Happy one hundredth birthday, Fenway Park! It really his America’s Most Beloved Ballpark, and for good reason. No other ballpark is this old or – let’s face it – this totally awesome. When you watch a game there, you really have this overwhelming sense of the history that’s gone down, and you wonder what the walls would say if they could talk. That park saw everything. For hundred years, most of them culminating in postseason disappointment so profoundly gut-wrenching that your first instinct would be to think that somebody had to have planned it that way, this park bore witness to the lives and times of the players who played, the managers who managed, and the fans who supported, day in and day out, no matter how good or bad it got. Standing like a sentinel right in the middle of Boston, it has seen everything that’s happened, both in and out of baseball, in that city in the last hundred years. Think about that for a minute. If the walls could talk, what would they say? In addition to the regular lot, this park has seen Major League baseball players, minor league baseball players, National League baseball players, college baseball players, high school baseball players, football players, hockey players, basketball players, soccer players, boxers, musicians, soldiers, fans from every walk of life, wins, losses, World Series, no-hitters, a five-hundred-foot home run, more than ten thousand home runs total, the tallest wall in any ballpark in the United States, the first foul ball screen ever used, the only in-play ladder in Major League Baseball, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s last political speech, and so much more.
This park is alive with character. Every part of the park has a story: the Green Monster that now stands in place of Duffy’s Cliff, the Pesky Pole, the Fisk Pole, the retired numbers, Willamsburg, the bullpens. Everything. It’s small, and the seats don’t have cushions, and you can’t order gourmet food behind home plate. But seriously, who wants to go to a baseball game just to feel like you’re watching the game on television or at a restaurant? No, you want to feel the park and to live the experience. We’ve got the best fans in all of sport, I’d say, and we’ve got the best venue to match.
If April 20, 1912 was the day that Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park got married, then April 20, 2012 was the day that Red Sox Nation and Fenway Park renewed their vows. I can’t even bear the thought that several years ago we almost lost Fenway Park forever, and I can bear the thought even less that there weren’t more people interested in saving it. It’s truly a gem of a ballpark, and it’s one of every Red Sox fan’s favorite places in the whole world.
But what would a family affair be without a little token drama? Apparently all living uniformed personnel were invited, but apparently Theo wasn’t invited until Thursday and declined to go. Curt Schilling, who has made no secret of his criticism of Bobby V., declined an invitation due to a commitment to his business. It was speculated that Tito wouldn’t be there, but after all he was. It’s really a shame that all this drama has to get in the way of such a great day in the history of what’s brought all these diverse people together. I know it’s corny, but why can’t we all just get along, just for one day? Obviously we weren’t there for any of the drama, so we can’t really know how bad or not-so-bad it was, but anyway it would have been nice to have these individuals, who’ve been so crucial to bringing about what is (“is,” and hopefully not “was”) arguably a golden age in our club’s history.
Anyway, here are the details. There was an introduction that basically said that the constant throughout history is baseball, and the constant throughout baseball is Fenway, and the constant throughout us disparate fans is this team. Then John Williams conducted the Boston Pops in playing “Fanfare for Fenway,” his new composition. There was the national anthem. There was the flyover, which always gets me. Then there was a steady stream of past players in their uniforms; they all congregated in the parts of the field that they played. Most of the who’s-who as well as the unknowns of Red Sox history was there, those that could barely walk and those who recently retired. It was really just beautiful to see generations of players represented before generations of fans. You could acutely feel that you were witnessing history not only by bearing witness to the occasion but also by remembering that each and every one of those players had borne witness to Red Sox Nation. (Incidentally, the whole procession received continuous applause and a standing ovation. Terry Francona’s applause and name-chanting was deafeningly thunderous, as it should have been. Nomar, Pedro, Yaz, and Pesky also received substantial thunder. And also Wake, Tek, Bobby Doerr, Jerry Remy, Jim Rice, Kevin Millar, and a host of others too numerous to name.) Then there was a toast with grape juice, supplied at every seat for every fan of every age, led by Pedro and Millar, which as you can imagine was highly, highly entertaining and completely brought you back to 2004. It was literally the largest toast in one venue, as in a new world record. But hey, that’s the strength of Red Sox Nation for you.
The first pitch was thrown from the row of seats behind the first base dugout by the mayor of Boston, just like it was one hundred years ago. This year, Thomas Menino was joined by Caroline Kennedy and Thomas Fitzgerald, two descendants of 1912 Boston’s Mayor John Fitzgerald.
I have to say, the throwback uniforms were a real treat. How fortuitous that the schedule allowed us to play the exact same team, too. I have to admit, even though the score a hundred years ago was 7-6 in eleven innings, I was hoping for a big more of a thrashing, as close as a close game would have been to the original may have been. Ultimately, a win to preserve the history would have been very much appreciated and appropriate.
Sadly, a win was not to be. Buchholz allowed home run after home run after home run. Now that he and Beckett have both allowed five home runs in one game this season, the 2012 club becomes one of only three teams in Major League history to carry two starters who have given up five home runs each in one game in one season. (Incidentally, one of the other two was the 2009 club, and Buchholz and Beckett were both at fault then too.) He gave up six runs, five earned (you can thank Pedroia for dropping a routine popup, a rare sight indeed), on nine hits, five of which were home runs. All of the home runs were solo shots, and three of them led off innings. He only allowed one other extra-base hit, a double. He lasted six innings, walked two, and struck out two.
Buchholz used four pitches: a four-seam, a cutter, a curveball, and a changeup. His four-seam got up to ninety-five miles per hour and was his most abundant and effective pitch; he threw it for strikes more than eighty percent of the time. The others were thrown for strikes less than sixty percent of the time, which is unfortunate since the majority of his pitches category-wise were off-speeds.
Atchison pitched the seventh, Thomas and Tazawa teamed up for the eighth, and Tazawa pitched the ninth.
We got on the board in the second when Papi homered to the Green Monster. The ball, a fastball, bounced off of the very top of the wall and was ruled a double before it came under review and was rightly overturned. In the fifth, a pair of doubles by Ross and Aviles scored another run. That was all we managed. Don’t even think for second that you weren’t thinking that the stage may have been set for something truly epic: a recreation of the original final score. Our final score ended up being 6-2, but just imagine if we could have somehow scored four more runs to tie it, gone to the eleventh inning, and then scored one more run?
It seemed like every single one of our rallies was killed before it got started. Aviles and Papi each had two hits for the only multi-hit performances of the day. In addition to the home run and those two doubles, we hit two more, and that was it for extra bases. Not one member of our lineup walked. Repko made a decidedly Ellsbury-esque catch. I hope Bobby V. paid attention to the “We Want Tito” chant in the ninth; we have the lowest team ERA in the Majors and are now on a four-game losing streak overall and a four-game home losing streak for the first time since 2010 with a record of four and nine.
At any rate, one hundred years of Fenway Park have come and gone, so here’s to the next hundred. Here’s to a happy birthday to America’s Most Beloved Ballpark. Fenway Park, all that you’ve seen and all that you mean, we forever salute you!
In other news, the Bruins lost to the Caps, 2-1.
Boston Globe Staff/John Tlumacki
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