The 110th anniversary of the Red Sox playing at Fenway Park
Happy Birthday, Fenway Park! After the Boston Red Sox spent their first 11 seasons calling home to Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds, Fenway Park officially opened its doors for the team’s first game in their new venue on April 20, 1912.
The Red Sox won four out of five games on the road to open the 1912 season before returning home for Fenway’s grand opening. Boston hosted the New York Highlanders, a club that would be rebranded as the Yankees the following season, in their home opener. The Red Sox defeated their rivals 7-6 in a thrilling 11-inning affair.
Boston would go on to win the pennant and defeat the New York Giants in the World Series. The Fall Classic that year was one of the rare instances where a postseason series lasted eight games. Game 2 was called off on account of darkness with the score tied after 11 innings. Seriously, a World Series game ended in a tie because it was too dark outside. Fenway wouldn’t add lights until 1947. The Red Sox clinched the series with a 3-2 victory in the 10th inning of Game 8.
That championship team was led by Tris Speaker, who hit .383 with a league-leading 10 home runs to capture the AL MVP award. Smoky Joe Wood was the ace of the rotation, winning 34 games with a 1.91 ERA.
The Red Sox have upgraded Fenway over the years
Fenway is the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball but it has undergone many renovations over the years to upgrade the historic landmark.
The park opened with a maximum capacity of 35,000 in 1912 but Red Sox ownership has gradually added more seating over the years. Fenway now holds a capacity north of 37,000, with the crowd increasing to nearly 38,000 for night games.
Former Red Sox CEO John Harrington explored plans to build a modernized version of Fenway Park near the end of the 20th century but the team wasn’t able to reach an agreement with the city of Boston on the new stadium. Instead, the focus shifted to upgrading the current ballpark.
Current Red Sox principal owner John Henry has been instrumental in several of these upgrades, including seats that were added on top of the Green Monster in left field and seats on the right field roof, a section now known as the Sam Adams deck.
The Red Sox have a unique home
Fenway Park is a venue unlike any other with unique dimensions and several quirks that separate the ballpark from any other in the majors.
The most notable trademark of this ballpark is the infamous Green Monster, a towering 37-foot wall in left field. The wall is only 310 feet from home plate down the left field line while gradually moving further back as it moves toward center. The short distance makes it an inviting target for right-handed pull hitters or lefties willing to hit to the opposite field. The height of the wall has knocked down plenty of balls that would have home run distance in other parks but it has made Fenway the best park in the majors for racking up doubles. The Green Monster is littered with dents from hitters targeting the inviting left field wall.
The right field line is marked by the Pesky Pole, named after Red Sox Hall of Famer Johnny Pesky. The pole is officially measured as being 302 feet from home plate, although the distance has been disputed with some believing the actual measurement to be several feet closer. Left-handed pull hitters will be tempted to wrap one around the pole for a cheap homer but the appealing short porch can be a trap, as the right field wall curves sharply out toward the bullpen area. The quirky dimensions have made right field at Fenway a notoriously difficult position for outfielders to cover.
The triangle in center field can be tricky to navigate with the deepest part of the park extending 420 feet from home plate.
Ted Williams hit the longest home run in the history of Fenway Park. While the actual distance has been disputed, the ball is officially credited with a distance of 502 feet. Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21 is marked as the lone red seat in the right field bleachers in honor of Teddy Ballgame’s historic home run.
A hand-operated scoreboard was added to the left field wall in 1934. The tradition has continued with the scoreboard manually being updated from behind the wall during Red Sox home games.
Fenway Park has been used to host several other events aside from baseball. The field has been transformed to accommodate football, hockey and soccer games. Many iconic musicians have come to play concerts at Fenway over the years.
The Red Sox have a history of triumph and tragedy at Fenway
Boston won the World Series during Fenway’s inaugural season and collected championships in 1915, 1916 and 1918. The Red Sox won only one championship in their previous ballpark and finished a distant fifth in the AL with 78 wins in 1911, but the early results seemed to indicate that their new venue had turned the fortunes of the franchise in their favor.
That narrative collapsed when then-owner Harry Frazee traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. The Red Sox suffered through an 86-year title drought that was blamed on the “Curse of the Bambino.”
Those years without a championship were filled with heartbreak. Boston won the pennant in 1946 but an injured Ted Williams wasn’t able to carry his team against St. Louis in the World Series. The Impossible Dream season in 1967 fell short of their storybook ending when the Red Sox lost Game 7 of the World Series at Fenway to the Cardinals. The “Boston Massacre” in 1978 cost the Red Sox a trip to the postseason when Bucky Dent’s home run over the Green Monster sent the Yankees to victory in a tie-breaker game to end the season. A routine ground ball dribbling through Bill Buckner’s legs unraveled Boston’s chances against the Mets in the 1986 World Series.
The Red Sox finally reversed the curse in 2004, riding the wave of a historic comeback to defeat the Yankees in the ALCS after trailing by three games to open the series. Boston went on to sweep the Cardinals in the World Series.
Boston won three more championships in 2007, 2013 and 2018. Their four titles are the most by any MLB team in the 21st century.
Three of those World Series seasons ended with the Red Sox on the road but they celebrated clinching the 2013 title on their home turf at Fenway, bringing a triumphant conclusion to an emotional season in which the Red Sox rallied in the wake of the horrific Boston Marathon bombing.
The passionate Red Sox fan base has many fond memories to look back on from the history of this ballpark. Every trip to Fenway Park is an event where more memorable moments can be built. Here’s to another 110+ years of making memories.