Today the Red Sox organization and everyone who has grown up loving the Red Sox celebrates the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. There will be various on-field ceremonies throughout the day, and the park is open to the public. While so much has changed in the past 100 years, Fenway remains much the same.
Fans of other teams will never understand the connection that Bostonians have with Fenway Park, with the possible exception of Cubs fans and Wrigley Field. At this point these parks represent the last two truly great historic stadiums. The parks are unique in their designs and in the history that they’ve seen throughout the years, but while Chicago is a two-team city, Fenway alone competes for the attention of New Englanders each summer.
For Boston fans new and old, going to Fenway for the first time is something of a right of passage. I vividly remember my dad pulling me out of my kindergarten class to bring me to Fenway for the first time when I was 5 years old (thanks Dad!). I remember the Red Sox hat he bought me on Yawkey Way, and I remember seeing Cal Ripken Jr. take the field as the shortstop of the Baltimore Orioles. Hell, I even remember the date - April 13, 1992.
So what is it that makes Fenway so unique? It’s the 100-year-old brick walls, that are anything but towering or impressive as you approach the park; you feel like you could scale the wall and hop over, just as you might with a chain link fence. It’s the guts of the place, which make you feel as though you’re in a high school stadium with the green cement walls and concrete floor. It’s the old wooden seats, and the couple of feet that separate you from the players when you’re in the front rows. It’s the inside of the Green Monster, with the names of all the players who have played there etched into the wall. You’ll never be served a fig and goat cheese flatbread along with your craft beer while at Fenway, but that’s OK with everyone in Boston – the place is a ballpark goddamn it, not a resort.
While opposing players like the bitch and moan about the lack of amenities the field offers (teams have to share a weight room!), those very players should look their baseball forefathers in the eye and ask themselves in Babe Ruth ever spent time in a hyperbolic chamber pre-game. Red Sox players who have spent any amount of time playing for Boston will tell you that Fenway offers an amenity found in no other park in the league – the noise of the crowd. The noise of the crowd on their feet for a 3 and 2 count in the 5th inning of game #92 of the season. From a players perspective as well as a fans, that’s a major part of what makes the Fenway experience unique.
In the mid-90′s I was on a received some materials in the mail that outlined the plans for a new Fenway Park. The idea was vehemently shot down by Red Sox fans such as myself, and the Park would go on the see its first Championships in decades soon thereafter. I for one am thrilled that Terry Francona decided to attend the ceremonies at Fenway today, feeling that he owed it to the fans if not his prior employers. Francona deserves to be there, and he will be cheered like no one else. It’ll be a tough pill to swallow for Bobby Valentine, but Tito is now very much a part of Fenway’s lore.
When I go to the park these days, I still make sure to enter the park from one of the entrances that drops you behind the Red Sox dugout on the first baseline. The enormity of the Green Monster and the Fenway green strike you first, and it hasn’t gotten old for me yet – not one bit.
100 years ago the Red Sox had one World Series title to their name. The Chicago Cubs actually had two. As for the Yankees? They hadn’t won the first of their many championships yet. A lot can change in 100 years, and there’s no chance that Fenway will last another 100. Like the $8.00 Naragansett’s they sell throughout the park, let’s soak it up while it’s still here.