21 March 2004

Book Review: Red Sox vs. Yankees - The Great Rivalry

Red Sox vs. Yankees: The Great Rivalry
by Harvey Frommer and Frederic J. Frommer

The newest offering from father/son duo Harvey and Frederic J. Frommer, Red Sox vs. Yankees: The Great Rivalry (Sports Publishing LLC, $24.95) found its way into my hands about a week and a half ago, and I have taken nearly any opportunity I could to review it. Not only because I promised the senior Frommer that I'd get this review out in a timely fashion for once, but also because as a Yankee fan myself, there are few endeavors more satisfying than reading about the histories of my favorite team, its closest rival, and their competition with each other.

Having had the good fortune to have been raised a Yankee fan (and the good sense not to switch alliances when they started to suck in the early '90s), this book was and is a pleasere for me to read. Its pages are filled with stories of Yankees and Red Sox games and series, players and trades, fans and fights, quips and quotes, playoff wins and losses, heartbreak and joy for both teams. OK, so mostly heartbreak for the Red Sox.

Frommer starts the book with a timeline that starts with the birth of Babe Ruth in 1895 and ends with the acquisition of Curt Schilling by the Red Sox in November of 2003. The book then provides an entire chapter on the Red Sox and Yankees rivalry as it was played out in the 2003 playoffs, which, while incredible to watch, somehow was not nearly as exciting to read about only a few months later. The chapter, however, like the rest of the book, is well writen, interesting in its own right, and very readable. I expect that ten or twenty years from now, I shall be able to pick up this book and find it an excellent resource as I recount my own memories of that exciting seven-game series to my own children or (God help you) yours. The book, like the rivalry it recalls, will stand the test of time, I expect.

I know this because the very next chapter focuses especially on the 1978 season, and it is a great read. The Yankees and Red Sox were both vying for the AL East title and were forced to play a one-game playoff to win it, which the Yanks did, even though they had been down as much as 14 games in the standings as late as July 18th. From that huge deficit, to Reggie getting benched for dogging it, to Billy Martin getting canned to Ron Guidry's 25-3 record to Bucky-Effing-Dent, there is no dull paragraph in the chapter. Harvey and or Frederic Frommer could have made a great living as a beat writer, had they not gone into slightly more prestigious careers as an Ivy League professor and a political journalist, respectively.

Moving on through the book, the Frommers spend chapters focusing on the general histories of the teams, the cultures and moods cultivated by the Rivalry, the merits and limitations of the respective ballparks, special games between the two clubs, a collection of quotes from various players, fans ad others, and list of statistics and trivia about the two teams. They even devote an entire chapter to perhaps the greatest rivalry between players on these two fabled teams, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Frankly, this is one area in which I think the Red Sox have a decided advantage, though I doubt if many of my fellow Yankee fans would back me up on this.

As you may have deduced, the Red Sox don't have many advantages in this rivalry, and therefore I would venture a guess that this book doesn't offer nearly as much for them as it does for Yankees fans. In fact, the title, "Red Sox vs. Yankees", is about the only time that Boston has gotten first billing in this struggle for the last three quarters of a century. Personally, I can't imagine being very excited about spending hours on end reading about the myriad disappointments and seemingly endless heartbreak associated with my chosen team, thankyouverymuch. But maybe that's just me.

Regardless of your particular bent, Red Sox vs. Yankees is still a very well-done book. As a coffee-table book, it offers large, whole-panel pictures, many of them in vibrant color, to appease the eye, and solid writing to appease the mind.

And even the price is right!

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