A lengthy and lively history of Boston's heartbreak kids, the Red Sox, from chaotic start (when, as a charter member of the American League, they were known as the ``Pilgrims'') to unavailing present (with the club's near-miss finishes still the despair of fans). Drawing on the recollections of players, fans, front-office executives, and local sportswriters, plus memoirs and other published sources, Golenbock (The Forever Boys, Bums, Dynasty, etc.) cobbles together an anecdotal narrative as notable for vivid accounts of might-have-been frustrations as for joy-in-Mudville highlights. Cases in point range from owner Tom Yawkey's inability to buy a pre-WW II pennant through play-off losses and Bill Buckner's fabled and fatal error in the sixth game of the 1986 World Series. Diamond enthusiasts can thank the author for reviving a wealth of evergreen memories--e.g., Ted Williams going six for eight in a double-header to bat .406 for the 1941 season, Carlton Fisk's 12th-inning homer against Cincinnati in 1975, Mel Parnell's 1956 no-hitter, and Jimmy Piersall's idiosyncratic decision to run the bases backwards after stroking a four-bagger. Nor is there any faulting Golenbock's profiles of the all-stars who at one time or another wore a Bosox uniform. Their ranks include the colorful likes of Harry Agganis (dead at 25), Wade Boggs, Roger Clemens, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Jimmy Foxx, Lefty Grove, Bill Lee, Jim Rice, Tris Speaker, Cy (as in cyclone) Young, Carl Yastrzemski, and, of course, the man who got away--Babe Ruth. Also a presence throughout is Fenway Park, the bandbox stadium whose ``green monster'' wall in left field never can be counted a home-team advantage. Fine fare for baseball buffs, regardless of their allegiances. The annotated text includes detailed statistical data and 16 pages of illustrations (not seen).