When the Boston Red Sox won the World Series on October 27, 2004, they made history. Their stunning comeback against the New York Yankees and their four-game annihilation of the St. Louis Cardinals capped one of the most thrilling postseason runs ever. The World Series victory-Boston's first in 86 years-came less than three years after John Henry and Tom Werner bought the team from the Yawkey Trust and forever changed the way the Red Sox operated on and off the field.
Seth Mnookin was given access never before granted to a reporter in the history of organized sports. He had a key to Fenway Park and a desk in the team's front office. He spent weekends talking business with John Henry and afternoons in the clubhouse with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. He learned never-before-told details of the team's Thanksgiving Day wooing of Curt Schilling, the jealousy Nomar Garciaparra felt toward better-paid teammates, and the anxiety that impelled Pedro Martinez to insist that the Red Sox guarantee his future. He was there when general manager Theo Epstein's frustration over the organization's ceaseless drive for more media coverage and new revenue streams collided with his fracturing relationship with CEO Larry Lucchino. The resulting narrative -- juicy, gripping, and overflowing with thrilling detail -- reveals how a savvy sports organization tries to stay on top while under the relentless scrutiny of the country's most voracious sportswriters and baseball's most demanding fans.
Drawn from hundreds of hours of exclusive interviews and a year with the team, Feeding the Monster shows as no book ever has before what it means to buy, sell, run, and be part of a major league sports team in America.
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Simon & Schuster
August 01, 2006
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Excerpt from Feeding the Monster by Seth Mnookin
From the Beaneaters to the Babe
IF IT'S TRUE THAT BASEBALL, along with jazz, is one of the great indigenous American art forms, then certainly the story of baseball in Boston has been, for most of its history, one of America's most compelling tragedies. As John Cheever famously said, "All literary men are Red Sox fans ' to be a Yankee fan in literate society is to endanger your life." The Yankees play on the biggest stage, they've fielded the biggest superstars, and, of course, they've won the most championships. But it's the Red Sox who truly represent the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of man as he struggles to transcend the limits of his essential nature.
The saga of the Red Sox has it all, a rich intertwining of biblical leitmotivs and uniquely American morality tales. There's the myth of the Original Sin ' the supposedly greed-driven sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919 ' which drove the team from the Garden of Eden, or, in the Red Sox's case, its standing as the best team in baseball. There's a mirroring of the country's conflicted relationship with money and power, and an eerily perfect reflection of the damaging effects of the nation's racist past. There are the cautionary tales about the dangers of hero worship, the always ambiguous relationship between the press and both its subjects and the public, and the specter of political corruption and nefarious back-room dealings. Finally, there's the Moses-like trip to the Promised Land, a trip that can only be completed when the father figure is banished and an outsider comes in to lead the tribe on the final, triumphant leg of its journey. Since the start of the new century, the Red Sox have been the most enthralling story in all of sports. To truly understand why that is, one needs to go back more than a hundred years, almost to the beginnings of baseball in America.
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The history of professional baseball in Boston can be traced to 1871, when manager Harry Wright and several players from the Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball's first professional team, joined up with a new semipro National Association team in Boston that, in time, also came to be known as the Red Stockings. In 1876, the disbanding of the National Association led to the birth of the first true professional baseball league, named the National League. The Boston team ' usually called the Beaneaters ' was far and away baseball's dominant force, and over the next 25 years the team won eight pennants, including three straight from 1891 to 1893.
At the time, Boston was known for having some of the most rabid fans in the country. The city's white immigrant neighborhoods passionately embraced the city's rugged ballplayers, many of whom came from the same backgrounds as their fans. The Beaneaters' most ardent supporters were known collectively as the Royal Rooters, and they, along with many of the city's sportswriters and the similarly working-class players themselves, gathered every evening in Michael "Nuf Ced" McGreevey's Roxbury saloon, Third Base. (It was so named because McGreevey said it was the last stop on the way home. McGreevy's own nickname came from his signature exhortations, invoked whenever he felt a debate had reached its natural conclusion.) Politicians and city leaders also assembled at Third Base, including ardent baseball fan John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, the future mayor of Boston and grandfather of John F. Kennedy. When they weren't debating this or that strategy decision or drinking rounds of toasts to the city's best hitters, the Rooters would sympathize with the plight of the Beaneaters, who played for Boston's famously parsimonious owner, Arthur Soden. Soden, in addition to forcing his players to pay for their own uniforms, charged fans an outrageous 50 cents for admission at a time when many of the other parks around the country charged only a quarter. Soon, Soden would have competition for the hearts ' and dollars ' of the Royal Rooters.