BOSTON — Among the fans at Fenway Park for the Red Sox’ third World Series win this century was 70-year-old Herb Crehan of Natick, a Red Sox historian who wrote the books “Lightning In A Bottle: The Sox of ’67″ and “Red Sox Heroes of Yesteryear.” He also publishes the website BostonBaseballHistory.com and he’s been at every World Series played at Fenway since 1986.
Crehan spoke with WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer about the big win.
Sacha Pfeiffer: This, of course, was the first national championship to happen on home turf since 1918 and the third World Series title for the Sox in 10 years. You’ve been such a longtime fan. How did that feel to you Wednesday night?
Herb Crehan: I had to rank it in my top 10 of lifetime experiences — starting, of course, with my marriage to the lovely Janet, the birth of my three children and my two grandchildren. But it’s somewhere in the top 10, I would say.
How would you say it compares to 2004, when that 86-year drought was broken? When the curse was broken?
Well, 2004, I think, will remain everybody’s favorite year, but there were certain characteristics of this year that make it special. When I got up [Wednesday] morning, I said, “They are going to win tonight,” and that’s not something I’ve done often over my 60 years of heading to Fenway Park! But I believed it, and when I took my grandson to Game 1 of the division series against Tampa Bay it became obvious to me that younger fans really focus on how we’re going to win the game and not how we lose a game.
The generational differences are extreme! I mean, a lot of older Red Sox fans who’ve been rooting for the team for decades have pointed out that it’s hard for young fans to have a true sense of how momentous these three World Series wins in the past decade are. So what is it like watching the Sox through the eyes of your grandkids?
Well, he’s known nothing but success other than last year’s aberration. You can imagine that I make a real effort for him to know the history of the Red Sox because I think being aware of the agony and the ecstasy increases your enjoyment exponentially.
I mentioned that you wrote a book about the 1967 team, the team often called the “Impossible Dream” team, which you have a real soft spot for. How would you compare that team to this year’s Red Sox?
In 1967, nobody expected anything at all. The team had finished ninth the year before, they were 100-to-1 underdogs in Las Vegas, and for many of us who’d been watching the team for 20 years we had just reconciled ourselves that they would be entertaining, they would be our team, but nobody really thought in terms of going to the World Series. This year’s team had a nucleus of some outstanding players, some players who had underperformed in the past, but I left spring training saying, “This team will win 83 games, maybe 85, finish third.” And so I’ve just been pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the moment throughout.
Herb, you also write features on retired Red Sox players for the official programs sold at Fenway Park, and I understand that by the time you interview them they’ve typically been retired for several years. Of all the players on this current team, who’s the one you’re most eager to interview?
It has to be Papi, everybody’s favorite.
The great David Ortiz.
Indeed. He captured the mood of Boston after the marathon tragedy and he is just by far the most interesting player on that team, although I’m hoping that Dustin Pedroia will play another 10 or 12 years, and five years after that I’ll still be writing for the program, and I’m certainly looking forward to interviewing Pedey because he is something else.
You mentioned the marathon bombings, which, of course, happened right around when the Red Sox season was starting, so for many people there’s a lot of poignancy to the Series win linked to the city’s recovery from the bombings. Do they feel connected to you?
Oh, absolutely. I think the link is that the Red Sox season was just starting, nobody expected anything, and time and time again they overcame obstacles, helped one another, and I think it’s that same spirit of healing that we’ve seen with the selflessness of the volunteers and the follow-up fundraising and I think as the season evolved the two just became inextricably linked.
I read on your baseball history website that you also teach courses on baseball history to senior citizens. Do you expect your enrollment to go even higher because of this year’s big win?
I am absolutely confident of that. You know, last year we got the true believers because one year did not turn off the loyal Red Sox fans but I’m sure next year we’re going to have a lot of people who are interested in Boston baseball from 1871 right through 2013.
Bursting enrollment! You may need a [teaching assistant] for this one.
I’d be delighted!