'The Fenway Effect: A Cultural History of the Boston Red Sox'

Boston baseball through the lens of New England pop culture


Noted baseball historian and author, David Krell, is out with a new book, The Fenway Effect: A Cultural History of the Boston Red Sox, in which the author explores the team’s enduring legacy and its crossroads with local pop culture.

From Narragansett Beer to the TV show ‘Cheers’, Red Sox baseball has left nostalgic imprints on generations of New Englanders who grew up with the storied club.

I asked David to share his thoughts on the cultural history of the Red Sox and their notorious rivalry with the New York Yankees.

Why is Fenway such a special ballpark?

It’s special because of its tremendous longevity. Fenway has seen the likes of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz, and many others.

When you see a game at Fenway, the energy is palpable. Devotion to the Red Sox is in the DNA of New Englanders largely because a young fan can see a game in the same ballpark just like his great-grandfather did.

Why did you want to write this book?

I had edited books about the Yankees and Mets in popular culture. But I wanted to tackle a team’s history myself. It was a great challenge but a worthwhile one.

BUY- 'The Fenway Effect: The Cultural History of the Boston Red Sox'

What were some of your most interesting discoveries about Fenway and about the Boston Red Sox?

I knew that there was a deep love of the Red Sox among the fans, but I didn’t know how deep that love went until I talked to some of them for the research.

I also found it interesting that the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees was not universally disliked by the Boston press.

For most of our lifetime, the Red Sox were a perennial also-ran in their competition with the New York Yankees- how did the Red Sox finally break through?

With great perseverance and determination. They rebounded against the Yankees in the playoffs on their way to a World Series title in 2004.

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How have they been able to have continued success against the Yankees?

All teams have ups and downs. The Red Sox have been able to get good players and remain consistent.

What makes the Red-Sox-Yankees rivalry one of the best rivalries in Sports?

The Babe Ruth sale.

Tell us about some of your other baseball books like ‘Do You believe in Magic?’, ‘1962: Baseball and America in the time of JFK’, ‘Our Bums: The Brooklyn Dodgers in History, Memory and Popular Culture’, ‘The New York Yankees in Popular Culture’, and ‘The New York Mets in Popular Culture’.

I go beyond the scores to provide some context for the stories. What were people watching on TV? What were the fashion trends? What were the popular department stores in a city that I’m writing about? What were the popular advertising slogans of the time?

I think it’s important to give an idea what life was like in these time periods.

BUY- '1962: Baseball and America in the time of JFK'

You have been so prolific-what is it about baseball that inspires you as a sport?

Prolific is a generous word! Baseball has a richness about it that no other sport can match.

There’s an annual conference at the Hall of Fame called the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. I’m not aware of similar gatherings at other sports institutions.


Just about any topic can relate to baseball—fashion, civil rights, politics, merchandising, business, film, TV, advertising, music, real estate, law, and literature, to name a few.

How do you think Hollywood has portrayed baseball over the years …from Ken Burns to The Pride of the Yankees, Major League and the Bad News Bears —what are some of your favorite baseball films and why?

I think it’s an evergreen topic. Hollywood has done an admirable job. HBO had an amazing TV movie called Long Gone in 1987. It’s based on a novel about a Minor League team in Florida during the late 1950s.

Also, HBO’s Soul of the Game is very enjoyable. It’s about who will break the color line—Satchel Paige, Jackie Robinson, or Josh Gibson.

Major League has a classic storyline where the misfits/underdogs win and there’s a tremendous setup at the beginning with a payoff at the climactic moment.

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Aside from Baseball you are also a pop culture expert — any cool pop culture trivia you could share with our readers about some of your favorite classic TV shows?

All in the Family was originally shopped to ABC under a different title. There were two pilots. ABC passed. CBS picked it up and the show became a cornerstone of stellar programming in the 1970s.

What’s your next project?

I have two books coming out next year—a biography of Bo Belinsky and a book about 1978 in baseball and America.

How has baseball evolved over the past 50 years?

The length of games has been extended largely because batters step out of the batter’s box and adjust their batting gloves after every pitch. Maybe the pitch clock will reduce the time.

Who are the greatest ball players of our lifetime?

Tom Seaver, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Carl Yastrzemski, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose.

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Do you like all the rule changes that baseball has experimented with?

No, especially the ghost runner on second base in extra innings.

Is there a good argument for Don Mattingly and Keith Hernandez to eventually be elected into the Hall of Fame? Dwight Gooden? George Steinbrenner?

I think Mattingly and Hernandez definitely merit consideration for election. Gooden will likely encounter difficulty because of the drug scandals. Steinbrenner will certainly be discussed but there are other owners equally justified for inclusion. Charles Ebbets, Roy Hofheinz, and Joan Payson are good examples.

Who are your favorite Yankees and Mets and why?

Willie Randolph and Felix Millan because I played second base in Little League.

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Who belongs on the Mount Rushmore for both the Mets and Yankees?

Mets: Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza, David Wright, Dwight Gooden

Yankees: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra

Any other baseball-related topics you want to weigh in on?

I hope that your readers will consider taking a trip to Cooperstown to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame if they haven’t been there. It’s a tremendous archive of the National Pastime.



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