Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Book Review of The Little Red (Sox) Book by Bill Lee and Jim Prime

My rating: A good, quick read.

Bill "Spaceman" Lee is best known as being the lefty pitcher with the left-wing ideas, something he brings to this book about the Red Sox, written after the 2003 season. Modeling his text after the revisionist history of Chairman Mao Tse Tung in his Little Red Book, the self-styled Chairman Lee uses The Little Red (Sox) Book as a vehicle to set out his own philosophies on baseball (and life related to baseball), take a few swings at people who bothered him in the past, defend a few old friends and remind us yet again why Don Zimmer looks like a gerbil. Oh and that whole revising the history of the Red Sox thing...that's kinda important too.

Really, I jest. Yes, Lee does use his book as a way to settle some scores, giving the whole book a slightly loony cast (not that I mind - it was just very present), but on the whole it's a fun read about what might have been if:

  • Joe Kennedy had decided to make a second attempt at buying the Red Sox after Harry Frazee's initial self-off of players after the 1918 season, keeping the Babe in Boston and adding to the team, setting off a string of pennant and championship wins that lasted until the Babe's retirement in the 1930s.
  • Ted Williams and catcher Moe Berg had successfully pulled off a plot, hatched by the US Government, to assassinate Adolf Hitler during a state visit to Fenway in the late 1930s, thus preventing World War II and allowing Ted to spend his missing war years in Boston, where he helped the Sox win several World Series titles.
  • Tom Yawkey had been progressive enough to grab Jackie Robinson in the 1940s when he had the chance, preempting Branch Rickey and building the foundation of a team that, with Robinson, Ted Williams and later Willie Mays went on to form a multiple decade rivalry with the Boston Braves, making Boston the center of the baseball universe and forestalling a move by the Braves to Milwaukee.
  • Bucky Dent had taken up piano instead of baseball.
  • Bill Buckner had taken himself out of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

and a few more. Strung throughout are numerous cutting remarks about New York and the Yankees (after the Babe stays in Boston, for example, Lee has New York become relegated to the status of a provincial town in the face of Boston's championship-backed confidence) which probably reflect the time of the publishing - one wonders what would happen if The Little Red (Sox) Book had been published this year instead of last year. Then again, the authors do state in their introductions that neither was a history major.

The other thing of note about this book is the message to all Red Sox faithful: read this book at least once, the authors implore, if not a few times during the coming (2004) season and the Red Sox might finally achieve the 86-year dream. To be sure, a lot of people were saying similar things and had said things before, but at the same time, I'd like to add this book to the list of unique Red-Sox-related things that happened last year, the year the Red Sox won the World Series. This list also includes: this blog, Robin and my game watching/commenting relationship of this past year and Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season, which I review above. As the 2005 season approaches (pitchers and catchers report at the beginning of February!) and the rallying cry changes from "Why Not Us?" to "Let's Do It Again," it's comforting to think that these little things and hundreds of others like them changed the whims of the baseball gods towards the Sox...and might well do so again this year. GO SOX!!!