Well, this is the big one. How to Be a Yankee Fan in Boston. The series begins tonight, and with Tampa Bay losing last night, the Yankees’ chances of winning the AL East went from slim to puncher’s.
Forget the Interleague games, even Yankees vs. Mets. Forget Cubs vs. Cardinals – that’s a joke. Forget Dodgers vs. Giants – since 1958, anyway, the California version has hate but it’s 400 miles, not 14. Forget Alabama vs. Auburn. Forget Duke vs. North Carolina. Forget Rangers vs. Islanders or Devils. Forget Celtics vs. Knicks, 76ers or Lakers. And while I wouldn’t wear opposing colors to either a Philadelphia Eagles or an Oakland Raiders game, there is no NFL rivalry, not even Redskins vs. Cowboys, that has the animus of this one. This is the only rivalry in North American sports that resembles a soccer derby (and that’s pronounced “darby”).
This is the one rivalry where the cops are out for more than “just in case.” This is the one where breaking up fights is presumed necessary.
In the movie Green Street Hooligans, Charlie Hunnam tries to describe the rivalry between his favorite “football club,” West Ham United of the East End of London, and Millwall, of Southeast London. Elijah Wood, playing an American whose sister married Hunnam’s brother, said, “So it’s like the Yankees and the Red Sox,” and Hunnam said, “More like the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
Well, Red Sox fans do hate the Yankees, and Yankee Fans, as much as the Arab murderers who call themselves “Palestinians” hate the Israelis. We still don’t hate the Sox as much – but it’s not for a lack of trying on the part of the Sox and their fans.
So I urge a great deal of caution for anyone going up for this series. Be mindful of what you do, say and wear, and where you go. If you follow these instructions, the worst you should get is a bit of verbal.
Before You Go. Boston weather is a little different from ours, being a little bit further north. Mark Twain, who lived the last few years of his life in nearby Hartford, said, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute.” For this series, October 1, 2 and 3, The Boston Globe is predicting it will be a little chilly at night, around 47 degrees. The day games should be in the low 60s, though. So you might want to bring a light jacket.
You can also wear your Yankee cap, and if you have a Yankee jersey or T-shirt, it will probably be okay to wear it, but be prepared for Sox fans yelling something pertinent to the player you’re honoring with his name and number. If it’s Jeter or A-Rod, be prepared to hear that they’re gay – which, in A-Rod’s case, has become completely laughable. If it’s A-Rod, it might be a reference to steroids, so just remind them that Papi wouldn’t have been so Big without them.
What you do NOT want to wear is the kind of T-shirt you see sold at the souvenir stands on River Avenue, with messages like “BAHSTON SAWKS CACK” or “There never was a curse, the Sox just sucked for 86 years!” If you have one (or more) of these, leave them at home. The Chowdaheads are already antagonized by our mere presence in their city, no reason to make it that much worse.
You should also make sure you have your tickets – or a receipt for tickets, if you ordered online – before you go. If you don’t already have them, you’re probably out of luck for this series. Next year, you may have a chance.
And, of course, despite the stupidity of the concept of “Red Sox Nation,” you do not need a passport to cross the New Haven City Line, or to change your money. Sales tax in Massachusetts is 6.25 percent, less than New Jersey’s 7 percent and New York’s 8.875 percent. However, aside from that, pretty much everything in Boston and neighboring cities like Cambridge, Brookline and Quincy costs about as much as it does in New York. In other words, a bundle. You have been warned.
Getting There. Getting to Boston is fairly easy. However, I do not recommend driving, especially if you have Yankee paraphernalia on it (bumper sticker, license-plate holder, decals, etc.). Chances are, it won’t get vandalized, but you never know.
If you must drive, it’s 214 miles by road from Times Square to Boston’s Downtown Crossing, 206 miles from Yankee Stadium to Fenway. If you’re going from Manhattan’s West Side, take the West Side Highway until it becomes the Henry Hudson Parkway until reaching Interstate 95, which becomes the Cross Bronx Expressway and then, outside the city, the New England Thruway (or the New England Extension of the New York State Thruway). If you’re going from the East Side, take the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive to the Triboro – sorry, force of habit, the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. (At least I didn’t call the FDR “the East River Drive.” I ain’t that old.) Then take I-278 North, where it becomes the Bruckner Expressway, and will flow into I-95. Either of these sets of directions will also apply if you’re going from The Bronx itself.
If you’re going from Queens, take the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge and the Hutchinson River Parkway, until reaching I-95. If you’re going from Brooklyn, take the Belt Parkway until you reach I-678, the Van Wyck Expressway, and then follow the directions from Queens. If you’re going from Staten Island, take the Staten Island Expressway across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and then follow the directions from Brooklyn. If you’re going from Long Island, take the Long Island Expressway to the Cross Island Expressway to the Throgs Neck Bridge and Throgs Neck Expressway, and then take I-95 North.
