Just fifty years ago, a novel entitled "The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant" appeared. It was built on the proposition that a middle-aged Senators fan would sell - or at least rent - his soul to the devil in order to become the young star who would beat the hated Yankees and win the pennant for lowly Washington.
Howard Frank Mosher, the author of "Waiting For Teddy Williams," requires no such sacrifice, and he's aiming higher. His hero, Ethan "E.A." Allen, ascends to the roster of the Boston Red Sox on the strength of a pure heart, as well as desire and sound coaching, and the pennant is only the penultimate step in his climb.
Any novel set in the history and pain of the Red Sox and determined to banish that burdensome past is bound to be sentimental and fantastic. But what lifts Waiting For Teddy Williams above the level of cartoon is the obvious fun Mr. Mosher has creating characters. Ethan's mother, Gypsy, is great company, as are the rest of the (mostly) good country people who inhabit the northeast kingdom portion of Vermont where most of the action of the novel takes place. There's some nastiness in the countryside, and even perversity. In a tip of the cap to Douglas Wallop, who wrote "The Year The Yankees Lost The Pennant," the worst of the bad guys is nicknamed Devil Dan, and he's an enemy of the environment, God's own green, Vermont masterpiece. But in "Waiting For Teddy Williams," evil never really has a chance.
As enthusiasm and anxiety mount in equal measure with the waning of the '04 baseball season, nobody can be sure this will not be the year in which the Red Sox win the World Series for the first time since 1918. Heck, just the other day a couple of the beer guys at Fenway Park found a 1918 penny stuck to their counter. It must mean something, right? I bet Howard Frank Mosher wishes he'd thought of it. But however things turn out in September and October, the days during which the ballyard is locked tight and the field is covered in snow will follow. Win or lose, Boston fans and fans of baseball and fans of a writer who isn't afraid to explore and endorse with wit and enthusiasm looney concepts like familial love will need something to read. That's where "Waiting For Teddy Williams" comes in.
This program aired on September 18, 2004. The audio for this program is not available.