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Fenway Park

Boston, MA
Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Boston Red Sox
July 23, 2003

By Ken Schlapp

Ahhh, Fenway Park.  This is one of my favorite places to go.  Similar to the Phillies, Fenway Park and Red Sox games are not that far away.  It is a 4-hour drive that I have taken many times.  Growing up a Mets fan in New York causes many of those same fans to be Red Sox fans as well, due to Yankee fans.  I fit that criteria, and have always felt that the enemy of the enemy, must be a friend.  Therefore, I have rooted for the Red Sox since the Jim Rice days and was heartbroken when Bucky bleeping Dent hit that home run in 1978.  The funny thing about most Mets fans being loyal to the Red Sox is that Red Sox fans do not share the same camaraderie.  The Mets are still from that hated New York City, and were lucky enough to beat the Sox on Bill Buckner’s error. That still does stop us both from hating the Yankees though.

Before heading up to Fenway, I stopped in Minneola to pick up my fellow Yankee hater, Vinnie Borriello.  The same Vinnie from the Puerto Rico part of this trip.  It was good to have company on the drive again. The drive went without a glitch to our first destination, which was to pick up Andy and Russ at their home on Mass Ave (not Massachusetts Avenue, unless you want to be mocked by locals!), to see some of the old stadium sights.

The first old site we visited was Braves Field, where the Boston Braves played their games from 1915 to 1952, before moving to Milwaukee and finally Atlanta.  After the Braves moved, the stadium remained without any changes for a few years and became part of the Boston University campus.  They eventually changed the name to Nickerson Field and used it mostly for soccer, field hockey and track and field events.  They later tore most of it down, but they did leave the pavilion grandstand and the ticket office building, which we were able to visit.  They installed a plaque to let all those that visit Boston University know that the Braves used to play their games on this site.  The field is also conveniently located on Braves Field Way.

The next stop was to visit the original home of the Boston Red Sox (Pilgrims or Summersets, depending on the year), the Huntington Avenue Grounds.  The Red Sox played their games here from their inaugural season of 1901 through 1911 and their star during most of this period was the immortal Cy Young.  Northeastern University has since replaced that spacious ballpark, which at point had the center field wall 630 feet from home plate.  Today, there is a statue of Cy Young where the pitcher’s mound once was, facing the home plate plaque, which is conveniently 60 feet 6 inches away.  There is also a plaque on the wall of the Cabot Center on Huntington Avenue, where the left field foul pole used to be, which seems really far from the Cy Young statue.  I love that Cy Young and pre-Fenway Red Sox things are remembered here.  Since my company’s office is just down the road, I have visited this spot a few times before.  It is definitely worth a quick stop.

Now off to Fenway Park, the home of the Yanks!  Well, hold on Boston fans; do not jump down my throat.  Fenway Park was the home of the football Boston Yanks from 1944 through 1948, as well as the Boston Redskins (1933-1936) and the Boston Patriots (1963-1968) before they all moved on to other venues.  However, we all know and love this place as the home of the Boston Red Sox and their raucous fans since the place opened in 1912.  Although the Boston Braves played their home games here in 1914 and 1915, while Braves Field was being built.  We all also know that this is the oldest major league stadium still in use, with Chicago’s Wrigley Field just 2 years younger. 

First thing though, was to find a parking spot, which is an event in itself.  Usually, when I go to games at Fenway, I walk with friends (usually Andy and Russ), from the area around the Prudential Center, which is near where I work and stay, to the game.  The best part about this is that we generally walk through the hustle and bustle of fans through Kenmore Square.  In my opinion, this is a must.  All the people eating, and of course drinking, at all the pubs are part of the fun of seeing “The Sawx” at Fenway.  As I started to say before, we drove there today and found a nice cheap lot for $33.  Yes, it is about as expensive a parking spot you will find for a sporting event anywhere, and to top it off, they block here too.  This means, that they keep adding cars until the last space is filled, regardless of whether a car can get out at any given time.  Since you do not have to leave your keys, you may have to wait a while to get out because of all the other cars in your way.  Strange to most parking facilities, but normal around Fenway.

