35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Baseball player and manager Terry Francona and columnist Dan Shaughnessy chronicle a colorful portrait of baseball history as they highlight the Boston Red Sox in all its glory, and its falls as well. The reader is taken behind-the-scenes to learn about the Championships, different personalities of the players, and the changes in the sport from a famous era to the modern-day. The authors portray a popular team, the events on-and-off the field, the reputation of the team, and much more. We learn how good the team played, until Francona left, and the reasons why they fell. Francona tells about the highs-and-lows of the game, what it took to manage the team, and the historical events from Championship to collapse. In addition, the authors include stories about losses, wins, and special moments. We also learn how the team lost their way when money became top priority over winning. My dad followed the Boston Red Sox for many years, always speaking about the glory of this team, and all the changes that took place. This presentation on baseball history, along with managing today's games entertains from beginning to end. This intriguing page-turner grabs the reader's attention immediately, and has you hooked to the very end. Interesting, educational, informative, and enjoyable read. Highly recommended!
52 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on January 22, 2013
21st century databases merely verify what baseball fans already knew in 1959: Tito Francona was one hot baseball player. He hit an eye popping .363, swatted 20 homeruns, and had 79 RBI's; good enough for 5th place in the MVP balloting that year. That same year, a son Terry (Little Tito) was born, and now Tito Francona has another feather in his cap. Francona: The Red Sox Years is dedicated to him.
Little Tito turned out to be a pretty good ballplayer himself until he blew out both his knees running into walls and avoiding baseline tags. But the story in this book is more than a Red Sox story. This is a book about baseball culture, the way the business side works, the way baseball relationships are built, nurtured, and how they endure through the years. People in baseball remember things, remember how you perform, remember your attitude. This is also a book about fathers, their sons, and the women who love them, stick with them, and help achieve a meaningful outcome. It's full of quirky quotes - one of the most memorable gets told by Terry Francona himself - about his own mother no less, and on Page 32 (Koufax' number) we get: "She was the perfect mom. She was a saint. I am still trying to figure out how she got pregnant." That's the kind of book this is, iconoclastic, irreverent, but above all, readable.
Dan Shaughnessy tracks down people who knew Terry Francona and knew his father. Tim McCarver weighs in with the intonation of Scripture: "Tito Francona could kill a low pitch"...and "there was nothing executive about the Executive Apartments Terry used to live in." When another player, Tommy Harper chimes in, you can see how Shaughnessy works, interspersing eye witness accounts to weave a story broad enough to appeal even to non baseball fans because Shaughnessy's real subject is human nature.
You learn about the consensus building style of Terry Francona, how he got the players to buy into democratic team management, how the Red Sox players appreciated this and used it to dissipate "the curse of The Bambino" winning not one but two World Series championships in 2004 and 2007. Ultimately, you learn how the players eventually abused Francona's trust and betrayed him. As I said, the writer's real subject is human nature.
It's a book where glory is a long time in the making, and 2011 failure, Boston Red Sox style, is just around the corner. But this book is really a work in progress because Terry Francona has been named manager of his father's old team, the Cleveland Indians. We'll soon see how that goes.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
This is a book by and about a great role model and example of what a manager of others should be. Fair, understanding, practical, staunch and humble. I'm probably leaving out a bunch of other adjectives but you get the idea.
As a woman who bleeds blue for the Yankees, I also have a deep respect for the Red Sox players and many (not all) of their fans. As I'm certain (though few might admit it) they feel the same about the Yankees. Watching Mr. Francona from the sidelines you knew this man cared deeply about the team and the game, regardless of the color of his jersey.
The stories about Pedroia's "passionate" mother, the friction of front office vs. field, the quiet heartbreak of his own personal struggles, the wallet that sat on a desk to help those who might come up short - these are priceless gems. And there are so many others.
Please put aside whatever annoyance you might feel towards the Red Sox (if you're not already a member of their "nation") and sit back and read about someone who really loves baseball and all that goes with it. An honest man, an outstanding manager.
