Halcyon days: Scarce oil and great baseball

It was crappy to be American in 1975. Residual malaise from Vietnam, Watergate, and the oil crisis, writes Doug Hornig in one of the more evocative phrases in his book, The Boys of October, left “the nation’s home without a welcoming hearth.”
Enter the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox and a World Series that delivered more suspense, incredulity, and miracle than any other championship in the history of baseball, and rescued the nation from its relentless funk. This, at least, is how Hornig sees it in his star-struck tribute to the 1975 Red Sox, who, incidentally, lost this one, too.
To write The Boys of October, Hornig spent countless hours watching videotapes from ebay, and three years traveling the country to see where a quarter century had taken the Boston bench (Carl Yastrzemski, Bill Lee, Fred Lynn et al.).
The result is a familiar representation. It lacks only a music bed to be a script for a TV documentary. Each game is lovingly recalled, with interview excerpts and anecdotes filling in for Pontiac commercials. Hornig is a dramatic announcer with a penchant for foreshadowing; every play he calls is a gun hanging on the wall.
After seven chapters breathlessly recounting seven games, the author calls up reserves of objectivity to declare the ’75 championship the unsurpassed winner in baseball greatness. Whittling away the competitors, Hornig allows only four other Series in the running– 1912, 1924, 1991, and 2001.
The first three are found wanting in various qualifications, and the argument against the technically great 2001 nail-biter is simple. The winning team has a swimming pool in its home left field and a local paper that published a primer of baseball rules for unfamiliar fans on the eve of game one. In short, declares Hornig, “I can’t stomach the notion that anything involving the Diamondbacks might be termed great.”
I’m with him there.
But for those who aren’t, there can be no harm in reliving the 12 days of October 1975. Hornig the devoted acolyte has readied the altar of worship. It’s all there, from the unsung heroism of Cuban pitcher Luis Tiant to the apocryphal rat who, in startling an outfield cameraman, ensured that Carlton Fisk’s desperate rain dance willing his 6th game homer away from the foul post would become an enduring image of hope… and not just for hapless Red Sox fans.

Doug Hornig explains “How the 1975 Boston Red Sox Embodied Baseball’s Ideals and Restored our Spirits” at Barnes & Noble, Thursday, June 12 at 7pm. Barracks Road Shopping Center. 984-0461.

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