What I’m Reading On The Beach

Bruce is on vacation this week

With some time on my hands to finally just sit and read, I’ve packed up a few of the sports-related books that I’ve received from publishers in recent weeks and which I have been looking forward to getting a chance to really get into. Here are three of the books I’m going to be reading:

When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball

This book marks the 30th anniversary of the famed 1979 Indiana State/Michigan State NCAA championship basketball game which featured Larry Bird and Magic Johnson squaring off for the title. This game is still viewed as the precipice of March Madness and the first of the golden era finals matchups of 1979-1985 which introduced us to the players that would win nearly every NBA title for the next 20 years – Magic, Bird, Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas, and Hakeem Olajuwon.

In addition to all the background and behind-the-scenes information about the game itself, the book also covers the recruitment of both stars out of high school, Bird’s desertion of Bob Knight and the Indiana program, Bird’s decision to remain in school after the Celtics drafted him, Magic’s decision to stay in school after being tempted by the pros after his freshman year, and the close friendship that Bird and Magic share today.

It Was Never About the Babe: The Red Sox, Racism, Mismanagement, and the Curse of the Bambino


For years Red Sox fans were told by a certain columnist in town that their team was cursed because the Sox sold Babe Ruth the Yankees. But as Jerry Gutlon reveals in this book, there is much more drama to Red Sox history than the “Curse of the Bambino.” The truth is more shocking than any myth.

Gutlon attempts to explode many of the myths that fans have been led to believe about the team by a press which was a complicit accomplice in the long history of Red Sox failure. By supporting the management and players they worshiped, without bringing the failures of racism and cronyism to light, writers and broadcasters only fortified the culture of failure that lasted from 1919 to 2003.

I should add that I’m quoted in this book a couple of times, which is pretty neat.

The Yankee Years


I actually started this book before I left. The book has sort of been promoted as a Joe Torre tell-all, but that hasn’t been the case thus far. If you liked The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty by Buster Olney, you’ll like this one as well. It’s really about the rise of fall of the Yankees during Joe Torre’s tenure.

The book does have plenty of revelations (at least 10 of the 2000 Yankees were taking steroids) and behind the scenes moments, but from the perspective of a Red Sox fan, there are also plenty of good and bad moments and chapters on their team. From a replay of the 2003 ALCS game 7 to the Red Sox passing the Yankees in player development and organizational philosophy, there’s plenty to interest the Boston reader.

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Book Review: Rebound!

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=bostonsportsm-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=076033501X&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr One of the books that has recently passed across my desk here at BSMW headquarters is Rebound: Basketball, Busing, Larry Bird and the Rebirth of Boston.

Written by Boston Herald writer Michael Connelly ( who also writes the daily Connelly’s Top Ten blog for the Herald website) the book parallels the struggles of a city in crisis during the tumultuous 1970’s with a once-great sports franchise in decline. Drawing upon his own experiences as a youth during that decade, Connelly presents a compelling social history of Boston.

With forced desegregation polarizing the city, the Celtics were in decline following their 1976 NBA championship over the Suns. Both the city and the team had histories of liberty, greatness and pride which were severely tested during the decade. The chapters alternate between events in the city, such as Judge Garrity’s 1974 decision on desegregation and the history of the Celtics through the years, and into their tough times in the late 1970’s. Tales of Red Auerbach talking to both the 76ers and Knicks about taking over those clubs because of his disgust with the owners of the Celtics are discussed.

Then, as Auerbach drafted Larry Bird and then maneuvered meddling owner John Y Brown out of town, the Celtics fortunes turned around. Events in the city, such as the senseless shooting of high school football player Darryl Williams rallied communities into taking action and galvanizing the city. When the Celtics won the 1981 championship, the team and city celebrated together, marking a change in both.

The book is due to be released on December 12th, but is available for pre order through Amazon.com. (Click on the image of the book to be taken to the Amazon order page.)

Maple Street Press Red Sox Annual 2007

Here’s a look at the Maple Street Press Red Sox Annual 2007:

This is the second edition of the annual, and this version is similar to the first in scope and style. (Here’s the review of last year’s edition.) Once again, the publishers worked in collaboration with the Sons of Sam Horn website to produce the annual. In addition, Maple Street Press lined up an impressive group of authors to compose the publication.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=bostonsportsm-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0977743667&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

Chad Finn (Touching All The Bases) leads things off with an overview of the 2007 Red Sox, along with thumbnails of each significant player on the spring training roster. Finn’s recaps are chock full of factoids, commentary and analysis.

