, could not record half that total a year later. Teammates were liable to come to blows for any reason at any time. When Speaker, a large source of disputes, was dealt prior to the 1916 campaign, morale did not go in the right direction. “Spoke” stirred things up, but he was also the wind in the club’s sails from an internal and public perspective. Meanwhile, Wood decided to retire to his farm for a spell. Nevermind Ruth’s spats with his manager. The team didn’t know what to do with its tempestuous talent. How about an allowance of $10 a week and no salary, the Red Sox said.

If you are still disappointed about the BoSox collapse last year or if you are simply excited about a big milestone for one of baseball’s grandest ballparks, read “When the Red Sox Ruled: Baseball’s First Dynasty, 1912-1918.”

Sam Miller is the founder of Sam’s Dream Blog.  A graduate of the University of Illinois, he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.

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