Book Review: “Fenway Park: the Centennial” by Saul Wisnia

"Fenway Park: the Centennial," by Saul Wisnia

Saul Wisnia’s Fenway Park: the Centennial spans over 100 years of baseball in Boston, beginning with the pre-20th-century teams in the region and ending with the 2011 off-season acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. Wisnia charts the entire history of the Red Sox, their team owners, their fans and their ballpark. The narrative simultaneously moves at a pace brisk enough to keep the reader from ever feeling bogged down and provides enough new information that even seasoned Red Sox historians can learn something new from it.

Wisnia also does a top-notch job balancing text with pictures that just as effectively show the changes to the team and especially Fenway Park itself over the years.

DVD Adds Nothing

At $29.99, it doesn’t seem as if the DVD, “Fenway Park: the Golden Age,” adds much to the cost. Which is good, because it adds nothing to the content. Narrated by Carlton Fisk, the hour-long documentary – oddly named, since it covers the entire Boston history – is as clunky and content-light as the book is smooth and content-balanced. Hearing Fisk and former broadcaster Curt Gowdy is neat, but all of the information (and most of the photos) are available in the book. The documentary also uses black-and-white footage for every game before the 1980s and the washed-out colors and simple graphics of 1980s T.V. for all subsequent games (including the 2004 and 2007 postseasons). The result is a sense of faux-nostalgia instead of anything real.

Quality Start to Book, but Wisnia Can’t Close it Out

The most informative chapters of the book are at the beginning. Few Red Sox fans have much of a connection with the 1903 Red Sox team – which won the first ever World Series – beyond a few names culled from the lyrics of the Dropkick Murphys’ “Tessie.” Wisnia goes in-depth into who exactly Michael “Nuf Ced” McGreevey and his Royal Rooters were. His explanation begins a pattern of starting each of the nine chapters (and the prologue) with a story about a Red Sox fan at the time. Considering how passionately Red Sox fans care about Fenway – whose origins and renovations Wisnia clearly lays out – it makes perfect sense to always start with them.

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