I have posted this thread on the front page too, but I thought it belonged here as well. Normally I would post something like this in the Stadium section, but the history of the Red Sox and the history of Fenway Park is so much interwoven that I decided to post it here.
Before starting with this thread on Fenway Park, I like to thank a few people who helped me to create this: Runningshoes (for the many photos he sent to me. They were so many that I had to make a selection), Cathy (photos and mental support), RickD for giving some newspaper articles about the stadium and Chitown Champ for the grammar and spelling check.
This year, Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox, celebrates it‘s hundred year of existence.
The team will wear a patch on their right sleeve to commemmorate the 100th anniversary
The name Fenway Park is derived from the Fenway neighborhood, which was created in the late nineteenth century. In 1911, Red Sox owner John Taylor bought land that lied between Brookline Avenue, Jersey Street, Van Ness Street and Lansdowne Street. He would create a much bigger ballpark there than the old wooden Huntington Ave. Baseball Grounds. In those days many wooden ballparks burnt down to the ground. This was also one of the reasons, the Red Sox’ owner decided to move out of Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds.
Because, Fenway was in between asymmetrical streets, it got the quirky shape.
We all know that Fenway Park opened on April 20 (after the first two games were rained out), in the same week when the Titanic sunk.
Opening Day 1912
The first ball thrown out at Fenway Park
Through the years, Fenway was changed several times. Here is a summary of the many changes Fenway Park underwent:
- May 8, 1926: A fire destroyed bleachers along the left field line, and John Quinn (the owner at the time) neglected to rebuild the bleachers due to a lack of funds. Left fielders didn't complain though, since they were able catch foul balls for outs behind the stands. That continued until the park underwent a major overhaul in 1934 under Tom Yawkey, who bought the financially-strapped club in 1933.
Spectators in the outfield
-1934: The left field bleachers made room for what would later be the Green Monster. The current scoreboard was installed as well. The lights that represent balls and strikes, were considered high tech back then. Before 1934, a steep 10-foot embankment ran in front of the wall where fans were allowed to sit. The Sox' Duffy Lewis was so skilled at playing balls hit to the ledge that it became known as "Duffy's Cliff." The 1934 project to revitalize Fenway came to a screeching halt on January 5 when a second fire ravaged the building for five hours. Few areas of the park were left undamaged.
- 1946, Fenway got upper deck seats installed.
- 1947: Lights were installed and the first night game at Fenway Park was played on 6-13-1947.
- 1976: Metric Distances were added at the outfield walls, because they thought the US would switch to the metric system. The Green Monster was also covered with plastic.
- In 1999 press boxes were added on top of the roof boxes along the first and third base sides.
- Before the 2003 season, seats were added to the Green Monster (maybe the most famous changes in Fenway ever).
- Before the 2004 season, seats were added to the right field roof, above the grandstand, called the Budweiser Right Field Roof.
Through the years, the seating capacity fluctuated between 35,000 in 1912 and 37,065 in 2012.
The Green Monster
What is now called the Green Monster was know as the wall before the 1947 season, when they painted it green. Until that season it was covered with ads. When Fenway Park was built, the wall was made of wood. After the scoreboard was added, it was covered in tin and concrete. The Green Monster wasn't always the heart of this ballpark. In fact, the infamous wall didn't make its first appearance until 24 years after Fenway's debut.Before the Monster took over this land, there was a 10 foot incline here named Duffy's cliff. This “cliff” was some cover of the lower part of this wall, that was initially built to prevent fans ouside the stadium to watch games without paying admission. The embankment existed at the base of the LF scoreboards, for the first 22 years of Fenway's life until Tom Yawkey took over. Recently I saw a feat about the scoreboard at the Green Monster. Tom Yawkey let his initials and those of his wife paint on it…. in morse code.
Green Monster scoreboard with Yawkey´s name in morse code
The Triangle is an area in left-center field where the walls form a triangle. This is one of the main features of the quirky shape of Fenway. The far corner is 420 feet from home plate. That deep right-center point is conventionally given as the center field distance. True center is unmarked, 390 feet from home plate, to the left of "The Triangle" when viewed from home plate.
The bullpen in right field was created for the benefit of Ted Williams. Williams would hit more homeruns as a left handed batter when the outfield wall came 23 feet closer to home plate. Because the bullpen was created for Ted Williams, sportswriters came up with a nickname for it: Williamsburg.
Foul Poles? Yes foul poles. In Fenway Park, the foul poles have nicknames. First of all there is the famous Pesky’s Pole in right field. The pole stands at a MLB record short distance of 302 feet from homeplate. On September 27, 2006, on Pesky's 87th birthday, the Red Sox organization officially dedicated the right field foul pole as Pesky's Pole with a commemorative plaque placed at its base.
