Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Jere Reviews A 27-Year Old Book

On July 20th, 1976, in the seventh inning of the Angels-Brewers game, California pitcher Dick Drago faced Von Joshua with a man on third and one out. Joshua flied out to right fielder Bobby Bonds. The runner didn't score from third, though, until the next batter hit a sacrifice fly. After the next hitter homered, Drago faced then all-time home run king Henry Aaron. Aaron knocked the ball out of the park, and Drago out of the game. It would be the last homer Aaron would ever hit. Number 755. He'd have more chances to add to his record in that final season of his, though, including an August 23rd game in Texas. Twice in that game, Aaron faced Mike Bacsik, going one for two with an infield single. 31 years later, Bobby Bonds' son, Barry, had tied Aaron's 755, and faced Mike Bacsik's son, Michael. Michael ended up giving up a 756th homer, a fate his father avoided. Had his father given up a 756th, Michael would've been spared being known as the man who gave up the record-breaker. Weird how that works.

Three years after Drago gained fame (not as much as Al Dowling, yet more than Bill Lee, who gave up what would've been Aaron's last HR had he not come back for that final season, and claims he would've been glad to be known for that), he was pitching for the Boston Red Sox. Batting was Bobby Bonds, then with Cleveland, in the top of the seventh. It was exactly 28 years ago today. A photograph was taken. It would appear on the cover of a book called "The Ballpark: One Day Behind the Scenes at a Major League Game" by William Jaspersohn. At five years old, I was given that book. I've found it again, and here's my review. (All pics (click to enlarge) and quotes copyright William Jaspersohn and Little, Brown.)

The front and back inside covers contain this Fenway seating chart. The book came out in '80, and describes a day from 1978, but the chart still shows Yawkey Way as being called Jersey Street. That part of Jersey street was "retired" (get it? jersey retired? still don't know why that's not a more common joke...oh, right, the non-funniness of it) in '76, though the message board in center was put up after the '75 season, and it, along with mention of a '76 game, are on this chart. Whatever, the point is, it's a cool chart. It actually gives the number of seats in each grandstand section. You can also see the dividing line in the bleachers: chair seats below, bench seats above. And check out right field by the pole (called the "FOUL LINE POST"), from before they started dividing up the lower parts of those grandstand sections and calling them "right field boxes."

The opening shot from deep in Section 3 looks a lot like it would now. Especially everything below roof-level. The opening line: "A ballpark is never quite empty." We then start going behind the scenes: the field getting prepped, the vendors arriving, and:

...the uniforms drying in left field! "John P. McGonagle doesn't like drying the uniforms by machine--he says they don't come out smelling fresh." In '78, each Sox player was assigned three home and three away jerseys.

Look at that huge "foot" on the washing machine. Too bad he held up the jersey in front of it, as you can only barely see the stripes atop the stirrup.

Look at that old scoreboard on the roof. Now there are lots of seats up there. You can see how there wasn't much on the roof in those days. In the book, we learn all about Joe Mooney and his groundskeeping crew, and the Merion bluegrass of Fenway Park. We see the bases scrubbed, the laying of the foul lines, and the painting of home plate. This really is a good, in-depth book for kids and adults alike. Wow, I feel like I'm on "Reading Rainbow."

The amount of Fitzies, Sullies, and O'Bs in this book is amazing. Here, "Fitzie" Fitpatrick hangs the visitors' jerseys. (Clint Hurdle shown here.) I love this line: "Ball players appreciate home-baked goods, so for every home game, Fitzie's sister, Mary St. Sauver, bakes a fresh batch of brownies for the visiting team." We also see Vinnie Orlando (who once "got a girl" for Ted Williams in 1938) putting out fresh fruit in the Sox' clubhouse.

Here's a nice wide shot of the locker room, with Vinnie hanging a Fisk jersey. When Jaspersohn talks about the bat boys, he mentions Tommy Cremens, the main guy. I think this is the same Tommy that was there in the late 80s. We used to get seats right at the on deck circle, and the late Libby Dooley, who we sat next to, knew the kid, always referring to him as "Tommy." (He would've been a "bat man" by then....)

Here's Helen Robinson, the "voice of the Red Sox switchboard" for thirty-five years. Looks like she's been wearing the same glasses the whole time! I didn't include any of the inner office-type shots, but I assure you, wood-paneling is everywhere.

Bob Stanley arrives in his Jersey-plated 70s mobile. To the left are the lot attendants.

Here they are again, waiting for players to arrive, along with autograph-seekers. Same spot everybody waits in today....

Classic shot of Jim Rice getting taped up by Charlie Moss.

At the bottom of a shot of Dwight Evans working out, we see his personalized slippers! We also see Pesky and Rice watching video, Torrez autographing balls and filling out comp requests, and Yaz selecting some lumber.

Here are Hobson and Fisk at their lockers. Fisk has a big sign that says "THINK" (not "thimk") at the top of his, and above that, you can see a Peanuts cartoon and a bobble-head doll. Can't see the 27 on his stirrups that I've noticed before, but you can barely see a 2 and a 7 on the tongue of his cleats.

That's Johnny Pesky (wearing 35) playing pepper with Campbell and Burgmeier. Note his pole at right.

"Among the day's spectators are a movie actress, a United States senator, a famous football quarterback, and the governor of a large midwestern state." Then there's this lady, with Zimmer on her scorebook, being helped to her seat by this classic guy.

Pesky signs for the kids.

As does Dennis Eckersley. This is how I still think of the Eck. In fact, we used to call my sister "The Eck" when we were kids, as she had longer black hair, and when we'd force---uh, I mean, when she'd put on a Sox hat, she looked like Dennis. Without the 'stache, of course.

Shocker alert #1! Do you know the guy above, left? Yes, it's Peter Gammons. Love the shirt.

