Fenway Park Turns 100

I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret.

The first baseball game I ever saw was at Fenway Park.

That’s right – Miss “bleeds Yankees pinstripes” lost her ball park virginity to the enemy. And they weren’t even playing the Yankees. I am so ashamed.

Though I may not root for the team that plays there, I actually do have a soft spot in my heart for Fenway. I don’t just love the Yankees, I love baseball and you can’t love baseball without appreciating Fenway Park. Along with Wrigley Field in Chicago, it is a piece of baseball history. Baseball, more than most other sports, is very cognizant of its past and traditions. There is something to be said for watching a game the same place that people did a century ago.

Though Fenway is on the small side compared to modern day stadiums, I believe that is part of its charm. You are closer to the players and the action – and you are also closer to the people sitting next to you. While this can be uncomfortable depending on who is in your section, I’ve found this to be a bonus because you wind up striking up conversations with the people around you. I’ve met some lovely people over the years during my many trips to Fenway (I try to go once a year, but that hasn’t happened recently). It’s easy to navigate the park – you could easily do a lap around it in probably half the time it would take to do so at Yankee Stadium – and it doesn’t feel as overwhelming as some of the larger stadiums.

Fenway almost didn’t make it to this anniversary; in 1999 there were plans by the then Red Sox CEO Harrington to build a new park and demolish much of the old stadium. I happened to be living in Connecticut at the time and I remember the outrage that this proposal received. People were distraught and outraged over the possible destruction of hallowed ground and I joined them in their concern. I think I was actually more upset about the possible destruction of Fenway than I was when the Yankees decided to build a new stadium. It wouldn’t have just been a new stadium; it would have been the end of an era.

Some of my other favorite things about a trip to see the BoSox:

  • Yawkey Way is a really fun place to hang out before the game with all the vendors. It’s kind of like its own little tailgate before every game, except you don’t have to bring anything. Of course, this is also where I usually hear my first “Yankees Suck!” chant (even if they aren’t playing). Welcome to Boston.
  • The Green Monster is basically an institution onto itself. It is just so different and it is fun to watch the opposing players figure out how to play balls off it. Plus the views from the seats on top of the Monster are pretty incredible. But my favorite part of the Monster is the old fashioned score board that resides within it. Though I pity the poor men and women who are cooped up inside the small quarters (and who used to have to worry about Manny Ramirez using their office as an emergency toilet), I kind of love the idea of the score being updated manually. Just another nod to the history of the game. Fun fact – the names of former owners Thomas and Jean Yawkey appear in Morse code on the scoreboard.
  • Every ball park has some food choices that make it unique; at Fenway, they serve clam chowder. As a seafood lover, I am always tempted to get some, but I’m usually there on a blistering hot summer day. To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, “It’s so damn hot. Chowder was a bad choice.”
  • Sweet Caroline is special to me because of the association it has with my sorority. So when they play it every Boston home game in the 8th inning, I smile in spite of myself.

Today, the Red Sox will play the Yankees at 3:05 pm – the same time and opponent as the first ever game in Fenway. In honor of the milestone, the Yankees will be wearing throwback jerseys. The Yankees weren’t actually the Yankees during that first game – they were still known as the Highlanders – but I do think it is nice that they are doing something to help celebrate this momentous occasion. I’m particularly excited that the uniform includes stirrups, since I have always thought they look cool, though I’m uncertain how many players will actually choose to wear them. Hopefully the game has a different outcome from 100 years ago, as the Red Sox were victorious in the stadium opener, beating New York in an eleven inning game.

Throwback uniform for today's game

PBS recently aired a special Inside Fenway Park: An Icon at 100 that has been sitting on my DVR. This seems like the perfect weekend to sit down and finally watch it.

Happy birthday Fenway Park! And please don’t tell the Yankees I wrote this post 🙂

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