If you’re going from New Jersey, take the Turnpike to Exit 18E and the George Washington Bridge, where you’ll pick up I-95, and then follow the directions from the West Side. And, of course, if you’re going from Connecticut, just take I-95, which is the Connecticut Turnpike.
Continue on I-95 into Connecticut to Exit 48 in New Haven, and take I-91 North toward Hartford. When you reach Hartford, take Exit 29 to I-84, which you will take into Massachusetts and all the way to its end, where it merges with Interstate 90, the Massachusetts Turnpike. (And the locals call it “the Mass Pike” – never “the Turnpike” like we do in New Jersey.)
Although you will see Fenway a couple of minutes before you reach the exit, you’ll take Exit 22 for “Prudential Center” – not to be confused with the Newark arena that is home to the Devils and temporarily to the Nets and the WNBA’s New York Liberty. This is a skyscraper with a major area mall on its first 2 levels. You will end up on Huntington Avenue, and make a right on Belvidere Street, then a left on Boylston Street, and then a right on Ipswich Street, which will take you to Fenway’s parking deck. If all goes well, and you make one rest stop (preferably around Hartford, roughly the halfway point), and you don’t get hammered by traffic in either New York or Boston (hardly a given), you should be able to make the trip in under 5 hours.
But, please, do yourself a favor and get a hotel outside the city. It's not just that hotels in the city are expensive, unless you want to try one of the thousands of bed-and-breakfasts with their communal bathrooms. It's also that Boston drivers are said to come in 2 classes, depending on how big their car is: Homicidal and suicidal.
The last time I stayed overnight in Boston, I stayed at the Harvard Square Hotel in Cambridge, and it was very good for only $140. The time before that, I was at a hotel near the Garden, and it was that expensive, the front door didn't close properly, the air conditioner didn't work, and the TV had only 3 channels -- one of them porn. (If I got charged extra for the five seconds I saw it before realizing what it was and changing the channel -- okay, ten seconds -- it was not obvious on the final bill.) The Harvard Square was far more comfortable and convenient, for roughly the same price. For this and other Cambridge lodging, take Exit 18 off the Mass Pike and follow the signs for Cambridge, across the Charles River to the north.
Boston, like Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, too close to fly from New York, and once you factor in fooling around with everything you gotta do at each airport, it doesn’t really save you much time compared to driving, the bus or the train.
The train is a very good option. Boston’s South Station is at 700 Atlantic Avenue, corner of Summer Street, at Dewey Square. (Named for Admiral George Dewey, naval hero of the Spanish-American War, not New York Governor and 1944 & ’48 Presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey, and not for former Red Sox right fielder Dwight “Dewey” Evans, either.) It’ll be between $110 and $158 in each direction from New York’s Penn Station to South Station, and it will take roughly 4½ hours. The Acela Express (formerly the Metroliner, the $158 option) will take about 3½ hours.
South Station also has a bus terminal attached, and it may be the best bus station in the country – even better than New York’s Port Authority. If you take Greyhound, you’ll leave from Port Authority’s Gate 84, and it will take about 4½ hours, most likely making one stop, at Hartford’s Union Station complex, or in the Boston suburbs of Framingham, Worcester or Newton. New York to Boston and back is tremendously cheaper, usually $46 round-trip, and is probably Greyhound’s best run. On the way back, you’ll board at South Station’s Gate 3.
When you get to South Station, pick up a copy of The Boston Globe, a great paper with one of the country’s best sports sections. There’s probably no paper that covers its local baseball team better, although the columns of Dan Shaughnessy (who popularized, if not coined, the phrase “Curse of the Bambino” and wrote a book with the title) and Bob Ryan (who grew up as a Phillies fan in Trenton before going to Boston College and falling in love with the Sox in the 1967 Impossible Dream season) can be a bit acerbic.
You will also be able to pick up the New York papers at South Station, if you want any of them. If you must, you can also buy the Boston Herald, but it’s a tabloid, and although neither’s organization still owns it, it carries all the hallmarks of the papers that have been owned by William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch. In other words, it’s a right-wing pack of sensationalism and lies that sometimes does sports well.
Once you have your newspapers, take the escalator down to the subway. Boston had the nation’s first subway service, in 1897, along Boston Common on what’s now the Green Line. Formerly known as the Metropolitan Transit Authority, leading to the folk song “MTA,” best-known version by the Kingston Trio in 1959, in 1965 it became the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), or “the T,” symbolized by the big T signs where many cities, including New York, would have M’s instead.
Boston was one of the last cities to turn from subway tokens to farecards, in 2006, a decade after New York's switch was in progress. A ride costs $2.00 with cash, but $1.70 with a CharlieCard, named for the protagonist of the "MTA" song. A 1-day pass is $9, and if you're spending the entire weekend, it may be cheaper to get the 7-day pass for $15.
