Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Boston's 100 Greatest Games by Rob Sneddon

Why I read it: The author requested a review on, and if there was ever a book in my "wheelhouse" (now there's a phrase of which I'd like to know the origins), this title would be it.

Summary: The opening salvo in the debate. These are the author's 100 greatest - what are yours?

My Thoughts: First, it isn't easy. I've written a few books myself, and twice I've taken on a similar format. In each case, I had to find different themes for more than 300 journal entries, and make them somehow come together cohesively in a narrative format (walking every day no matter the weather or my health, and walking every Massachusetts town in one calendar year). The author of this book had the same challenge: 100 games, 100 themes. Some naturally play themselves out, but some could be seen as repetitive if not given a twist by the writer. Give the author credit for finding those themes. I mean, how many times can you describe the Bill Russell era of Boston Celtics history without tripping over the same words over and over again?

As to the content, I have several thoughts. One, it's weird how Ted Williams never appears in the book. But that's the way it fell. Williams suffers for his lack of postseason success, as when you think about it, there are just far too many World Series wins, Super Bowls, etc. in Boston sports history to dive too deeply into regular season action. I don't think I saw Terry O'Reilly or Cam Neely's names in there either. But the logic works.

The author says he wants to get the conversation started, so here are some of my thoughts for inclusion in the next version of the book:

*The Red Sox final doubleheader of 1941; Williams goes 6-for-8 to raise his average to .406 on the last day of the season. OK, no postseason success, but what a day in Boston sports. Perhaps too much of an individual achievement, but if Roger Clemens' first 20 strikeout game is in the mix...
*May 13, 2007, the Mother's Day Massacre; the Red Sox pull an amazing ninth inning comeback out of their helmets to beat the Orioles, 6-5. Again, not postseason, but certainly setting up the run to the 2007 World Series.
*April 19, 2008, Bruins-Canadiens, conference quarterfinals; Marco Sturm scores the game-winning goal in Game 6 in stunning fashion, nearly pushing the Bruins past the Canadiens. The season came to a halt with the next game, but the energy created that night propelled the Bruins to become one of the best teams in the NHL for the next, well, who knows how many years, as they haven't really come down yet.
*How about the 1999 All-Star game at Fenway Park? The game itself was an afterthought, but the Ted Williams moment alone was worth mentioning.

The book is fun in that it challenges Boston sports fans to keep on their toes. One moment you're reading about Larry Bird and Michael Jordan squaring off and the next the names of the 1929 Bruins are being tossed at you. Books like this one bring back memories (heck, I was at the Tuck Rule game) just by invoking players you'd simply forgotten about because you can only keep so many names in your head (660, if I remember that study correctly!). But for every Tom Brady, there is a J.R. Redmond, a player from the past who played a role in a big game, big enough to be recorded for posterity, perhaps not remembered by name by every individual who saw the contest.

This book will be redone. The author decided to hold back its release so he could watch the 2013 World Series and put its games into the context of the book. And don't look now, but the Bruins are having another great year and the Patriots are the number 2 seed in their conference. And the Celtics...well, we love the Celtics.


  1. My brother-in-law would love this book! He is a die-hard Boston fan. My brothers, while they like sports (especially football) don't collect these kinds of memories. My husband does, but he is from Philly. (In my defense let me just say that at least he is not from NY - I don't think I could have married him if he was). He and I can both agree to root against any NY team. A real plus since we live in a state divided (CT).

    Unfortunately, this means that both my boys lean toward Philly teams. Usually this is not a problem because we're in different leagues/divs/conferences and they can happily root for both, but sometimes...

    I'm going to let my brother-in-law know about this book. Thanks,

    1. Hmm, Philly. Well, I'll withhold my comments as I do some work down there :) But honestly, the great thing about living in the northeast as far as sports goes is that we've got the long history with each game. We also are rabid about our teams, and that's half of what makes our traditions so wonderful. Imagine if these games were played in empty stadia? The cheering is almost like a laugh track on a sitcom, it fills in the story.

      I hope your brother-in-law enjoys it. It was a fun read, and I've already submitted my list to the author for future consideration. Every once in a while it's fun to dabble in the "soft toy department" of the world.