It’s ironic that the color green is synonymous with a team called the Boston Red Sox, but it is Fenway Park’s predominant hue.
From the perfectly manicured grass to the towering left-field wall known as the Monster and the matching seats in the bleachers, Major League Baseball’s oldest ballpark is defined by verdant tones.
But when the ballpark is empty, a lone red seat in the bleachers gleams like a ruby among emeralds.
In row 37 of section 42, seat no. 21 stands (or rather, sits) apart in hue to commemorate the longest home run ever hit at Fenway, by the greatest hitter in franchise history. On June 9, 1946, Ted Williams hit a home run, a common occurrence for the star who’d finish his career with 521 of them. But this one was different. It soared into the right-field bleachers and caromed off Joe Boucher’s straw hat, leaving a hole to mark the distance traveled: 502 feet.
Or did it?
Count David Ortiz among the skeptics.
As part of last week’s annual Globe Summit, Ortiz sat down with Boston Globe CEO Linda Henry (who is also Red Sox principal owner John Henry’s wife) for a conversation at Fenway Park. For whatever reason, the conversation turned to the red seat, visible in the distance:
"“That seat is a joke,” said Ortiz, who kept looking over his shoulder to look at the spot with disbelief. “There is no chance in hell a human being can hit that red seat.”Ortiz noted that it was a big deal when he hit Bobby Doerr’s retired No. 1 sign on the right-field façade during batting practice, yet Williams’s seat is about 25 rows behind that.“Bottom line, man, if you don’t show me a video, I will not believe it.”"
Apparently, the gaping hole in Boucher’s hat isn’t proof enough for Big Papi.
It’s not the first time Ortiz has questioned the red seat’s legitimacy, saying it would’ve taken “a hurricane” amount of wind to help Williams hit the ball that far. In fact, meteorological records attest to the fact that it was a very windy day.
The question is, why does this keep getting brought up? If there’s no way to prove or disprove the legend, what’s the point of rehashing it and chipping away at the story?
In the ‘Greatest Red Sox hitter’ debate, Ortiz has given Williams a run for his money more than any other franchise great. He certainly owns the title if you tack on ‘in postseason history’ at the end. In terms of honors, Ortiz has matched Williams several times. Since wrapping up his playing career in 2016, Big Papi’s 34 has joined Teddy Ballgame’s 9 on the right-field facade. They each put themselves on the map in Boston, literally: the Ted Williams Tunnel opened in December 1995. In a pregame ceremony before his final regular-season game, the Sox announced that the Brookline Avenue bridge over the Mass Pike and the street that connects the ballpark to the commuter rail station would bear Ortiz’s name. They’re both in the organization’s Hall of Fame and as of this summer, the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In other words, the repeated comments sound a bit jealous, especially coming from a guy with three World Series rings to Williams’ none.
Maybe it’s time to give the red seat a rest.