Bill Nowlin is author of more than 40 books, most of them Red Sox-related. He’s written several books on Ted Williams, including Ted Williams at War and 521: The Story of Ted Williams’ Home Runs. A co-founder of Rounder Records, Bill still lives within five miles of Fenway Park.
Coming off a decade when the Boston Red Sox won four world championships in a seven-year stretch (1912, 1915, 1916, and 1918), the Sox entered the 1920s never having been beaten for a World Series title. With their win in the first World Series ever played (1903) and the 1904 season when the National League’s New York Giants refused to play them in the postseason, they’d been a dynasty.
Umpires appropriately prefer to stay out of the limelight. The game is, after all, not about them. They are rarely recognized as they arrive at the ballpark maybe 90 minutes before game time.
During an interview with Ted Barrett and his crew during a visit to officiate a series between the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox, it came out that Barrett was one of a select number of umpires who have earned advanced degrees.
With World War II over, all the ballplayers who had been in military service (and who were able) returned to their various teams. For the 1946 Boston Red Sox, that meant players such as Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio, and Tex Hughson, to name a few. After four years of war, fans were ready for baseball without battle news dominating the front pages.
Throughout the history of baseball, there are recurrent myths and legends, and heartwarming stories, too. Many of them are even true.
Cynicism aside, it really does make us feel good when we read about a ballplayer who visits a child dying of cancer, a star who brightens the day of a family enveloped by gloom.
Jim “Zipper” Zapp played a big role in getting the Birmingham Black Barons to the 1948 World Series against the Homestead Grays—the last time there was a World Series in the Negro Leagues. The season had seen a young rookie named Willie Mays spell him in the second game of a doubleheader. Zapp was a big right-handed outfielder, standing 6 feet, 2 or 3 inches and weighing 215 to 230 pounds.
My interest in Sam Jethroe sprang from my ongoing documentation of the history of the Boston Red Sox. Most students of baseball history know that the Red Sox were the last team in the Major Leagues to desegregate. That came in 1959, when the Red Sox finally bowed to overwhelming pressure and promoted Pumpsie Green to the big leagues in the middle of the 1959 season.
The year 1916 saw two very good pennant races, both of which came down to the final few days of the season. The World Series pitted the Brooklyn Robins against the reigning world champion Boston Red Sox. As it happens, the Red Sox extended their reign for another year, taking the Series in five games.
Sometimes it seemed like life for me always started and ended with the Boston Red Sox. No doubt other fans feel the same way about their teams. As best I can estimate (I didn’t keep count), I’ve gone to somewhere over 1,000 Red Sox games, and I’ve seen some great ones. I’ve also written or edited something like 30 Red Sox-related books. One of the books was on the 1901 Boston Americans, the precursor of the Red Sox.
At some point early in 2012, I realized that I had never been to North Dakota. I thought I’d been to all 50 states but couldn’t recall visiting North Dakota. So I planned a trip with my son. Although we stepped foot in North Dakota, most of the sites we visited—Deadwood, Sturgis, Devil’s Tower (in Wyoming), the town of Nowlin, South Dakota (population 7)—were in surrounding states. Naturally, the trip also included Mount Rushmore.