(Here's the song, and keep in mind that Scollay Square station is now known as Government Center, and that the reason Mrs. Charlie doesn't give him the extra nickel along with the sandwich is that they're protesting the 5-cent exit fare -- my, how times have changed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZZ0o_fSgAw&feature=related )
There are 4 lines: Red, Green, Orange and Blue. (Don't worry about the Silver Line: That's basically an underground bus service designed to get people to Logan Airport.) Chances are, you won’t be using the Blue Line at all on your trip, and the Orange Line might not be used, either.
It's important to remember that Boston doesn't have an "Uptown" and "Downtown" like Manhattan, or a "North Side," "East Side," "South Side" or "West Side" like many other cities. It does have a North End and a South End, not to be confused with South Boston, and an East Boston, although the West End was mostly torn down in the late 1950s to make way for the new Massachusetts General Hospital.
So for subway directions, remember this: Any train heading toward Downtown Crossing (Red and Orange Lines), Park Street (Red and Green Lines), State Street (Blue and Orange Lines) or Government Center (Blue and Green Lines), is "Inbound." Any train going away from those 4 downtown stations is "Outbound." This led to a joke that certain Red Sox pitchers who give up a lot of home runs have "been taken downtown more than the Inbound Red Line."
South Station is on the Red Line. If you’re coming by Amtrak or Greyhound, take the Red Line to Park Street – known locally as “Change at Park Street Under” (or “Change at Pahk Street Undah” in the local dialect) – and take the Green Line, either the B (terminating at Boston College and having that on its marquee), C (Cleveland Circle) or D (Riverside) train. Do not take the E (Huntington Avenue) to get to Fenway. If you’re coming from your hotel, take any train that gets you to a transfer point to a Green Line B, C or D.
The B, C and D all stop at Kenmore. This is Kenmore Square, where Commonwealth Avenue, Beacon Street and Brookline Avenue all converge. Coming out of the station, if you look to your right, you’ll see a Barnes & Noble that serves as the Boston University Bookstore. On top of this building is that CITGO sign you’ve seen a thousand times on TV. (Some have suggested that it’s a target for slugger: C… IT… GO.)
Cross Beacon Street to Brookline Avenue. Watch out for scalpers (“Anybody buying? Anybody selling?” It’s every bit as bad as New York) and panhandlers (Boston has a worse problem, per capita, than New York does). You’ll cross over the Mass Pike and the railroad tracks, and come to the intersection of Brookline Avenue and Landsdowne Street, a.k.a. Ted Williams Way. This is home to one of Boston’s premier sports bars, the Cask ‘n’ Flagon. Not a place for a Yankee Fan – trust me, you can go in there when the Yanks are not in town, as long as you don’t announce your loyalties, but don’t do it when it’s Yanks-Sox. Lansdowne/Williams is the street that bounds Fenway’s left-field wall, the Green Monster. One more block, and you’ll reach Yawkey Way, formerly Jersey Street.
On Fenway’s wooden front doors, there’s still a number 24, for the old address of 24 Jersey Street. But the official address is now 4 Yawkey Way, the team’s office complex (including their ticket office) having taken the former Kenmore Bowladrome bowling alley that had been built into the ballpark. Note that you will not be let onto Yawkey Way beyond the ticket office at Number 4 without a game ticket.
Tickets. The Red Sox haven’t played to an unsold seat since May 14, 2003. That’s 7½ years. Easily a record. Granted, its current seating capacity is 37,402, one of the smallest in the majors (its former capacity of 33,513 made it the smallest in the last quarter of the 20th Century), but I get the feeling that it would sell out even at twice the current capacity (74,804).
Tickets to these games can be found, for a price. The prices charged by scalpers on the street, and online ticket agencies like StubHub, may be exorbitant. You may have to ask yourself, “How bad do I want this?” If you can afford it, and you want it that bad, get ‘em as far in advance as you can.
Premium seats officially go as high as $328. Most seats, however, are listed at $52 or less. Most seats are close, but because of the way the park was built in 1912 (and rebuilt after a fire in 1934), some of them have weird angles. Outfield Grandstand seats are $30, but you’ll have to turn, otherwise you’ll be facing not the infield but the left-field wall. Speaking of which: You want the Green Monster seats? $165. You want standing-room on the Monster? $35. No thank you, I am not paying thirty-five bucks to stand anywhere. Bleachers? Don’t even think about it, even at $28: Legend has it that, in 1978, the Red Sox hired Boston College linemen as security guards, and looked the other way when the BC’ers took their billy clubs to people foolhardy enough to wear Yankee gear out there.