The umps: Terry Cooney, Al Clark, Hank Soar, and Bill Kunkel. Clark: "We don't have favorite teams... when umpires make mistakes, they are 100 percent honest mistakes."

Shocker alert #2! You know that guy, too (above, right). Bob Ryan! Wow. There are also shots of Joe Giuliotti and Dick Bresciani in the book, as well as two of my faves, organist John Kiley and PA guy Sherm Feller, of "ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Fenway Park" fame. (Though I hear his name and think, "Batting for the Red Sox...number 24...right fielder...Dwight Evans. Number 24... Evans. Dwight. 2-4, people. RF. Dewey. D-W-I-G....") Did you know Sherm, besides doing the announcements, ran the balls and strikes section of the left field scoreboard?

Aside from the boy who got sick and had to go to the Fenway medical area, which I have not included, this is the shot that brings back the most memories for me. Inside the Monster. "Dude 78"! That piece of graffiti is still there, amongst many, many others. That guy's name is Ronnie Thompson.

Lots of great shots of old computers and stuff. The "disc" Bill Gutfarb is inserting here has photos and stats of every AL player. Poor Bill. His computer's taller than he is. We also get some nice shots of the broadcast booths: Ken Coleman and Rico Petrocelli, Ned Martin and Hawk Harrelson. We also see the control room, the truck, the cameras, everything about the broadcast.

Here, Jerry Remy takes the throw, forcing Joe Zdeb at second.

Eckersley's like, "Psst. Who's that guy taking our picture? Be careful, he could be a Martian. Watch me for updates." And look at the roof behind home plate. You can again see how much they've added up there. The Sox have won, and now eerything is packed up. We even see the box of flip-down sunglasses getting ready for the road trip.

The park is almost empty... You can really see the bench seats toward the top of the bleachers. And at right, you can see a big, temporary area for a camera--which I believe was put there by NBC for the national telecast.

The Sox, and their crazy space-age shirts, board the bus.

Like today, people stand and wait, just to get a glimpse of their Sox, and cheer them as they're driven away.

The back cover. If you've been following along, you should be baffled right now, saying, "Hey, where'd they get those button-down uniforms?" After the '78 season, the Sox went back to these. This photo, and the cover photo, like I said, were taken in 1979, whereas the photos within the book are from the '78 season. This one was taken in August of '79 or later, as Ted Sizemore (closest locker) didn't arrive in Boston until mid-August of that year.

Now, about the whole timeline of the day and book: It was supposed to be "one day" behind the scenes. But it becomes obvious when you start to compare it with retrosheet that the shooting took place on several different days. (And different years, if you include the front and back covers.) The main game that was described was the Royals-Sox game on Saturday, July 29th, 1978. It fits in with much of what Jaspersohn--who not only wrote the book, but was the photographer as well--says: 1-0 win, with Wright on the mound, and Lynn knocking in the game's only run. However, when I noticed Joe Zdeb didn't play in that game, I knew he must've been using multiple days. The Zdeb play was from the next day's game, in the first inning. Lynn did not double to right with a man on second and two outs. That was also from another day, though Lynn did single in the only run on 7/29. Two pics in the book show the scoreboard as having the Yanks in town. Those pics, I believe, are from my third birthday, 9/8/78. The four umps shown only did a game at Fenway together twice in history--a doubleheader on 8/12/78, so that's when those umpire room shots were from.

Jaspersohn also plays up the "Sox headed to Baltimore right after the game for two and then right back to Fenway" angle. The team actually stayed in Boston for a series against the White Sox after the Royals series (which had one more game to play anyway). At a different point in the season, we did play KC at home, then leave for two in Baltimore, but we didn't come right back--we went on to four other cities on the trip.

So, things got a little mixed up in post-production. It doesn't take anything away from this wonderful book. (In fact, it gave me an excuse to do retrosheet research all these years later--the book that keeps on giving.) I recommend getting this book for your kids. You can find it used for a buck online.

When reading the Jaspersohn bio on the inside jacket, the first line jumped right out at me: "William Jaspersohn, a writer and photographer, was born thirty-two years ago in Connecticut." (!) I'm a (wannabe) writer and photographer who was born 31 and 11/12ths years ago in Connecticut. It also says he "listens to Red Sox night games on a portable radio." I have to do a sequel to this book! In fact, I'm realizing now that my whole blog IS a sequel to that book. I must've flipped through that thing a million times when I was little. No wonder I have so much interest in taking pics at Fenway and writing about it, and the team's history. Thank you, William Jaspersohn, wherever you are.

I leave you with a great shot of Butch Hobson--he really let those stirrup stripes show....

Jere, classic stuff...and that usher? I REMEMBER him, in person. I always slipped him a, treasure that book of past and future dreams. And thanks! You made my day!!!!
Thanks, Jere. I just bought this book on Abebooks for my boys. They'll love it!
Glad you both enjoyed, and that I could get a new generation into this sweet book!!
Thanks for the book review. I just bought a used copy off amazon because of it.
Thanks so much for the review. I bought a copy online and it just arrived. I was saying "Wow" on every page, either because things are so different now or because they're exactly the same. Al Forester (laying down the baselines and charging up the cart that drove pitchers in from the bullpen) and Al Green (in the information booth) still work every game! My friends, family, and co-workers have all been listening to me babble about the book, and I can't wait to show it to them.

And you should definitely write a sequel! :-)
This is so great! Glad people are buying this book!
Just found this book at a local Goodwill store. Researched it online and found your great review. Brought back quite a few memories.
For many years, I have loved looking through this book. A favorite shot is the park in early morning.

William Murchison
Nice, glad you found this post. Thanks.

And Bob, who I terribly never responded to 7 years ago, you're welcome.

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