Friday, April 25, 2008

"the greatest game" book review

as a yankee fan i can't help but love "the greatest game: the yankees, the red sox, and the playoff of '78." part of the charm was a trip back memory lane - i watched this game as a 16 year old with my father and brother in the living room of our house in sheepshead bay, brooklyn. even more fun was reading the book surrounded by red sox fans. i took it with me to boston last weekend when i went there to run the boston marathon. i read the bulk of the book deep in the heart of red sox country.

the high point of this locationally heightened reading experience was sitting at the bar of boston beerworks, directly across from fenway park, and reading it as i drank a "victory red" ale on sunday afternoon. it didn't really matter that "victory red" was brewed in 2004, to celebrate the red sox finally winning the world series after 86 years. nor did it matter that the road to that victory included a dramatic series win over the yankees in the playoffs.

while not quite the same atmosphere, i finished the book last night here at home. the present-day yankees were on cable, but, unfortunately, didn't follow the script for a winning tableaux. they lost that game to the white sox, 7 to 6. that loss didn't, however, diminish the impact of my favorite passage from "the greatest game," which came right after bucky dent's home run:

"outside fenway park, in a nearby dorm room, a college student yanked his television's plug from it's socket and threw the television out his window, several stories high. similar reactions were occuring from maine to connecticut and across the country."

not sure if that anecdote is more urban legend than reality (no citation to source) - but i don't really care. it captures the tension (or exasperation) of the moment perfectly.

as to the book itself, structurally it alternates a chapter for each inning of the playoff game with a chapter on the back story of the yankee-red sox rivalry, the players (managers, team owners, et cetera), and the 1978 season itself. this format worked well for me and i enjoyed the back story as much as the retelling of the playoff game. it was especially worthwhile because bradley interviewed many of the participants and incorporated their stories into the narrative. it was a well-researched book. however, for someone looking for a shorter, less detailed look back, check out, "a day of light and shadows."

my only quibble with "the greatest game" is the hyperbole of the title. to lapse into the vernacular, it "aint" the greatest game. while it would be included in such a list, i certainly wouldn't top that list. but title aside, it's a great read and a great book. a colleague of mine, but unfortunately a die-hard met fan, has already asked to borrow my copy. this is from a fellow brooklynite that (as yankee "hating" met fan back in the day) was crushed when they won the game! time heals all wounds - and now it's just nostalgia. i get a trip to shea w/him to compare notes afterwards.

now what's a yankee fan like me going to do at shea??

my earlier posts on this: the book signing and the follow-up.


peter said...

I was working on that day as a Corrections Specialist (that's what they called jail guards in Boulder) and going around the jail to the different modules (the country club, as the locals called the jail), the game was on the radio. The Yanks were down, the game was getting late, the drama was deepening, and then I heard Bucky Dent's wind-blown fly ball being described--it went out over the Wall! A three run homer (I think). Yanks ahead (I know). But then, for me, the real drama was the last out in the game--Yaz was up. He wasn't the Yaz of 67 for sure, or 75, but he was dangerous. I think he popped up and it was over! Whew! But I think that was the year Thurman Munson got killed, after he had such a nice World Series in 76.
:( Anyway, it was a great game but not the greatest, you are right. Thanks for the review, I'll have to add it to my To Read list. (Can you tell I'm a Yankee fan? I moved to Staten Island in 1958 when there were only the mighty Yankees to follow, the other teams having absconded, and no Mets yet [I can't believe they are putting their new stadium out there in Flushing again]).

rundangerously said...

thanks peter!

i really enjoyed this book. it makes me want to dust off my copy of sparky's "the bronx zoo!"