Fenway Park History
Fenway served as host to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game in 1946, 1961 and 1999, and it also has hosted World Series games in 1912, 1914, 1918, 1946, 1967, 1975, 1986, 2004, and 2007. The Red Sox clinched the world championship at Fenway in Game Eight of the 1912 Fall Classic, and also in Game Six of the 1918 World Series. Meanwhile, opponents clinched titles at Fenway in 1967 and 1975. Additionally, the Boston Braves clinched the 1914 World Series at Fenway, which they rented temporarily while their future home ballpark was being constructed.
On October 4, 1948, the visiting Cleveland Indians defeated Boston in the first playoff game in American League history. Thirty years later, on October 2, 1978, Fenway hosted the second American League playoff contest, with the visiting New York Yankees prevailing when light-hitting shortstop Bucky Dent cracked a two-out, three-run home run in the seventh inning to put his team ahead to stay.
Major League Baseball unveiled its All-Century Team prior to the 70th annual All-Star Game played at Fenway, with the highlight of the festivities being an appearance by Red Sox great Ted Williams. Boston’s Pedro Martinez became the first All-Star pitcher to strike out the game’s first three batters shortly thereafter, whiffing five of the six men he faced en route to claiming All-Star MVP honors at the conclusion of the American League victory. On September 8, 2008, the Red Sox set a Major League Baseball record by selling out their 456th consecutive contest.
There have been 13 no-hitters tossed at Fenway, nine of which were thrown by Boston pitchers. Red Sox hurlers who accomplished the feat include Rube Foster and Dutch Leonard in 1916, Ernie Shore in 1917, Mel Parnell in 1956, Earl Wilson in 1962, Dave Morehead in 1965, Derek Lowe in 2002, Clay Buchholz in 2007, and Jon Lester in 2008. No-hitters thrown by opposing pitchers include those tossed by George Mogridge in 1917, Walter Johnson in 1920, Ted Lyons in 1926, and Jim Bunning in 1958. One of the greatest pitching performances in World Series history also took place at Fenway, when Red Sox righthander Jim Lonborg threw a one-hit shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Two of the 1967 Fall Classic.
Legendary Red Sox slugger Ted Williams hit the 521st and final home run of his career in his final time at-bat in Fenway in 1960. Carl Yastrzemski, who succeeded Williams in left field for Boston the following year, collected his 3,000th hit at Fenway in 1979. Only 13,414 people saw Roger Clemens strike out 20 batters at Fenway on a chilly April night in 1986 to become the first major league pitcher to fan 20 batters in a nine-inning game.
Hall of Fame Red Sox players who spent much or all of their careers at Fenway include first baseman Jimmie Foxx, shortstop Joe Cronin, left fielders Williams, Yastrzemski, and Jim Rice, center fielder Tris Speaker, right fielder Harry Hooper, second baseman Bobby Doerr, third baseman Wade Boggs, catcher Carlton Fisk, and pitchers Cy Young and Lefty Grove. Hall of Fame third baseman Jimmy Collins also played many of his games at Fenway as a member of the Boston Beaneaters. And, of course, Babe Ruth began his career at Fenway, even though he eventually gained admittance to Cooperstown as a Yankee. Retired Red Sox numbers include 1 (Doerr), 4 (Cronin), 6 (Johnny Pesky), 8 (Yastrzemski), 9 (Williams), 14 (Rice) and 27 (Fisk).
Dimensions, Design, The Triangle, Green Monster and Williamsburg:
The dimensions and construction history of Fenway are chock full of lore. A quirky design was necessary to fit the ballpark into the Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood, and the stadium features many oddities, including both its shape and the height and distance of its outfield fences. Listed at a much-disputed 310 feet down the left field line, the distance balloons to 379 feet in left-center, then to 390 feet in center, and finally to 420 feet in deepest centerfield. The right field wall stands 380 feet from home plate, with 302 feet being the number listed at the right field pole. The left field wall is 37 feet high, the center field wall is 17 feet high, the fences in front of the bullpens in right field are five feet high, and the wall that extends from the end of the bullpen to the right field foul line varies in height from three to five feet. Furthermore, parts of the stadium nicknamed Duffy’s Cliff, Pesky’s Pole, the Triangle, Williamsburg, and The Green Monster all have stories attached to them.
