A hundred years ago this week, just days after the Titanic settled in a watery grave in the North Atlantic, the Red Sox opened a brand new baseball field, called, Fenway Park, in Boston.
On April 20, the Sox will officially celebrate their Centennial (or Fen-tennial) anniversary at Fenway. Fittingly, the Sox opponent that day will be the New York Yankees — the same team that helped Boston open Fenway Park 100 years ago.
That day in 1912, the Red Sox beat the Yankees (then called the Highlanders) in 11 innings. Major John F. Fitzgerald, the grandfather of John F. Kennedy, threw out the first pitch.. The Boston Globe reported “Tristram Speaker, the Texas sharpshooter, with two down in the 11th inning and Steve Yerkes, on third, smashed the ball too fast for the shortstop to handle and the winning run came over the plate, making the score 7 to 6, and the immense crowd leaving for home for a cold supper, but wreathed in smiles.”
The Red Sox played at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, the present site of Northeastern University, for their first 11 years in the American League before moving to Fenway. Owner John I. Taylor named the park for its location in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston.
In chronological order, here are the 10 most memorable games in Fenway Park history.
1912: Red Sox 3, Giants 2 (10 innings), Game 8, World Series
In the deciding game of the 1912 World Series (Game 2 ended in a 6-6 tie), Boston spotted New York a run in the top of the 10th inning, then took advantage of two Giant misplays to beat the great Christy Mathewson and win the title. First Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a routine fly ball by leadoff batter Clyde Engle, an error that came to be known as the “$30,000 Muff” (referring to the winner’s share). Given life when the Giants failed to catch his foul pop, Tris Speaker singled to knock in the tying run. The winning run scored on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Bill Gardner that plated Steve Yerkes, giving the Sox a dramatic victory and their second World Championship.
Three titles in four years
1918, Red Sox 2, Cubs 1, Game 6, World Series
The Red Sox clinched both the 1915 and 1916 World Series at Braves Field, as they chose to play on the National League site because of its larger seating capacity. But in 1918 they beat the Cubs in six games to win their third World Series in four years and fifth overall. It was a Series dominated by pitching and capped by a three-hitter by Boston’s Carly Mays in Game 6. Neither team scored more than three runs in a game and there wasn’t a single home run hit in the Series. The victorious Sox batted .186 and the losing Cubs swung a lowly .210.
Post-War World Series
1946: Red Sox 6, Cardinals 3, Game Five, World Series
In their first appearance in the Fall Classic in 28 years, the Red Sox took a 3-2 lead in the World Series by knocking off St. Louis 6-3. Joe Dobson hurled a four-hitter and struck out eight batters, and Leon Culberson homered to lead the Red Sox attack. When the Series returned to St. Louis, the Cardinals won the final two games. Enos Slaughter scored the winning run in the eighth inning of Game Seven as Boston’s Johnny Pesky made a belated throw to the plate.
All-Boston Series…not quite
1948: Indians 8, Red Sox 3, American League playoff
Player-manager and shortstop Lou Boudreau hit a pair of solo home runs and went 4-for-4 and third baseman Ken Keltner hit a three-run shot as the Tribe beat the Red Sox in a one-game playoff for the American League pennant. Cleveland southpaw Gene Bearden got the win, besting surprise starter Denny Galehouse. Boston manager Joe McCarthy said he had no rested arms, although both Mel Parnell and Ellis Kinder claimed they were ready. The Red Sox loss prevented an all-Boston World Series. Cleveland went on to beat the Braves in six games for its second and last World Championship.
Runs, runs, runs
1950, Red Sox 29, Browns 4
In June of 1950, Boston pounded out 28 hits and set a MLB record with 29 run (broken when Texas scored 30 runs against the Orioles in 2007) in a rout of the St. Louis Browns. Dobby Doerr led the attack with three home runs and eight RBIs. Walt Dropo hit two home runs and had seven RBIs and Ted Williams two HRs and five RBIs. Johnny Pesky and Al Zarilla had five hits apiece. The day before, the Red Sox beat St. Louis 20-4. (Three years later, in 1953, the Red Sox set a MLB record with 17 runs in the seventh inning of a 23-3 win against the Tigers. Gene Stephens got three hits and Sammy White scored three runs in a frame that saw 14 hits and six walks.)
