On Fenway Park (and the Yankees)

Fenway Park bills itself as “Americas Most Beloved Ballpark,” but I’m just not sure that’s true. That said, it’s probably number one in the American League. I’ve got to think that Wrigley Field in Chicago has it beat, but that could be changing depending on what you think of the big video screens installed at the Friendly Confines.

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What I will say, though, is when you’re sitting in the seats watching a baseball game at Fenway (and at Wrigley, too), you definitely feel like you’re watching a baseball game. Perhaps the cost of this is that you’re not going to be watching the game from the concourse. For what it’s worth, I haven’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes a ballpark feel like a baseball park.

I’m spitballing here, but it could be the shade of green.

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That green is on the facades, the outfield walls, and the bleacher seats (except one, where Ted Williams famously hit a 501-foot home run), and it’s almost a defining characteristic of the park.

In some ways, though, Fenway wasn’t so great a place to watch a game. Their scoreboards and video screens were hard to read at times and didn’t always give particularly relevant information. In particular: Red Sox players don’t wear names on the back of their uniforms, but there wasn’t really anywhere to look to see the players’ numbers listed. Their lineup on the scoreboard above the right field bleachers only listed the players’ names and fielding positions.

That being said, the Red Sox did a good job of maintaining the old-time style with their presentation. The font in that first photo above does a nice job matching what’s posted on the scoreboard on the front of the Green Monster in left field, and making it feel more human. I didn’t have a good shot of the hand-operated board, but you can click here to check out a still of one of their scoreboard operators updating National League scores back in 2010.

What surprised me the most, I think, was how excited I was to see the Citgo sign beyond the Green Monster.

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It’s difficult to see since the start of the 2003 season when they added a couple hundred seats on top of Major League Baseball’s tallest outfield fence, but it was a staple of watching night games played at Fenway for generations. You should be able to get a good look at it if you watch, say, the 1999 Home Run Derby, so long as you’re watching a righty take aim. I guess it didn’t quite hit me that I was in Boston until I saw that sign walking around the neighborhood around the park.

Boston’s fans were pretty active in the game; I don’t think I heard a single clap prompt from the stadium PA, but people got jacked up for a few key at-bats, especially if David Ortiz was set to hit. He put one in the back of the Red Sox bullpen early in the game and had a chance to win it in the 9th with Boston down one and a man on first, but he grounded into a double play to end it. At one point in the game, a guy sitting near me said to his kid that he should remember this game because two Hall-of-Famers, Ortiz and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, homered in the same game. I told him, “Sure, but you’ve gotta get my boy Edgar in first.” His response, “Edgar who?” nearly made me a Yankee fan. Perhaps I was a little hyped up after taking the tour of the ballpark that afternoon and being reminded that Mo Vaughn won the 1995 AL MVP, though he registered just 4.3 WAR per Baseball Reference (Edgar Martinez had 7.0 WAR, Vaughn’s teammate John Valentin had 8.3, and Randy Johnson had 8.7 in the strike-shortened season; 11 of the 19 players receiving a vote for the award earned more WAR than Vaughn), but maybe give it up for the best DH to ever play the game and the guy who helped keep a team in Seattle (which I’d argue is bigger than any championship)?

I was a Red Sox fan for 2003 and 2004, until they actually won the World Series and everybody jumped on that bandwagon like they were long-suffering from the ’75 World Series or the ’86 World Series or the ’41 MVP vote or what-have-you. It seemed like all of the Yankees fans turned in their gear and became Sox fans overnight.

I’ve come to appreciate Yankees fans because they’re mostly self-aware. They know they have their ownership can go out and get any free agent desired, they’ve won a ton. They understand they’re the bad guy and they seem to enjoy that role (though I still can’t get over the fact that their PA used the Imperial March from Star Wars to introduce the Orioles instead of the home nine). Red Sox fans seem to still think everyone loves them, like Red Sox Nation is still a thing with meaning.

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