The Rock, the Curse, and the Hub: A Random History of Boston Sports

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When you hear the words "Boston sports," does your mind flash to a place or to a person? Do you think of a fly ball arching over the Green Monster, a Celtic breaking across the parquet at Boston Garden, rowers skimming along the Charles River in autumn, or runners tackling the grueling stretch of "Heartbreak Hill" during the Boston Marathon? Or do you conjure faces--a smiling Babe Ruth, a bearded Bill Russell, a determined Rocky Marciano, a boyish and nimble Bobby Orr, or a defiant Pedro Martinez? Most likely, it is impossible to separate the two, impossible to imagine Bob Cousy on any court other than the Garden or Ted Williams playing at any field other than Fenway. Certain people and places are as inseparable as heads and tails on a penny.

The Rock, the Curse, and the Hub is a collection of original essays about the people and places that live in the minds and memories of Bostonians and all Americans. From the Boston of the young Bambino and even younger Francis Ouimet to the glories and agonies of 1986 and the struggles to keep the Patriots in town, each chapter focuses on the games and the athletes, but also on which sports have defined Boston and Bostonians. In a city of deep ethnic and class divisions, sports have provided a common ground, an intense shared experience. Pursuing the legend and the lore, these essays celebrate the players, the games, and the arenas that are at the heart of the city of Boston.

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Editorial Reviews

Ken Burns
Randy Roberts brings every moment of Boston's illustrious sports history to life. He is a superb storyteller and a passionate narrative historian who manages to find the story in the history.
Publishers Weekly
Though many will assume that the curse mentioned in this anthology's title is the World Series jinx that the Red Sox finally beat last fall, it actually refers to an article about Rocky Marciano, the one-time heavyweight champion from Boston who fell short of becoming a full-fledged hometown hero. The history in these 14 chapters is genuinely "random," but each author explores his subject with intensity, and the collection as a whole has a commendable depth. Most of the contributors-who are mainly book-writing professors and historians-make efforts to go beyond a simple recapping of events; a chapter on Babe Ruth's glory days with the Red Sox, for example, places his career in the context of WWI and local postwar labor strikes; chapters on the Boston Marathon and the '68 Harvard crew team play up social activism angles (involving feminism and black athletes). Roberts, a Purdue University historian, contributes an essay on the rivalry and racial relations between hoops stars Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, a chapter that demonstrates the book's commitment to treating even the obvious subjects as social history, not just sports stories. (Apr.) Forecast: A heavy promotional campaign in Boston-including advertising on NPR and on the Green Line out to Fenway Park-will generate interest just in time for baseball season, when many eyes will be focused on Boston thanks to the Red Sox's 2004 victory. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It seems odd that an essay collection on Boston sports history published in 2005 would exclude the Red Sox's momentous win against the Yankees in 2004. The chapters in this volume, however, were written by academic historians with somewhat narrower interests, and the titular "curse" refers not to that of the Bambino, but of a 1950s boxing promoter. Among the essays are four on Red Sox baseball, two on Bruins hockey, and one each on Celtic Bill Russell's basketball rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain, the Patriots's building of a football stadium, and the watershed year of 1986, when Boston was a "City of Champions." The other pieces refreshingly take the road less traveled, covering running, rowing, and golfing. Indeed, the most compelling articles concern the Boston Marathon and the bouts of 19th-century heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan. Overall, the essays are well researched but dry. While this collection will be of obvious interest to New England libraries, it is a bit too provincial for libraries in the rest of the country.-John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A generally lackluster look back at sports and sporting events in Boston. As most of the world knows by now, the Boston Red Sox broke their ill-fated "curse," finally winning the World Series title after 86 long years. Unfortunately, this achievement occurred too late for inclusion in this series of essays on Boston sports over the ages, but debut author Roberts (History/Purdue) profiles plenty of other sports personalities and events. The pieces run the gamut from the Boston marathon to rowing on the Charles River. Roberts covers such well-known figures as Ted Williams, Frances Ouimet, John Sullivan, Bobby Orr, and Bill Russell, representing, respectively, baseball, golf, boxing, hockey, and basketball. Prominent in major sports, as the essays conclusively prove, Boston has seen its share of both heartache and triumph. A few of the attendant stories are interesting-for instance, that of Babe Ruth's brief tenure with the Red Sox before he was traded to the New York Yankees, supposedly bringing on the Sox the Curse of the Bambino, with its deadly result of winlessness in the World Series from 1918 until this past sweet autumn. Another enthralling essay, by David Zang, is the tale of the 1968 Harvard crew teams that represented the USA in the Olympics that year in Mexico City. Of equal interest is the astounding account of Frances Ouimet, a little-known American who captured the 1913 US Open at the Country Club in Brookline, opening the gates for golf in America: James Campbell's piece perfectly captures the time and importance of little Ouimet's victory. Sadly, though, that sense of excitement is rare here. Despite a few sparks, then, a mostly dry, plodding collection.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674015043
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 1,118,223
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Table of Contents


1. All Gods Dead: Babe Ruth and Boston, 1918-1920
Aram Goudsouzian

2. The Boston Red Sox, 1901-1946
William E. Leuchtenburg

3. Ted Williams: Boston Hero, Boston Legend
John Demos

4. The Year of the Yaz
John M. Carroll

5. The Boston Marathon: America's Oldest Annual Road Race
Matthew Oshinsky and David M. Oshinsky

6. Rowing on Troubled Waters
David W. Zang

7. Frances Ouimet at The Country Club
James Campbell

8. The Lost Battle for Gentlemanly Sport, 1869-1909
Ronald A. Smith

9. Sports, Politics, and Revenge: The Patriots' Strange Journey Home
David Welky

10. The Champion of All Champions: John L. Sullivan
Elliott J. Gorn

11. The Rock, the Hub, and the Curse of Al Weill
Russell Sullivan

12. Long before Orr: Placing Hockey in Boston, 1897-1929
Stephen Hardy

13. Number 4 Is the One: The Emergence of Bobby Orr
Randy Roberts

14. The Battle of the Beards: Russell and Chamberlain
Randy Roberts

15. Beantown, 1986
Raymond Arsenault




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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 20, 2015

    Highly recommended!

    This anthology, to which several distinguished scholars and academicians have contributed (even when outside their own fields of specialization), is a testament to the singular history of sports in Boston. The Puritan heritage has long been forsaken, for the thrill of watching several distinguished teams (and even dynasties) as well as outstanding athletes in what tongue-in-cheek was termed in the nineteenth century the hub of the universe. This volume is excellent.

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