Ted Williams final at bat
1960, Red Sox 5, Orioles 4
This list wouldn’t be complete without a Ted Williams moment. And Ted’s final moment was a classic. In this final at bat before retirement, Williams hit a long home run in his final at bat. But let John Updike describe, from his immortal essay Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. “Williams swung again, and there it was. The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering, motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books while it was still in the sky. (Jackie) Brandt ran back to the deepest corner of the outfield grass; the ball descended beyond his reach and struck in the crotch where the bullpen met the wall, bounced chunkily, and, as far as I could see, vanished.” Afterwards. Williams refused to tip his cap to the adoring Fenway faithful. As Updike explained, “Gods do not answer letters.”
‘The Impossible Dream’
1967, Red Sox 5, Twins 3
In 1967, the American League had one of the great pennant races in history. Four teams — the Tigers, White Sox, Twins and Red Sox — battled all season, and from September 15 until the last day of the season, all remained within two games of each other. The Red Sox were the surprise team of the bunch after finishing ninth the previous season. Coming into the season’s final day, the Red Sox and Twins were tied for first place with the Tigers one-half game back. The Red Sox beat the Twins as eventual MVP and Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski goes 4-for-4 and eventual Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg got the win. The Tigers could have tied the Red Sox if they swept a doubleheader from the Angels, but after winning the first game the Detroit bullpen failed in the nighcap. For the first time in 21 years, the Red Sox made it to the World Series.
Fisk wills it fair
1975, Red Sox 7, Reds 6, 12 innings, Game 6, World Series
This was the signature moment in one of the greatest World Series ever staged. Cincinnati led the series 3-2, and appeared on the precipice of its their first World Series since 1940. But Bernie Carbo’s dramatic pinch-hit three run home run in the eighth tied the game 6-6. Boston had a chance to win it in the ninth but failed to score after loading the bases with nobody out. In the 11th, Red Sox right-fielder Dwight Evans robbed Joe Morgan with a tremendous catch. Finally, Boston catcher Carlton Fisk sent a long drive into the night, and signalled the ball to stay fair it hit the left field foul pole for a game-winning home run. The Reds would win the World Series the next night when Joe Morgan singled home Ken Griffey Sr. with two outs in the top of the ninth for a 4-3 win.
Bucky ‘Bleepin’ Dent
1978, Yankees 5, Red Sox 4, AL East playoff
It was a game in a season, and a season in a game. After 162 games, the old rivals were dead even with 99 wins apiece, necessitating a one-game playoff to decide the American League East. Carl Yastrzemski hit an early home run against Ron Guidry. But then Bucky Dent struck with a three-run homer that just cleared Fenway’s 37-foot high left field wall. The game came down to the last at bat, and when Yaz popped to Graig Nettles the Yankees completed their comeback from 14 1/2 game behind in July.
The great comeback
2004, Red Sox 6, Yankees 4, 12 innings; Red Sox 5, Yankees 4, 14 innings, Games 4 and 5, American League Championship Series
It seemed certain the Curse of the Bambino would continue after the Yankees beat the Red Sox 19-8 to take a 3-0 lead in the ALCS. No MLB team had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series. The Yankees took a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning of Game Four, but the Sox scratched out a run against Mariano Rivera, then won it in the 12th on a two-run homer by David Ortiz. Boston rallied again the next night, tying the game with a pair of runs in the eighth and winning it on a base hit by Ortiz (who else) in the 14th. The Red Sox would go on to win the pennant, destroying the Yankees 10-3 in the seventh game at Yankee Stadium. And then they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four games to win their first World Series in 86 years.
Way back a hundred or so years ago, between 1909 and 1915, no less than 13 new, state-of the-art baseball fields were opened. These classic fields had one defining characteristic — they were fireproof. Built of brick, concrete and steel, unlike their wooden predecessors, these ball fields were made to last
And last they did — in fact 10 of them lasted 50 years or more. And two – Fenway Park and Wrigley Field — stand to this day.
