This is a weekly feature in which I (and maybe you, too, readers) detail the various reasons for hating your ballpark. This week: The Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park.
Nothing — with the possible exception of flowers, springtime and the 3rd Earl of Pembroke — has inspired as much gooey bad poetry and aphoristic nonsense as Fenway Park. If Fenway didn't exist, we'd have to toss a bunch of Harvard professors in a room to invent it, which, not incidentally, is how we also wound up with a war in Vietnam. "Fenway Park, in Boston," John Updike famously wrote, "is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg."
I have never been on the inside of an Easter egg, peeping-type or no, but I will bet good money that it is nothing like Fenway, a steaming pile of steel and concrete resting on top of marshland that Boston didn't get around to filling in until the late 19th century. Somewhere along the line, however, the crooked old dump became a shrine for the local fancy classes. "I think walking up to Fenway is thrilling," the late David Halberstam once said. "The approach to it. The smells. You go to Fenway, and you revert to your childhood. You go to Fenway, and you think: 'Something wonderful is going to happen today.'" Quoth Stephen King: "There's no place like it, and it's ours." (We haven't even mentioned Donald Hall, whose poetry, without Fenway, would be just a couple of conjunctions and the word "snow.")
This is just a new, sporty strain of that old New England exceptionalism that John Winthrop was preaching back in the 17th century. The thinking runs thusly: Fenway, like its tenants, is somehow different, purer, a perpetual innocent in a fallen, godforsaken world. "The Yankees belong to George Steinbrenner," Sports Illustrated's Steve Wulf wrote in 1981, "and the Dodgers belong to Manifest Destiny, but the Red Sox, more than any other team, belong to the fans."
Let's just say it here, then: Fenway is not different. It does not belong to its fans any more than Tropicana Field belongs to its fans. "It was a land deal, nothing more," Dan Shaughnessy and Stan Grossfeld write in a book that otherwise treats Fenway like the biggest, greenest Kennedy brother. The name itself was free marketing for its owners, the Taylors' Fenway Realty Company, prefiguring all the corporate naming-rights deals that would come at the back end of the century. The front of Fenway, done up in a red brick Colonial style, was ripped off from Philadelphia's Shibe Park. The first outfield fences at Fenway were erected not to enclose the field of play but to block fans — the fans to whom the Red Sox allegedly belonged — from crashing the gate or sneaking free looks from the street, according to Shaughnessy and Grossfeld. Fenway isn't different. Fenway is merely old and has long enjoyed the happy luck of being located among the most literary-minded regional chauvinists in the Union, all of them drunk on a baseball stadium's smells, all of them turning over and over again into children.
The view from the stands (everything sic'd):
I visited Fenway a couple years ago and I forgot how shitty it was until one morning I woke up and let a huge hangover fart and thought to myself, "this reminds me of Fenway." (Nick J.)
Me and a friend of mine were at a Red Sox game in Boston in the spring (I think) of 2005, about 10 rows back in the center field bleachers. Two drunk Tawmmys from Quinzee were sitting directly behind us, and spend the entire game yelling at Johnny Damon for having a little girl arm (while true, he's on your team, no?). One says to the other "I BET I COULD THROW A BALL FACKIN FAHHTHER THAN JANNY DAMON." Tawmmy Numbah 2 isn't convinced, neither am I, nor is my friend. Tawmmy 1 then bets my friend ten whole dollars that he can reach the infield on a throw. My friend laughs and takes the bet, as there's no way in hell this moron is actually going to try this during a game, right?
Wrong. Tawmmy #1 disappears for a while, and returns with a fresh beer and a souvenir baseball. My friend and I exchange a quick "No fucking way" look, and Tawmmy lets fly the ball. Sure enough, it hits the infield. Missing the back of Edgar Rentaria's head by about 6 inches . A man of his word, my friend pays up while Tawmmy gets dragged off by the cops, screaming "FACKIN' TOLDYA!" (Matthew L.)
It's a toilet. Whenever you wonder why Boston fans are so cranky and harsh, just go try to sit in those seats for a game. It was built in the early 20th century, when, evidently, people were typically 5'1" and their asses were half as wide as today. I'm under 6 feet tall and my knees were against the seat in front of me. This also makes it nearly impossible to exit your row unless you're on the end. So you climb out any way you can, to walk on narrow, shitty concourses that barely qualify as concourses. Most single-A ballparks have a better layout and walking area than Fenway. Oh, and if you're not a Sawx fan, be prepared to not just be heckled by Sully and Mikey, but to actually be physically threatened just for having the temerity to be from anywhere besides the cesspool that is Boston. The magic of that place is so overblown. We all act nostalgic about old places, but there's nothing wrong with modernizing things every 100 years or so. (Justin L.)
The worst experience I had in Fenway was in the right field box seats. They face center field, so I was forced to watch the entire game in the same posture that I use to back out of my driveway. I could only see home plate through the foul pole grating, which completely obstructed the view of all hitters standing in the righthanded batter's box. Worst of all, I'm not NBA tall or anything, but there was NO POSSIBLE POSITION for me to sit in without the row of seats in front of me digging into my patella tendons. You know, because the park was designed when the average American male was 5'3". This cut off circulation to my lower legs for the duration of the game, and for the next 36 hours I could not walk properly. That park almost took my legs. All for the low price of $50! (Jeremy K.)
