Yet another chronicle of the epic New York/Boston rivalry, this time focusing on the legendary one-game playoff for the Eastern Division championship in 1978.
While the current generation of baseball fans may view the epic Red Sox comeback of 2004 as the pinnacle of the long-running Yankees/Sox drama, their acrimonious history has produced numerous other memorable matchups, not the least of which was the Oct. 2, 1978, game to break a first-place tie and determine which team would advance to the playoffs and take on the Kansas City Royals for a shot at the World Series. Within his pitch-by-pitch recreation of the blockbuster duel, Bradley (Harvard Rules: The Struggle for the Soul of the World’s Most Powerful University, 2005, etc.) flashes back to various points throughout the season, telling the individual stories of players involved in the game. Controversial superstars like Reggie Jackson, all-stars including Jim Rice, Ron Guidry and Carl Yastrzemski, and lesser-known players, such as hero-of-the-day Bucky Dent, get mini biographies. At a time when the Curse of the Bambino still loomed large, the author amply conveys Red Sox desperation, embodied in passionate team leader Carlton Fisk and nearly every player’s stated desire to win one for the aging Yastrzemski. There’s little question that the cast of characters—including overbearing Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, fiery manager Billy Martin and tough-as-nails catcher Thurman Munson, who would tragically perish in a plane crash less than a year later—warrants an in-depth chronicle, and Bradley’s anecdotal style is perfectly suited to relating the boys-club (mis)adventures of both teams. The author overreaches, however, in his attempts to turn an important baseball game into a transcendent moment in history; the moment-by-moment recounting becomes tedious by the seventh-inning stretch.
Bradley provides entertainment aplenty, though nostalgic baseball fans and Yanks/Sox diehards will reap the greatest benefit.