Wisnia (Fenway Park: The Centennial: 100 Years of Red Sox Baseball, 2011, etc.) proves that celebratory baseball writing need not be maudlin in his comprehensive account of the Boston Red Sox’s 2004 championship season, their first since the Woodrow Wilson administration.
The author explores the team’s early history and tradition of losing big games; in a chapter titled "Kings of Pain," we see how the front office’s bungles and tightfistedness have traditionally harmed the team. A chapter on the multiyear plan to revamp historic Fenway Park beginning in 2002 illustrates how management understood how a stadium's layout and design create memories and a game experience as indelible as the players on the field, as demonstrated by interviews with old-time fans from the 1950s and various "super fans" who explain the importance of sacrificing yourself "for the good of the team.” These stories are relatable and warm but not treacly, and chapters on the two years preceding the championship provide necessary background and context. After the "bitter and very crushing" end to the 2003 season, when their hated rivals, the New York Yankees, beat Boston to advance to the World Series, 31-year-old General Manager Theo Epstein created the new-era Red Sox, who were about "teamwork, respect for the game, and a burning desire to win.” He boldly shook up the roster by placing brilliant but maddening outfielder Manny Ramirez on waivers and trading the immensely popular shortstop Nomar Garciaparra in midseason. "Change didn't happen overnight,” writes Wisnia, “but when it came it came quick." The author goes on to raise some tantalizing what-if questions: Would the Sox have won the championship—or perhaps, how many would they have won?—if the proposed Manny-Ramirez–for–Alex-Rodriguez trade had gone through? And what if Nomar "Mr. Boston" Garciaparra had remained in Boston?
A winning story of how the right owners, players and die-hard fans can create a championship team.