Before the Monster Seats…

Celebrating 100 Years of Fenway Park From One Fan’s Perspective: A Retrospective Look

Editor’s note: This was a college paper written by the author (aka “Pete’s Rose”…aka my wife) during either her junior or senior year in college (either 1996 or 1997). It was transcribed by our 2nd oldest daughter, Alicia Rose, who is now 14.

About a dozen times each season, I make the long weary trek to one of the sacred shrines of America’s favorite pastime. I brave Boston’s subway  system, and hurriedly walk from kenmore Square, over the Massachusetts Turnpike, to Yawkey Way. Brushing past the vendors and convenience stores, I push myself through the crowd and relinquish my ticket- my offering to the baseball gods and my passport to nirvana. Finally, I can  take a deep breath , knowing that I have once again survived the journey to Fenway park. Once I enter the gates of Fenway, I am no longer mother, daughter, sister or friend. My only obligation is to find my seat- my own personal place of worship where, despite the 30,000 other people in the park, I can be alone with the game. There I can concentrate on absorbing the next few hours into my blood. Nothing compares to a ball game at Fenway.

I’ve been to Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia. It is cold and oblong. It’s as symmetrical as if someone chopped off the top third of a tornado and plopped it down in the middle of the city. The Phillies share the “Vet” with the city’s football team. Watching baseball in a stadium which reeks of the memories of another sport, where faded yard line markings can still be seen in the outfield, is far too much of a compromise for any loyal fan to handle.Coors Field is nice. (At least the Rockies don’t share Mile High Stadium anymore). But hey, does a ballpark merit no higher honor than to be named for the producers of an alcoholic beverage? (I’m not even going to touch the Brewers, who stooped so low as to name their team after the beer industry).
Colorado natives don’t know how to watch a ballgame. First of all, every seat back has a handy little cup holder attached to it. How cute.You can just hear your mother chide, “Now, don’t let that spill. Here, put it in the holder. that’s a good girl.” Yes, every seat comes adorned with one of  these. Don’t they understand that part of the charm of the game involves finding places for you legs, snacks, and drinks in the tiny square foot of space directly underneath you? And another thing, what kind of state would install, in a baseball stadium, seats which fold up when the occupant stands? This has to violate a health code somewhere. What if some unfortunate fan was to jump up excitedly during a home run and sit back down, expecting their seat to be where they left it? (My rear is still tender from its encounter with the concrete!)
Fulton County Stadium didn’t impress me. Part of this was due to the fact that I could barely see around me because of the insane amount of tomahawks “chopping” all over the place. Braves fans don’t even watch the game half the time. They just anger the baseball gods with their painted faces and Indian war-weapons.
Then there are the domes: Skydome, Metrodome, Astrodome, Kingdome… C’mon, who wants to watch baseball in an igloo? The uncertainty of the schedule, due to an occasional tropical storm or snowfall, adds to the excitements of the sport. Some of the best games in baseball history were augmented by inclement weather. Certain teams were able to pride themselves on their ability to play in extreme temperatures. If an area can’t weather the baseball season because the climate won’t sustain the grueling schedule, maybe it should consider the fact that the baseball gods never intended the team to play there in the first place. Wake up, sell the team to New Mexico and move with it!
Now there are some nice features to every stadium, but no major league ballpark currently in use can rival Fenway Park. Fenway  has history, texture, personality. Every feature of the game of baseball which makes it popular is symbolically represented in Fenway Park.

Baseball has endured decades, strikes and wars. Similarly, Fenway has endured time and weather better than any other ballpark of its era. Baseball is an intricate sport which provides opportunities for unpredictable and spectacular plays. In the same way, Fenway’s field has all kinds of intricate nooks and crannies, not to mention the Green Monster– a huge wall which spreads across left field. Fenway has one of the shortest left fields, but it’s not as easy to hit a homerun there as you might think. In order for a batter to get a round-tripper, he has to hit the ball to the wall with enough height to get over it into the net. Any ball that bounces back onto the grass is playable. After all, the baseball gods can’t award home runs to just anybody! In both right and center field, the stands jut out and then back, making for complicated ricochets when a batter hits them. These obstacles keep the players on their toes because they demand extra skill to overcome.

“Baseball” does not just refer to the game at hand. Each game provides opportunities for players to challenge old records and streaks. There is a history to baseball which every game builds on. In each of the past two seasons, a significant record was broken and many more were made. Roger Clemens is still the only pitcher to strike out twenty batters in a game, and this past year he did it for a second time! The season before last, Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s Ironman Record for consecutive games played, which was previously considered untouchable! Stories like these add to the wealth of history which are part of baseball. History is also part of Fenway Park. It’s been in use since my daughter’s great-great grandmother was a child. Many people don’t realize that the legendary Babe Ruth was a pitcher- and that his career began on the mound at Fenway. It’s no longer just a baseball field; It’s a historic monument.

The sound, smell and structure of Fenway Park give testimony to the changes it has seen as the eras have past. It’s dugouts have sheltered all of baseball’s greatest, including Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. It’s wooden seats (which stay down) have supported the bottoms of the distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the 20’s, the hippies of the 60’s, and the members of Generation X.

Some of the other features of the park are simple nuances which all add up to a great baseball experience. Fenway Franks are continuously voted the best hot dogs of any major league stadium. There is real grass (you know, the kind which requires mowing) on the field. There isn’t a modern sound system from which to blast “The Macarena”, Just a few speakers here and there. There are no bullpens on the playing field to cause difficulties. The scoreboard, located on the Green Monster, dwarfs the outfielders playing in front of it. It is not electric, but manual. The baseball gods make their home inside the narrow walls of the Green Monster, hanging up the large wooden numbers as each inning is played.

Okay, I must acknowledge that there is a rather interesting smell to the whole place which is distinctly Fenway, but not distinctly pleasant. There are a few seats in which the view is obstructed and it is very small for a major league stadium, but a true baseball fan swats off these minor details and never gives them much thought.

If you are a baseball fan and have somehow never been to Fenway, plan to go this April. When you walk up the ramp, the view of the field will be larger than life. Be prepared to draw a quick breath of contentment and wonder. There before your eyes, baseball will be played, history will be made, and you, a mere mortal, get to share in it. If you go, look for me there. I’ll be the one intent on every pitch, a walkman providing me with statistics on every detail of the game. Baseball is an individual experience of worship and for me to socialize during it would be akin to kissing during a sermon. I’ll wave back with the contentment of knowing that you’ve joined me in baseball’s oldest and greatest temple. Without a word between us, we will worship together.

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