Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Book Review: Red Sox by The Numbers

Red Sox by The Numbers is, as the cover says, "A Complete Team History of the Boston Red Sox by Uniform Number." Written by Bill Nowlin and Matthew Silverman, it takes what could be a very dry topic and turns it into an enjoyable read through Boston's past and present.

Nowlin has written numerous books on the Sox and Silverman has a long history in writing and editing sports-related books. That experience is clearly on display here. The format is simple; the take each uniform number, provide a list of every player to wear said number and then give us a few pages highlighting the players themselves. It's a simple but effective way of presenting the information. It doesn't hurt that it's interesting and enjoyable to read as well.

Each number/chapter has a title referring to that number's best-known or best-performing player. So #23 is titled "El Tiante" for Luis Tiant, #39 is called "Greenie" for Mike Greenwell and so forth. If a number has a lot of famous wearers (or none at all), you get a title like "Flowers, Flash, Penny, Cash" (#34) or "Monster, Marty and Marvelous Mel" (#17). But what I like best of all is that each chapter also has a box dedicated to the most obscure player to wear a particular number. So when they cover #14, we know we're talking about Jim Rice. But we also get to learn about Joe Mulligan, a Holy Cross grad who pitched for the Sox in 1934. He appeared in 14 games, went 1-0 with a 3.63 ERA, and walked as twice as many batters as he struck out. He was out of the game after the season ended. And I never would have heard about him without this book.

Red Sox by The Numbers is full of extra information like that. You can find out who hit the first homer for Boston wearing #23 (It was Bill Conroy on April 20, 1942). Why certain numbers matter to certain players (Daisuke took #18 because it's considered the "ace number" in Japan). And which Hall of Famer was it that played eleven games with the Sox in 1974?* It's the little things like this that make Red Sox by The Numbers a great reference book. It also makes it a great "bathroom book". I mean that as a compliment. You want something interesting to read in there, and this fits the bill just fine.

Red Sox by The Numbers is a great reference book for any Sox fan, trivia lover or general baseball aficionado. I heartily recommend it.

You can find Red Sox by The Numbers online at Amazon, Borders and Barnes and Noble.


* It was Juan Marichal, who went 5-1 in 11 appearances for the Sox in 1974.

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