The Major League Baseball season is underway, and Red Sox Nation has its fingers crossed for a 2024 season better than last year.

Author and baseball writer Steve Krasner, who covered the Red Sox and the PawSox for the Providence Journal for 33 years before retiring in 2008, joined GBH’s Henry Santoro and Henry in the Hub to discuss the upcoming season, the recent death of former Red Sox President Larry Lucchino and all things baseball. The following interview was edited for length, story structure and clarity.

A roster full of 'nondescript players'

Henry Santoro: Let's talk about this year's team. What are your thoughts on this year's team and coming off a season last year that we'll never forget, but we would love to forget.

Steven Krasner: I think it's a very mediocre team in a tough division. The one thing it's lacking and had had for many, many years — starting with John Henry's entrance to Fenway Park and all — they don't have anybody you really identify with. There's no larger-than-life player. There is no Nomar Garciaparra or David Ortiz.

Santoro: Or Pedro Martinez.

Krasner: Martinez, or Roger Clemens. There was always a guy that you would want to see. Rafael Devers is a terrific player, but he's not a face-of-the-franchise type player. So, when you look at this team, you see a lot of nondescript players and interchangeable parts.

You know, they may win 53 games in a row. It could happen. But going into the season, they're just a mediocre team.

Santoro: I think those in the know, the baseball writers who really follow the game inside and out, like yourself, all winter long, they said, this is not going to be a team to be excited about.

Krasner: And that's because there's no star power, really. I mean, even if there was just one guy that you could say let's go watch so-and-so play and see what he's going to do. But they don't really have that person out there. Maybe someone will emerge — [Jarren] Duran or [Triston] Casas or somebody — but as of now they don't have it. And they're in a division with teams that can play: the Yankees, the Orioles, the Blue Jays, the Rays.

Remembering Larry Lucchino

Santoro: Larry Lucchino, former Red Sox president, former chairman of the WooSox. Did you ever cross paths with him?

Krasner: Yes, while covering the Red Sox. And after he and John Henry and Tom Werner took over the the organization, things changed. He came with a background of having had success in San Diego, and with the Orioles, and was a prime mover in architectural changes in Major League Baseball and with the Camden Yards and a lot of stadiums that were copying that style at the time. As with any organization head, he had his moments with the media. He was beholden to John Henry and the organization, and not necessarily forthcoming with information all the time that we might have wanted information.

Santoro:  I had no idea that he was involved with Camden Yards. Because I went to the closing of Memorial Stadium, and I went to the opening of Camden.

Krasner: Yes. He was instrumental in the design. When they were renovating Fenway Park, there were questions about whether they would create a whole new Fenway Park. But in essence what they did is they created more nooks and crannies in the ballpark itself for fans. 

Can sports writers be fans too?

Santoro: When you're covering a game, do you write it from the eyes of a fan, of a journalist or of a scout?

Kasner: As a sportswriter, you lose a little of the fan in you because you have a job. You must report on the game.

So, in other words, in 2003, when Aaron Boone hit that home run, if you're a Red Sox fan, you can't be jumping out of the press box and say "That's it. I'm done. I'm out of here." Nor if you're a Yankee fan can you run around the press box high-fiving people. In that case, when he hit that home run in the 12th inning in the seventh game of the ALCS that year, 2003, by the time Aaron Boone is at second base, I'm on the phone talking to the office: "What do you need? How much do you want? When do you need it?" And it was a game in which Grady Little left Pedro in too long, and so on.

But it becomes all about me the writer. I must figure out if they want at 25 inches in 20 minutes, how can I get them my story quickly.

Reflecting on wild games of years past

Santoro: You have been at some crazy games. I'm going to give you the scenario, and you comment: Bill Buckner.

Krasner: The 1986 World Series postseason was my first postseason. I joined the newspaper in '75 and covered a few major league games in '85, but in '86, I was covering on a regular basis. ... So, it was a Saturday night, when deadlines are really tight.

The Red Sox had the lead. Then obviously they lost the lead, and the ball went through Buckner's legs, and they lost the game.

Well, the columnist and the game story writer, they were furiously rewriting their stories. ... So, after the game and only like four or five of us that had an opportunity to talk to Buckner because of job responsibilities. And, he had a big mustache and always has like a goofy grin. He saw us and he reached on top of his locker, he pulled out a pair of sunglasses, and he said to us: “I should probably put these on because I don't think people in Boston are too happy with me right now,” he said. “But you know what? Hey, you play as many games as we do. People make errors. It happens. We'll get them in game seven.”

I've always felt he was unfairly vilified. Even if he had made the play, the game was still tied. Obviously, they lost all chance of winning the game when the ball went through his legs, but now they had an opportunity to go to game seven.

Santoro: 1981 McCoy Stadium, the longest game in professional baseball history.

Krasner: I wrote a children's book, "The Longest Game," all about that game. But I must make a confession: As it so happened, I did not see the first 32 innings, but I was there for the 33rd inning because as I tell kids in the classroom, this game was that long. It started in April and ended in June because they went 32 innings and they finally called it a night, which was its own story. It turns out they completed the game on June 23rd.

The reason it kept going is because in the umpire’s rulebook, there should have been a sentence that said no inning shall start after 1 a.m., but that sentence was missing from the umpire’s handbook. The Pawtucket Red Sox management, Ben Mondor, the owner, and Mike Tamburro, they had that in their handbook, but the umpires couldn't go by what was in their book. They had to go by what was in the umpire’s book. This was well before cellphones. The commissioner was out somewhere. And by the time they found him, he said, "Listen, if the game is still tied after this inning you're playing, which was the 32nd, then stop the game and finish it the next time Rochester visits Pawtucket," which was on June 23rd.

Santoro: 1989 Candlestick Park, game three of the World Series. The ground starts shaking like crazy.

Kasner: I was at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. ... I felt the ground underneath me rumble a little bit. And I wasn't too concerned because my wife has family in Southern California, I'd been through some small earthquakes. And right away I knew, well, we’re having an earthquake tremor, no big deal.

And then as I was talking on the phone, I saw the San Francisco local writers, who were sitting in the front row, in front of these big plate glass windows, jump out of the seats and race out of the press box. I remember saying into the telephone, "Jeez, there’s an earthquake. Goodbye." And I hung up the phone, but I didn't know where to go because I grew up in Rhode Island. We had "duck and cover," but we didn't do earthquakes.

I get back on the phone to call the office. And they say, "What happened?" You know, because if you were watching at home, you're watching the pre-game and then suddenly, poof, nothing. I told them what had happened, and they started to interview me: "What did you hear? What did you feel? What did you see?" And at the end, I said, "Listen, do me a favor. Call my wife, tell her I'm fine." Then I had work to do. ... So, in my mind, it's all about finding Red Sox people and finding what's going on from their point of view in San Francisco.

Santoro: Steve Krasner is one of the region's most respected sports writers, who just happened to be at some of the best games ever played. Steve, a pleasure. Thank you for this great chat, and go Sox.

Kasner: Thank you for having me.