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Summer 2005
photo courtesy of Boston Herald
the Curse

New books by Tufts authors chronicle the epic Red Sox/Yankees rivalry during a historic season

SEE ALSO: An excerpt from A Tale of Two Cities:The 2004 Yankee-Red Sox Rivalry and the War for the Pennant by Boston Herald baseball columnist Tom Massarotti, A89 and New York Daily News columnist John Harper

Any Red Sox fan worth their salt knows the story. The Red Sox in 1919 sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees, starting what many call the “Curse of the Bambino.” Entering the fall of 2004, the Yankees had won 26 world championships since that time, the Red Sox zero.

Just the same, there were a few who thought the legendary Red Sox/Yankee rivalry had run its course. Among them were two Tufts graduates and longtime Red Sox fans: Tony Massarotti, A89, Boston Herald sports writer, and Bill Nowlin, A66, G80, co-founder of Rounder Records.

Massarotti, 37, said he had a sense early in 2004 that the Sox were going to give the Yankees another run for their money. “The 2003 season ended in such dramatic fashion; the Red Sox had gone seven games into the championship and then the Yankees won on a home run—it was your classic Red Sox/Yankees ending,” he says. “For Bostonians, it was heartbreaking, because there was a sense that this Red Sox team was different from their ancestors. They seemed a mentally tough team—there was an intangible there. So there was every indication that both Boston and New York were going to be exceptional baseball teams in 2004. And on top of that, Alex Rodriguez, considered the best player in the game, was traded to the Yankees, while the Sox picked up Curt Schilling. All that factored into a compelling story that we thought should be told.”

Playing on the hunch that the Sox and Yankees each had a chance to return to championship series, Massarotti sat down with New York Daily News Yankees reporter John Harper in March 2004 and agreed to write A Tale of Two Cities: The 2004 Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry and the War for the Pennant (The Lyons Press), his first book.

Nowlin, acting on similar premonitions, paired up with Jim Prime to research and write Blood Feud: The Red Sox, the Yankees, and the Struggle of Good versus Evil (Rounder Books), which carries on his deep devotion to the Sox.

These accounts by Tufts graduates were two of several books that came out after the World Series. Sure, there were dozens more after others jumped on the bandwagon, but Massarotti and Nowlin were way out in front of the pack.

Massarotti’s impulse is deeply rooted; he’s a lifelong resident of Red Sox nation (he grew up in Waltham, Massachusetts) and a writer at heart. His experience at the Tufts Daily fostered his interest in writing as a career, including both newspapers and books. He also credits a course in advanced expository writing with Michael Ullman. “Somewhere along the line, I just got hooked,” he says. “I remember back in college thinking that I would like to write a book one day.”

Massarotti, used to working under pitiless deadline pressure, had to balance writing A Tale of Two Cities with his obligations to the Herald—there was no leave of absence. And then there was the arrival of his first child in August 2004. “Once the World Series ended I spent November and December writing whenever I could,” says Massarotti. “It was a lot of work, but I can tell you it was a lot of fun. It’s unlike any other kind of writing I’ve done. There were no space limitations. That was tremendously liberating when usually you can only write 600 words and you’re under deadline pressure all the time.”

Nowlin grew up nearby in Lexington, Massachusetts. He attended a fair number of Sox games as a Tufts student, including the 1965 no-hitter by Dave Morehead. While he was certain that he’d write at least one book someday, he took a circuitous route getting there, first co-founding the independent record label Rounder Records [see Tufts Magazine, spring 2005].

Independent thinking apparently infused his writing at Tufts on two particular occasions, one of which he reveals to the world for the first time in these very pages. He co-founded and edited a humor magazine titled ERITAS in his senior year. But he also wrote a music column for the Tufts newspaper under the pseudonym “Willie the Weeper, the Midnight Creeper.”

“It was so anonymous that even the editors never knew who was dropping the completed columns through the newspaper office mail slot late at night,” says Nowlin. “The paper published an appeal for the writer to come forward, and I was even offered the opportunity to teach a creative writing course at the Experimental College. I chose to maintain my anonymity—like Deep Throat—until today. You [Tufts Magazine] can be the Washington Post of this “major story”—though probably no one really cares!”

Nowlin’s writing adventures continued unabated and indeed, flourished, after Tufts. To date he has written ten books, all Red Sox related, and released yet another Red Sox book this spring—The Kid: Ted Williams in San Diego, which he edited. He has a few more in the works, including Ted Williams at War, about the Sox slugger’s combat time in Korea, and The 50 Greatest Red Sox Games (he plans to co-author this with Cecilia Tan, who wrote The 50 Greatest Yankee Games).

So a combination of a passion for writing, Red Sox devotion, and a gift for predicting a dramatic championship probably paid off for the two authors. Still, they shared a sense of disbelief when the Sox played hard and played to win. “Nobody could have dreamed up last year,” says Massarotti. “I don’t know that we’ll ever cover anything bigger, at least not in Boston, as a sports story.”

“It still happens about once a week that I pinch myself,” says Nowlin. “A Hollywood screenwriter who tried to pitch that story would have been drummed out of town.”

So what do these two Sox experts think of the team’s chances to win again in 2005?

Massarotti is doubtful. “Right now I don’t see them as being the type of team that can repeat as a champion,” he says.

Nowlin remains devoted and unrelentingly optimistic. “I don’t think we’ll be waiting 86 years again,” he predicts.

—Laura Ferguson, with contributions by Georgiana Cohen