All 16 major league teams at the time called these parks home at one point or another. Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis and the Polo Grounds in New York housed both National League and American League clubs at the same time.
If these ballparks could talk, they’d have some amazing stories to tell. And some strange and unusual tales as well. To wit:
Shibe Park, Philadelphia, 1909 — On Opening Day in the new Philly digs, A’s veteran catcher Michael “Doc” Powers, who was also a medical doctor, crashed into the wall behind the plate while trying to catch a foul pop. Powers suffers a severe intestinal injury and left the game in the seventh inning. Despite three operations, Powers passed away two weeks later.
Sportsman’s Park, St. Louis, 1909 — St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck pulled off his most famous stunt in 1951. After jumping out of a cake between games of a doubleheader, 3-foot, 7-inch midget Eddie Gaedel, shown left, wearing number 1/8, stepped up to the plate and walked on four pitches from Detroit’s Bob Cain. Gaedel was pinch-run for, and never appeared in another major league game.
Forbes Field, Pittsburgh, 1909 — Late in the 1920 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds staged the last tripleheader ever played in the majors. After dropping the first two games by scores of 13-4 and 7-3, the Pirates salvaged game three 6-0. But by then the Reds had already secured third-place money.
League Park, Cleveland, 1910 — The Indians, on the way to their first championship, routed the Brooklyn Dodgers 8-1 in Game 5 of the 1920 World Series.. But the game will be remembered for three World Series firsts by Indians players — Elmer Smith’s grand slam, pitcher Jim Bagby’s home run, and shortstop Bill Wambsganss unassisted triple play.
Comiskey Park, Chicago, 1910 — Bill Veeck’s son Mike was the mastermind of Disco Demolition Night in 1979 — a promotion that backfired. Fans were encouraged to bring disco records to be burned on the field between games of a doubleheader with the Tigers. Mayhem ensued, thousands of fans poured onto the field and refused to budge, and the umpires forfeited the second game to Detroit.
Griffith Stadium, Washington, 1911 — The new Senators ballpark, right, built in just a month following a fire that destroyed the wooden grandstands, featured some odd dimensions, such as 407 feet down the left-field line. But the strangest quirk was the indent in center, with a portion of the wall jutting inward to accommodate a tree and several houses whose owners were unwilling to sell.
Polo Grounds, New York, 1911 — In a park made famous by Bobby Thomson’s home run and Willie Mays’ catch, the strangest event at the Polo Grounds was the death of Indians shortstop Ray Chapman in 1920 .Chapman was beaned by Yankees submariner Carl Mays and died the next day, the last death on a major league ballfield.
Crosley Field, Cincinnati, 1912 — President Franklin D. Roosevelt flipped a light switch at the White House and the Reds beat the Phillies 2-1 in the first night game in major league history in 1935. Crosley Field also was the first park to place distances on the outfield fences “so the spectators may readily ascertain far drives carry” according to the Sporting News.
Fenway Park, Boston, 1912 — The Red Sox abandoned Fenway Park, left, during the 1915 and 1916 World Series to play their home games at Braves Field. In 1929 they announced they were considering vacating Fenway. Between 1929 and 1932 the Sox played their Sunday games at Braves Field due to Fenway’s proximity to a church.
Tiger Stadium, Detroit, 1912 — Tiger Stadium opened on April 20, 1912, the same day as Fenway Park and less than a week after the Titanic hit an iceberg and went down in the North Atlantic. The new ballpark was known as Navin Field at the start, and was built on the same site where the Western League Tigers played in 1886.
Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, 1913 — In one of Brooklyn’s daffiest moments, the Dodgers wound up with three men on third base — Dazzy Vance, Chick Fewster and Babe Herman. Herman, who will long be remembered for doubling into a double play, was called out for passing a runner, and Fewster wandered off the bag and is tagged out. For years Brooklyn fans would respond “Which base?” when told the Dodgers had three men on base.