Jeff Kuhn (from The House that Dewey Built) has a look around the entire American League, with snapshots of each team heading into the season.

Rob Bradford of the Lawrence Eagle Tribune has a feature entitled The Transcontinental Courtship of Daisuke Matsuzaka. It’s about as complete a look at the entire process from start to finish as you are likely to read anywhere.

Author and statistician Pete Palmer examines whether Jonathan Papelbon would help the Red Sox more as a starter or as a closer. David Laurila (Interviews from Red Sox Nation) sits down and talks with Papelbon about his move to the starting rotation. Later in the publication, Laurila also has an interview with Red Sox first round pick Daniel Bard.

SoSH member Steve Mastroyin has an article on the Red Sox efforts to return to the 2003-2005 level of run production and offense. Stephen Vetere looks into the bullpen issues that the club has had in the Theo Epstein era.

Vince Gennaro (Diamond Dollars) examines how the Red Sox can attempt to win efficiently after investing over $200 million in three players – Daisuke Matsuzaka, J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo.

Mark A Brown of the Falmouth Enterprise compares the Dynamic Dominican Duo of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz to other legendary batting combinations in history, such as Ruth/Gehrig, Matthews/Aaron, Williams/Foxx and Mays/Cepeda.

Brandon Magee, (Sox on Deck, Most Valuable Network) submits the 2007 minor league report for the Red Sox, listing out the top 20 prospects in the system (starting with Jacoby Ellsbury), and listing out other players to watch and keep an eye on as well. Chris Paddock (Diehard Magazine) gets into the club’s evolving strategy when it comes to finding amateur talent.

Chuck Burgess and Bill Nowlin (Love That Dirty Water: The Improbable Anthem of the Boston Red Sox) bring us the story of how a song performed in 1966 by a band in which not a single member had ever been to Boston became the victory anthem of the Red Sox.

SoSH legend Shaun Kelly brings us back 40 years to the summer of 1967, which kicked off a new era of Red Sox baseball. On the right field facade at Fenway Park, the #4 is among those retired by the club. Mark Armour (Paths to Glory) looks at the career and influence (good and bad) that Joe Cronin had with the Red Sox.

Robert Sullivan (Our Red Sox) says that things have quickly reverted back to normal for Red Sox fans after the 2004 World Championship. Toby Dorsey from Sox Therapy remembers the Red Sox youth movements of 1987 and 1997 and wonders if we’re in for another in 2007.

The publication concludes with a listing from Graham Knight of great bars and pubs in which to watch the Red Sox all across the country.

Three Quick Boston Sports Related Book Reviews

Books have been piling up on the BSMW desk as of late, and I thought I would take a few moments to quickly review three books on Boston sports that I have recently received.

The Best Boston Sports Arguments – The 100 most controversial, debatable questions for die-hard Boston fans.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=bostonsportsm-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=1402208227&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr
By Jim Caple and Steve Buckley
Sourcebooks, Inc
293 pages

This book isn’t heavy lifting. It’s a light read and meant to be that way. It is predictable at times, and at other times you get the contrarian view forced on you. While there were plenty of times that I was rolling my eyes during the book, there were just as many “I totally forgot about that!” moments as well.

A few examples of the 100 arguments:

  • Should Tony Conigliaro’s No. 25 Be Retired? (Guess the answer on that one.)
  • If You Could Go To Any Game In Boston History, Which Should You Choose?
  • Why “The Curse” Is The Biggest Joke in the History of the Universe
  • What Was the Greatest Football Play in Boston History?
  • Who’s Had a Better Career, Ben Affleck or Lou Merloni?

You’ve probably read a lot of the material before, as Buckley has done columns on many of the topics in the book, or has told a story on WEEI about them. In fact, a lot of the “arguments” probably originate with the radio station, and I think that I’m not off base in characterizing the book as WEEI in print.

Decide for yourselves if that is a compliment or condemnation.

