Monday, June 10, 2013

June 9- Boston Red Sox

I have to admit, and I’ll give you the same answer no matter how many times I’m asked this question: What is the best Major League Baseball stadium you’ve ever been to? As much as my heart belongs to the Coliseum and the Oakland Athletics, I have never been in such a state of child-like wonder more than the three days I got to spend at Fenway Park in Boston. While I realize that New York Yankees fans will more than likely disagree with me on this answer, the fact of the matter is that if you name any other stadium, you’re just wrong. Granted, as a Yankee fan, or a fan of a rival team I can totally understand you having a bad experience at Fenway, but I’m merely talking about the park itself. As far as atmosphere is concerned, Fenway is definitely Top-five.

Prior to campaign for the MLB Fan Cave at the start of 2012 I was set to be completely finished with my education at the University of Oregon right around St. Patrick’s Day. As a personal reward for my accomplishment I had been saving money in order to finance a continent-wide tour of all the stadiums in MLB, including Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Of all 31 stadiums (including Olympic) available, I was going to make sure that I hit the five that I had always wanted to visit since my childhood: Wrigley Field, Tiger Stadium (Comerica Park), PNC Park, Olympic and Fenway. Needless to say, when I got accepted for the Fan Cave gig everything got put on hold. Well, everything except baseball that is.

When I was let go from my services as a Cave Dweller I found myself in a peculiar situation, one that I had never been in since I was two-years-old; I didn’t have a job and I wasn’t in school. Due to the fact that I was let go the day after Memorial Day in 2012 I wouldn’t be able to enroll back into classes until fall term. The main reason for that is because the one Spanish class that I needed was over capacity during summer term and I couldn’t take it again until winter of 2013. In short, the Fan Cave really screwed me and didn’t bother feeling the slightest bit sorry for my situation. No matter, I stood strong and got it done this last winter. With about $14,000 left of the initial $18,000 I got for my three months of work in New York City, I plotted out, made calls and set up reservations for my North American Baseball tour.

Obviously I’ve been talking a lot about my trip throughout these posts so I’ll spare the details of everything leading up to getting to Fenway. I stayed in Boston off-and-on for a little over a week. During my time I caught two Red Sox games and a concert. I’m also not going to go into too much detail on either of the games or the concert as they will be talked about at length when I get to the particular hats I was wearing those nights. The main things I want to focus on here are all the little nuances about Fenway Park that make it a baseball paradise. Things like…

The old bullpen car

Bullpen cars something that has been long forgotten, used between 1951 and 1996, but according to lore it was just as much of an in between inning thrill as zambonies are at hockey games. They used to take the pitchers from the bullpen to the mound and were occasionally used to bring special guests to the field before the games. It sounds crazy, but it was part of the game.

The Ted Williams statue (featuring a drunkard)

An 8-foot, 6-inch-tall statue of Williams mounted on a four-foot granite base was unveiled Friday afternoon outside Gate B of Fenway, located behind the right-field line. The structure, which weighs 3,380 pounds, depicts Williams holding a bat over his left shoulder while he places his cap on the bald head of a cancer-stricken child. Williams made a tradition of visiting children at the Jimmy Fund Clinic of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Pesky Pole (featuring The Shark)

Pesky's Pole is the name for the pole on the right field foul line, which stands 302 feet from home plate, the shortest outfield distance (left or right field) in Major League Baseball. Despite the short wall, home runs in this area are relatively rare, as the fence curves away from the foul pole sharply. The pole was named after Johnny Pesky, a light-hitting shortstop and long-time coach for the Red Sox, who hit some of his six home runs at Fenway Park around the pole but never off the pole. Pesky and the Red Sox give credit to pitcher Mel Parnell for coining the name. The most notable for Pesky is a two-run homer in the eighth inning of the 1946 Opening Day game to win the game (in his career, Pesky hit 17 home runs). On September 27, 2006, on Pesky's 87th birthday, the Red Sox organization officially dedicated the right field foul pole as Pesky's Pole with a commemorative plaque placed at its base.

