At home at fenway

Keeping on eye on Dustin, Papi, Youk & a few good books

Review: Reversing The Curse

Posted by athomeatfenway on December 22, 2008


REVERSING THE CURSE:  A Season in the Life of America’s Greatest Sports Rivalry.  By Dan Shaughnessy.  2005. 272 pages. Houghton Mifflin.



About 40 pages in, Shaughnessy lucidly recalls how young Theo submerged himself in professional baseball, postponing his driver’s license test for 7 years, living on McDonald’s, working 12 hour days, becoming a lawyer and climbing the ladder with preposterous speed.


At that point I thought, “This book is far better than I expected.”.


About 70 pages in, Shaughnessy quotes Halberstam’s summation of Red Sox fans, “It’s really very distinctive……I have maybe gotten into the artists and writers and poets of Red Sox Nation.  The fans are quite interesting and important and different……”


At that point, I started to feel like I owed Shaughnessy an apology for not reading his book sooner.


Should have known that the guy with total access to Theo and his minions would bring a book packed with inside stuff.


Should have known that the guy who can make about 800 words work three times a week would write one of the better books about the 2004 Red Sox.


Shaughnessy has serious writing chops.  On TV and in public he carries himself with reserve and courtesy.  He’s a polite guy.  Maybe even camera shy.  I am almost surprised he isn’t a little bit immodest.  He’s that good.


He has taken his hard shots at the Sox in the past, but not so in this book.


Nothing so cutting as the harpoon with which he speared Nomar on Aug. 1, 2004.  (As I remember it, he wrote that the clubhouse cancer had been removed.)


The sharpest criticism D.S. levels in REVERSING is to make it clear than Pedro Martinez did not attend team meetings, work outs or even arrive in the dug out for games he did not start  —– until the 7th inning !


During one critical series against the Yankees, he didn’t even come down with the team.  He waited until his start before making the 200 mile trip.


So, why did Tim Wakefield make the same trip promptly ?


“Because I wanted to be with my teammates.”, said, Wake.


That’s the contrast Shaughnessy strikes.  Pedro the Hall Of Fame Prima Donna versus  Wakefield the Team Guy.


Pedro had a negative effect on Manny.  After Pedro took an outrageous 6-day vacation in the middle of the season, Manny reported tightness in his hammy and took a few days off, too.  There had been no indications that anything was wrong with Manny.


Two feakishly talented slackers.   Two players that find themselves outside of the organization’s circle of love at the moment.



The portrait of Larry Lucchino in the book is titillating.  LL emerges as a fearless, F-bomb dropping, Yankee hating leader.  With a mind like a steel trap.

And yet, Lucchino has moments of doubt.


Larry’s moments of vulnerability came in game 4 and game 5 of the 2004 ALCS when the Sox were within a few outs of elimination.  Lucchino began scribbling notes for a speech.  As much as losing hurt, he would say that they were not vanquished, not defeated, and would come back with passion and a singular goal in 2005.


But things kept happening.  With the Yankees leading 4-3 in the 9th, Millar walked and Roberts stole second.  Lucchino put his notes in the desk of his luxury suite.  He settled in until Ortiz hit a 12th inning walk-off HR off Quantrill, making Larry’s speech at least temporarily moot.


The next night, down 4-2 in the 8th and back on the brink, Lucchino retrieved his note pad to re-draft his concession-without-submission speech.  But then Ortiz homered off Tom Gordon, a rally ensued, and Tek sacrificed in the game tying run..  Again, Lucchino put his notes back in the drawer.  He settled in to watch the completion of the 14 inning Sox victory, won when David’s gork dropped into Centerfield for a single.


I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see that incomplete draft of Lucchino’s speech.  It marks a desperate moment in Sox history and shines light into Larry’s character.  The darkest night comes just before the Dawn.


Call me a sick Soxaholic, but I just feel gratified to know about that draft.  If and when I meet Larry, I’ll be sure to ask about it.


Reversing The Curse is filled with such gold, excavated and preserved by the author.  I won’t ruin it for you b revealing more now. 

Even if you are prone to bashing Dan,  I recommend you read this book this winter.


You’ll be glad ya did.



The Author

The Author

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