Over the past few years, I have been unhealthily obsessed with reading sports autobiographies, mostly Red Sox related. From Ted Williams to Mike Lowell to David Ortiz to Johnny Pesky, they all shed insight (some more than others) into the backgrounds and histories of the players we know and love. Recently, I have been looking for less autobiographies and more sport history books. When my father-in-law, Michael, told me about this great book he was reading, Seth Mnookin’s “Feeding the Monster” about a month ago, I was immediately intrigued. I finished what I was currently reading and began reading it, only to find that I couldn’t put it down and was fascinated by the story, even the pieces I already knew. (more after the jump)
Mnookin takes his readers on a journey, beginning with the history of the Red Sox franchise and up through the Red Sox winning their 1st World Series title in 86 years, but it is not your typical retelling of a story. Mnookin spent a year behind the scenes at Fenway Park speaking to staff and players about topics ranging from the coming together of an unlikely trio to buy the Red Sox in 2002 (John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner), to the behind-the-scenes issues with NOmar Garciapparra and Manny Ramirez, to the growing rift between GM Theo Epstein and President Larry Lucchino. This unprecedented access to information made this book intriguing and fascinating and is a must read for anyone who is passionate about the Red Sox and even remotely interested in baseball’s inner sanctum.
Mnookin begins the book by looking at the history of the Red Sox and the impact Tom Yawkey had, both positive and negative, on the development of a beloved franchise in Boston. He continues to move towards the 2004 and beyond by chronicling the moves the Sox made and what they meant to the city, beginning with the fight for ownership in the early 2000s. I was mostly unfamiliar with the back-story and back-stabbing that went on when the Red Sox were up for sale and enjoyed looking back at the public opinion of Henry, Lucchino and Werner then, while they were just prospective buyers, compared to now. The once hated and questioned group has become arguably the greatest ownership trio to lead the Red Sox in their history.
The most interesting section of the book was related to Nomar Garciaparra and then Manny Ramirez. Having the behind the scenes access to information allowed Mnookin to learn about the issues management was dealing with during both those tumultuous times, including each player demanding a trade at various points. The book takes a look at the heat Theo Epstein took for trading Garciaparra, but it was Nomar that really forced the hand of the Red Sox to make a move that certainly helped the Sox get past the curse and hoist the trophy. It still gives me the chills to think the Red Sox had to trade their franchise player to get over the curse and that piece of the story is told extremely well. Hearing the story of the 2004 season from an insider viewpoint only brought back the sense of pride and joy I felt those special October days.
If you only have time to read one Red Sox book, this is it. It follows the Red Sox franchise through some of the most difficult and exciting times with an eye towards accuracy and story-telling. It is a story you think you know, but has truly never been told from this perspective. The fans and players have spoken and now the front office has spoken. Congratulations Seth on a job well done.