Sure, yesterday was a big anniversary in Red Sox history, but today is another one.
If you can remember that far, (I can’t) no doubt you were engrossed in a little baseball game that was taking place over at Fenway Park. The date was October 21st, 1975 and after a three days of rain delays, the Red Sox were set to play the Cincinnati Reds in game six of the World Series.
It turned out to be perhaps the most memorable game in World Series history, ending on the famous Carlton Fisk home run off the foul pole in the 12th inning which gave the Red Sox the win, and tied the series at three games apiece. Beyond Fisk, there were too many heroes to name – for both sides.
Writer Mark Frost has spent two years reading, digging, exploring and talking to players, managers, broadcasters and spectators from that historic night. He made numerous visits to Fenway Park, to the Hall of Fame, talked with as many people involved as he possibly could in order to weave all their stories together into a story that actually ends up encompassing a hundred years of baseball history within the confines of a single game.
At most, I’m what you would call a casual golf fan. However, I had read Frost’s books The Greatest Game Ever Played and The Grand Slam and couldn’t put either one down. So I was particularly enthused when I learned about this book and that it was Frost that had written it.
It doesn’t disappoint. If you read the two books mentioned in the previous paragraph, you are aware of Frost’s attention to detail and gift of narration. They are on full display once again here in this work. With eight Hall of Famers prominent in this game, Frost tells their stories as well as those of sportscasters such as Dick Stockton – you learn for instance that he had quite the rep as a “ladies man” back in the day, and that he got the phone number of future wife Lesley Visser in the press box prior to this game.
It’s not just the stars that get detailed however, the bit players, the network execs, the cameramen, the umpires, groundskeepers, and fans all have the night chronicled from their perspective, along with how they got to that night, and what it all meant for them at that time in their lives.
Asked about his favorite discovery that he unearthed in the course of his research, Frost says: “Many discoveries: the story of Luis Tiant’s moving reunion with his parents, who’d been caught and left behind in Cuba after Castro came to power; the rise and fall and rise of Bernie Carbo; the remarkable relationship between Sparky Anderson and his quartet of superstar players. This is my favorite era in baseball, because I followed the game much more closely then, and to revisit it through the personal experience of the people involved brought it all back in vivid and memorable ways. Every player in this game has a story, and they are all, in one way or another, remarkable.
The book spends a fair amount of time focusing on what baseball was like before free agency. When asked how the game has changed since then, Frost responds: “Games Six and Seven of the ’75 World Series are the last baseball games played before the advent of free agency. The rules of the game off the field, for better or worse (certainly worse for the players), had remained unchanged for 100 years; within a year that structure had been dynamited, and all of sports — and its increasing obsession with the dollar — hasn’t been the same since. You couldn’t invent a more revealing time capsule to show us where we were in 1975 and where we’ve traveled since.”
It really is a time capsule, giving you the most complete picture you can imagine some 34 years after this game was played. The two golf books mentioned took place in 1913 and 1930 respectively, and Frost made those time periods come to life in living detail. To bring 1975 back, then, is a piece of cake.
If you hadn’t guessed, I really enjoyed this book.