Unrequited love in any form typically spawns a lot of writing. These works are outpourings of emotion and are heartfelt and poignant. Until the Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series in baseball, their fans (members of the so-called Red Sox Nation) experienced unrequited love in the sense that their affection for the team was not reciprocated by success on the field. The current book is a collection of seventeen stories that capture the unique bond that the team seems to have with its followers. All these stories were written prior to the team’s 2004 success and so resonate with longing and what might have been.
As in any anthology, the collection is like the proverbial curate’s eggs – good in parts. There is the charming “The Shadow of Manny Ramirez,” where Rachel Solar spins a tale that every fan probably fantasizes about – the possibility of a visit home by the Red Sox slugger. The narrator prepares for Ramirez’s visit even as she faces a skeptical husband and the narrative succeeds in keeping the suspense palpable.
In “The Autograph,” Robert Weintraub tells the tale of Denton Heywood, whose only hit in the major leagues is a home run for the Red Sox. When the narrator sees a Heywood-autographed baseball at a memorabilia store in upstate New York, the story takes a bizarre yet fascinating turn that seems to point out that coincidences are entirely possible.
Father and son and the bonds that baseball and Fenway Park represent are explored in vivid detail by Cecilia Tan (who also writes about the Yankees, surely to be regarded with suspicion by the Red Sox Nation!) in the wistful “Bambino Road, Chapter One.” As Charlie Scarinci faces the prospect of taking his estranged son to a Red Sox game, he seeks the help of his girlfriend when he finds out that the teenager is a rabid Yankee fan.
The collection is filled with many whimsical pieces that tellingly indicate the unique bonds that hold the Red Sox fan and the team. When the choice is between love for a woman and love for the Red Sox (Jeff Parenti’s “The Opposite Field,” for example), the choice is oftentimes not very easy. What is underscored throughout the collection is the sadness and despair, as well as joy, that a Red Sox fan feels in rooting for a team that has had such a checkered past.