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.
I don’t want to be one of those great players who never made the Series.
On January 13, 1922, Buck Weaver applied for reinstatement to professional baseball. Weaver had been a member of the infamous 1919 Black Sox and one of eight players banned from baseball for his alleged involvement in the throwing of the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. This was one of six attempts by Weaver to get back into baseball, but he would remain banned from the sport for life.
Known as the “Friendly Confines,” Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois is Major League Baseball’s second oldest ballpark, behind only Boston’s Fenway Park. The ballpark has been the host to many historic moments, from Babe Ruth’s called shot in 1932 to the 2016 World Series, in which the Cubs finally broke the 108-year-old championship curse.
Prior to moving into the ballpark now known as Wrigley, the Cubs played in West Side Park. West Side was a double-decker park built with heavy timber, echoing the typical construction of baseball fields in the early twentieth century. It was actually another baseball team altogether that played at the Friendly Confines in its inaugural season.
When it was first erected, Wrigley Field was originally dubbed Weeghman Field, named after Charles Weeghman. The stadium was built for the Chi-Feds of the Federal League, also known as the Chicago Whales, who were owned by Mr. Weeghman. The stadium was designed by architects Zachary T. and Charles G. Davis, who also designed the original Comiskey Park in 1910, and construction took place on Weeghman Field from March 5 (I’ve also seen as early as February and as late as March 14) through April 23, 1914, finishing up just in time for the Whales’ Opening Day. The new ballpark only cost $250,000 to build.
When Weeghman Field was first built, it was just a one-level stadium — there was no upper deck — and it had a seating capacity of merely 14,000. The original scoreboard was built in 1915, lasting until its replacement was erected in 1938.
William Wrigley, Jr., the chewing gum industrialist, was a partner with Weeghman with the Whales. As the Federal League folded, and the Whales along with it, Wrigley and Weeghman were given the option to buy the Cubs in 1915, an opportunity they took. They moved the Cubs from West Side Park to Weeghman Field, renaming the stadium “Cubs Park.” The Cubs played their first game in their new home on April 20, 1916, beating the Cincinnati Reds in eleven innings. By 1919, William Wrigley bought out Weeghman’s shares in the team, and in 1926, the park became known as “Wrigley Field.”
In 1921, the newly-formed Bears of the National Football League moved to Chicago. The Bears managed to work out a deal with William Wrigley, through which they were able to play their games at Cubs Park/Wrigley Field as well. This agreement served as one of the motivating factors for increasing the size and the capacity of the stadium. Zachary Davis, one of the original architects in 1914, also designed the 1922 version of Wrigley Field. Davis expanded the size of the field by moving the grandstands towards the street so that it could also accommodate American football games. This meant that the Cubs’ playing field was moved about sixty feet southwest, and the seating capacity of the stadium grew to approximately 20,000. The Bears played at Wrigley Field from 1921 to 1970.
In 1927 to 1928, the upper deck was added to the stadium’s grandstands. The architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White designed this expansion, which increased the capacity of Wrigley Field to about 38,400.
The outfield had some bleachers, though they proved insufficient whenever the Cubs made the World Series, which happened more often in those days. Bleachers would be added using temporary scaffolding in these situations when additional seating proved necessary. In 1937, however, the decision was made that it was time for permanent bleachers to be added to the outfield, a project taken on by the firm Holabird and Root. This change boosted the stadium’s capacity to approximately 40,000. Along with this, the Cubs’ famous hand-operated scoreboard was built, and the clock was added in 1941. Also in 1937, the famous ivy was planted along the stadium’s outfield wall.
Minor changes were made to the stadium over the years. Some features were added, other features were removed, but for the most part, Wrigley Field has remained largely the same since 1938. The biggest change since that time took place in 1988.
A holdout from a bygone era, Wrigley Field was the last stadium in Major League Baseball to install a lighting system. When the lights were installed, this was done so in a way that ensured the lights fit into the feel of the rest of the stadium, rather than trying to install a modern-style system on a century-old ballpark. The Cubs’ first night game was played August 8, 1988, though it was cut short (ending after four innings) due to rain, getting postponed until the next day.
In 2006, the bleachers were expanded yet again. This increased the capacity of the stadium to approximately 41,000 seats. Then, after the 2007 season, the entire field was removed and replaced with a new drainage system and a bluegrass playing field.
Following the 2014 season, a $575 million project, named the 1060 project, began at the ballpark, which essentially entails a complete overhaul of the facility. The project is expected to be completed in 2019 and includes a widening of the concourse to add more concessions, the addition of a 95-foot x 42-foot HD videoboard in left field, moving the bullpens to under the bleachers in left (Cubs) and right (visiting team) fields, and the west side entrance between Clark Street and Wrigley Field now features a new plaza known as the Park at Wrigley, which allows fans to gather before games and provides a new entry into the ballpark.
In 2004, Wrigley Field was named an official city landmark in Chicago, and a number of its features are now legally protected. These features include all exterior elevations and roofs, the marquee sign at Clark and Addison Streets, the centerfield scoreboard, and the ballfield itself, including the brick wall and the famous ivy. In the face of ballparks being demolished, including Comiskey Park, and new ones being built, the people of Chicago saw this as a way to protect their beloved Wrigley Field. Wrigley Field remains the only Federal League ballpark still in existence.
When we played, World Series checks meant something. Now all they do is screw up your taxes.
~Don Drysdale, 1978
Royals pitcher Bret Saberhagen threw a five-hitter to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals, 11-0, on October 27, 1985. The victory came in Game 7 of the World Series, as the Royals won the Series, four games to three.
The truth is that for those 86 long years when the Red Sox went without a World Series win, fans were not only in a recession, but trapped in a longstanding, deeply entrenched sports depression.