happy birthday, fenway park

One hundred years ago today, April 20, 1912, Fenway Park opened to the public. The Boston Red Sox have played their home games there ever since.

Fenway is the oldest Major League Ballpark still in use. Until the 1990s, it was one of a trio of historic parks still used for major-league play, along with Chicago's Wrigley Field and Tiger Stadium in Detroit. Now only Fenway and Wrigley have that distinction.

Fenway is my favourite park, and always has been - long before I ever could imagine switching sides in the historic rivalry to become a Red Sox fan. I've been to 22* Major League parks - one more than Allan, a fact that continues to rankle him - and none of them even come close to Fenway. The first time I saw a game there, despite having seen games played in Boston on TV for decades, I was awe-struck. Brick! The wall! The manual scoreboard! I remember asking Allan about the scoreboard, as if I had never heard of it. He was puzzled. "You know about this. The announcers talk about it all the time." Well yes, but... they didn't say it was so beautiful!

There was a time when Fenway's future was threatened, when it was rumoured that Boston would go the way of so many other clubs, letting a historic ballpark fall into disrepair, then bilking taxpayers out of a publicly financed stadium. An important piece of living history would be lost forever - along with much of the Red Sox's special cache. Fortunately for all of us, then-new Red Sox ownership understood their unique opportunity. The park was modernized in a way that left its historic beauty intact - even enhanced it - and all talk of abandoning Fenway was laid to rest.

Yesterday the Red Sox hosted an Open House. Everyone was invited, free of charge (unheard of!) to tour Fenway, walk around areas usually inaccessible to the public, spend the day there if they wanted. Allan and I both wish we could have been in Boston to participate.

Today, the anniversary of the Park's opening day, everyone in attendance will participate in the "world's largest toast", before a game against New York, the same two clubs that faced each other on April 20, 1912.** Every living former Red Sox player and manager has been invited, and the team says all kinds of surprises are planned. For the game, teams will wear 1912 replica uniforms.

For excellent photos of the 1912 Red Sox and their beautiful new park, see this Joy of Sox post. Although the New York Giants no longer exist, Sox fans would like history to repeat itself this year.

* Should be 23! In 1996, I had tickets to see the Braves in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, but was working too hard covering the Paralympics to attend - a fact that continues to rankle me!

** The American League team from New York was The Highlanders. They would be re-named the Yankees the following year.


Amy said...

I am sad that I won't be home to watch the festivities, but have the DVR set to capture it for when I get home after the weekend. I hope someone from JOS will be there!

When I first went to Fenway in 1975, I also was awed and captivated. The ONLY ballpark I had ever been to prior to then was Shea Stadium,* where I never sat anywhere but the highest nosebleed section. The magic of Fenway is that no matter where you sit, even in the bleachers or high up in the grandstand, you feel close to and a part of the game.

How could I NOT become a Sox fan after seeing a game at Fenway? I fell in love at first sight.

*My stadium count is still sadly low: only 5, though I have driven or walked past a few others.

laura k said...

DVR to the rescue. I hope most of it the ceremonies are on RedSox.com. There's no guarantee that MLB will show all of it online. But I hope so!

Which 5 parks? Or I should say, which 2 parks, besides Fenway, Shea and YS.

Amy said...

Camden Yards and what was then PacBell (I can't even remember what it is called now, but the SFGiants stadium), both of which are lovely places to watch a game---they try to capture the character of Fenway, but we have the real thing!

I have also driven by the parks in Atlanta and DC and been within El distance of Wrigley, but never inside those three. I am determined to get to a game at Wrigley one of these days. Can't say I have much desire to see most of the others (though seeing any baseball game is a good enough reason to go if I happen to be in a city where a game is going on).

laura k said...

Those are both very nice parks, although the ear-splitting noise level at Camden Yards makes games there a not-pleasant experience, IMO. I am very fond of the Giants' park - and have also been to their predecessor park, the freezing cold Candlestick.

