July 27, 2002: Boston, Massachusetts
“Oh I love that dirty water, Boston you’re my home!” Fenway Park, named after the Fens wetlands the ballpark was built in, has been home to the Boston Red Sox since April 20, 1912. Over the past 93 seasons, Fenway Park and the Red Sox have been a staple in the New England culture. Generations of fans have packed Fenway Park, finishing no lower than 5th in American League attendance the past 14 seasons, despite the fact that Fenway’s seating capacity is 37,673. After spending a day at Fenway Park with Mike and our friend Matt, I came to the conclusion that baseball in Boston is more than a game; it is a way of life.
If you arrive at Fenway Park just for a Red Sox game, you’re missing out on the best pregame scene in Major League Baseball. (Sorry, Wrigleyville!) The Red Sox close off the streets surrounding the ballpark and turn Yawkey Way and Van Ness Street into a block party, 81 times a year! Besides the dozens of memorabilia shops and bars, there are local vendors serving some of the best food New England has to offer. (I can recommend the sausage and peppers grinder.) Mike, Matt and I walked around the Fenway Park area for two hours prior to entering the ballpark. The day’s game was an unusual 5:05 start time between the hometown Sox and their division rivals, the Baltimore Orioles. Matt was able to purchase three great seats in the grandstand section behind the Sox dugout. The seats at Fenway are as close to the field as any other in baseball; they are also the oldest. You feel like you’re part of the action! Even the Green Monster, built in 1947, seemed closer than the 310 feet it stands from home plate. Some say it is. The 33,474 in attendance were treated to a 2-hour and 22-minute game. Red Sox starting pitcher John Burkett pitched a four-hit complete game and fan favorite Lou Merloni hit a home run to propel the Red Sox to a 4-0 win against the Orioles.
After the game, Matt showed Mike and I around the great city of Boston. We visited Quincy Market and the Bull & Finch Pub, which is the pub Cheers is based on. Seeing a new city is fun, but doing it with a local is even better. Matt knew all the shortcuts in town. Matt has always been a part of Red Sox Nation; going to school in New York, a few train stops away from Yankee Stadium, must have been tough.
This essay on Fenway Park and Boston is probably going to be the shortest one I write. Not because I did not have a great time, not because I was there a short time, but because to read about Fenway Park and Red Sox Nation is nothing like experiencing it. Reading books about the Sox and watching the games on NESN cannot compare to walking from Prudential Center to Fenway “Pahk” or touching the Green “Monstah.” Boston Red Sox fans are the most loyal in baseball; their passion, which at times can be overwhelming, is second to none. Being a baseball fan in New York is an entirely different experience, because there are baseball fans from all over the country that bring their allegiances with them… plus, there are two teams. In Boston, there are no other choices. Being a part of Red Sox Nation is a greater responsibility than following the Red Sox; it is a culture that brings New England together forming the first dynasty of sports fandom.
PS: Since first visiting Fenway Park, the Red Sox have enjoyed their greatest season ever, winning the World Series in October of 2004. It was the Red Sox’ first World Series Championship since 1918. As if winning a World Series for the first time in 86 years isn’t new enough, how they accomplished it made it even more special: coming behind from a three-game-to-none deficit to defeat their arch rivals, the New York Yankees.