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Fred Cusick – Voice of the Bruins
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=bostonsportsm-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=1582619816&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

By Fred Cusick
Sports Publishing, L.L.C.
214 pages

Fred Cusick always struck me a true gentleman. His book does nothing to tarnish that image. While I was more of a casual hockey fan growing up, the legendary Boston Bruins announcer with his trademark “Scooore!!!” always stood out to me, and hearing that call on nightly sportscasts was always a treat.

The book isn’t really an autobiography, it’s more Cusick’s memoirs from his life and career. Going through the memories made me appreciate what a real treasure this man is, and how he perhaps doesn’t get the proper appreciation for his contributions to Boston sports. He understandably spends quite a bit of time on the Bruins, especially on Bobby Orr and the Bruins of the 1970’s, but Cusick’s contributions to the region go well beyond hockey.

If you watched the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played, one of the special features of the DVD is Cusick in 1963 doing the only known on camera interview with Francis Ouimet – winner of the 1913 U.S. Open! Cusick and Ouimet walk the Brookline course and Ouimet points out locations of shots and moments from that legendary 1913 tournament. A transcript of that interview is included in the book.

There is a good segment about doing analysis on the first-ever Boston Patriots game, as well as some stories from the early days of the franchise. There are boxing stories, baseball stories (he did a Sunday night show on channel 4 with Dick Stuart in the 1960’s, and also served as the Fenway Park PA announcer for two years) tennis, and even wrestling. He also talks about calling Lowell Lock Monsters’ games for five years after retiring from the Bruins, finishing his play-by-play career at the age of 83.

Fred Cusick has an incredible number of memories of Boston sports, and it’s good to have them down in this book.

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A Fan’s View of the Super Bowl
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=bostonsportsm-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0595677975&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

By James E. Britton
iUniverse, Inc
145 pages

James E. Britton is a lifelong Patriots fan who went to his first game at Schaefer Stadium as an 11-year-old in 1973. He now lives in central New Hampshire, and he and his wife Jane travel two and a half hours each way to and from Gillette Stadium for every home game.

The book recounts their adventures in getting tickets and attending Super Bowl 39 in Jacksonville for the Patriots/Eagles championship game. James and Jane end up heading to Florida with their friend Steve to take in the event, but they only have two tickets. From arranging transportation, hassling with motel operators, to the food they ate that week, it’s all detailed here.

When I say detailed, I mean detailed. The book chronicles almost every minute of the time in Jacksonville, and the beginning of the book has a lengthy segment on the first preseason game of the year with the Eagles. Britton leaves nothing out in the journey, and the result is as complete a picture as you can get of the events without being there yourself.

Belated Chat with Charlie Pierce

After yesterday’s chat was interrupted, I managed to check in again with Charlie Pierce and arrange for him to answer several of the questions that were submitted for the chat.

Here’s the questions submitted by readers and the answers from Pierce:

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From Craig: I read the book within two days of its arrival. Were you disappointed that the team didn’t achieve more success in 2005, as you were juxtaposing Brady’s life with the current season?

CPierce: Craig —
I’ll be honest. If they had won the Super Bowl, that would have been me behind Brady on the podium, waving the Lombardi over my head. And my agent and my editor at FSG would have been right behind me. However, I think the year worked out well because he did have to face more adversity, personal and professional, than he did in other years. I might be making lemonade out of lemons here, but I’m happy with what I got.

————

From Eric: Charlie – Some local scribes use the “difficulty” in getting access to the Patriots’ inner thoughts as an excuse to essentially give up and fill column inches with same old same old, or jabs at the team for lack of access.. What sort of obstacles, if any, did you face, both from the Patriots, and your writing brethren.

CPierce: Eric —
I had the same access that any beat guy would have, which convinced me that I wouldn’t want to do that for a living. If you, as a fan, want information, then it matters to you that, when the locker room opens up for daily access, there are only two or three guys there, often the same ones, day after day. Now, let’s be fair, access to every professional sports team — and, increasingly, to the major college programs — steadily has been shrinking over the past decade or so, The major events are hopeless now, and that’s creeping down into the regular season, too. That said, the Patriots are notoriously tougher than most teams. (This isn’t me talking. It’s a general opinion throughout the NFL.) There are moments in which they go beyond merely being tough and become positively unhelpful. It will be interesting to see if this continues if and when the team goes through another rough patch.