And of course, the Green Monster

The Green Monster is the nickname of the 37.167 feet left field wall in the park. It is located 310 to 315 feet from home plate; this short distance often benefits right-handed hitters.

Part of the original ballpark construction of 1912, the wall is made of wood, but was covered in tin and concrete in 1934 when the scoreboard was added. The wall was covered in hard plastic in 1976. The scoreboard is manually updated throughout the game. Despite the name, the Green Monster was not painted green until 1947; before that it was covered with advertisements. The Monster designation is relatively new; for most of its history it was simply called the wall. In recent years, terrace-style seating has been added on top of the wall.

For those of you who are Red Sox enthusiasts you’re probably thinking, “Dude, you’re missing something.” And yes, you would be correct. I am missing the one thing that I had three opportunities to have a photo taken with or of and somehow managed to blow it. But, I’ll get to that in a minute. First, that hat.

This cap was introduced at the start of the 1946 season as a replacement for basically the exact same hat; however, the key difference between this cap and the one used in 1945 is that this one features a white outline around the “B.” The ones prior to this did not, and will be featured in a post down the road. Even though I have touched upon this detail in several of my prior posts, the addition of the outline proved to be one of the more successful uniform alterations made in MLB history. That season the Red Sox finished with the second-best record in their team’s history (104-50), only one less win than what the 1912 team posted. Besides the one win difference, the other unfortunate difference between the 1912 team and the 1946 team is that the 1912 team won the World Series that year 4-3 over the New York Giants. In 1946 the Red Sox lost the World Series 4-3 to the St. Louis Cardinals. The other notable moment of the 1946 season is that it was the first season since 1942 that the full team was back together and on the field as the previous three years saw several players including Bobby Doerr, Pesky and Williams all shipping off for war as I wrote about on May 26th. The last appearance this cap made was the final game of the 1951 season as in 1952 the “B” was changed to the more traditional looking style of today.

Now, as I mentioned a little bit ago there is another important feature of Fenway that I didn’t list, which I did on purpose. For some strange reason I didn’t take a trip to see “the lone red seat” which sits out in centerfield beyond the Red Sox bullpen (Williamsburg). Actually, I take that back. I did end up out there for the second game I attended; however, whomever’s seat it was all ready had their keester in it. What does this mean in the long run? Basically, I have to get back to Fenway to make a photo happen; which I’m totally cool with. Which brings me to the marks.

42/37/21- No, it’s not a date or jersey numbers or stats. It’s the section (42), row (37) and seat (21) of the longest home run “hit on record.”  The Ted Williams hit on June 9, 1946, was officially measured at 502 feet, well beyond "Williamsburg". According to Hit Tracker Online, the ball, if unobstructed, would have flown 520 to 535 feet.

The ball landed on Joseph A. Boucher, penetrating his large straw hat and hitting him in the head. A confounded Boucher was later quoted as saying, “How far away must one sit to be safe in this park? I didn't even get the ball. They say it bounced a dozen rows higher, but after it hit my head, I was no longer interested. I couldn't see the ball. Nobody could. The sun was right in our eyes. All we could do was duck. I'm glad I did not stand up.”

Manny Ramirez is the only other player at Fenway Park who has ever hit the ball over the seat, on June 23, 2001; Ramirez hit two home runs; one estimated at 463 feet and another one with an official estimate of 501 feet. The latter blast struck a light tower above the Green Monster, denying it a true landing point, to which the official estimate deferred to Williams' record placing Ramirez's home run exactly one foot short.

As noted in the 2007 book The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs, researcher Bill Jenkinson found evidence that on May 25, 1926, Babe Ruth hit one in the pre-1934 bleacher configuration which landed five rows from the top in right field, an estimated 545 feet from home plate. Ruth also hit several other "Ruthian" blasts at Fenway that landed across the street behind straightaway center field, estimated at 500 feet.

By the way, in case you didn’t know, the name “Williamsburg” is the proper name for the Red Sox bullpen as it was aptly named for all the home runs Williams knocked into it.

4/20/46- I pretty much shot my wad early with this one, so to speak, as this was the date of opening day at Fenway in 1946. The significance I all ready stated above with Pesky’s home run in the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Athletics.

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