Jerome Kelley, James McLaughlin and Charles Logue are unfamiliar names to most Boston Red Sox fans, but they are key figures in the history of Fenway Park, built in 1912 and on the verge of its 100th anniversary.
Author Glenn Stout focuses on Kelley (groundskeeper), McLaughlin (architect) and Logue (contractor) for the first quarter of the book as he details the design and construction of Fenway Park and the geography of its site.
Stout dispels several myths along the way: Fenway Park wasn't shoehorned into a lot, creating its layout. Stout points out that there was plenty of room where the park was built and it could have been symmetrical, if that had been the desire. The city actually grew up around Fenway Park. Also, in the context of the era, the opening of Fenway Park was not a big deal. It was dealt with matter of fact, and there's no evidence that the sinking of the Titanic the same month was the reason for lack of coverage.
Stout writes that Fenway Park wasn't "discovered" by the national media until the 1967 World Series. Before then, it wasn't considered a historic gem or a cathedral of baseball. And, the Green Monster was simply "The Wall" prior to the late 70s.
Stout's account of the 1912 season and the World Series, which the Red Sox won, is interesting, filled with insights about the players--particularly Tris Speaker, Joe Wood, Harry Hooper and manager Jake Stahl-- the era and the game. The players were divided along religious lines and Stahl's job was to bring them together.
While Wood paced the Red Sox with a 34-5 record, Stout points out that it was the emergence of third-string catcher Hick Cady into Wood's personal catcher and first stringer that was the key to the championship.
To accommodate larger crowds for the World Series against the New York Giants, 11,000 seats were added to Fenway Park, forever altering it. The 1912 World Series turned out to be one of the most remarkable in history. Eight games were played (there was one tie, which was the subject of controversy--the players thought they should get a share of that game as well as the first four games) and the Red Sox won 4 games to 3. Throughout his account of the series, Stout points out plays where the design and peculiarities of Fenway Park helped and hurt the Red Sox.
Other controversies included Boston owner James McAleer insisting Buck O'Brien start Game 6 (counting the tie) over ace Joe Wood; Wood's woeful performance in Game 7 and the possible influence of gamblers on the Series outcome. Facing a Game 8 with Giants great Christy Mathewson facing Hugh Bedient, the Red Sox were given little chance of winning. Fred Snodgrass' infamous muff of a routine fly ball with no outs in the bottom of the 10th, set the stage for the winning run and the Red Sox unlikely victory.
Looking at Fenway Park nearing its 100th anniversary, Stout writes, "It has been saved but has not, except in the most general sense, been preserved. Very little of the ballpark that opened in 1912 is visible and the original design is almost unrecognizable."
For any readers interested in baseball history, and particularly Red Sox history, this thoroughly researched and well-written book should be on your bookshelf.