————

From Greg: Charlie, how would you compare the level of repartee of an episode of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” to an episode of “The Big Show”?

CPierce: Greg —
Many people have remarked on the similarities.
Although I don’t think Madeleine Albright’s been on The Big Show yet.

———–

From Craig: Charlie, a few questions. Is Brady’s image the same as Brady’s reality? I may be the guy’s biggest fan but I almost find it too good to be true that he’s so squeaky-clean, family-oriented and deferential. Also, could you speak about Brady’s relationship with Bledsoe and Henson? He was caught in two pretty big firestorms there but seemed to come out without looking bad at any point.

CPierce: Craig —
I think he’s a pretty normal 20-something as regards his life off the field. His sister as much as told me that. What got him through the Michigan situation was the support crew he’d put together for himself, and the fact that he was pretty much the consensus choice within in the locker room. At which point, he determined quite consciously that he would not blow up the team, even though he was angry enough that, were he so inclined, he could do it. That cemented his stature with the coaching staff, which really was in a tough spot, and with his teammates. That situation enabled him to get through the Bledsoe period the way he did, although everyone involved says the unsung hero of that whole deal was Damon Huard, who selflessly acted as ambassador between Bledsoe and Brady, and between each of them and the staff, He’s got a native shrewdness about the dynamics of how groups of people operate together, which is part of the reason why political consultants get all humid about him.

———–

From Dow: Hi Charlie, not to reach too far back or get too far off subject, but when was your last contact with Tiger and what was it like?

CPierce: Dow — Tiger who?
Seriously, we have had no contact since the day I spent with him for the GQ piece in 1997. His father once said that he hoped my story wouldn’t wreck his son’s career. I feel confident in saying that it didn’t.

———–

From Dave: Charlie – First – thanks for chatting at our site. Very kind of you. . . The book’s fantastic – just a real pleasure to read.

I’m wondering: Did anyone of merit have any disparaging words to say about Tom Terrific? Can he really, truly be this universally loved?

CPierce: Dave — He really has managed to go through life without making any genuine enemies that I can find. He’s tougher on himself than anyone is on him, although Greg Hardin, his athletic counselor at Michigan, was pretty tough on him when he seemed to be letting the situation there get him down.

————

From Bob in NH: Charlie – Taking off your media hat for a moment. As a fan, do you find the coverage of the Patriots to be done without malice or agenda? Yes, I’m referring to Borges in particular, but can you at least see how a fan would rather not have to know that a certain writer hates his subject matter?

Also, what is your take on sportswriters seemingly taking every single chance to make extra money by appearing on radio and television. Although you certainly have exercised that right personally, I see your financial gains primarily coming from your expertise (writing books and articles) rather than Sports Final, Sports Extra, Fox Sports New England, NESN, NECN, CN8, blah, blah, blah.

CPierce: Bob — Second part first.
Synergy across the media is part of the deal these days. Newspapers expect their sportswriters to do the multimedia shuffle on the grounds that “visibility” helps the paper. I’ve never seen any data that prove this, but the people who run things seem to believe it. I have a couple of radio gigs — Only A Game and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, both on NPR — that I do because I enjoy them a great deal. (And for the money. Thanks to everyone who buys the tote bags!) What I tell anyone who asks is to remember that radio and TV are a different skill set, and one that’s foreign to a lot of writers. People who do it should take the time to study and to learn the skills needed to succeed in the different media. Just throwing a writer in front of a microphone or a camera does a disservice to the writer, and to the consumer.

As to the first, I actually do see the newspaper coverage of the team to be done without malice, as I understand the word. As to “agenda,” well, that’s a word that gets tossed around pretty loosely. The line between opinion and reporting has gotten far too blurred for my boring old self, at least in part because of the phenomenon we discussed above. If you do a regular sports-radio show, the medium demands that you express an opinion more freely — and, I would argue, more crudely — than you would in the newspaper. So, when you go back to being just a by-line, it’s hard for the listener/reader to separate your print persona from your broadcast one.
That’s part of the bargain you make when you do those shows. Are their writers who dislike the people they cover? I assume there are. (I once was in the media room at a political dinner for a recent presidential campaign and one of the candidates got booed by the assembled reporters. For what it’s worth, this would get them all tossed from the press box at Fenway.) By and large, though, I see very little evidence that the daily news coverage is affected by it.