Once the parking was completed, we had to find a Pub for pre-game food and drink.  We stepped into B. B. Wolf’s and had great BBQ food and a few pints.  What made it even better, was that after talking to the general manager, Dave Shannon, about my trip, he wouldn’t let me pay for my meal.  As I had planned to write about my trip in prompt order, I would have the opportunity to plug B. B. Wolfs in my articles.  Unfortunately, I procrastinated writing for nine years, so by the time I am writing this, the restaurant has closed.  I believe they were affiliated with Boston Beer Works, which is still there and worth going to before or after games.  Thank you and I am sorry Dave.  You made a great gesture, but I failed to come through.

Andy and Russ were only able to join Vinny and me for the pre-game non-stadium festivities, so they left after we ate.  Vinny and I went to the stadium to take our free stadium tour, of which I have to say this is definitely one of the stadiums where I was treated quite well.  Steve Morse, of the Red Sox, arranged for us to take this stadium tour at 4 PM prior to the game.  We made it just in time.  They brought us into the premium areas of the stadium, which the average fan does not have access to.  Unfortunately, because it was so close to game time, we could not go into the dugouts or bullpens with the players using those areas at this time.  Our first stop, was Malones pub, where Sam “May Day” Malone’s number 16 Jersey hung on the wall.  Yes, the same Sam Malone of sitcom Cheers’ fame.  Also, along the walls were 24 bats for all the American League batting championships that Red Sox players have won, and of course, all the plaques for players that made the Red Sox Hall of Fame.  Some notable players on the wall were Duffy Lewis, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Jim Rice, and Bill “Space Man” Lee.

From there, we walked around the .406 club, which is located behind home plate and is incased behind glass to protect the patrons from foul balls.  The club is of course in honor of Ted Williams, the last player to bat over .400, which he did when he batted .406 in 1941, yet somehow lost out to Joe Dimaggio for the MVP award even though Williams outhit Dimaggio during his famous 56-game hitting streak.  Ted Williams is clearly a theme here at Fenway.  The bleachers in right field are called Williamsburg, because they were added after Williams began playing, with the intention of allowing him to take advantage of this short porch to hit more home runs with his pull-hitting approach.  It turns out he only added 12 home runs to his total in that section during his career.  Although he only hit 12 homers in those seats, he hit plenty of them way beyond.  In fact, in section 42, row 37, seat 21, they painted it red in a sea of green seats to mark where he hit his longest home run, which is estimated to have traveled between 520 and 535 feet.

The real fun part came next.  We got to go to the Green Monster seats.  The most famous attribute to any stadium has to be the Green Monster at Fenway Park.  It stands 37 feet 2 inches tall, between 310-315 feet from home plate and all green with a ladder to nowhere above the scoreboard.  It is so close to home plate that it adds many home runs on high fly balls that would be outs elsewhere, while at the same time taking line-drive home runs and turning them into singles, doubles, and outs at second base trying to stretch a single into a double.  What amazed me about the Green Monster though was that it looks so huge on TV, but in person, it just does not seem as big and imposing as I thought it would.  Interesting to learn on this day, was that the Green Monster was not green until 1947.  Prior to that, it was filled with ads.  While this tour was going on, the Red Sox were taking batting practice, and today happened to be Nomar Garciapara’s birthday.  Of course, all those on the tour sang happy birthday to the Sox star shortstop from the Green Monster.  He turned, waved, and smiled in appreciation.  Certainly, a fun twist to the tour.