Wrigley Field, Chicago, 1914 — Surprisingly, the Cubs were not the first team to call Wrigley Field home. The Chicago Whales played at the new Weeghman Park in 1914 and 1915 before the ill-fated Federal League disbanded. The Cubs moved in for the 1916 season, and the park was renamed Cubs Park; 10 years later it became Wrigley Field, right.
Braves Field, Boston, 1915 — Built on what was once a golf course, Braves Field was a long par 5 — 400 feet to left and 440 to center, with a gaping 500-foot chasm in right center. Needless to say, it was not exactly a homer haven. Only eight home runs were hit in the first year of the park, and none of them went over the fence.
I caught my first game at the new Citi Field the other night. Very nice ballpark. Loved the brickwork and the out-of-town scoreboard that shows baserunners and outs so you can really follow the other games. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda is an amazing tribute to Jackie Robinson. Vast improvement over Shea Stadium.
Of course Shea was an ugly place to play baseball, almost from the beginning. One of those sterile, cookie-cutter multipurpose stadiums, like Riverfront in Cincinnati or Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Some good memories with the Miracle Mets, 1986 and all, but not a lot of character.
One big distraction at Citi Field is the planes taking off from LaGuardia. Same as the old Shea in that sense.
I’ve now been to all three Mets home parks — the old Polo Grounds in Manhattan, Shea and right next door Citi.
And I will be seeing the new Yankee Stadium for the first time later this week.
In the meantime, these are the ballparks I’ve visited over the years, with memories of each:
1. Yankee Stadium
The Old Stadium – My first baseball game (1958); seeing Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Ted Williams homer in the same game (1960); Yanks-Tigers 19-inning tie (1968); Fourth of July twinbill vs. Red Sox (1973); Sunday doubleheaders.
The Refurbished Stadium — Yankees vs. Orioles in the 70s; Donnie Baseball in the 80s and early 90s; Yankees 12, Red Sox 11, 10 innings (1996); David Wells perfect game (1998); World Series victories in 1998 and 1999; Roger Clemens 300th win (2003); Aaron Boone’s homer in 11th inning wins the 2003 AL pennant over Boston; Double rally vs Padres, Yankees win in 12 innings (2004); Yankees tie team record with eight home runs in game (2007); Yankees beat Texas, 18-7, capping run of 59 runs in last four games seen at Stadium (2008).
2. Candlestick Park — Willie Mays hits a grand slam and Juan Marichal beats the Cubs (1962); Giants home opener (1985)..
3. Polo Grounds — Mets outfielder Jim Hickman hits for the natural cycle; Stan Musial pinch-hits for Cardinals (1963).
4. Shea Stadium — Banner Day parade (1967); NLCS loss to Mike Scott (1986); Yankees lose two to Red Sox (1975); Subway Series regular season battles with Yankees.
5. Fenway Park — Yankee southpaw Fritz Peterson wins 20th game (1970); Ron Blomberg first DH, Opening Day (1973); Nolan Ryan 15 Ks (1977); Bucky Dent HR beats Boston in AL playoff game (1978).
6. Memorial Stadium — Dock Ellis lifts Yankees to win over Orioles en route to pennant (1976).
7. Oakland Coliseum — A’s crush Angels in home opener (1985).
8. Arlington Stadium – Tony Pena homers and Roger Clemens stops Rangers on a hot night in Texas (1990).
9. Fulton County Stadium — Giants rout Braves, 23-8 (1990).
10. Mile High Stadium — Rockies beat the Mets in inaugural season in Colorado (1993).
11. SkyDome — Two-time champion Blue Jays beat the Yankees at the ballpark now known as Rogers Centre (1994).
12. Coors Field — Eric Young ties modern record record with six stolen bases, 10 home runs hit as Rockies beat Dodgers, 16-15 (1996).
13. Wrigley Field — Cubs and Pirates split a doubleheader; Sammy Sosa hits three-run homer to win nightcap for Chicago (2002).