Pesky's pole in right field
The left field Pole was named after Carlton Fisk in a 2005 pre game ceremony. This ceremony took place before the interleague game vs. the Cincinnati Reds, who played the Red Sox in the 1975 World Series, when Fisk hit his memorable homerun off the left field foul pole in game six of that game.
For those who ever doubted, this is Carlton Fisk's pole
The Lone Red Seat
The lone red seat in the right field bleachers, marks the spot where the longest homerun ever hit in Fenway. Who else than Ted Williams accomplished this feat?
Fenway's clubhouses are small and modest. The tunnels which lead to the dugouts are usually wet, and the floorboards creak. Like most of baseball’s other old parks, it's cramped and even a little bit uncomfortable.
Not as glamorous as the features mentioned above but still a very significant part of Fenway Park is Canvas Alley. This is a narrow slot along the first baseline where the grounds crew gathers between the innings.
Through the years, the main use of Fenway Park was for baseball. But the stadium was used for several other activities too: Hockey (the 2010 NHL Winter Classic), Soccer (various times, starting in 1931), Football (In 1926, the first American Football League's Boston Bulldogs played at both Fenway and Braves Field. After 1926 various AFL and NFL teams have called Fenway Park their home. At various times in the past, Dartmouth College, Boston College and Boston University teams have also played football games at Fenway Park). Besides sports games, Fenway Park was also used for open air masses and even a rally for Irish independence back in 1919.
The Irish Independence Rally
Like almost every MLB team, the Red Sox have a couple of retired numbers. These numbers are shown along the railing of the right field second ring bleachers.
Outside the park, the numbers are shown as well on the right field façade.
In 1999, plans were announced to replace Fenway Park with a new stadium, with the same dimensions and also a green monster. Thank goodness, many stood up to prevent this from happening by forming several groups. For six years the Red Sox negotiated with the city of Boston, but in 2005 it was clear both sides could not agree on a new location. It was announced then that the Red Sox would stay in Fenway Park forever.
Fenway Park is known as a hitters park. The following three reasons point out why:
1) The park has the smallest foul territory in the majors, and near the foul poles it is non-existent. That means that pop-ups that might get caught elsewhere end up in the seats, and give hitters another swing.
2) The 17-ft center field wall also provides a great hitting background, since most pitchers' release points take place against a solid green background instead of the multicolored distraction of the bleachers. (Some left-handers with an overhand delivery can reach "over the top" and into the bleachers to camouflage their pitches, but statistically speaking lefties generally don't do much worse than righties.)
3) Most importantly, all of the action unfolds in the shadow of baseball's most recognizable landmark - the Green Monster, the 37-foot wall in left field which makes left field a cozy space and which can convert routine flyballs into extra-base hits. For over 50 years, the wall was listed at 315 feet away from the plate, a very generous estimate that was regarded as about as accurate as David Wells' listed weight of 235 pounds. In 1995 the Red Sox (without explanation) changed the number to 310 feet, but more realistically the wall is probably closer to 300 feet away.
What makes this ballpark so unique is the old atmosphere it breathes; The quirky shape of the ballpark and the field, the lack of the bells and whistles most of the modern ballparks have nowadays. And I did not mention the intimacy of the place.
The foto above is what I mean with intimacy.
One other unique thing at Fenway Park is the micro climate that ballpark has. Near the Green Monster, which is covered with tin, it is rather warm because of the radiant heat from the big wall. Because of this the ground keepers must mow the grass in different ways. Near the Green Monster the grass grows fast. In the middle of the field it grows in a normal way. And in the shady area of the first baseline, it grows slow.
Former White Sox and St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck once said about Fenway Park: "Other places have spectators; Fenway has 35,000 participants." IMO, the 86 year Championship drought has turned the Red Sox fans in Fenway faithful, in “fanatics” who live and breathe the game. That is what makes this stadium so unique.
So isn’t there any feature in this park that should not be there? Of course there is. The playing field is well below street level. So when it rains hard, the dugouts are flooded. When it rains really hard, the field will be flooded because the Boston City storm system will back up and the manholes will throw up water that they cannot cope with. And when it is pouring with rain, the Charles river floods and the fish will swim on the field. But on the other hand, maybe this inconvenience is also one of the charming things of this park.
I truly hope that this park will live another 100 years. If the Red Sox decide to move to another ballpark one day, I hope that the city of Boston is wise enough to keep this ballpark as a landmark.
Here are some other great shots of the hundred year old stadium.
The outside of the Green Monster with the structure that supports the Green Monster seats.
I save the best for last