This day in baseball: Boggs’s arbitration case

In spite of losing his arbitration case on February 23, 1986, third baseman Wade Boggs was still awarded $1.35 million, which was the highest amount ever awarded as a result of the process.  The amount was a half million less than the $1.85 million Boggs was seeking from the Boston Red Sox.

Wade Boggs

Getty Images


History of Fenway Park

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Wikipedia

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.

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Wikipedia


Carl Yastrzemski’s Hall of Fame speech

Carl Yastrzemski was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989.  We don’t often think about the myriad of folks providing support behind the scenes for great athletes, but Yastrzemski does a phenomenal job of talking about just that here.


This day in baseball: Elaine Weddington Steward promoted

On January 26, 1990, Elaine Weddington Steward was promoted to assistant general manager for the Boston Red Sox.  She had been working with the franchise since 1988 as an associate counsel.  Her promotion in 1990 made her the highest-ranking black female executive in Major League Baseball.

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Elaine Weddington Steward (The Business Journals)


This day in baseball: Ruth responds to Frazee following trade

In trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee referred to the Babe as “one of the most selfish and inconsiderate men ever to put on a baseball uniform.”  In response to this, on January 7, 1920, Ruth commented to the Boston Evening Standard, “Frazee is not good enough to own any ball club, especially one in Boston.”

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Babe Ruth


This day in baseball: Ruth sold to Yanks

The Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees on December 26, 1919 for $100,000 and guarantee a $300,000 loan, with Fenway Park as collateral.  The sale would not go public until January, and would serve as the inception of the “Curse of the Bambino” on the Red Sox.

Ruth In Action

US baseball player ‘Babe’ Ruth (George Herman Ruth, 1895 – 1948), during a match. Original Publication: People Disc – HK0045 (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)


Lefty Grove

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Library of Congress

Some consider Lefty Grove to be baseball’s greatest pitcher of all time — or, at the very least, the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time.

Robert Moses Grove was born to John and Emma Grove on Tuesday, March 6, 1900 in Lonaconing, Maryland. Following in the footsteps of his father and older brothers, Grove initially began a career working in the mines. He quit after two weeks, however, declaring, “Dad, I didn’t put that coal in here, and I hope I don’t have to take no more of her out.” From there, he drifted between other forms of work, including a “bobbin boy” working spinning spools to make silk thread, as an apprentice glass blower and needle etcher in a glass factory, and as a railroad worker laying rails and driving spikes.

When he was not working, Grove played a version of baseball using cork stoppers in wool socks wrapped in black tape as a ball, and fence pickets when bats were not available. He did not play an actual game of baseball until the age of seventeen, nor did he play organized baseball until nineteen when Dick Stakem, the proprietor of a general store in a neighboring town, recruited him to play in town games on a field located between a forest and train tracks.

Grove put on such a good performance as a pitcher, the manager of the B&O railroad wanted the teenager on his team, and hired him to clean cylinder heads of steam engines in Cumberland, Maryland. Grover never got the opportunity to play baseball with B&O, however. A local garage manager named Bill Louden also happened to manage the Martinsburg, West Virginia team of the Class D Blue Ridge League and offered Grove an astonishing $125 a month, a sum $50 more than his father and brothers were making.

Grove took a 30-day leave from his job, going 3-3 with 60 strikeouts in 59 innings for the Martinsburg team. Word of Grove’s performance reached Jack Dunn, owner of the International League (Double-A) Baltimore Orioles, and Dunn proceeded to buy Grove for a price somewhere between $3,000 and $3,500 from Louden.

Grove won his debut, 9-3, over Jersey City, prompting Dunn to say he wouldn’t sell Lefty to anyone for $10,000. From 1920-24, Grove was 108-36 and struck out 1,108 batters for a minor-league record. Grove was often wild as well, however, and went 3-8 in the postseason. His final season in Baltimore, however, he went 26-6, struck out 231 batters in 236 innings, and reduced his walks from 186 to 108. Following the 1924 season, Dunn sold Grove to Philadelphia owner and manager Connie Mack, for $100,600. The extra $600 supposedly made it a higher price than the Yankees had paid the Red Sox for Babe Ruth after the 1919 season.

