'78: The Boston Red Sox, a Historic Game, and a Divided City
by Tony Aubry, BaseballEvolution.com
April 26, 2009

For lack of a better word, the 1970s were an interesting decade. There’s no question why author Bill Reynolds chose to chronicle Boston - satiated with tension and racial hatred – during that era in his book, '78: The Boston Red Sox, a Historic Game, and a Divided City. Reynolds brilliantly draws parallels between the Athens of America’s social dichotomy and perhaps the most famous game in the sport’s history, the 1978 one game playoff between the Red Sox and Yankees in each chapter to advance his story. This is certainly not the first book covering East Coast sports and the social dilemmas of the 70s. However, for someone who is not familiar with such books, Reynolds’ synopsis is entertaining while also being highly educating, so it is worth the read.

Whether it’s from his own knowledge of Boston, or from first hand accounts of people who were involved in its busing crisis, Reynolds does an excellent job digging up the roots of the crisis, and the problems the politicians faced trying to patch up a city that was tearing at the seams. In 1974, Judge W. Athur Garity Jr. ruled that many schools were unconstitutionally segregated. As a remedy, he and the Boston Board of Education devised a busing plan to implement the state’s Racial Imbalance Law, and any school that was more than 50% white would be affected by this new busing plan. This enraged many of the whites in the Boston community. By giving us old headlines of newspaper articles, re-visiting accounts of telecasts, and painting vivid pictures of violent riots that included acts such as hate crimes, flipping over squad cars, and pelting rocks at school buses full of black children, Reynolds makes his audience feel as if we were in the back seat of one of the buses.

As for the game itself, there is not much to be read that hasn’t already been documented. Sweet Lou Pinella still had problems with sun throughout the game in right field, and Goose Gossage was still able to pop Carl Yastremski on an explosive inside fastball to secure victory for the Yankees. Other than the game itself, Reynolds touches on other things regarding Red Sox history and former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. Reynolds’ most interesting observation was that if there was any place in Boston that race didn’t matter, it was inside Fenway park. There may not have been many black faces in the stands, but they cheered for all of the Red Sox, including Jim Rice and Luis Tiant.

If there was anything I didn’t like about the book, it was his redundant use of middle school-type similes that makes rapper Lil’ Wayne seem like William Shakespeare. Also, his talk about the Boston music scene came out of left field and felt awkwardly forced. Overall, the book was well worth my time, and left me with the desire to read more about the 1970s and its culture.

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Tony resides in Queens, New York and can be reached at tony@baseballevolution.com.