Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Don't Let Us Win Tonight (2014)

By Allan Wood and Bill Nowlin

The list of books coming out this year on the 10th anniversary of the Boston Red Sox' win in the World Series isn't as long as the number of publications released in the spring of 2005. There are forests still trying to regrow from that attack.

Still, a few have arrived. And why not? There's a ready-make audience out there waiting for it.

Allan Wood and Bill Nowlin, who have written several books each, must have thought of this one as a hanging curveball. They scored a hit with "Don't Let Us Win Tonight," an oral history of that team's playoff run.

The authors did make a couple of significant editorial decisions here, and they are worth mentioning in any discussion of this book.

First, they opted to limit most of the text to the playoffs. Yes, there is a discussion of what happened in 2003 and during the 2004 regular season. But it is covered relatively quickly and painlessly. More detail would have been nice for history's sake, but a focus on the games that people remember isn't a bad idea either.

The second decision deals with source material. This is not all fresh interviews. Wood and Newlin certainly went out of their way to talk to as many people as possible who were involved with the Red Sox games. Yes, that includes the bat boy. But newspapers, books, etc. are used to supply quotes as well, most of which were written back in 2004.

Therefore, we have a mix of material from 10 years ago with quotes from the past year or so. It is a little jarring to go back and forth between eras. But more importantly, the quotes that have several years of perspective behind them provide the most interesting stories in the book.

Theo Epstein is particularly good at this. He provides stories about how sure he was that the Red Sox were going to win the World Series in 2004, and how Keith Foulke probably sacrificed part of his career in making multiple appearances in the playoffs this season. Curt Schilling and Kevin Millar also have many interesting things to say. Even the owners chip in, as they didn't go to Game Six in New York because they were afraid to see the Yankees wrap up the series. But they made it to Game Seven.

The "scrubs" contribute to the story nicely too. For example, Curtis Leskanic talks about how his arm was hanging by a thread at that point in his career, and he's happy to point out that somehow he struck out the last batter he faced as a major-league pitcher (Game Four against the Yankees).

The most poignant moments come during the World Series parade. Based on the comments, the players seemed to be in something of a bubble when it came to public reaction. Then in the parade, they noticed the sheer joy experienced by the fans - complete with signs along the lines of "my parents and grandparents would be thrilled." Those players were surprised and moved.

The title refers to a comment made by Millar before Game Four. He said a victory there could be followed by wins in Games Five and Six, thus turning a 3-0 series into a 3-3 dramafest. And that's exactly what happened, as the Red Sox became the only team in baseball history to erase that 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven matchup.

Red Sox fans will certainly be happy to relive October, 2004, all over again, and "Don't Let Us Win Tonight" doesn't disappoint in that sense. Just keep it away from Yankee fans.

Four stars

Learn more about this book.

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