In a society where newer is better, and old is so passé, Boston’s historic Fenway Park is truly one of a kind. In the professional sports world, all one hears anymore is that teams want a new stadium, a new arena. And so, plans are put into motion for these things to happen, with a combination of fans, players, owners, and local politicians being the pushers and the backers of such initiatives. But this has never once happened in Boston. For Red Sox fans, Fenway Park has gained “shrine” status and in the baseball world, tearing it down would be considered almost sacrilegious. Although I had always planned to visit Fenway Park (there are tours of it), it actually worked in our favor since the Red Sox were home the weekend we would be in Boston.
Visiting Fenway Park
Fenway Park is the oldest baseball stadium in the United States, and since 1912 the Red Sox have called it home. 1912! The same year the Titanic sunk, two years before World War I even began-that’s how historic this ballpark is. Although there was serious talk in the late 1990s about Fenway’s demise, with plans announced that a new Fenway Park would be built near the existing structure, this never came to fruition. A massive outcry broke out with groups being created to save Fenway. Discussions between the team’s owners and the city of Boston went on for a couple of years until in 2005 the owners announced that the team would stay at Fenway indefinitely. The stadium was then renovated and will remain usable until as late as 2061.
Even though I only have a passing interest in sports, as someone who is obsessed with all things history, it was incredibly neat to be at Fenway. Besides all of the history that has taken place there from a sports perspective (Babe Ruth made his professional debut at Fenway although granted, this was well before he gained his famous “Bambino” status), what about imagining the park for the many decades when people dressed up to attend a baseball game. Men in shirts and ties and bowler hats, women in shirtwaists and long skirts and eventually dresses. As the lyrics from the rather comical song “What a Game” from the musical Ragtime go-
You’ll like baseball. It’s a civilized pastime.
In a world gone mad,
There is comfort to be had
In the game Father played at school
Men of class,
Competing on the grass
And courtesy are the rule.
Well, granted it was never as civilized an affair as the lyrics make it out to be (and in this scene of the musical, this is definitely dramatized), but it was still a beloved and classy pastime. One where fans did not take their clothing off to display words or messages written on their abdomens or where the ladies get just as intoxicated as the men. Times change indeed.
We took the T (Boston’s underground train) to the Kenmore stop and on the short walk from the station to the park, everything around me screamed modernity (the wide streets, the businesses, the highway you had to walk over). And yet, once you were on Yawkey Way and eventually in the park, you could tell what an old venue it was. The classic and timeless red bricks, the narrow corridors on the inside, the lack of public restrooms (maybe it was just where we were seated but I had to walk a bit to find one). Being inside the park was a visual reminder of a time when stuff was simpler and bigger didn’t necessarily mean better. Bigger was simply not needed.
If I had one critique of Fenway, it would be the seats. Specifically the old-school style wooden seats in the grandstand section where we were. They were mildly painful to sit on for hours, not to mention incredibly small and narrow-another reminder of how as a whole, society used to be a lot skinnier. But when at Fenway…
It may not be as historically important as say sights like the Old Statehouse or the Old North Church, but in a city like Boston where sports rule, where the fans stick through the thick and fan, it’s just as important to them. Remove Fenway and you’d remove an integral piece of Boston history.