Thirty-four years ago today, after three days of heavy rain, the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox were able to resume the World Series at Fenway Park. It was to become known as perhaps the greatest game in baseball history.
It was Game Six.
In celebration of that game, and the effect it had on the baseball world — and much of America — Mark Frost has penned “Game Six: Cincinnati, Boston, and the 1975 World Series: The Triumph of AmericaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Pastime“. It’s an outstanding look back at the drama surrounding that magical evening in 1975, and Redleg Nation can recommend it without reservation.
If you listened to our interview with Mark Frost, you are familiar with his career. I first encountered Frost’s writing in a couple of his golf books: “<a href="Greatest Game Ever Played” and “<a href="The Grand Slam.” (He has also written another golf book, “<a href="The Match“, which has been sitting on my nightstand for months; I’ll get around to it soon.) “The Greatest Game,” which is the story of Francis Ouimet’s unbelievable victory in the 1913 US Open, is one of my favorite sports books.
When I first heard about “Game Six,” I briefly wondered why the golf guy had decided to tackle another sport. Little did I realize that Frost wasn’t just a golf author. He began his career writing for television, collaborating on episodes of Hill Street Blues. He also co-created Twin Peaks, and has written and directed feature films.
You won’t be surprised to hear that “Game Six” is extremely well-written. It is 375+ pages, but it reads like a much shorter book, despite multiple and varied storylines that are weaved around the action on the field. Frost talked to everyone, evidently. The players and coaches. Sparky Anderson. Luis Tiant. Marty Brennaman and his Boston counterpart, a very young Dick Stockton. Writers and fans and the Fenway groundskeeper and many others, all providing their personal memories of Game Six. The retrospective is exhaustive, and gripping.
Most of the book is an exploration of two of the biggest personalities on the two teams: Sparky and Tiant. We all know Sparky’s story, and there isn’t a whole lot new here, but Frost is clearly an admirer of Anderson’s abilities.
The Luis Tiant story isn’t going to be as familiar to most of you, but there’s a reason Frost chose to focus on his story. It’s fascinating. Tiant’s father, of course, was a great pitcher in the Negro Leagues, at the time perhaps the best Cuban pitcher ever. His reunion with Luis is heart-warming, and that’s not a description I ordinarily use. If you don’t know the story, you are going to enjoy it. If you have heard about the circumstances, I think you’ll find that you don’t know as much as you thought.
Probably the single theme that is woven throughout is that Game Six came at a unique time in baseball history. Frost says that it marked the end of an era, and he’s right: baseball’s reserve clause was about to be struck down, leading to the birth of free agency. It was certainly a watershed moment that changed the landscape of American sports forever, and this environment is the backdrop to everything that is examined in the book.
What about the actual baseball? The baseball, of course, is great, except for Carlton Fisk’s stupid home run that we’ve all seen a thousand times.
Sure, I’m biased. I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan, and this is a story featuring one of the greatest teams in club history. I was probably inclined to enjoy the book anyway, despite the fact that the Reds actually lost this game. Objectively, however, this book is a significant contribution to baseball, and Reds, literature. It’s a unique look at a game about which we already thought we knew everything.
An excerpt sums up the game, and Frost’s narrative:
At least three other members of the Red Sox and an umpire remember Pete saying to them, at one point or another in the long eventful evening: How much fun is this? What a great game. Can you believe this? In all sincerity. This wasn’t just about winning, it was the lure of the arena, the juice, being in the action; a night like Game Six was what Pete Rose, with all his contradictions and complexities, had lived for and hoped to experience his entire life.
We will probably never experience anything like it again, but this book permits fans to re-live it briefly. If you are like me, you are too young to remember the actual game (I was 2 years old). Well, trust me; it’s pretty thrilling this time around.