The other great thing about the Green Monster is that it contains one of the best scoreboards in baseball.  Like the wall itself, it is all in green; it contains both in game and out-of-town scores, and most importantly is one of the few completely manual scoreboards.  Waiting for the once-an-inning (based on out-of-town game, not Sox game) out-of-town scores to manually change is part of the fun of going to games at Fenway.  Unfortunately, for us, we could not go behind the scenes and in the scoreboard because it was too close to game time.  However, we did get to learn more of the stadium’s history, starting with the foul poles.  The right field pole is known as Pesky’s Pole after Johnny Pesky, who hit very few home runs during his career (1942-1952 with the Red Sox), but hit a few down the right field line, which is listed as 302 feet, but may actually be a bit shorter than that.  The left field pole is known as Fisk Pole after Carlton Fisk’s famous home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, where he was emphatically waving the ball fair with his arms.  At the end of the tour we passed by a few huge baseball cards in picture frames of Jim Rice and Carl Yastrezemski, which I loved.

The tour ended just in time for us to exit the stadium, take a walk around and head back in for the game.  As I mentioned before, walking to the stadium through Kenmore Square and around the stadium from there is half the fun.  Like many of the old ballparks now long gone, Fenway park was squeezed into the city space available and in between warehouses.  From Lansdowne Street and Yawkey Way from the Cask & Flagon it almost looks like a warehouse on the corner, but then you notice the stadium lights and giant Coke bottle sticking out from the Green Monster.  When you walk to the other end of Lansdowne Street and look back, you see the giant “Fenway Park Home of the Boston Red Sox” printed behing the giant jumbotron.  You cannot help but notice the many hot dog, sausage and souvenir vendors too.  However, the best part from the outside is to enter Fenway through Yawkey Way and Gates A and B.  Here the food and souvenir vendors, the Red Sox championship banners on the walls and the Giant Yawkey Way sign, overwhelm you.  Stop and eat at El Tiante too while you are out there.  Luis Tiante will be happy you did so.

Once we went back inside from behind home plate, you notice just how green all the seats are in the bleachers and on the Green Monster, but when you are on the Green Monster or bleachers and look back you notice just how red the rest of the seats are in the lower field level.  You also notice how there are some seats directly behind the pillars holding up the upper deck (what there is of it).  I have had the fortune of sitting near the pillars a few times and it is a real pain to see the game.  Not to mention the fact that in 1912, when Fenway was built, I would have to assume that the average person was half the size that people are now, because the width of the seats is so narrow that I barely fit (insert fat joke here).  There is not much legroom either, which leads me to understand why most of the older stadiums have been torn down.  The look of these old stadiums is incredible and nostalgic, but the comfort is not quite as good.

The last bits of history to share before we sat down and watched the game are the retired numbers and pennants.  The Red Sox honor their history with pennants along the upper deck façade.  It is actually funny talking about the upper deck at Fenway, because in comparison to other stadiums, it is only a small suite level plus a small lodge/mezzanine above the main field level seats.  Only PNC Park in Pittsburg holds fewer fans.  The retired numbers are located on the façade above the right field seats.  At the time I visited, the criteria for a Red Sox retired number was 10 years with the Red Sox and you had to retire with the Sox.  The numbers retired were 1 (bobby Doer), 4 (Joe Cronin), 8 Carl Yastrezemski, 9 (Ted Williams), and 27 (Carlton Fisk).  Although Fisk cheated, by after retiring from the White Sox, being temporarily hired in the Red Sox Front Office before officially retiring from them.  They have since loosened that criteria and added Johnny Pesky (5) and Jim Rice (14).

As promised, we headed to our seats from there.  This is where we have to thank Steve Morse again.  He was willing to give us seats anywhere in the park free, but when I asked for Green Monster seats, he said we would have to pay the face value of $50 per seat for them, which was perfectly fair to me considering those seats were sold out for the season at the time.  This was the first year the Red Sox put seats there and the number of seats were limited to begin with.  Although, they do sell 24 standing-room-only seats each game in honor of current left fielder, Manny Ramirez, who wears number 24.  The seats are set up like a bar with stools and a ledge to lean on, which is unique and Boston at the same time.  Initially, I expected the view to be poor, but from the first row (where our seats were), the view of the game was great.  The only bad thing was that we could not see the scoreboard on the wall.  We got a good laugh when the Sox mascot, Wally the Green Monster, stopped to pay us a visit.  He reminds me of Animal from the Muppets, which is funny considering I used to goof on a friend that liked Johnny Damon, that he was a clone of Animal, so maybe they have two Johnny Damons.