I have seen many more parks, too, but I don't think that counts. You have to attend a game there.

Amy said...

I don't remember the noise at Camden Yards, just the unrelenting sun and heat. We were there in late June, watching a Yankee-Orioles game with my brother, his fanatic Yankee fan friend from NY, and our younger daughter who had just had her wisdom teeth removed! A day I won't forget!

I loved the water view at PacBell, but found all the amusement park features sort of disturbing---don't those people know that the reason to go is to watch baseball??

What is your favorite, after Fenway? Your least favorite?

laura k said...

After Fenway, I guess a very distant second is Dodger Stadium. Then there are just other parks I like - Seattle, San Francisco. I may be the only person you'll meet that likes Comiskey (no longer called that).

I'd very much like to see another game in Pittsburgh, we were there before the current/nice/new park was built, and I love the backdrop of the bridges (that you see on TV). I'd also like to see a game in the Mets' new park.

One of the best parks I've ever been to, sadly, is Tiger Stadium. (The park's demise famously began our midwest rust-belt baseball trip... a bittersweet memory.) In the upper deck in that park, you were right on top of the field. Downstairs was no big deal, but when we sat upstairs (with Tom Stanton, who was writing his book about the park at the time), it was unbelievalbe.

More coming...

allan said...

After Fenway, I guess a very distant second is Dodger Stadium.


allan said...

. I hope most of it the ceremonies are on RedSox.com.

It starts at 2 PM!

laura k said...

Worst park I've ever been to was the Kingdome in Seattle. Horrendous. Seattle has the biggest swing in ballpark quality that I've seen.

Veterans Stadium in Philly was also awful, and I also like their new park. But even The Vet wasn't as awful as the Kingdome. It looked like a prison from the outside.

laura k said...

Kingdome memory: we there in July 1996, on Alex Rodriguez' 21st birthday. I was a big fan of his in those days - he was my current baseball crush, and such an exciting young player. Fans had signs for his birthday, etc.

Our dog was recovering from knee surgery and I was calling home from a payphone to find out how she was doing.

We were in Seattle for a few days on our way to Alaska.

Amy said...

Got to hit the road, but that's all very interesting and not what I would have expected. Somehow I figured that Rogers would be at or near your bottom, just because it looks SO ugly on TV. And I know Dodgers Stadium is a classic, but I figured it was sort of a Shea-type stadium---round, no character and huge.

OK, hitting the road! Enjoy the festivities and the game. GO SOX!

laura k said...


Nope. I'm glad Wrigley exists and I hope it always does, but I'm not a big fan. I actually prefer the other Chicago park! Crazy, I know!

allan said...

Well, I really liked Shea.

And I liked Olympic Stadium (but I was 12 or 13).

laura k said...

Rogers Centre is not a great park, but when the dome is open, I don't hate it. I hate indoor baseball, but that's another story.

Dodger Stadium is beautiful because of its location - in a valley, the famous Chavez Ravine, with mountains as a backdrop behind the outfield - and in downtown LA.

It's quiet, very few gimmicks, and very fan friendly - everything is trilingual (English, Spanish, Japanese), tickets are more reasonably priced than their suburban LAA rivals.

It's also full of beautiful little design touches, like a huge THINK BLUE in the parking lot (very old). It has a real old-ballpark feel.

laura k said...

JoS will be represented at the Park today. Joe Grav is going!!

Nice job, having a girlfriend whose dad has season tickets and lives in New York!

johngoldfine said...

Thanks for this post, Laura.

laura k said...

Thanks for thanking me, John. :)

The ceremonies were wonderful - truly beautiful. The game, not so much.

laura k said...

JoS will be represented at the Park today. Joe Grav is going!!

Silly me. Jere was there, too, of course! His photos are here.

Jere said...

Thanks for linking to my pics. I also went to the open house and it was great. I'll let you know when I finally get around to posting those pics.