'America's Most Beloved Ballpark' turns 100
Friday April 20 marks the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, which first opened in 1912. Being the first Stadium in Major League Baseball to play host to the same team for over a century, Fenway Park has seen more than its fair share of historic moments making the Park a legend in its own right.
Buried in the streets of Boston, Mass., Fenway Park's century-old brick faÃ§ade blends in with the neighborhood it surrounds. If it weren't for the light towers, it would be almost unidentifiable as a stadium. Roger Clemens commented to a cab driver the first time he saw the building "No, Fenway Park, it's a baseball stadium... this is a warehouse."
At the time of its opening, the stadium had the largest capacity in the major leagues. Built in the "dead ball era"-before Babe Ruth and other players began hitting a lot of home runs- Fenway Park features some of the smallest dimensions in Major League Baseball today. The left field grandstand was removed in the '30s, leaving the 37-foot high wall, dubbed the "Green Monster," standing alone. Its height is meant to combat its short 310 ft. distance from home plate. The right field wall stands an even shorter mere 302 feet away. Right Center field, home to the bullpens, which were moved in during the era of Ted William to increase his chances of home runs standing at 380 feet way. Meanwhile, dead centerfield still looms a daunting 420 feet away. Far from symmetrical, the park holds some of the oddest dimensions in the sport.
In its inaugural season, the Red Sox won their third World Series championship. The park has also hosted some of the most memorable games in baseball history including Roger Clemens breaking of the single game strikeout record and Game Six of the 1975 World Series featuring Carlton Fisk's famous walk-off home run.
With the closures of Tiger Stadium in 1999 and Yankee Stadium in 2008, Fenway Park and Chicago's Wrigley Field (built in 1914) remain the final two "classic" ballparks (built before World War II) in Major League Baseball. Before the Red Sox were sold to the current ownership group, in the late 90's plans surfaced for a new ballpark to replace Fenway. However thanks to massive public outcry and protests from fans hoping to save the Park that some -including including former Sox pitcher Bill Lee- have deemed a "shrine" to the game. In the past decade, the new owners have abandoned the new park idea and have invested significantly into improving the park. Seats have been added over the right field porch and atop of the famed "Green Monster." The infield seats have been moved even closer towards the infield, bringing fans closer the game than in any other park in baseball. Despite the changes, the park still retains its long enduring charm. Many seats feature obstructed views of the field due to support pillars, and the tunnels connecting the concession stands remain unchanged for the better part of the past century.
Despite its lack of modern amenities and the fact that finding parking will cost you upwards of $30, Fenway remains a shrine to the game. It's odd and often unorthodox appearance perhaps reminiscent of the unpredictable teams hailing from very ball club she's called home for the past century. She may not be the newest, the prettiest, or the largest but for Red Sox fans, she's home. That makes her the loveliest of them all. Here's hoping for another 100.
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