———-

From Scott: Charlie – Since you know Brady a little now, what does you see as you’re watching him play the last couple of weeks?

CPierce: A couple of things, actually.
1) I’m seeing a guy playing for the second season behind a jury-rigged offensive line. I’m not entirely sure Dan Koppen’s all the way back. The rest of the guys are dinged up, and he’s got a rookie running back trying to learn to pick up blitzes — which Maroney’s done pretty well, actually. So I think maybe he’s just a little bit more concerned about his blind side than he was a couple of years ago, especially since, as I describe in the book, he played last season more injured than we thought he was. 2) The offensive scheme seems oddly unsure what to do with the Treasure of Sierra Madre there at running back. I think Maroney’s good enough to make this team a run-first offense and less of a West Coast hybrid than it’s been. In addition, it really does take a while with a whole new receiving corps, but that explanation runs out of steam at the halfway point.

———-

From Mike: Everyone talks about Weis leaving, but fails to mention QB coach Hufnagel leaving as well the same offseason.
Brady thrives (lead in yardage last year) despite the upheaval on the coaching staff. McDaniels is still learning on the job and the new QB coach has very little experience. Does Brady look at Peyton Manning’s relationship with Tom Moore and bum out he doesn’t have that experienced veteran in his headset during games and in meetings during the week?

CPierce: Mike — Given the turmoil that’s surrounded him as regards his coaches ever since he left high school, I think Brady’s better equipped to handle this situation than most young quarterbacks would have been. Remember — both the coordinator and the head coach who’d recruited him at Michigan were gone before he even enrolled, and then there was the extended burlesque with Brian Griese and Drew Henson, where Lloyd Carr was handed a bad situation and handled it badly. At New England, he had Dick Rehbein, his most fervent original advocate, die suddenly. Now Weis is gone, and Josh McDaniels is there. Would he have liked a relationship like Peyton has in Indy with Moore? Probably. But his whole career has been an extended exercise in the opposite direction.

Book Review – Moving the Chains

Moving the Chains – Tom Brady and the Pursuit of Everything
By Charles P. Pierce
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
264 pages

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Carthusians
Ostrogothic class
Cypriot
ecclesiastical omerta
ecumenical
febrile tectonics
incantatory spells
Gutzon Borglum
carapace
Marshall McLuhan
trompe l’oeil

The above words, names and expressions found in the text of Moving the Chains should assure you alone that this is no ordinary football book. Then again, Tom Brady is no ordinary football player. Charlie Pierce isn’t your ordinary sports writer, either. In his biography of the Patriots quarterback, Pierce draws on elements that have shaped Brady into the person, football player, teammate and leader that he has become. Family is a huge part of it, as is the Catholic background of the Brady clan, and Pierce weaves aspects of the Vatican II into the narrative at various points, to show how even aspects of that council eventually and directly or indirectly had an influence on Brady. Pierce quotes liberally from a 1908 work entitled The Philosophy of Loyalty by Josiah Royce to make points about Brady. Pierce’s book is no doubt going to also help the sales of Michael MacCambridge’s America’s Game – a history of the National Football League that Pierce also quotes and draws from often.

The focus of the book is how Tom Brady has become a leader without putting himself above his teammates. He is able to balance being “one of the guys” with being a leader of them. Brady has genuine qualities that most politicians try to fake. He has the ability to make each person he talks to feel at ease and comfortable, and to feel like he thinks they are important. He is immune to the peer ridicule that many people would encounter in group situations. Brady is constantly “moving the chains”, both in his life and on the football field.http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=bostonsportsm-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0374299234&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr&nou=1

The reader is taken on a back-and-forth journey through Brady’s life. The main setting is the 2005 season, where most games are chronicled, but interwoven throughout are bits from the past, from Brady’s father’s childhood, to Brady’s high school and college days and early days in the NFL. Here in New England, for most of us, Tom Brady really only burst into our consciousness when Drew Bledsoe went down in week 2 of 2001. However, Brady had already been here for a season at that point, under the public radar, but very much in the spotlight of the coaches. In his first season, as the 4th QB, he would run the scout team, preparing the first team’s defense by running plays used by that week’s opposition, but in addition to that, he would keep his fellow rookies after practice and run the regular Patriots offense with them, just so he could get more familiar with it. By the next training camp, he had already beaten out Damon Huard to become the 2nd string QB, and there was a movement among the coaches that he should be given a chance to compete with Bledsoe for the starting job.

