I have read many baseball books over the past year, but this was one of the very best in terms of capturing an era and breathing life into these Hall of Fame (and sometimes Hall of Infamy) names.
With echoes of Fever Pitch, Fenway 1912 begins with veteran sportswriter and ESPN regular Glenn Stout's own support group welcome--"Fenway Park changed my life"--then transports us back to 1911 to get a running start on what would be a milestone year in baseball and for Boston in particular. I consider myself a lifelong baseball fan, but I never knew the history of that inaugural Fenway Park season, and certainly not the nail-biter details of the eight- (yes, eight) game 1912 World Series against the Giants.
Stout has mined thousands of contemporary newspaper articles to reconstruct the backstory of pre-Fenway Red Sox Nation, and later, pitch-by-pitch accounts of the Series itself. The latter was a sloppy affair, with twenty-eight combined errors, many of them pivotal. Critically, we learn that professional sports were never as innocent as we like to remember. Betting was rampant and people--teammates, even--were always looking out for themselves, even when bleacher seats cost a quarter. I am reminded of Edward G. Robinson's wonderfully bitter rejoinder from Soylent Green: "People were always rotten. But the world was beautiful."
Virtually every sentence in Fenway 1912 is well-written. It was a pleasure to read and I would strongly recommend it to baseball fans everywhere. (And please note: this is a Yankees fan talking.)
From the Prologue:
"It took most of the morning to remove the sod and wheel it to the horse carts waiting behind the grandstand, but by noon the work was done and the green space that had once been the focus for thousands of sets of eyes and the home for legends like Collins, Buck Freeman, Chick Stahl, and Cy Young was now stacked in layers, like the pages of a history book."