Fenway Park opened its doors for an “Open House” today, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of Fenway’s first game. Red Sox fans tend to think of this place like a kid brother — only we get to say how lousy the ballpark is — but, it’s a rare treat to see the park as the players see it, to check out the interior of the manual scoreboard (“If you look over here,” I imagine a tour guide saying, “you’ll see where Manny Ramirez may or may not have used the bathroom during a pitching change…”), and to get their feet on that hallowed ground without fear of being tackled by security.
But if you’re not among the lucky that are there today, the next best thing to getting a guided tour of the stadium is the recently released Sports Illustrated Fenway: A Fascinating First Century.
Spanning 100 years of Fenway lore, the book uses new and old material to illustrate the changes the park has seen over the years through the eyes of those that played and those that cheered.
It’s organized by decade, which makes this a great “open it up to any page” book, if a rather choppy long read. Some decades get more attention than others; like many Sox fans, the book seems to want to forget the ’80s completely. I would also caution the reader to just avoid the intro to the book. It is well-meaning, but relies on a floundering and forced Dracula analogy that reads as if Steve Rushin doubled down when he realized how shaky the premise was.
What the book lacks in prose, it more than makes up for in pictures - an SI specialty. There are fantastic photos in this collection that I have never seen, and many are sure to be a conversation-starter for any Sox fan. From the images of the early construction site to the snapshot of Pete Rose in a suit in the grandstand, pictures help put the park in context and drive home one overarching theme; Fenway has always been in transition. While the park is often considered a throw-back to an earlier time, SI’s tome shows how Fenway has endured countless and continuous structural, cosmetic, and policy changes over the years. The book also provides some interesting shots of the many replicas of Fenway Park, from minor league ballparks to wiffleball parks. Fenway may very well be the stadium equivalent of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” - the most ‘covered’ park of all time.
The book reminds us of how Fenway has taken on a life of its own. To be sure, it has its drawbacks, but it also has its stories. And I venture to guess every Red Sox fan has a Fenway story (mine involves running onto the field during the first all-star rehearsal after a late night out with friends… but that’s for a different post). For all of us, to preserve the place is to preserve those stories and those moments. As far as I’m concerned, the now-suspended Save Fenway Park movement was less about securing the structure’s future and more about preserving the past.
photo credit: Boston.com
The last section of the book is dropped in like an afterthought, but to me was one of the best resources - The Fenway 100: Favorite Factoids. Can you believe there was “Caddie Night” where they gave away golf balls to fans? Upon losing, it turned into a more dangerous version of “Dozen Egg Night.” The only incorrect factoid I noticed in this list was that “There has never been perfect game thrown at Fenway.” I beg to differ; as far as I’m concerned, the Yankees threw a perfect game: