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Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark, a Championship Season, and Fenway's Remarkable First Year Hardcover – October 11, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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The Amazon Book Review
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Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Glenn Stout

Q: How does your book differ from all the other Fenway books coming out to celebrate the ballparks’ anniversary?

A: Fenway 1912 breaks so much new ground it makes every other account of the building and construction of Fenway Park obsolete. In the context of the times I tell you precisely why Fenway looks the way it does, what architectural styles and influences played a part in its design, exactly how it was built, how it evolved during its first season and how Fenway Park contributed to the Red Sox 1912 world championship. Virtually none of this has appeared in any other book before. Unlike most others books about Fenway Park, which essentially tell a thumbnail history of the franchise through pictures of the ballpark, I tell the story of Fenway Park as an actual story, a drama that over the course of a little more than a year changed the history of the Red Sox and the City of Boston forever. Fenway Park is the main character, but there are many others – architect James E. McLaughlin, contractor Charles Logue, groundskeeper Jerome Kelley, and players like Tris Speaker, Smoky Joe Wood, Duffy Lewis, Royal Rooters like Nuf Ced McGreevey, team owner James McAleer and others. I think I’ve created a living history of Fenway Park.

Q: Is your book illustrated?

A: Absolutely, there are plenty of photographs and illustrations in my book, most dating to its first season. All were carefully selected for their ability to reveal something new about Fenway Park. I am particularly excited about several period architectural drawings that I uncovered that will be a revelation to Red Sox fans. To the best of my knowledge, these have never been reprinted or even examined by anyone since 1912. I don’t think I am overstating things when I say that after reading Fenway 1912, fans will never be able to look at Fenway Park the same way again. I know I don’t – and I have attended hundreds of game at Fenway and have been writing about the history of this team for twenty-five years. And throughout the narrative I relate aspects of Fenway Park in 1912 to Fenway Park today, so fans can envision Fenway Park in 1912 within what exists today. Personally, I was stunned to discover in the course of my research that there was so much new information I was still able to uncover about a place that everyone thinks they already know everything about.

Q: How were you able to discover so much new material?

A: Twenty-five years ago, on Fenway’s 75th anniversary, I wrote the official history of the park for the Red Sox yearbook. But when I began working on this book over three years ago I started from scratch, researching in period documents, newspaper accounts and other sources. I just don’t accept that something is true because it appeared in some book written decades later. And to do that takes time – literally years of research, months and months of searching through microfilm, old newspapers and magazines, census records, city directories, maps, and old books before I wrote a word. Let me put it to you this way – I think I did more research for Fenway 1912, telling the story of the creation and building of Fenway Park and the 1912 season, than I did for Red Sox Century, a book in which I told the entire history of the franchise.

Q: So the entire book is about 1912, right? There’s nothing about Fenway Park since then?

A: Oh, not at all. When certain aspects of Fenway Park need further explanation – and when I uncovered exciting new information – I don’t hesitate to tell those stories. For example, when I discuss the left field wall, I track it through history. I uncover the day that the first fans sat where the "Green Monster" seats are today – it was in 1912! And I trace the history and first use of the phrase "Green Monster," more precisely than anyone else ever has. That’s a great story, because the phrase was first used far earlier than most people realize, yet didn’t come into popular usage until, relatively speaking, quite recently. And here’s something else few people realize – Fenway Park wasn’t the first baseball field in Boston to be called "Fenway Park." On occasion the Huntington Avenue Grounds, where the Red Sox played before Fenway Park was built, was itself called "the Fenway Park" due to its proximity to the Fens.

Q: How do you manage to tell Fenway’s story while you also tell the story of the 1912 season and the 1912 World Series?

A: In a sense, that was the easy part of the book, because as I began to research the events of the 1912 season, I quickly realized that the personality of the ballpark was being revealed game by game, from things like the first home run hit over the left field wall (which most fans know was hit by Boston’s Hugh Bradley) to the first home run hit into the stands that was wrapped around the precursor to the "Pesky pole" in right field. Fenway Park had a dramatic impact on the fortunes of the Red Sox in 1912, and was a huge reason why a team that finished in fourth place in 1911 was able to run away with the pennant in 1912 – Tris Speaker emerged as a superstar and had an MVP season, Smoky Joe Wood, helped by some subtle changes no one else has ever recognized, went 34-5, a couple of rookie pitchers had the season of their lives. I point out precisely how Fenway Park provided the Red Sox with a huge advantage. Sort of by accident, they were perfect for the ballpark. Then, just before the World Series, while the Sox were on a road trip, Fenway Park underwent what I would still consider the most dramatic transformation in its history, as over a period of only a few weeks more than 10,000 seats were added, for the first time creating the familiar "footprint" that still remains, more or less, today. Then, during the 1912 World Series, a whole series of new quirks in Fenway’s personality were revealed.

Q: Wait a minute, Fenway Park was changed during the 1912 season?

A: Absolutely. And before those changes were made it would have been almost unrecognizable to a contemporary fan. In a sense, the 1912 World Series both christened Fenway and capped things off. The Sox played the New York Giants of John McGraw and Christy Mathewson, and the fortunes of both teams swung back and forth wildly, often during the course of a single game. Series lasted eight games – one was tie – and the Series was marked by fights, arguments, threats of a player strike, charges of gambling, and an on-field riot by the fans. The full story of what took place during those eight games has never been told before because previous accounts failed to recognize the key role Fenway Park played in the Series. That element allowed me to being the Series to life, to put the reader in the stands and on the street, in the dugout and in the clubhouse.

Q: What does Fenway Park mean to you?

A: It’s hard to put it in words, but in the foreword to the book I try. It’s very personal to me, and I think this is the best book I have ever written. When I was a kid I used to draw pictures of Fenway Park. I moved to Boston after college precisely because of Fenway Park and lived within walking distance of the park for all but the first few months I was in town. If it wasn’t for Fenway Park I may well have never become a working writer. Fenway Park is a place that can change your life – I know it changed mine. By writing Fenway 1912 I hope that in some small way I have repaid the debt I owe to the ballpark. Without Fenway Park, I am a different person, and I don’t think I’m the only one who can say that.


 "Stout's words stoke the reader's mind, painting such a detailed and vivid portrait of the ballplayers and ballpark that you will likely feel as if you were in the creaky grandstand yourself."  - Boston Globe

"In the capable hands of Stout, it promises to make all other books about Fenway's construction and first season obsolete." --Sports Illustrated.com

"Fenway 1912 is a book that everyone who covers this team has to buy, and read, and keep handy, so that when people ask us where the bones are buried, we can look wise and have the answer at our fingertips."   -Boston Baseball

"It's a fascinating story, and Stout tells it very well.
"  - Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

Stout's Fenway 1912 offers up a stunningly rich buffet of pleasures for the baseball fan, centered around the construction and opening of Fenway Park almost a century ago and the wild season that followed. This book is a must-read for any Red Sox fan and a great choice for anyone who enjoys a dip into baseball history at its best. -Huffington Post

"Stout imbues his account with a unique vibrancy and a razor-sharp intelligence. A wonderful sports book." -- Booklist, starred review
"A valuable addition to baseball history . . . Baseball diehards and historians, and of course Red Sox fans, will find much of interest in this paean to one of sport’s most famous venues." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Fun and informative . . . A well-constructed tribute to Fenway on its upcoming 100th anniversary." -- Publishers Weekly
"This is a book for anyone who cares about the storied Boston Red Sox, about their 100-year-old bandbox of a stadium, about the remarkable championship season of 1912, about the street-level history of Boston, and about why baseball will forever be the all-American pastime. This is a book for all of us." – Larry Tye, author of SATCHEL: The Life and Times of an American Legend

"Glenn Stout has done the impossible: he has put an end to the seemingly bottomless genre that is Fenway Park books. We now need no more. We get not pomp and circumstance, but the bones and blueprint of a legendary ballpark — topped with a star-filled World Series that still endures. He doesn’t pretend history is straw hats and cigars, but gives you real people, real baseball and (the best part) real Boston, the way any real writer should." Howard Bryant, ESPN, and author of The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547195621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547195629
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,051,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason Kirkfield VINE VOICE on October 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have read many baseball books over the past year, but this was one of the very best in terms of capturing an era and breathing life into these Hall of Fame (and sometimes Hall of Infamy) names.

With echoes of Fever Pitch, Fenway 1912 begins with veteran sportswriter and ESPN regular Glenn Stout's own support group welcome--"Fenway Park changed my life"--then transports us back to 1911 to get a running start on what would be a milestone year in baseball and for Boston in particular. I consider myself a lifelong baseball fan, but I never knew the history of that inaugural Fenway Park season, and certainly not the nail-biter details of the eight- (yes, eight) game 1912 World Series against the Giants.