Good luck with the Indians.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2013
The book is not written in the first person by Francona "with" Shaughnessy. Rather it is written in the third person by Schaughnessy. This makes it a better book, I think -- less artificial with a little broader perspective than could have been. Still, the book as written by Shaughnessy is completely focused on Francona -- based on interviews of Francona (and on interviews of other people important to the story), telling Francona's story, and making clear Francona's point of view. I think it is fair to call it "Francona's book" even if he didn't exactly write it. Shaughnessy is excellent at keeping himself out of the book (he is a long time reporter on the Red Sox); thus his Boston Globe article on how he and Francona worked together on the book is a useful adjunct to the book. While a lot of the press about the book has been about Francona exposing the owners focus on money rather than baseball, this is a small part of the whole story in the book, and to me the book seems pretty fair to the owners. As I read the story, Francona was mostly not particularly unhappy with them. He just notes how he got along with them over the years -- until the time of his departure where he makes clear he is still bitter about private things that someone exposed about him and the owners not admitting or finding out who did that. As an avid Red Sox fan, I think the book gets five stars. For someone who does not have as much interest in the Red Sox, I still think Schaughnessy has written a 4 star baseball book. It is well written.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Although I am a voracious consumer of non-fiction I seldom traverse into the world of sports. If I read 50 books a year chances are less than a handful would be concerned with sports. There are simply too many other subjects I would prefer to read about. Several weeks ago The Boston Globe began releasing excerpts from Dan Shaugnessy and Terry Francona's long awaited and highly touted new collaboration "Francona: The Red Sox Years". Given all of the scuttlebutt on Boston sports radio I was led to believe that "Francona" would be awash in new and surprising revelations about Terry Francona's eight year tenure as manager of the Boston Red Sox. Being a lifelong Sox fan I could not resist the temptation. I ordered the book immediately.
Much to my surprise I found very little in the way of new information in "Francona". Practically everything I read in this book I had seen in print or heard discussed on sports radio and TV at one time or another. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed. This is by no means a bad book. Shaugnessy and Francona do a workmanlike job of chronicling Tito's eight year run as manager of the Red Sox. It was fun to read again about the antics of the so-called "idiots" on that '04 championship team and about "Manny being Manny". How Terry Francona survived seven seasons of dealing with that guy is beyond me. And you will probably shed a tear when Tito recalls hugging John Lester after he tossed his no-hitter back in 2008. It was such an emotional moment for both men. I was also very happy to see the recollections shared by former Sox GM Theo Epstein woven into the text. "Francona" spells out how it all started to unravel in 2010. Perhaps the key moment was when CEO Tom Werner suggested that "We need to start winning in a more exciting fashion". One had to wonder what the real priorities of the organization were. It seemed to be all downhill from there.
As I indicated earlier there is no denying that "Francona: The Red Sox Years" is an important addition to the historical record and will be enjoyed by generations of Red Sox fans to come. Dan Shaughnessy is an fine writer and Terry Francona certainly had a fascinating tale to tell. Tito saw it all during his eight years in Boston. Yet having said that, I cannot help but come away from this book feeling a little bit cheated. I simply did not learn as much as I expected to. According to the Amazon ratings system if a reviewer feels that a book is merely "OK" then he/she should rate it three stars. At the end of the day that is where I come down on this one. For me, "Francona: The Red Sox Years" simply did not live up to my expectations. As such, I am only able to offer a somewhat lukewarm recommendation.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2013
We had just moved to the Northeast about the time that Terry Francona took over the Red Sox and we enjoyed the ride immensely...the fall was painful, but by far the worst part was watching a good man get run out of town. Francona was leaving anyway, yet they had to trash his reputation on the way, after all he had done? Just shameful.
But the book goes a long way toward explaining the behind the scenes reality of celebrity baseball and if anything, it makes Francona's accomplishments even more impressive.
I wish him well.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2013
I'm no scholar, but I didn't find this book to be very well written. It kind of read like a school report with random things thrown in at weird places in the book. I love Terry Francona and still wish he was with the Red Sox though.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2013
So I recently read FRANCONA The Red Sox Years by Terry "Tito" Francona and Dan Shaughnessy. First, let me say that I don't read many books so take this with a grain of salt: It wasn't what I expected and I was mildly disappointed. I'm blaming Shaughnessy.
Now, I love Terry Francona and I don't mean any disrespect. He's an outstanding MLB manager who brought 2 World Series championships to us Red Sox fans in his first 4 years with the team--he was with the club for 8. He's engaging, funny, and has a great story to tell. I just think this could have been much, much more than it is.
Despite the subtitle, the first six chapter of the book have basically nothing to do with the Red Sox. That's okay--they deal with Terry's childhood during his father's MLB career, Terry's own journey through high school, college, the minors, MLB, and into his coaching and managerial experience leading right up to, of course, how he was hired on as the Red Sox skipper. Mostly fairly interesting but then just call the book FRANCONA without the subtitle because from that point on there essentially was just one chapter per year for each year of his 8-year term at the helm and then a couple chapters post-Boston.
