Every great public event generates books, and there are few book generators greater than baseball. Each April, books on the American Pastime gush forth from publishers in a flood. More than other sports fans, baseball lovers want to read all about it.
''There's something in the bones and sinews of baseball that produces great stories," said Eamon Dolan, editorial director of publisher Houghton Mifflin. ''The sport itself and the people who are drawn to it have a naturally great narrative."
This week's Boston Red Sox World Series victory is bound to whet the reading fan's appetite, and fire up the presses. Even several Red Sox players, including pitcher Curt Schilling, are said to be planning books. In the meantime, there are several books in the works -- along with a bunch of recent volumes -- that can get the faithful through the hot-stove months.
The most talked-about new book might be ''Faithful: Two Die-Hard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the 2004 Season," by Stephen King and Stewart O'Nan (Scribner). Through the American League postseason, TV viewers saw the gaunt horror novelist, in his seat at Fenway Park, cheering or agonizing and sometimes making notes. He and novelist O'Nan have kept up an e-mail correspondence through the 2004 season, and the book will be based on their dialogue. Due out in December, there's a first printing of 500,000 copies, and early orders have already put the book at No. 23 on the
Some people wonder whether local sufferers can handle good news. ''The Red Sox fans for many years reveled in the sense of a team that was tragic, that had this curse and was trying to exorcise the demons," said Gerald L. Early, professor at Washington University in St. Louis and author of several sports books. ''There was something compelling about that for fans, and now they don't have it anymore."
Globe sports writer Dan Shaughnessy popularized the curse idea with his 1990 book, ''The Curse of the Bambino" (Penguin Paperback). The book suggested that the 1920 sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees had brought about the long championship drought. One might expect sales of that classic to fall off now, but it hasn't happened yet. A Penguin spokeswoman, Maureen Donnelly, said sales have actually increased in recent weeks -- ''both in New York and Boston, but especially Boston."
Even so, Shaughnessy's new book, due in March, takes no chances. Titled ''Reversing the Curse" (Houghton Mifflin), it tells of the 2004 season, with special attention to the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
Other books tell that story, too, including ''Red Sox vs. Yankees: The Great Rivalry," by Harvey and Frederic Frommer (Sports Publishing), and the just-published ''The Rivals: The New York Yankees vs. The Boston Red Sox, an Inside History" (St. Martin's Press), a collection of essays by several writers from The New York Times and The Boston Globe including Jackie McMullan, Bob Ryan, Harvey Araton, and Tyler Kempner.
If baseball is about rivalry, it's also about friendship, the theme of David Halberstam's 2003 book, ''The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship" (Hyperion). It tells of Red Sox greats Johnny Pesky, Dominic DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, and Ted Williams. The story is partly the account of a 2001 driving trip by Pesky and DiMaggio to visit the dying Williams in Florida and partly a meditation on a 60-year friendship and a game that connects people across landscape and time.
''With the Red Sox in particular, there is this memory bank," Halberstam said on the phone from New York. ''Something about the region, that the teams were almost always competitive -- just a little bit shy of champions. Even now, when I sign copies of 'The Teammates,' men in their 30s and 40s will talk about how their fathers loved Johnny Pesky and Dominic DiMaggio."
Speaking of Teddy, former Globe sports writer Leigh Montville recently published ''Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero" (Doubleday). Besides being a life of a Sox legend, the book reminds older fans of the hapless Sox of the late '50s and early '60s, when a turnout of only 5,000 was not unusual at Fenway Park and the aging superstar was the only reminder of a storied past.
For longtime fans, the 2004 season seems like fiction. But there is also actual fiction, notably ''Waiting for Teddy Williams" (Houghton Mifflin), Vermont writer Howard Frank Mosher's new novel of boys, dreams, northern New England, and devotion to the Red Sox. Bostonians sometimes forget that Red Sox country extends to the farthest reaches of New England. In the novel, a fatherless boy from remote Kingdom Common, Vt., grows up to become a star pitcher for the Red Sox, beating the Yankees for the pennant and winning the World Series.
The action takes place under a threat by the Sox owner to move the team to Hollywood. Oddball characters include Sox manager Legendary Spence, whose talking macaw is named Curse of the Bambino.
The past really was storied, of course, and fans can read about it in several books, including ''Red Sox Century," by Glenn Stout and Richard A. Johnson (Houghton Mifflin). It's one of a series, which also includes ''Dodger Century" and ''Yankee Century." In a similar vein, there's ''The Boston Red Sox: 100 Years -- The Official Retrospective" (Sporting News), a 2001 coffee-table book with chapters by various writers. A new edition is due in December, with a chapter about the 2004 season by longtime Boston sportswriter Steve Marantz.
There are other books for the true fanatic, including ''The Little Red (Sox) Book: A Revisionist Red Sox History," by former Sox pitcher Bill Lee and Jim Prime (Triumph Books); ''The Complete Boston Red Sox: The
Notwithstanding all these books, there is one bound volume that Red Sox fans are looking forward to more than any other. It's thin, and it costs only a couple of bucks: It's the official program, with score card, for Opening Day in April 2005.
David Mehegan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.