Interesting Facts about Fenway Park
Boston is truly a world class city. It has everything, art, culture, hospitality, media and science. It’s world renown colleges and universities have produced the people and ideas that have built and sustained this country. It’s skyline, especially looking toward the west from Boston Harbor, is impressive. Modern skyscrapers like the Federal Reserve and the Hancock towers fit in well with older buildings like the neoclassical Custom House and Quincy Market. But the crown jewel of Boston is Fenway Park
Located in the Back Bay section of Boston, Fenway Park seems shoehorned into a neighborhood of factories, office buildings, warehouses and apartment buildings. The Massachusetts Turnpike runs a few hundred feet outside the famous left field wall. This field has been the scene of hundreds of baseball’s great moments like Carlton Fisk’s homer or Dave Roberts’ stolen base. It has also been the scene of many disappointments like Bucky Dent’s home run and Bill Lee’s curve ball to Tony Perez in the 1975 World Series. But the purpose of this article is not to describe the great games or players who have made Fenway their home over the last 100 years, but to tell you some facts you may not have know about the history and details of Fenway Park and how it became “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark”
Groundbreaking for Fenway Park took place in September 1911, and was built by the Charles Logue Building Company for a total cost $650,000. It was ready for the first game of the 1912 season. When it came time to name the ballpark, then owner John Taylor, named it after the section of Boston it was in- “The Fenway” As any serious Red Sox fan knows, the first game was played on April 20, 1912, (the week the Titanic sunk) The Sox beat the New York Highlanders, (later the Yankees) 7-6 in extra innings and they went on to win the World Series that year.
When it first was opened the dimensions of the park were considered to be huge. To straight center it was 550 feet and over 300 feet down each line. In this dead ball era. It wasn’t expected that anyone would hit a ball out. A 25 foot wall in left field fronted Landsdowne St. and was constructed to keep fans from climbing in without tickets or to watch the game from rooftops. In the early days, a 10 foot high banking ran along the left field wall. It became known as “Duffy’s Cliff” after the Red Sox left fielder who mastered the art of running up it to catch a fly ball. Despite the distances to the outfield fences, on April 26, 1912, Red Sox backup first baseman, Hugh Bradley became the first man to homer over the left field wall. It was considered an aberration and Bradley only hit one more home run in the major leagues. The left field fence was increased to 36 feet when Tom Yawkey renovated the park in 1934. It was also during this renovation that the famous, manually operated scoreboard was built at the base of the left field wall. In 1936, netting was added to the top of the Green Monster to protect the businesses on Lansdowne Street. The left field wall was originally painted blue and had large advertisements on it. The most famous was a billboard that said “The Red Sox use Lifebuoy soap” (which gave rise to the taunt “the Red Sox use Lifebuoy soap and they still stink!”) The ads were painted over with green paint in the late 1940s. In the early 1960s, the great relief pitcher, Dick Raditz allegedly named it “the Green Monster
Until 1940, the distance to the right field power alley was over 400 feet. Very few home runs were hit into the right field stands in the dead ball era and it was still a good poke to get one out when the ball was livened in the early 1920s. To get more home runs out of their young phenom, Ted Williams, in 1940 the bullpens were installed in right field reducing the distance to 380 feet. That area became known as “Williamsburg”.
In addition to being the oldest park in MLB, Fenway Park is the only baseball park to officially name both their right and left field foul poles. In the late 1940s, left handed pitcher, Mel Parnell jokingly referred to the right field pole “Pesky’s Pole” after Johnny Pesky, although actually Pesky did not hit many homers to right field. (maybe it should be called “Bellhorn’s Pole”. After all Mark Bellhorn did hit a homer off it to win a World Series game in 2004). The left field foul pole (atop the “Green Monster) is officially named Fisk’s pole after his famous homer off of it to win the sixth game of the 1975 World Series.
All of the seats in the right and center field bleachers are green with the exception of a red seat in Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21. This seat is 502 feet from home plate and marks what is allegedly the longest homer ever hit inside Fenway. On June 9, 1946, Ted Williams hit that shot off of Fred Hutcheson of the Detroit Tigers. The ball hit Joe Boucher — a 56-year old construction worker from Albany, NY- in the head knocking his straw hat off.
