I no longer sit in the bleachers at Fenway Park since age has taken the inevitable toll on my eyesight. Following the ball is now a difficult task, especially during day games, so I avoid the occasional seat in that section of “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.” At one time the bleachers were the place to be for entertainment value – and that is not baseball entertainment.
The bleachers at one time were what you would find at most ballparks prior to the retro revolution – wooden planks to sit upon. Later when new seats were installed in the grandstand and box seat sections those old seats were utilized as the “new” bleacher seats.
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In the early 1960s hardly anyone showed up at Fenway. A series of lousy teams and a ballpark that was quickly deteriorating. The highlight was probably observing the gamblers in the right field grandstand bet on each pitch. Occasionally you would get a decent turnout and with no drinking restrictions the entertainment would begin.
Brawls were standard fare as the Red Sox managed to improve and fill the ballpark. The larger the crowds the greater the chance for social mis-behavior.
The bleachers often resembled a honky-tonk bar as brawls would erupt over the most inane issues possible. My favorite was when two groups, late in a game, started a mini riot of the issue of “which group was more intoxicated?” The police, wielding night sticks, removed the combatants and tossed them into the street en mass where they promptly, and surprisingly, disbursed.
As the papers note “alcohol may have been involved” when reporting on an outrageous story that was certainly true of the bleachers. You take a despised rival (hello, New York!), add beer, steamy summer evening and mix in emotion and you have the perfect ingredients.
A few years ago the Red Sox were playing the Mets and a brawl broke out in mid game. This one was unique in the history of Fenway. A group of Yankee fans were sitting nearby and the Mets fans were taunting them. Finally the matter was addressed by both groups who, thanks to the linebacker sized security, had both removed, although chants of “Let them stay” were directed towards the Mets group.
Possibly the most, to me, embarrassing situation at Fenway Park was the taunting of Jim Eisenrich.
Eisenrich suffered from Tourette’s Syndrome and for three nights the “fans” in the bleachers taunted Eisenrich unmercifully. Eisenrich continued to shake violently and that only encouraged more abuse to be heaped upon him. Eisenrich removed himself from the game.
In most ballparks security usually is a senior citizen wearing a straw hat emblazoned with the team logo. For many years that would represent elderly abuse if it was done in the bleachers. Size and physical presence mattered. That has, thankfully, changed in the last ten or so years. The bleachers have become more family friendly with almost zero tolerance.
Derek Lowe night was something special. Posters of the Red Sox closer were handed out as a promotion and Lowe came into his save situation late in the contest. He failed and the game became tied. Posters were all over the field. I went to the men’s room. Bad choice.
Some of the more industrious fans had Lowe posters on the floor and were, well, I’ll leave that to your imagination, but they were very wet.
Inflatable items are a natural for the bleachers, but with that comes risk. During a game many years ago an inflatable female doll was brought into the bleachers. I will avoid the descriptions of what happened, you can read it here, but it certainly had the attention of the press for the next week or so. And it was not the first time. The Red Sox management was forced to respond.
Using a video camera to the bleacher crowd comes with an inherent risk. A “Girl’s gone wild” montage could be easily created from young women who decided that a top was for lifting and exposing. This usually resulted in encouraging chants from men and there have been incidents where the behavior has grown exponentially.
The last time I sat in the bleachers I saw enjoyable family entertainment at its finest.
Sitting in front of us was a family of four. Obviously, like myself, suburbanite taking their kids, both preteens, out for an evening at the ballpark. The great American tradition.
The Red Sox starter was getting hammered and around the fifth inning the young man in front of me stands up and shouts: “Tito! Take him the F out – he’s throwing s!!t.” The man in front of the kid turns around and asks the kid’s father “Can I buy him a beer.” Ah, the memories.