Fenway Park is the oldest Major League Baseball stadium currently in use. The ballpark has hosted World Series games in eleven different seasons, with the Boston Red Sox winning six of those Series, and the Boston Braves winning one.
Construction on Fenway Park began in September 1911 in Boston, Massachusetts near Kenmore Square. The ballpark opened on April 20, 1912, having cost $650,000 to build. It had a capacity of 27,000 and featured a steel and concrete grandstand extending from behind home plate down the baselines, with wooden bleachers placed in the outfield. The Red Sox played their first Fenway ballgame on that date against the New York Highlanders (Yankees), winning 7-6 in eleven innings. The opening of the new ballpark found itself overshadowed in the news, however, by the sinking of the Titanic just the week before.
In 1914, the Boston Braves played their home games during the World Series at Fenway Park, due to the construction on their own new stadium, Braves Field, still being in progress. The Braves would get the opportunity to return the favor before too long. As any baseball fan will know, Babe Ruth played with the Red Sox prior to his time with the New York Yankees. During his stint in Boston, Ruth helped the Red Sox to World Series titles in 1915, 1916, and 1918. The 1915 and 1916 Series, however, were not played at Fenway Park, but rather at Braves Field, in order to accommodate a larger crowd.
Throughout the late-1910s and into the 1920s, the Boston team struggled financially, a situation that resulted in the sale of Babe Ruth to New York and led to the disrepair of various features of Fenway Park. In 1926, a great fire engulfed the wooden bleachers in left field of the ballpark. However, these bleachers hadn’t seen much use leading up to the incident anyway, due to their dilapidated state. Finally, in 1933, the Red Sox were sold to millionaire Tom Yawkey. Yawkey invested in renovations to Fenway, including the blue, wooden grandstand seats that remain in the stadium to this day.
The Green Monster in left field actually began as a mere ten-foot fence. When he came into ownership of the team, Yawkey opted not to replace the fire-destroyed wooden bleachers in that part of the stadium. Instead, during the 1933-1934 off season, Yawkey rebuilt much of Fenway, including the erection of a 37-foot left field wall, initially covered in advertisements. A scoreboard was also added to Fenway Park in 1934, at the base of the great wall. At the time, the new board was considered a type of advanced technology, and the scoreboard remains at Fenway to this day, with scores continuing to get updated by hand. The wall would actually become the “Green Monster” in 1947 when advertisements were removed from the wall and it received a dark green paint job.
The “Williamsburg” area of the ballpark in right field was named for the legendary hitter, Ted Williams. It is said that the right field bullpen area, constructed in 1940, was built specifically to accommodate Williams’s left-handed swing, pulling the right field wall in closer to home plate. Also found in the right field stands sits a lone red seat. This seat is a nod to the 502-foot home run Williams hit in 1946 — the longest homer in Fenway history.
Light towers were then added to Fenway, and the Red Sox would host their first night game on June 13, 1947 against the Chicago White Sox. It wouldn’t be until 1976 when Fenway saw its next big change, when a $1.5 million electronic scoreboard was added above the stands in center field. Also in 1976, the Green Monster was refurbished, tearing down the old, tin wall and replacing it with a steel reinforced wall of hard plastic.
Private luxury suites were added to the ballpark’s upper deck from 1982 to 1983. Bleacher seats were also replaced with individual seats in order to allow season tickets to be sold to fans for those parts of the stadium. In 1987-1988, a color video board was erected above the center field seats, replacing the old scoreboard, and in 1989, the media level was added. Also in 1989, the 600 Club was constructed, featuring luxurious seats, climate control, and a great view of the field. The 600 Club would be renamed the .406 Club after the passing of Ted Williams in 2002, in honor of his historic batting average from the 1941 season. It would get renamed yet again in 2006 to the EMC Club.
The dugouts in Fenway are the only ones remaining in baseball with support poles in front of the players’ benches. Throughout the stadium, support beams can also be found, even though other clubs around the league have made a point to no longer have these kinds of support beams in their own stadiums. The beams at Fenway result in obstructed views for some fans, yes, however, the vertical poles have remained as a way to maintain Fenway’s old-time aura.
Just prior to the 2003 season, the Green Monster had bar-style seating added to the top of it, which became a major fan draw. That year, box seats were also added right behind home plate. In 2004, another two hundred seats were added to the roof high over right field, featuring tables at which fans get to sit during the game. During the early-2010s, the blue, wooden seats that fill the ballpark were systematically repaired and waterproofed.
From May 15, 2003 until April 10, 2013, the Red Sox sold out 820 consecutive home games at Fenway, which makes it the longest home sellout streak in Major League Baseball history. Fenway has also played host to many other sporting and cultural events, including: professional football games for the Boston Redskins, the Boston Yanks, and the Boston Patriots; music concerts; soccer and hockey games (including the 2010 NHL Winter Classic); and political and religious campaigns.
On March 7, 2012, just ahead of the stadium’s centennial, Fenway Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
This poem starts out nostalgic, and then becomes very serious very quickly. It points to some uncomfortable issues, including Sammy Sosa’s skin bleaching. This poem was originally published in the Winter 2015 issue of Prairie Schooner.
To this day I still remember sitting
on my abuelo’s lap watching the Yankees hit,
then run, a soft wind rounding the bases
every foot tap to the white pad gentle as a kiss.
How I loved those afternoons languidly
eating jamón sandwiches & drinking root beer.
Later, when I knew something about the blue collar
man—my father who worked with his hands & tumbled
into the house exhausted like heat in a rainstorm—
I became a Mets fan.
Something about their unclean faces
their mustaches seemed rough
to the touch. They had names like Wally & Dyskstra.
I was certain I would marry a man just like them
that is until Sammy Sosa came along
with his smile a reptile that only knew about lying in the sun.
His arms were cannons and his skin burnt cinnamon
that glistened in my dreams.
Everyone said he was not beautiful.
Out on the streets where the men set up shop playing dominoes
I’d hear them say between the yelling of capicu
“como juega, pero feo como el diablo.”
I knew nothing of my history
of the infighting on an island on which one side swore
it was only one thing: pallid, pristine. & I didn’t know
that Sammy carried this history like a tattoo.
That he wished everyday to be white.
It is a perfect game this race war, it is everywhere, living
in the American bayou as much as
the Dominican dirt roads.
It makes a man do something to his skin that seems unholy.
It makes that same man change eye color like a soft
summer dress slipped on slowly.
It makes a grandmother ask her granddaughter
if she’s suffering
from something feverish
because that could be the only excuse why
her hair has not been straightened
like a ballerina’s back dyed the color of wild
daffodils growing in an outfield.
Sammy hit 66 home runs one year
& that was still not enough
to make him feel handsome
or worthy of that blackness that I believe a gift
even today while black churches burn & black bodies
disappear from one day to the next the same as old
I think of him often barely remember what he looked like
but I can recall his hunched shoulders in the
dugout his perfect swing
& how maybe he spit out something black
from his mouth after
every single strike—
Today, pitchers and catchers for most teams around the league will be reporting for Spring Training! Welcome back, baseball. We missed you.
Pitchers and catchers report two weeks from today!
Hang in there… Only 18 days left until pitchers and catchers report!
Congratulations to Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, Mariano Rivera, and Roy Halladay on their election to the Baseball Hall of Fame! And bonus congrats to Rivera, the first ever elected with 100% of the vote.