NAUGATUCK – You don’t have to be a member of Red Sox Nation to savor Harvey Frommer’s new book, Remembering Fenway Park (Abrams Books; $40).
If you have a sense of history and a genuine love of the game, this volume – “a coffee-table book with muscles,” according to the author – will provide hours of enjoyment.
Frommer, author of more than 40 baseball books and a professor in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at Dartmouth College, shared his newest work with a gathering of mostly Red Sox fans Wednesday night at the .
Subtitled “An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox,” the book encompasses just about anything and everything connected to baseball’s oldest ballpark – which opened on April 20, 1912, just five days after the sinking of the Titanic. For the record, the Sox defeated the New York Highlanders (forerunners of the Yankees) that day, 7-6, in 11 innings.
Frommer elicited memories from some 140 people with Fenway Park connections, including Red Sox players and managers, sundry Fenway employees, several sportswriters, fans, political figures – one a certain 1988 Democratic presidential candidate named Michael Dukakis – even a nun, a monsignor and a bishop.
"I did one of the last interviews with Dom DiMaggio before he passed away,” Frommer said. “Two of those (interviewed), now dead, lived to be 100 years old. Billy Werber and A. Arthur Giddon.”
The author noted that he found just two former Red Sox players uncooperative – pitcher Dennis “Oil Can” Boyd and first baseman Bill Buckner.
I was pleased see that Leigh Montville, a colleague of mine in the late 1960s at the New Haven Journal-Courier, was among the media types included.
“I grew up in New Haven, Connecticut,” said Montville, who gained considerable acclaim as a Boston Globe sports columnist and more recently as the author of Ted Williams and The Big Bam. "My parents gave me three things in life: the Catholic Church, the Democratic Party and the Boston Red Sox."
We also “hear” the voices of Jimmy Piersall, the colorful Waterbury-born outfielder who spent six productive seasons with the Red Sox in the 1950s, and another man with Valley roots, Ansonia resident Rich Marazzi. The latter has authored four baseball books and is a rules consultant for several teams.
Piersall is quoted on several pages, including the following: “When I was a runner on first base and Ted (Williams) was hitting, it always made me more alert than ever because the ball would get there so quick, always with a hook on it.”
Frommer, who earned his doctorate from New York University, grew up in Brooklyn and rooted for the New York Yankees, of all teams. Eight of his books feature Yankees content, most notably Remembering Yankee Stadium, which he sees as a companion to his Fenway Park book.
So how did the fan in Frommer make the quantum switch from Yankees devotee to Red Sox Nation?
“The Yankees I grew up with aren’t the Yankees of today,” he explained. “The old Yankee Stadium didn’t have to come down, in my opinion.” The new park, he said, is “geared up for the corporate crowd.”
When both he and his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer, joined the Dartmouth faculty 16 years ago, they settled in Lyme, N.H., a town just north of Hanover.
“We just became New Englanders. Everyone is just so much more human,” said Myrna, who accompanied her husband to Naugatuck.
“I converted…I found a better way,” he said. “Too bad we’re having a bad year.”
Frommer was reluctant to label Tom Yawkey, who owned the Red Sox from 1934 until his death in 1976, a racist, but Frommer had high praise for the team’s current ownership.
The Red Sox were the last major league team to integrate – with infielder Elijah “Pumpsie” Green in 1959 – during a period when other clubs (see Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Cleveland Indians) flourished after signing black players.
Among the more than 200 images in the book is a photo of Green with teammate Earl Wilson, a first-rate African-American pitcher, who joined the club just about a week after Green’s arrival.
“The racial element held the team back,” Frommer allowed. “The John Henry group has done great things with the organization and the ballpark.” Pause. "The hiring of the (current) manager was a mistake,” he said, meaning Bobby Valentine.
During his tenure as sports editor and executive sports editor of the Waterbury Republican-American, Don Harrison chronicled many noteworthy events at Fenway Park, including the 1975 World Series. Remembering Fenway Park is available direct from the author on his home page: http:/harveyfrommersports.com/remembering_Fenway/.