The Patriots have had a number of books written about them in recent years, and although this one focuses mainly on Brady, many of his teammates are profiled throughout the book as well. We get a number of looks at David Givens, who had suffered injuries at the wrong times in his career – such as just prior to the draft when he was coming out of Notre Dame – and was worried that it would again haunt him when it came time to get a new contract. Mike Vrabel is shown seizing the opportunities given to him by the Patriots after being buried on the depth chart in Pittsburgh, showing many of the same qualities as Brady in many ways. Charlie Weis is a huge figure in the book, and the time that Brady spent in the hospital with Weis’ wife as the Patriots coordinator lay close to death for several days is a memorable section. The player that is linked with Brady the most on the field in the book however, is kicker Adam Vinatieri, as the two of them teamed up for some of the biggest moments in Brady’s football life. No hint is given however of any discontent from Vinatieri towards the Patriots or that the kicker was on his way out the door just the next spring.

A recurring figure is current Oregon State head coach Mike Riley, who as an assistant at USC, lobbied hard for the school to bring Brady in out of high school. He was overruled. Then as head coach of the Chargers, Riley again lobbied hard for Brady, urging his GM to draft him out of Michigan. Once again, he was overruled. Then, during the 2001 season, Riley watched Brady throw for 364 yards and two touchdowns against his Chargers in leading the Patriots back from a 10 point fourth quarter deficit.

If you’re looking for “inside information” on the Patriots organization and game preparation, there isn’t a whole lot. This is more about Brady and his relationship with those around him. We do learn however, that Brady was pretty seriously hobbled by a sports hernia last season, and that this was the reason that many of his passes seemed to “sail” and go over the heads of his receivers during the course of the season. He also banged his leg late in the season against Buffalo, and that injury left him in a lot of pain as well. We get the stories of how the late Dick Rehbein was sold on Brady from the day he saw his pro day at Michigan, and how Brady encountered Bob Kraft in the parking lot of Foxboro stadium an evening in the summer of 2000 and told the Patriots owner that he was the best decision that the franchise ever made…and managed to not sound arrogant while saying it.

Pierce comments on the media coverage of the Patriots in the Boston area, mentioning a “low-level feud” that the team has with the Boston Globe, claiming that the Patriots count the number of articles in the paper about the Patriots as opposed to the Red Sox, and saying that the organization is “hypersensitive” about the media coverage, and whispers complaints about the Globe being “a property of the New York Times Company, which also owns a piece of -wait for it- the Boston Red Sox.” He contrasts this with the “gooey weekly infomercials” presented by WEEI, which he describes as being “in the tank” for the team. In a memorable quote, Pierce writes at one point: “local sports punditocracy blew enough sunshine up the franchise’s ass to light up the moons of Neptune.”

I just had one quibble as I was reading through the book…”Where’s Bridget?”. Brady’s moviestar girlfriend doesn’t make an appearance in the book until page 193. Even then, the reference seems to indicate that the couple is all done: “When he dated Bridget Moynahan”. She merits a few more cameo mentions in the last section of the book, but not more than 4-5 total references – she’s probably not critical to the development of Brady and thus wouldn’t be a major part of the story – but how can you have a book on Tom Brady without details about how they met and what their relationship is like?

Overall, Patriots fans are going to want to read this book. I think it’s a step above the books written by Michael Holley and David Halberstam the last few years, the only problem with this book is that the legend of Brady is likely to continue on for some time to come. Brady himself protested that he was too young to have a book written about him. That might be a true statement, but this effort from Pierce is certain to keep you turning the pages to see how Brady got to where he is now…how he has kept moving the chains.

Check back at 2:00 this afternoon for a mini-weekend post.

