Fruits of the Commutes – “The Red Sox Years” and Other Sounds

With the Red Sox travelling to Denver and Baltimore to finish up the regular season, Gary Geiger Counter touches on a few favorites for passing the time on the road, including a tome by a certain wild-card chasing former Boston manager.

More Tell-Some Than Tell-All (

More Tell-Some Than Tell-All (

One of my favorite ways of enjoying baseball over the years was getting in my car and driving down the road with the game on the radio. I think I got this from my dad. I distinctly recall riding around looking at early foliage in 1978 as Luis Tiant won a game and forced a playoff with the Yankees.

I’ve had a long commute this past year and, as an antidote to music or sports talk on the radio, I’ve started listening to audio books that I’ve borrowed from libraries. The problem I find with audio books is that they are sometimes difficult to listen to while driving. It is easy to lose your place if you hit a bit of traffic or are otherwise distracted.

Some books work in the audio format, though. Land of Lincoln by Andrew Ferguson was one that I would recommend. History cum travel seems to be a genre suited for, well, travel. You know who else transitions well to audio books? Malcolm Gladwell. I’m not his hugest fan (and recently there’s been some criticism of his book Outliers vis a vis The Sports Gene), but he is easy enough to follow. The Devil and Sherlock Homes by another magazine writer, David Grann, was roadworthy. It was mainly true crime, but it even had a piece on Rickey Henderson. Another one that worked was NPR’s Driveway Moments Baseball CD. It was a compilation of stories about or featuring folks such as Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson, and Ted Williams, as well as ordinary fans. But it flowed better than the typical audio CD because it was originally oral and not text.

Some books that sparked my interest were not easy to follow while driving. The Education of Henry Adams is supposed to be a classic, but I got halfway through before giving up. Another book I listened to was Howie Carr’s Hit Man. I didn’t finish it as it started getting confusing; the gangsters all blended together. But I did hear one story about Earl Wilson’s no-hitter from 51 years ago and his previous night’s bacchanalia that matched David Wells’ and Don Larsen’s. The excerpt is online and I’ll present it with one comment that popped into my head when I heard it: wouldn’t a gangster be familiar with greenies?

This month, I was able to finally grab a copy of Francona: The Red Sox Years by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy. As I recall, Jose read it on his Kindle when it first came out. I forget who it was read by, but the guy wasn’t a Red Sox fan. He mispronounced some names like Leskanic. That one stands out, but he flubbed some easier ones too.

I’m not sure why the book was viewed as controversial when it came out this spring, unless it was for marketing purposes. Senior management wasn’t always portrayed in a particularly flattering light, especially Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner, but they weren’t excessively pilloried. It wasn’t a tell-all, but I wasn’t looking for a tell-all. I was interested to see how Francona managed the players and the book did give me a lot of that. Basically, players don’t like surprises and want the roles they think they deserve. I think we all know that, but the book confirms it. That and it seems pretty tough to find veteran role players. (For what it’s worth, between this book and his own writings for WEEI and Baseball Prospectus, I’ve come to really respect Gabe Kapler.)

One of the most interesting baseball writers out there. Seriously. (

One of the most interesting baseball writers out there. Seriously. (

Quick aside regarding Werner: isn’t he basically the NESN guy? NESN sometimes shows Pawtucket games, but does anyone here know if they go out of their way to promote prospects as much as they could? Yeah, sure, I was anticipating the Xander Bogaerts Experience, but that was because he was a hot topic here. Did the average fan know much about him before he came up? I do recall Jackie Bradley Jr. hype before the season, but that’s because the preseason seemed relatively newsless for the guys on the beat.

For what it’s worth, I think The Red Sox Years worked in the audio format because I already knew most of the story. But I did enjoy hearing it all again in one shot, especially the earlier parts. I cried while listening to tales of the 2004 ALCS. The book does limp to its conclusion; the last disc was anti-climactic. The 2011 season was already over, and it talked about Tito’s departure and (a lot) about who leaked personal info to Bob Hoelher. I’d recommend the book, and I’ll bet it is better than the Tony Massoratti and Michael Holley books on the Sox during the Francona era. (Just a hunch. I haven’t read those.) I liked it better than Mnookin’s Feeding The Monster mainly because it was a lot more about baseball.