Grove was twenty-five years old when he broke into the big leagues on April 14, 1925 with the Philadelphia Athletics. He had a rough rookie season, going 10-12 and leading the American League in both walks (131) and strikeouts (116). “Catching him was like catching bullets from a rifleman with bad aim,” Athletics catcher Mickey Cochrane commented years later.

In 1926, Grove’s ERA dropped from it’s previous 4.75 to a league-leading 2.51, his walks dropped from 131 to 101, and his strikeouts increased from 116 to 194. However, Grove also didn’t receive much support, and he was shut out four times in the season’s first two months. He would finish the season with a 13-13 record.

His bad fortune would not last forever, though. Grove led the league in strikeouts the next five years and won twenty or more games for the next seven. In 1929, the A’s won the pennant. Connie Mack declined to start either Grove or Rube Walberg, another left-handed pitcher, in the World Series, but Grove made his mark in relief. Coming into Game Two in the fifth inning, he recorded six strikeouts, three hits, one walk and no runs allowed over 4 1/3 innings. Grove then pitched the last two innings of Game Four in relief as well. The A’s took the Series, four games to one over the Cubs, and Grove struck out ten batters in 6 1/3 innings.

In 1930, A’s went 102-52 to finish in first place, and Grove won the Triple Crown of pitching by leading the league in wins (28), strikeouts (209), and ERA (2.54). In the World Series, the A’s faced the St. Louis Cardinals, who had batted .314 as a team for the season. Grove won the opener, 5-2, throwing seventy strikes and a mere thirty-nine balls, striking out five and allowing nine hits. Grove then relieved George Earnshaw in the eighth inning of a scoreless Game Five and won it, 2-0, with the help of Jimmie Foxx’s two-run homer.

Grove finished the 1931 season 31-4 with an ERA of 2.06. He won his second straight Triple Crown with 175 strikeouts and was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player. The Athletics won the pennant again, finishing 13 1/2 games ahead of second-place New York. With a blister on one of his throwing fingers, Grove gave up twelve hits in the World Series opener, but he received good fielding support and won, 6-2. However, Grove allowed eleven hits and four earned runs in eight innings during Game Three, losing 5-2. Grove then won Game Five, 8-1, on five hits and one walk. However, the A’s lost the Series in seven games to the Cardinals.

Grove had a 24-8 record in 1932 and led the league with a .750 percentage and 21 complete games. In 1933, he finished 24-8 with a 3.20 ERA — the first time since 1927 that he finished the season with an ERA above 3.0. Following the 1933 season, facing the financial realities that came with the Great Depression, Connie Mack traded Grove to the Boston Red Sox.

Unfortunately, Grove was unable to contribute much during his first year in Boston, as an arm injury held him to an 8-8 record. He bounced back in 1935, however, finishing 20-12 with a league-leading 2.70 ERA. In the 1936 season, he pitched a 2.81 ERA to win his seventh ERA title while posting a 17-12 record and 130 strike-outs. He then won his eighth ERA title a year later, finishing with a 17-9 record and 153 strike-outs. Grove then finished with records of 14-4 in 1938 and 15-4 in 1939, but in 1940, he had a 7-6 record while recording a 3.99 ERA with 62 strike-outs. The 1941 season would be his final season, and he finished 7-7, winning his 300th game on July 25th.

Grove finished with a career record of 300-141, and his .680 lifetime winning percentage is eighth all-time. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947, his first year of eligibility.

Lefty Grove died in Norwalk, Ohio, on May 22, 1975 at the age of seventy-five and was buried in the Frostburg Memorial Cemetery in Frostburg, Maryland.