Going back to Fenway after growing up with the park is sort of like meeting my dead grandfather if Wal-Mart exhumed his corpse and turned it into a cyborg greeter.
It's amazing how what was once the best park in the majors is now an absolute cesspool of forced promos and moronic "fans." Went to a game last June and got to see some CEO throw out the ceremonial first pitch (at least I wasn't there for the NASCAR force feeding the following night) then another highest bidder threw out the ceremonial...um, second pitch. Followed by those two words nobody wants to hear and the abysmal song that follows.
Saw a decent pitchers duel between Beckett and Haren, ruined by the pink hat buzzing in my ear about putting her house on the market from the time she showed up in the middle of the 2nd to the time she left with her posse of suburban moms who think they're the Carrie of their group in the middle of the 7th.
Ads now dwarf the Green Monster scoreboard (which was always my favorite part of the park as a kid) because WB Mason bought your first born. Any asshole not wearing a pink hat has a cell phone pressed to their ear, flailing their arms so their shithead friends wacthing NESN can see them at the hottest nightclub in Boston. Unless WEEI's harping on some trade that will never get done the Fenway faithful's knowledge of the game goes no further than 50 miles outside of 128, and even then only if it's "OMG Lars Anderson!!!!!111!!!!!!!11" Just like Steinbrenner ruined Yankee Stadium with the mid-70s overhaul Lucchino, Henry and Werner piss all over Fenway with each shoehorned seat. Camden Yards is a better place to see a game, Wrigley Field is a better ballpark, Busch Stadium is a better ballpark, hell even Tropicana Field is a better ballpark now. (Janssen M.)
My Father and I decided it would be a good idea to go to Fenway Pahk (as it is pronounced in Boston) for a summer baseball trip. We're from Houston, and have no AL rooting interests, so I wore a Craig Biggio t-shirt, and my dad a Houston Rockets polo, so of course we were asked about 50 times if we were from Houston, about 60 times "What's it like seeing baseball indoors?", and about 150 times "Where's your cowboy hat, boots, and jeans?" As if that wasn't annoying enough, we had an "obstructed seat" that was not advertised as such on the internet. I found the Sox dans almost as annoying as the fans from Dallas, and that's really sayin' something for a lifetime Houstonian. (Scott S.)
One night a few years back my brother and two cousins were at a game sitting in right field. Around the third inning, because who shows up for a whole baseball game?, a group of 30 somethings with their 8 dollar Sam Adams and still in work shirts comes in and sits behind us. After regaling each other for a few innings with tales of the mediocre chicks they have their dilbert-esque office one of them comes back with a tray of beer and proceeds to stumble, and spill beer all over my cousin and I. Fantastic. So we turn around, unsure at first where the rogue beverage came from (we were sitting under the new RF roof deck bar) and look for an answer. The Dilberts sit idly by acting as though nothing happened. For the next three innings, before they leave in the 7, they whisper and talk all about how they spilled the beer. Did I mention I was 17, and my cousin 12? So we got soaked in beer without so much as an apology, and had to listen to what amounted to three weeks worth of Cathy comics while we tried to watch the damn game. (Brendan from Medford)
When I was 10, I went to a Yankees-Red Sox game at fenway. I rooted for neither team, went in completely neutral clothing with my Dad who is a Sox fan. In the 7th inning, an incredibly fat guy for no reason whatsoever told me to go fuck my mother because he "thought" I was cheering for the Yankees because I stood up when Jeter came to bat. (I stood up to go to the bathroom). When I came back he threw a pizza box at me. Again, I'm not a Yankee fan. (Aaron G.)
The summer before my first year at college my Dad scored tickets for the Red Sox / Yankees at Fenway, something we had always wanted to go to. Believe me when I say that the real action wasn't on the field, but was spread throughout the bleachers. This was the summer of 2002, so we, as Red Sox fans, had yet to break the curse and become the most obnoxious fanbase in all of sports. Fenway was still a place of unabashed debauchery, racist Southies, and DRUNK B.U. students; Not a pink hat to be seen. A quick overview of the stands during the game revealed numerous amounts of fights and no small amount of hot dogs, beers, and plastic ice cream helmets flying back and forth between Red Sox and Yankee fans. Behind my Dad and I sat the biggest stereotypical South Boston resident I had ever encountered; He spent the whole game yelling at the middle aged women in front of us who had unwisely decided to wear their Bernie Williams' jerseys to the game. "Ber-knee! Beeeer-knee! Why are't you in da ghame Berrrr-knee?"
At one point a Yankee fan in front of us was escorted out by security and decided to flip off the crowd as a parting gift; As he was being showered with garbage, boos, and cries of "FAGGOT", I took the remains of my half-eaten hot dog and hit him square in the head with it. My Dad, a lawyer, and usually a model of restraint, turned to me and said, "Nice shot." Never have I felt so close to my Dad. (Sam)
Photo via B Tal's Flickr account.
Next up: The New York Mets' Citi Field. Got any horrible experiences to share? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.