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.

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