Stout has mined thousands of contemporary newspaper articles to reconstruct the backstory of pre-Fenway Red Sox Nation, and later, pitch-by-pitch accounts of the Series itself. The latter was a sloppy affair, with twenty-eight combined errors, many of them pivotal. Critically, we learn that professional sports were never as innocent as we like to remember. Betting was rampant and people--teammates, even--were always looking out for themselves, even when bleacher seats cost a quarter. I am reminded of Edward G. Robinson's wonderfully bitter rejoinder from Soylent Green: "People were always rotten. But the world was beautiful."

Virtually every sentence in Fenway 1912 is well-written. It was a pleasure to read and I would strongly recommend it to baseball fans everywhere. (And please note: this is a Yankees fan talking.
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Glenn Stout has created a time machine and has brought me back to 1912 and the birth of Fenway Park, as I was able to witness history in the making. Not only, through Stout's eyes, did I witness the opening of one of this nation's most beloved ballparks, but I was right there for the ride, all season long, as the 1912 Red Sox rose to the top to win the World Series, not through a cohesive team (like the 2004 team), but despite the year-long tension that existed among the two rival factions that made up the team. Stout does an amazing job of putting the reader right there at the park. Fenway 1912 is an important read for any member of Red Sox nation! I give it a huge stamp of approval!!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
At the dawn of its centennial season, Boston's storied Fenway Park deserved a great history. Glenn Stout has given us that history. "Fenway 1912" interweaves the story of the park's construction with the exciting story of the Sox' first season in the park. Stout's research was exhaustive, but it never overwhelms the story he's telling--it only adds to its depth and richness. In these pages, you'll share the sense of opportunity as new ownership prepared to vacate the Sox' beloved Huntington Avenue grounds for the virgin territory of the Fens; you will feel the urgency through the winter months as the construction crews battled the weather and the calendar to have the new park ready for Opening Day, 1912; you will witness the great Red Sox squad of 1912 coming together, poised and eager to return the Sox to the glory of their early years in the American League; and follow their march to the World Series against the New York Giants, a memorable one that still resonates in baseball history today. Fans may not recognize the park they see in these pages; there's no Green Monster yet, and many of the other features that are Fenway landmarks were still decades away. However, Stout argues persuasively that because Fenway has been treated as a living organism rather than a fixed monument, the park has remained its utility in a way that none of its contemporaries (Shibe Park, Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, Comiskey Park, Tiger Stadium) could. Red Sox fans, and all of baseball, are enriched because Fenway is here to welcome its second century. Enjoy this book now. Then pull it off the shelf again next winter when the rain and snow have covered the field, and savor this great story all over again.
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I'm a big fan of baseball books chronicling the early 20th century, AND a huge Red Sox fan, so this book was right up my alley. Not just a history of the ballpark (a task at which the author succeeds impressively), but an engrossing tale of that first season and how the team's strong performance actually dictated the way the park would be expanded into dimensions that are roughly equivalent to today's layout.

One minor nit which is probably due to the manner in which books are printed, but it would have been nice if the photos grouped in two sections of the book had been spread out so they appeared in closer proximity to the sections of text to which they were relevant. And why did the publisher choose a back cover photo that shows the Red Sox crossing the field at the Polo Grounds, rather than another photo of Fenway?
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"Fenway 1912" covers not only the building of the now historic ballpark, but the first season played there. Author Glenn Stout also writes about the Boston players of that season (Joe Wood, Tris Speaker, Duffy Lewis, Harry Hooper, and the rest); the architects; the groundskeepers; the owners; the fans (notably the Royal Rooters); what baseball was like in 1912; and how the media covered the games.

"Fenway 1912" is a meticulously researched and fascinating look at the beloved ballpark. The beginning of the book covers how and why Fenway was built and, together with the end of the book where Stout describes the changes to the park throughout the years, it is amazing to realize how Fenway has stood up to the test of time (for better or worse). The story of how the park was built during the harsh New England winter - working until the last minute to get it done - is interesting to read as are some of the unique features when it was built that have long since gone away - namely Duffy's Cliff.

As fascinating as the building of the park is (and how much it has changed), the story of the 1912 season is even more fascinating. Baseball has changed a lot in the past 100 years and it boggled my mind to read of games (including World Series Games!) being called early because of darkness or even because players had to catch a train to get to the next city they were playing in. I was surprised that some things haven't changed - the ballpark was full of ads even then - and how some things have changed - for example, the fans had much more control and even dictated where they would sit, especially the often rowdy Royal Rooters. The way pitchers were handled was totally different back then in an era before relief pitchers and starting pitchers worked much more often.
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