An annual pilgrimage to Boston’s Fenway Park is mandatory for a fan to remain in good standing in Red Sox Nation. I made mine on June 4th for a BoSox-Toronto Blue Jay showdown.
The historical edifice remains unique—the only venue in the American League where the likes of Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker Walter Johnson, Lou Gehrig and other legends actually took to a field of dreams.
Fenway has its charm, of course, but it can also be a field of nightmares for plus-sized people—of which there is no shortage in modern-day America. What a fan-unfriendly place Fenway is! My problem involves fitting a 6-foot-4 frame into a seat made for Dustin Pedroia. Those with ample derrieres face different challenges.
I paid a couple hundred bucks for two relatively decent seats where we could see the infield, even if our seats faced centerfield. But the people to our right had their view of home plate obscured by a pole/girder. They eventually went to standing room to watch. But they couldn’t see the message board behind centerfield. But then again neither could we.
We could have parked relatively close to the park for $40, which I refused to do on principle. I was able to find parking for only $33 at a garage on Newbury Street, which meant a half hour walk to Fenway. But it was a nice day and I celebrated with a libation. It only cost $9.75.
Fortunately, we saw a good game as Boston prevailed, 6-4. But what a drag it would have been to pay all that money to see your team lose. (Toronto won every other game in the series to knock the Sox out of first place.)
I’d never seen so much blue at Fenway—even more than when the Yankees visit. Blue Jay apparel abounded. This phenomenon is the reverse of what I’d experienced in Baltimore, Anaheim, San Diego and other venues. When the Red Sox visit such places, Boston expatriates fill the stands with red. That so much blue filled the stands told me that a lot of tickets were available for out-of-towners—a new development that should be worrisome for management.
BABE RUTH’S #3
Per usual, I wore my #8 Yastrzemski jersey. I smiled when I saw #9 Williams jerseys, though. It’s been 56 years since Ted played at Fenway, and Red Sox home uniforms don’t feature names on the back. But I really had to chuckle when I saw my first Babe Ruth #3 Red Sox shirt. While the Bambino indeed played for Boston from 1914-1919, he never wore a number for the Red Sox, much less #3. It wasn’t until 1929 that the Yankees began the practice of wearing uniform numbers. Ruth wore #3 because he was third in the batting order. Cleanup hitter Gehrig wore #4, etc.
A BoSox #3 jersey with Ruth’s name on it really is historically inaccurate chutzpah.
So will the BoSox EVER move to a better park, as has every other non-Cub team in baseball? Numerous proposals have had them moving south or west of Boston—or even to New Hampshire. The Patriots certainly flourish in Foxborough.
If the Sox didn’t want to move, they COULD do what the Yankees did and renovate their existing park. The Yankees left the old Yankee Stadium for two years, playing at Shea Stadium in 1974 and 1975 while the Stadium was gutted and renovated. The team returned to a revitalized Bronx venue in 1976 and won three straight pennants. The revamped structure served the Yankees well for three more decades. Then they moved into a brand new Yankee Stadium in 2009—and won that year’s World Series.
Joe Martino is a native New Englander who is now Chief Operating Officer for Shangri-La Construction, owned by billionaire mogul Steve Bing. Martino built the AT&T Center, where the Spurs play in San Antonio. He thinks renovating Fenway might be a great idea.
“What’s amazing is how fast everyone will forget about [the Sox playing elsewhere for a year] when they are back in Boston playing in a newly renovated but historic and legendary home like Fenway.”
But where would the Red Sox play for a year if Fenway was renovated?
The answer is Pawtucket, Portland, Manchester, and—mostly—Montreal.
I noted with interest that the blue-clad Jays fans sitting behind us at the Toronto game were speaking French, indicating they were Quebecois—as opposed to Ontarians. And some Expo jerseys were to be seen as well, even though MLB left Montreal for Washington over ten years ago.
Playing a year at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium would fill a baseball void and expand Red Sox Nation, garnering the BoSox new legions of fans while sharpening the Toronto rivalry. And while the aforementioned minor league venues have limited seating capacities, playing at least one home series in Pawtucket, Portland and Manchester would certainly energize the greater New England baseball universe as well.
Meanwhile, Fenway should be completely gutted. Put in an upper deck behind home plate. Put in bigger seats. Put in luxury suites—that’s where the real money is. Increase capacity to 45,000. Build a parking garage.
Sure, keep the exterior brick façade with the “1912” on top. And keep the Green Monster. Landsdowne Street isn’t going anywhere. And keep the dirt, upon which trod Ruth, DiMaggio, Williams, and Gehrig. The best of all worlds.
And, upon further reflection, it occurs to me that Babe Ruth DID wear #3 in Boston, when he finished his career in Beantown with the Braves in 1935. So let’s go ahead and retire #3 at a future Opening Day in the NEW Fenway Park—against the Yankees, of course!
Built in 1912, Fenway Park was the venue for an epic World Series that year, when the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Giants. But in 1916, when the Red Sox took on Brooklyn in the World Series, the Boston games were played at Braves Field. Why? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on June 16 include boxing legend Roberto Durán (1951) and golf great Phil Mickelson (1970).
“As I grew up, I knew that as a building (Fenway Park) was on the level of Mount Olympus, the Pyramid at Giza, the nation’s capitol, the czar’s Winter Palace, and the Louvre—except, of course, that it’s better than all those inconsequential places.” – Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti
For World Series games in Boston in 1916, the Red Sox hosted the Brooklyn Robins (later known as the Dodgers) at newly completed Braves Field, which had a much larger capacity than did Fenway Park. For example, Game #2 at Braves Field had an attendance of 47,373—about 12,000 more than Fenway could accommodate. As turnstile attendance was the main source of revenue in those days, the BoSox needed the money. Ironically, two years earlier, the Miracle Boston Braves of 1914 played their home World Series games against Philadelphia at Fenway Park, as Braves Field was not yet completed.
Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is email@example.com.