From 1912 to 1933, a 10-foot-high hill situated in front of the left field wall, from the left field foul pole to the center field flagpole, made playing left field in Fenway extremely treacherous. Inserted to make up the difference between street grade and field grade, as well as to handle overflow crowds, the hill required left fielders to ascend it in order to make catches. Left fielder Duffy Lewis became so adept at playing the hill that the surface was eventually dubbed “Duffy’s Cliff.” Owner Tom Yawkey finally had it removed almost entirely in 1934.
When the team moved the bullpens from foul territory to beyond the right field wall in 1940, the renovation formed The Triangle. The meeting of the bleacher wall and the bullpen area at the farthest point from home plate forms a point; hence the term “triangle.” Through the years, the area has proven to be quite deceptive to outfielders in their pursuit of long fly balls. Padding was added to the bottom of the left field and center field walls after the 1975 seasons to protect players.
The relocation of the bullpens had the perhaps-unintended consequence of moving the right field fence 23 feet closer to home plate. Since the left-handed, pull-hitting Ted Williams benefited greatly from the renovation, the new area was dubbed “Williamsburg.”
Completing the left-to-right outfield tour is Pesky’s Pole. Longtime Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky hit only six home runs at Fenway over the course of his career. However, one of those round-trippers won a game for Boston lefthander Mel Parnell, who subsequently coined the term “Pesky’s Pole,” since Pesky’s blow landed just inside the short right field foul pole.
The imposing left field wall, which is an original feature of the park, was initially made of wood and stood 25 feet high. However, after a fire damaged the original structure, it was raised to 37 feet and covered in tin and concrete in 1934. Fenway’s famous manually-operated scoreboard was also installed along the left field wall that year. In 1976, the team covered the Green Monster with plastic.
Originally festooned with advertising, which reappeared in 1999, Fenway’s left field wall was not green until 1947. A ladder, which was previously used by groundskeepers to retrieve home run balls from the 23-foot-high netting located just above the wall, extends from the top of the scoreboard to the top of the Green Monster. The netting, though, was replaced after 67 years when the team added seats atop the wall in 2003. Although the additional seats rendered the ladder obsolete, it remains along the scoreboard as a historical reminder. Through the years, the ladder has affected play on numerous occasions, with balls caroming off it, thereby enabling batters to take an extra base, or even circle the bases from time-to-time with inside-the-park home runs. In 2005, the left field foul pole was named Fisk Pole in a ceremony that preceded the first meeting of the Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds since the 1975 World Series.
Many other features make Fenway Park a national baseball treasure. Certainly, the manually-operated scoreboard is nearly as famous as The Green Monster. One of only two such hand-operated scoreboards in the major leagues (Wrigley Field’s is the other), it enables the line score of the game being played at Fenway to be changed from behind the wall. The scores of other American League games are posted in the same manner. Meanwhile, the scores of National League contests must be changed from the front of the scoreboard, which is managed during games by three people sitting behind the wall. These three people watch the entire game through small openings in the wall, sitting in an area surrounded by walls covered in players’ graffiti-signatures. To the left of the American League scoreboard, the initials of Tom Yawkey and his wife Jean are displayed in Morse Code. Additionally, one red seat remains in the bleachers to mark a 502-foot home run struck by Ted Williams – the longest in the ballpark’s history. Retired numbers are displayed on the roof above the right field grandstand; no one has ever hit a ball over that roof.
Other significant changes made to the park over the years include the addition of upper-deck seats in 1946 and lights in 1947, a message board above the center field bleachers in 1976, private suites in 1983, and a glassed-in seating section behind home plate added in 1988, which has been named at different times The 600 Club, The .406 Club and, with the glass removed, The EMC Club. Auxiliarly press boxes were also added atop the roof boxes on the first base and third base lines in 1999, and the team increased the stadium’s seating capacity in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2008.
Not used solely for baseball over the years, Fenway Park has also served as home to several other professional sports teams at various times. Other Fenway Park tenants have included professional football’s Boston Patriots, Boston Bulldogs, Boston Redskins, Boston Shamrocks, and Boston Yanks. One pro soccer team, the Boston Beacons, even called Fenway Park home during the 1968 season. On January 1, 2010, the National Hockey League staged its third outdoor NHL Winter Classic game at Fenway. Several college football and baseball games have been played at Fenway, and numerous exhibition soccer games have also been held in this historic ballpark.
With the New York Yankees no longer playing their home games in old Yankee Stadium, Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field remain baseball’s only links to the distant past. Fenway’s intimate setting and storied history truly make it a national treasure that tends to bring back memories of the national pastime’s glorious past.