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


This day in baseball: Cox buys the Phillies

After the bankrupt team had been taken over by the National League, William D. Cox purchased the Philadelphia Phillies from the NL on February 18, 1943.  At the age of 33, this made Cox the youngest owner in the league.  However, evidence surfaced later that year that Cox had placed some bets on his own team.  Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis launched an investigation, and Cox eventually admitted to making some “sentimental” bets on the Phillies.  Landis responded by banning Cox from baseball on November 23, 1943.

Connie Mack Stadium - Shibe Park

Shibe Park (Wikipedia)


This day in baseball: King Kelly sold to Boston

The Chicago White Stockings sold National League batting champion and future Hall of Famer Mike Kelly to the Boston Beaneaters on February 14, 1887 for what was at that time a record $10,000.  Kelly would earn the nickname “King” while in Boston, where he would hit .311 during this three-year span with the team.

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King Kelly (Wikimedia Commons)


This day in baseball: First ever arbitration ruling

On February 11, 1974, Twins pitcher Dick Woodson won the first arbitration ruling in baseball history after becoming the first player to invoke the new free agency clause. Woodson asked for and was awarded $29,000 (I’ve also seen $30,000 cited as the figure), over the Twins’ offer of $23,000.

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baseball-almanac.com


This day in baseball: The Yankees’ future home

On February 6, 1921, the New York Yankees announced the purchase of a ten-acre plot of land from the estate of William Waldorf Astor.  The site, purchased for $675,000 and situated on the west side of the Bronx, would serve as the location of the new Yankee Stadium.  Construction of the new ballpark began in May 1922, and the Yankees would play their first game in the new stadium on April 18, 1923.

Yankee Stadium,1920s


This day in baseball: Thorpe signs with New York

After turning down an offer from the last-place Browns, Jim Thorpe signed with the New York Giants, the defending NL champs, on February 1, 1913.  Thorpe, a Sac and Fox Nation native American, compiled a lifetime .252 batting average during his six seasons in the majors.

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Jim Thorpe (The Sporting News)


Cap Anson

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Cap Anson (Wikipedia)

Adrian Constantine “Cap” Anson was born on April 17, 1852 in a log cabin in Marshalltown, Iowa. He was the youngest son of Henry and Jeannette Rice Anson. Henry and Jeannette Anson had moved westward to the area from New York state with their oldest son, Sturgis, in a covered wagon, and young Adrian was the first pioneer child born in Marshalltown. Jeannette Anson died when Adrian was merely seven years old.

Henry Anson enrolled his sons in a preparatory course at the College of Notre Dame, and then later again at the state college in Iowa City (now the University of Iowa), but Adrian Anson was more interested in baseball and skating than in his studies.  As a teenager, Adrian earned a place on the town baseball team, the Marshalltown Stars. With Henry Anson playing third base, Adrian’s brother Sturgis in centerfield, and Adrian at second base, the Stars went on to win the Iowa state championship in 1868.

In 1870, the Rockford Forest City baseball club and its star pitcher, Al Spalding, came to Marshalltown for a pair of games. The Forest City team won both games, but the Anson men played so well that Rockford management sent contract offers to all three of the Ansons. Henry and Sturgis turned the offer down, but Adrian accepted and joined the Forest City team in the spring of 1871.

Adrian Anson batted .325 for Rockford while playing third base, but the team disbanded at the end of the season. He was then signed by the Philadelphia Athletics, where he batted .415 in 1872, third best in the National Association. In 1874, Cincinnati Red Stockings manager Harry Wright and pitcher Al Spalding organized a three-week trip to England. Both the Athletics and the Red Stockings sailed across the Atlantic to play both baseball and cricket in front of British crowds. Anson led both teams in hitting throughout the tour, and he and Spalding developed a friendship during this trip, as well.

Anson’s numbers declined slightly in 1874 and 1875, but he still captured the attention Chicago White Stockings president William Hulbert.  Anson signed with Chicago, and he went on to be named captain-manager of the club in 1879, moving across the diamond to play first base. His new role as captain-manager led to his nickname, “Cap,” short for “Captain Anson.” Under Anson’s leadership, the White Stockings won five pennants between 1880 and 1886. Anson introduced new tactics to the game, including the use of a third-base coach, having fielders back up one another, signaling batters, and the pitching rotation.

Anson played twenty-two seasons for Chicago, hitting at least .300 in twenty of those years. He led the league in RBIs eight times between 1880 and 1891, winning batting titles in 1881 and 1888. He retired after the 1897 season at the age of forty-five, having collected big league records for games, hits, at-bats, doubles and runs. He also finished with 3,081 hits, making him the first player ever to cross the 3,000-hit line.

After leaving Chicago, Anson managed the New York Giants for 22 games in 1898 before his big league career came to an end. He died on April 14, 1922 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.