Review: The Maple Street Press 2006 Red Sox Annual

For years Jim Walsh had been reading baseball preview guides and found himself wanting more than the 3-4 pages that these national publications would devote to each club. He wanted a preview devoted to the Red Sox, that would give the Boston fan more, something he felt they deserved “due to their undying loyalty to the team and insatiable appetite for Sox-related information.” To that end, Walsh heeded to the old adage that “If you want something done right, do it yourself” and set about creating that dream publication.

The result is the 108 page 2006 Red Sox Annual, published by Maple Street Press. Walsh edited the project, which was done in partnership with the Sons of Sam Horn website, of which Walsh has been a member of for four years. The publication is chock full of features, interviews, reports, analysis and yes, plenty of statistical charts and formulas. (In the effort of full disclosure, it should be noted that I wrote an article for the book, a four page look at the newspaper, radio, television and internet coverage of the Red Sox.)

The guide is divided out into three major sections, plus an appendix with scoring and win probability tables. The first section is Analyzing the 2006 BoSox, and leads off with 10 page, position-by-position, player-by-player breakdown by Chad Finn. The thumbnails of each player are both informative and fun at the same time. Finn mixes in plenty of one-liners in his player profiles, such as this one in Mike Lowell’s section: “…played prep ball with A-Rod in Miami…says they are not close…so he’s a good judge of character.” After Finn’s “From the Ground Up” article there is an American League preview by Aaron Gleeman, (with plenty of attention paid to the Yankees) followed by analysis from Pete Palmer (co-author of The Hidden Game of Baseball) on the Red Sox’s approach to the sacrifice bunt.

Vince Gennaro then examines the topic “Turning a Winning Red Sox Team Into a Financial Winner“, he compares the revenue advantages that the Yankees have over the Red Sox, noting that it is “entirely driven by the broadcast arrangements and largely attributable to the size of the New York market”. He also examines nuggets such as how much Johnny Damon was worth to the Red Sox after they signed him in 2002 and how revenues will rise and fall with a team’s number of wins. There a look at the reign of Theo Epstein, as he built and dismantled the 2004 championship team. The Moneyball approach and misconceptions surround it as regards the Red Sox is the subject of the article immediately before mine, which as mentioned is a look at the Red Sox media coverage. Jim Bennett then closes out this section of the book with an in-depth statistical breakdown of what Red Sox fans might be able to expect out of this 2006 edition of the hometown nine.

The second section of the book is Down on The Farm, which leads off with a Red Sox minor league report, followed by features and interviews with Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Hansen and Jed Lowrie, all done by David Laurila. The Papelbon article has the family of the pitcher recalling the day of his first major league start last season against the Minnesota Twins and their emotions and feelings on the event. The interviews with Hansen and Lowrie are straight Q&A session with the closer and infield prospects.

The last section of the book is dedicated to Red Sox teams and legends of the past. Mark Armour (co-author of Paths to Glory) has an interesting look at “The Year After“, which examines how the Red Sox squads of 1947, 1968, 1976, 1987 and 2005 fared after the team of the previous year had made a World Series appearance. Stephen Vetere and Jim Walsh then examine the 13 postseason elimination games that the Red Sox played between 1999 and 2004. Remarkably, the Red Sox won 11 of those 13 games in that span, making it the most prolific elimination game streak in baseball history. Each of the games is examined and dissected. There is a 20th Anniversary look back at the 1986 Red Sox, followed by a remembrance of Tony Congliaro by Shaun Kelly. (Who started the famous “Win it for…” thread on SoSH during the 2004 postseason) The final article in the publication examines the Hall of Fame candidacy of Jim Rice. Author Mark A Brown notes that Rice has no less then eight strikes against his when it comes to Hall admission, and probably in the end falls just short of the qualifications needed for the induction into the Hall.

The appendix, as mentioned earlier, contains win and scoring probability tables for major league baseball, as noted in the introduction the tables, these can be an interesting guide to compare Terry Francona’s late inning moves as the tables go through a plethora of scenarios for each team for last season.

Walsh wanted to create a publication completely devoted to the Red Sox, with plenty of in depth information and analysis. I believe this book succeeds in doing that, and is a worthwhile read to anyone planning to follow the Red Sox on their season-long journey to October. The 2006 Red Sox Annual can be purchased for $9.95 through the banner ad at the top of this page, which is directly through the publisher, or on Amazon.com.