The façade of Fenway Park blends in neatly with the surrounding area. With all the activity around it on game day, no one can mistake it for anything other than a ballpark. But it wasn’t always that way. When Roger Clemens first reported to the Red Sox in 1984, he thought the cab driver had misunderstood his instructions. He thought the cabby was going to let him off at a warehouse, not Fenway Park. Indeed the first time my parents took me to a game, in the magic summer of 1967, I was dismayed when we entered what seemed to be just another old building and walked through the dark and dreary area under the stands. My disappointment changed to astonishment when we walked up the ramp and saw the field. To a 6 year old boy whose only experience seeing the Red Sox was on a 20 inch black and white TV, the field was the brightest shade of green I had ever seen. Together with the pure tan of the infield and the colors of the other spectator’s clothes and advertisements that adorned the ballpark it was a very colorful and vibrant sight. To this day, when I attend a game (I only go to about one a year, Fenway Park is the most expensive park in MLB to attend a game) I like to arrive a few minutes early to take in the sights. Today’s HD broadcasts come close to reproducing the sights, color and sound of attending a ballgame there, but don’t quite match
While the Red Sox have called Fenway Park home and are the only permanent tenant and have been for years, a few other professional, college and amateur teams have been residents over the years. Fenway has also been host to many entertainment events and other gatherings in it’s 100 year history.
Seven current active major sports franchises have at one time or another played home games at Fenway Park. In addition to the Red Sox, the Boston Braves played the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1914 World Series and the entire 1915 season in Fenway Park while their park, Braves Field was being constructed. The Boston Redskins, the city’s first NFL franchise used Fenway Park as their home field from 1933 to 1936 before they departed for Washington. From 1963 to 1966 the Boston Patriots of the AFL called Fenway home. Also, the Boston Bruins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in Fenway Park on January 1, 2010. The seventh team was Boston’s 2nd attempt at an NFL franchise, the Boston Yanks. They played there from 1944 to 1948, and they were the last major sports team to have their franchise revoked after several seasons in New York as the Bulldogs. After they were broken up, the players on the team went to a new franchise in Baltimore called the Colts.
In addition, the Boston Bulldogs (1926) and Boston Shamrocks (1936-1937) both members of short lived pro football leagues played there, also Boston College, and Boston University have played football games their in the past.
The finals of the Boston Baseball Beanpot have been played there every year since 1990 (except 2005). The Cape Cod League All Star Game has been played there several times, along with several college hockey games and boxing matches.
Lastly, Fenway was home to the short lived Boston Beacons of the North American Soccer League in 1968. In 2010, two European Soccer team, Celtic FC and Sporting CP played an exhibition there.
Entertainment and Other Events
Fenway has also played host to it’s share of entertainment events, rallies and speeches in it’s history. In the Presidential Campaign of 1944, Franklin Roosevelt spoke there. Various high school and college graduation ceremonies have been held there as well as War Bond Rallies and Religious events.
In 2003, the owners of the park decided to put on a yearly concert at the field. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed there. In later years, performers such as The Rolling Stones, The Police, Jimmy Buffet and the Dropkick Murphys have played there. Springsteen is set to return there in August and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd will perform there in July. Stevie Wonder played there in 1972 and the Boston Jazz Festival had an event there in the late 1950s.
Despite other events and games that had occurred there, Fenway Park is, and will always be the Red Sox home. It is a jewel in Boston’s crown, and according to baseball purists, it is what a baseball park should be. It was the inspiration for Baltimore’s Camden Yards and for the movement to build baseball stadiums like they use to be built. It was named to the Nation Register of Historic Places earlier this year. But it wasn’t always that way. For much of it’s history, it was nothing special. It was just the place the Red Sox played. That began to change in the early 1970s. There were efforts to build a replacement including plans for a domed stadium for the Red Sox and Patriots in the mid 60s. In 1999, the Red Sox announced they would build another park very similar to Fenway near the current location. The plan failed due mostly to the fact that many fans consider Fenway Park sacred ground. Management announced in 2002 that the Red Sox would stay there and they embarked on a 10 year program to rebuild, renovate and improve the ballpark. The work has cost $285 million and was finished earlier this year. Team President Larry Lucchino announced that the park has 40-50 years of life left in it. The Red Sox will be in Fenway for the rest of my life. I could not imagine them playing anywhere else.