Thursday, July 17, 2014
Review: Idiots Revisited (2014)
Books looking back on championship teams are a staple of the sports publishing business. The facts of the season are usually well-known to the audience, so it's just a matter of reminding everyone what happened. Then a few new stories and updates are added.
In other words, these books can either be "phoned in" or new information can be collected that adds great insight into what happened ... or anything in between.
"Idiots Revisited" is definitely one of the very good ones in the field.
Author Ian Browne, a reporter for MLB.com, went back and talked to several members of the Boston Red Sox organization from 2004, when the team ended an 86-year drought to win a World Series. They came through for him as Browne adds several new tales about that fairy tale season.
It's impressive just how honest and open several players and other officials were. One of the good things about a book like this is that some of the role players can supply a lot of perspective on what happen. Here, Gabe Kapler and Dave Roberts fill their jobs nicely. But Johnny Damon is almost painfully honest about what took place, and Curt Schilling. Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Trot Nixon chip in with some very interesting comments. You'd expect Kevin Millar to do plenty of talking in a book like this, but the ever-quiet Mark Bellhorn even makes a solid contribution. Others chip in as well. Browne even gets Nomar Garciaparra to open up about the circumstances of his trade.
There's plenty of fascinating stuff here. Damon says the concussion he suffered in the fall of 2003 not only bothered him for the 2004 season, but for many years after that. Schilling talks about how he first hurt his ankle in spring training in 2004; you might recall that he did more damage in the postseason that year. Schilling also mentions how he got into a couple of mild fights with Manny Ramirez, while others talk about how difficult it was to keep Manny in line that season ... but they managed it for the most part. Keith Foulke was particularly driven to keep pitching in 2004's postseason, because he was going through a divorce and was no hurry to start a long winter in an empty house. Manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein also supply some thoughts and anecdotes.
For the most part, Browne is smart enough to get out of their way. He sets up situations with background information, and let's the players talk about the season - from spring training to that last ground ball to Foulke in the World Series. He also adds an epilogue about the fate of those players after 2004, which again features plenty of honesty.
It's hard to believe that "Idiots Revisited" could be done any better. OK, fans probably wouldn't have minded it the story was even longer - the 220 or so pages go by mighty quickly. "Idiots Revisited" thus is an ideal read for Red Sox fans who want to look back on a magical year.
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