One hundred years ago, in September 1918, three things came to Boston: war, plague, and the World Series.
This is the unimaginable story of that late summer month, in which a division of Massachusetts militia volunteers led the first unified American fighting force into battle in France, turning the tide of World War I. Meanwhile the world’s deadliest pandemic—the Spanish Flu—erupted in Boston and its suburbs, bringing death on a terrifying scale first to military facilities and then to the civilian population. At precisely the same time, in a baseball season cut short on the homefront and amidst the surrounding ravages of death, a young pitcher named Babe Ruth rallied the sport’s most dominant team, the Boston Red Sox, to a World Series victory—the last World Series victory the Sox would see for 86 years.
In September 1918: War, Plague and the World Series, the riveting, intertwined stories of this remarkable month introduce readers to a richly diverse cast of characters: David Putnam, a Boston teenager and America’s World War I Flying Ace; a transcendent Babe Ruth and his teammates, battling greedy owners and a hostile public; entire families from all social strata, devastated by sudden and horrifying influenza death; unknown political functionary Calvin Coolidge, thrust into managing the country’s first great public health crisis by an absentee governor; and New England’s soldiers, enduring trench warfare and poisonous gas to drive back German forces.
At the same time, other stories were also unfolding: Cambridge high school football star Charlie Crowley, a college freshman teamed up with stars Curly Lambeau and George Gipp under a first-time coach named Knute Rockne; Boston suffrage leader Maud Wood Park was fighting for women’s right to vote, even as they flexed their developing political muscle; poet E.E. Cummings, an Army private found himself stationed at the center of a biological storm; and Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge maneuvered as the constant rival of a sitting wartime president.
In the tradition of Erick Larsen's bestselling Devil in the White City, September 1918 is a haunting three-dimensional recreation of a moment in history almost too cinematic to be real.
Google executive and former Yahoo sportswriter Desjardin attempts to link WWI, the Spanish flu epidemic, and the 1918 World Series in this unconvincing historical account. The city of Boston is portrayed as an important common thread, but using the city as a linking factor doesn't shed any new light on this time of well-documented upheaval. The descriptions of the war and the flu and their effects are well-researched, but the calamities consumed other parts of the United States just as much as they did Boston. And, while Desjardin writes vividly about baseball, the role of rising star Babe Ruth, and tussles between players and owners over money, these events seem trivial in this context. The World Series has the barest connection to the war or the epidemic, and is significant retrospectively only because the Boston Red Sox didn't win the Series again for 86 years. The author muddies the waters further by discussing the women's suffrage movement and Woodrow Wilson's failed efforts to bring the United States into the League of Nations. This book contains a lot of noteworthy facts, but readers seeking to learn something new about the three subjects listed in the title should look elsewhere.