14. Pro Player Stadium — Marlins beat Braves in near-empty ballpark (2002).
15. Tropicana Field — Rays beat Yankees on walk-off walk in 10th (2002).
16. Pac Bell/AT&T Park — Barry Bonds steals 500th base (2003); Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s home run record (2007).
17. Metrodome — The Blue Jays beat ace left-hander Johan Santana and the Twins (2005).
18. Camden Yards — Yankees beat Orioles, sit behind Dr. and Mrs. Derek Jeter (2006).
19. Citi Field — Mets score five in eighth, three on Carlos Delgado home run, to beat Pittsburgh, 7-3 (2009).
The greatest game I ever saw was the Yankees-Red Sox playoff at Fenway Park, October 2, 1978.
And somewhere deep in the copy morgue of the Fitchburg-Leominster Sentinel & Enterprise is my page one story on that incredible game in Boston. The lead went something like this: It was a game within a season, and a season within a game.
In many ways, the game mirrored the season, and the ups and downs each team experienced from April to October. The Red Sox jumped out to a 2-0 lead, the Yankees rallied on Bucky Dent’s home run to go ahead, and a Boston rally fell just short in the ninth as Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski made the final two outs.
In a similar vein, the Red Sox jumped out to a 14 1/2 game lead in July before the Yankees rallied to capture the lead following the Boston Massacre, a four-game sweep of the Sox at Fenway in September. But the Red Sox won their final eight games to force a tie, only to lose the playoff. When you think about it, one at bat separated the two clubs over the course of 163 games.
At a graduation party several years ago, I met Mike Torrez, the Red Sox pitcher who surrendered the Dent home run. I smiled and shook his hand and told him I was a Yankee fan, and that I was at Fenway for the 1978 playoff.
Torrez winced, and at first I thought he was going to put out his cigar on my forehead. Instead he paused, then reflected:
“That was a great baseball game, probably the most pressure-filled game I ever played. I had good stuff that day, real good stuff, and I was cruising. until Dent hit that fly ball. Thanks for reminding me.”
In “The Greatest Game” by Richard Bradley conjured up many vivid memories of that unforgettable day. The crisp October weather, the shadows, and that beacon of sunlight that nearly blinded Lou Piniella in right field in the late innings.
The way the wind shifted, knocking down Reggie Jackson’s home run bid in the first inning and aiding Dent’s fly ball over the wall in the seventh.
The unbelievable crowd noise that day, which kept building, hit a few blips in the late innings, and reached a crescendo as the Sox tried to rally in the bottom of the ninth.
And then, as Yaz popped out to Graig Nettles at third, the crowd grew silent instantly, as if someone had pulled the plug on the sound system.
Grown men celebrated that day, on the Fenway turf and throughout New York.
And grown men wept too, in the stands and in the Red Sox clubhouse and all over New England.
It truly was a game within a season, and a season within a game.
This week, the SportsLifer continues his countdown of memorable events he has witnessed. In the initial installment last week, events 41-50 were featured.
40. Ron Hassey long home run helps Yankees Beat Blue Jays 7-5, September, 1985
39. The Boston Massacre, game two, Yanks beat Red Sox 13-2, September, 1978
38. Mickey Mantle makes final appearance at Yankee Stadium, Old Timers Day, 1994
37. Lew Alcindor, right, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and NCAA champion UCLA beat Providence at Madison Square Garden, 1968
36. Phil Esposito scores four goals against the Bruins, Rangers win 7-4 at Boston Garden, 1979
35. Miami Hurricanes crush Notre Dame 37-13 at the Orange Bowl, 1981
34. Giants defense dominates Dolphins 20-3 on way to second Super Bowl title, 1990
33. Yanks’ Ron Blomberg becomes first DH in history, Fenway Park, 1973
32. Alex Johnson home run in 12th inning helps Yankees beat Red Sox 2-1, September, 1974
31. Big East semifinals feature four Top 20 teams (UConn, St. John’s, Miami, Syracuse) 1999
Bill Rodgers beats Jeff Wells by two seconds; Randy Thomas claims fifth place, Boston Marathon, 1978