I was at Fenway Park on October 2, 1978 (not October 4), along with a hundred other journalists and roughly 36,000 spectators. That Bradley was not shouldn’t disqualify him from writing about it (Herodotus, after all, wasn’t at Thermopylae), but the construction of his narrative from secondary sources often gives his book the appearance of the lazy man’s approach — what we in the business might describe as “a clip job.”
While he cites coverage from all three New York dailies to augment what was plainly an extensive viewing of the videotape of the telecast, Bradley’s Boston-based research appears to have been limited to Morrissey Boulevard. There is no indication that he ever consulted the libraries of the Boston Herald or the Phoenix, or for that matter the Quincy Patriot-Ledger or the Providence Journal, whose coverage of the game, of the 1978 season, and of a Yankees–Red Sox feud that had been festering for fully a decade he might have found illuminating.
One result of that neglect is that easily checked facts are often reported incorrectly. Bradley erroneously recalls, for instance, Carlton Fisk’s 1973 daytime Fenway fisticuffs versus the tag-team duo of Thurman Munson and Gene Michael taking place in a night game.
Not good for the Goose
In what is largely a recitation of familiar anecdotes, Bradley treads on dangerous ground on those few occasions he actually promulgates an original thought. He might, for instance, have done himself a favor had he spared readers his unique etymology of Yankee reliever Rich “Goose” Gossage’s nickname: Bradley claims a minor-league teammate hung the moniker on him because he “did indeed look like a goose.”
(“Gossage’s habit,” adds Bradley in dismissing an alternate theory, “of putting goose eggs — zeros — on the scoreboard was simply a fortuitous extension of the metaphor.”)
The overwhelming likelihood is that it was neither. I cannot, offhand, recall a single figure from the world of sports whose name begins with “Gos” (or “Goos”) who wasn’t nicknamed Goose, whether it was the 1928 American League batting champion Leon “Goose” Goslin, the vagabond NHL goaltender Mario “Goose” Gosselin, the mixed-martial-arts fighter Nick “Goose” Gosselin, the syndicated football writer Rick “Goose” Gosselin, the two-time US Open champion Retief “Goose” Goosen, the old Mets catcher Greg “Goose” Goossen, or his brother, the boxing promoter Dan “Goose” Goossen.
Perhaps Richard Bradley thinks they all looked like geese too.
The author of two previous books, a remembrance of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Harvard Rules, an exploration of that institution’s turn-of-the-millennium identity crisis, Bradley succeeded the former as editor of George magazine and earned a master’s degree in history from the latter. Interesting, because if there’s one thing The Greatest Game — by almost any standard bad history — could have used, it was a competent editor, one conversant with baseball nuance.
His description, for instance, of the first Boston run of the afternoon will leave baseball fans scratching their heads:
The pitch was heading across the plate when Yastrzemski swung and connected. The ball rocketed off the bat, a line drive pulled down the left field line.
A reasonable man could draw one of three conclusions here: either a) Richard Bradley doesn’t realize Yaz was a left-handed hitter, b) he doesn’t know what “pulling” a ball means, or c) he doesn’t know left field from right field.