Knuckleball specialist, Tim Wakefield, started for the Red Sox and retired the 1st 8 Devil Rays in order, before giving up a 2-out walk to Julio Lugo in the 3rd.  Meanwhile, Devil Rays pitcher, Geremi Gonzalez was bailed out by 2 double plays in the first 2 innings, but not your typical DPs.  Nomar Garciapara started his birthday with a popup to second base that doubled up Johnny Damon, who tried to advance on the play in the first and Bill Mueller lined out to shortstop Julio Lugo, who threw quickly to second base to double up Manny Ramirez, who had doubled to start the second inning.  The Sox finally got on the board though when Trot Nixon led off the 3rd with a home run. 

Wakefield did not give up his first hit until Antonio Perez led off the 4th with a single.  Rocco Baldelli and Derek Lee would also add singles to plate Perez and tie the score at 1, but the Sox came right back in their half inning.  Manny Ramirez singled, stole second, and scored on Bill Mueller’s RBI double.  Then they added another run in the 5th, when Bill Walker tripled in Johnny Damon, who reached on a 2-out walk, giving the Red Sox a 3-1 lead.  The Devil Rays showed no quit though.  Carl Crawford led off the 6th with a double, swiped third, and scored on Perez sac fly to right to bring them within 1 run after 6 frames.

The 7th inning is where all hell broke loose.  Derek Lee and Toby Hall both hit solo homers off Wakefield in the top of the inning to give the Rays a 4-3 lead, but the lead would not last long.  The Devil Rays brought in Travis Harper to pitch the 7th, and the Sox did not greet him nicely at all.  Doug Mirabelli singled and was replaced by pinch runner Gabe Kapler.  The next Batter, Johnny Damon, hit a 2-run homer to give the lead back to the Sox.  Bill Walker followed with a double, and he was also replaced by a pinch-runner, Damian Jackson.  After Birthday boy, Garciapara, grounded out, Manny walked, causing Harper to be Yanked (he he) in favor of Al Levine, who did not fare much better.  Big Papi doubled in Jackson, Mueller walked, and then Trot Nixon came through with a big grand slam for his second homer of the game, which gave the Sox a 7-run inning and a 10-4 lead that would stand as the final score.  Scott Saurback and Byung-Hyun Kim each pitched a scoreless frame to preserve the victory for the Red Sox and Tim Wakefield.

Bottom line – It was great to tour the old Boston stadiums, including the current classic Fenway Park today.  Fenway is my favorite place to see a game, with all the history of the old ballpark along with the rowdy, obnoxious and fun Red Sox fans.  Can’t wait until my next game here.

Basic trip facts:
-Stadium # 25
-Old Stadium Sites visited – Braves Field & Huntington Avenue Grounds (Total – 17)
-Under construction Stadium Sites visited – Citizens Bank Park (Total – 2)
-Miles traveled – 248 via Car (Totals: Driving – 15,708, Subway - 20, Air - 3,196, Total – 18,824)
-States, provinces, Districts and/or commonwealths passed through – New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts (Totals: States – 44, Provinces – 0, Districts – 1, Commonwealths - 1)
-Seats – Section M1, Aisle 1, Seat 10 –  First row of the Green Monster
-Prices: Parking – $33.00 (including $8 for being there before 5 PM), Beer – didn’t check, but there was plenty of it flowing, Hot Dogs - $3.50 - $4.50, Program (including pencil) - $0.00 (gift from Sox), Souvenir Soda Cup – $5.00
-Credit Card giveaway –  Red Sox Visor or T-shirt
-First Pitch -  7:06 PM
-Attendance – 33,446
-Results – Red Sox 10, Devil Rays 4, W – Tim Wakefield, L – ?? Harper, S – None
-Home team record to date – 14 wins, 14 losses
-Record of “team I was routing for” to date – 12 wins, 16 losses
-Lodging – Boston, Massachusetts

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