lost summer#“The ’67 Red Sox and the Impossible Dream”

The Boston Red Sox feature in my baseball experience predominantly as the opposition. They were the team that the New York Mets beat in the 1986 World Series to secure my support in my first introduction to the game as a teenager, and they were the humiliated visitors to Yankee Stadium when I saw my first, and currently only, live baseball game on a family holiday in 2015. The advantage of being a distant fan of the game, however, is that any team can be of interest as they lack the stain of intimate battle that a local rival would have.

Lost Summer is the story of the 1967 Red Sox and their “100 to 1 shot” at winning the American League pennant. As with all my favourite baseball books there is a developing history that sits alongside the game with the shadow of the Vietnam War looming large, as well bubbling racial tensions and a growing generational divide, but this was a book in which it was the sporting narrative that really grabbed a hold of me.

This was a new era of the game for me with different teams coming to the fore and new heroes stepping up to the plate. I didn’t need to have seen the Red Sox play to understand why the fans idolised Carl Yastrzemski, who played the season of his life to lead the Sox to the pennant. Reynolds painted all of the pictures and Lonberg, Scott, Smith, Petrocelli and manager Dick Williams, the right man at the right time to turn around a failing club, came alive on the pages.

The relationships that develop between the players as they sense that they are moving from being perennial losers to a side that is genuinely challenging for the pennant provide real insight into the strong bonds that being part of a successful team create. The growing excitement of the city of Boston and surrounding state as they recognise that something special is happening and they are drawn to Fenway and to their team captures so much of what it means to be a sports fan.

Although this was a baseball book and the teams involved were not only playing a different sport but in a different country and a different era, as its pages drew to a close I found myself reflecting more than anything on my own support for Nottingham Forest, my local football team. I felt a greater understanding of the bonds that must exist between the “Miracle Men” who won back to back European Cups and some of whom I have interviewed for the fanzine Bandy & Shinty. I also felt more than ever a burning desire for Forest to achieve what has increasingly become their own impossible dream, returning to the top flight of English football.