Perhaps I'm splitting hairs but as I said initially, it was not what I expected. Much of the book has nothing to do with the Red Sox--it is Terry's life story. I was expecting extensive and previously unheard behind the scenes anecdotes regarding key players throughout the years. There is a bit of that but mostly we're getting Terry's take on incidents we already heard about. In the lengthy back story there's more about Michael Jordan's foray into minor league baseball (Terry managed him) than there was about key Red Sox players, some of whom get barely a mention with just a sentence or two. Even Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick gets more ink than most of the players. Calvin Hill, the father of NBA star Grant Hill gets a big write up just for being in the front office of the Orioles at one point--something about hiring Theo down in Baltimore.
There are a few tidbits we have forgotten, or perhaps never knew such as Terry's last major league at bat was in Fenway Park and he flew out to Ellis Burks who he later managed in 2004. Terry was a coach with the 2003 A's and after Game 4 in Boston Jack McCormick used his contacts with the Boston PD to delay the A's at the airport so the Sox could get back to Oakland before them for Game 5--the Johnny Damon concussion game. Within weeks Terry was interviewing for the Red Sox skippership. I always thought a guy went in for an interview or two or three and then got the job or not. They had Terry basically hanging out at Fenway for most of the winter playing simulated baseball games with guys from Baseball Ops while he was still employed by the A's. For his entire term with the Sox the team had this computer (program) which they created and named Carmine which they used to help manage the team.
There were a couple of poignant moments with Terry sharing how he broke down in tears--not because of game play but following high-stress situations which had weighed heavily on him for some time and had finally come to a positive resolution.
Here's an excerpt (sorry--not related to him crying) regarding Pedroia when he won the 2008 MVP Award: "It was unbelievable...Tim Lincecum was the Cy Young winner and he had the whole Giants front office there from San Francisco...I was there with just Pam Ganley...Brian Cashman--the GM of the Yankees!--had to give me my MVP Award!...Our owners gave David a car or truck for doing I'm not sure what, and I've got nobody there when I get the MVP. All I got was a handshake."
Francona decided the best response was a gag gift for his second baseman...Pedroia found an electrically charged blue mini-scooter in front of his locker...a pink "AL MVP" helmet hung from the handlebar with a phony note from Lucchino..."Sorry we couldn't make it to the MVP presentation...Congratulations, Dustin."
See, the book should have been full of anecdotes like that but sadly it wasn't.
Sure, there were many interesting tidbits like dissecting the ill-fated trip to Japan in 2008, what went on in various meetings and on team flights and how toxic the clubhouse was at times. Also interesting is how intertwined the histories of so many players and coaches are, "I knew Nomar already from when I coached him in the Arizona Fall League," etc.
And I never knew his health was this bad: "The most recent knee replacement followed the 2006 knee replacement, knee scopes, knee reconstructions, cervical disk surgery, and numerous wrist, elbow, and shoulder surgeries. He'd cheated death during the Christmas season of 2002, surviving a pulmonary embolism on each side of his lungs, as well as subsequent blood clots, staph infections, massive internal bleeding, and the near-amputation of his right leg. He had a small metal device implanted into his vena cava vein to prevent clotting. He was unable to jog and would be on blood-thinning medication for the rest of his life. He wore sleeves on both his legs, and still got cold easily. Anytime he sat too long his legs swelled and needed to be elevated....Blood-level maintenance and pain management would be part of his life for as long as he lived."
Anyway, here's a few of my takeaways: The ownership group of Henry, Werner, and Lucchino is a despicable and dysfunctional bunch of weasels. Theo Epstein is a supremely talented and likable GM. Manny is a lowlife dirt bag.
Overall, a worthy read for a Red Sox fan but nothing more. If not a Red Sox fan, you probably won't care a lick.
"When people ask me if I left the Red Sox on my own or if I was fired, I don't even know how to answer that. I really don't." --Terry "Tito" Francona
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2013
Even as a Yankees fan, I really enjoyed this book. This will be the definitive account, for sure, of the recent years of the Red Sox.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2013
Great view of how big money has taken away the dignity of a great manager for personal gain while I do understand there are always three sides to a story America's favorite past time it is evident corporate greed will go to great lengths to try and tarnish a true professional in Terry
Worth the read