And, of course, there is the possibility that your seat will be Obstructed View. Fenway and Wrigley Field in Chicago are the only ballparks still in service that hosted Major League Baseball prior to 1962, and so they’re the only ones left with support poles. When I went in 1999, I got an Obstructed View seat in Section 12, behind first base, from a scalper, who charged me “only” the $42 the seat would have cost had there not been a pole in the way; list price was $24. In 2010 dollars, I was paying $55 for a $31 seat. (It was worth it after A, I saw the look on the scalper’s face when I took the ticket and put my Yankee cap back on; and B, the Yankees won, 13-3. And the view wasn’t THAT obstructed.) Alas, the Sox no longer offer discounts for Obstructed View.
Going In. Gate A is at Brookline & Yawkey, Gate B at Ipswich & Van Ness, Gate C on Lansdowne, Gate D at Yawkey & Van Ness.
The ballpark isn’t all that well-lit, compared even to the recently-demolished New York parks, let alone all the newer parks that seem so much more open. This may seem a little intimidating. Well, to hell with that, you’re a Yankee Fan.
One good thing you can do is look for the Jimmy Fund boxes. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has run the fund since 1948, when the Boston Braves pitched in to raise money for a kind named Einar Gustafsson, then 12 years old and a patient of the Institute’s founder, Dr. Sidney Farber. Gustafsson was called Jimmy not so much because of his decidedly non-English name, but to protect his privacy. In the first year, $200,000 was raised for cancer research – over $1.8 million in today’s money.
When the Braves left town in 1953, Farber turned to the Red Sox. Later that year, when Ted Williams returned from the Korean War, he became the face of the Fund, becoming close friends with Farber and raising money all over the country, especially after his retirement as a player in 1960, until becoming too ill to do so a few years prior to his death in 2002. Mike Andrews, second baseman on the 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox, has been Chairman of the Jimmy Fund since 1979. Whenever I’ve visited Fenway, I’ve looked for those little boxes on the wall, and put in a dollar bill.
Incredibly, considering the state of cancer treatments at the time, not only did Einar “Jimmy” Gustafsson survive, but lived to take part in the Fund’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 1998, his anonymity no longer necessary. He lived until 2001, age 65, dead not from cancer but a stroke.
Food. On Yawkey Way, you’ll see a few small eateries, including a Cuban-themed barbecue stand named El Tiante, after Luis Tiant. I’m not sure how involved he is in running it, or if he’s often there, like Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia or Boog Powell in Baltimore. But as Cuban food is too spicy for me, I won’t eat there anyway. (Nothing against Tiant: He’s one of the few Red Sox, past or present, who doesn’t sicken me.)
On the inside, no frills. Standard ballpark fare, and while Fenway Franks have a nasty reputation, I’ve actually liked them on my visits. And one major advantage (at least for me) that Fenway has over Yankee Stadium (old or new): It has Dunkin Donuts, complete with lattes and coolattas.
If you want something a little better, there are plenty of places to eat and drink around Kenmore Square, to visit after the game. However, you’ll be better off getting back to your hotel, changing out of your Yankee gear, and finding a place near your hotel and going there in neutral clothing.
Team History Displays. On Yawkey Way, the Red Sox have banners honoring their titles: 1903, 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004* and 2007* World Champions; 1904, 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986 American League Champions; and 1988, 1990 and 1995 American League Eastern Division Champions. (Nothing for their 1998, 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2008 Wild Card berths.) These are also referenced as flags on the press box. (The New York Giants refused to play the Sox in the 1904 World Series, which was then cancelled. Officially, the Sox can't and don't claim to be 1904 World Champions, but let's get real: The Giants chickened out, and if that's not a forfeit, I don't know what is.)
At the old wooden front doors, there are plaques for the ballpark itself, longtime owner Tom Yawkey, and Eddie Collins, who had been a Hall of Fame second baseman for the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox and was Yawkey’s close friend and general manager when he died in 1951.
On the Van Ness Street side of the park, their retired numbers are posted: 1, Bobby Doerr, second baseman in the 1940s; 4, Joe Cronin, 1930s shortstop and 1940s manager; 6, Johnny Pesky, 1940s shortstop and longtime coach known as “Mr. Red Sox”; 8, Carl Yastrzemski, left fielder of the 1960s and ‘70s; 9, Ted Williams, left fielder of the 1940s and ‘50s; 14, Jim Rice, left fielder of the late 1970s and the ‘80s; and 27, Carlton Fisk, catcher of the 1970s. (And, of course, Jackie Robinson’s 42 – as the last team to integrate, in 1959, the Sox damn well better not forget his 42.) These numbers are also posted on the right-field roof. A statue of Williams is also on Van Ness Street.
Until the late 1990s, the numbers originally hung on the right-field facade in the order in which they were retired: 9-4-1-8. It was pointed out that the numbers, when read as a date (9/4/18), marked the eve of the first game of the 1918 World Series, the last championship series that the Red Sox won
The numbers on the right-field roof were originally placed in the order in which they were retired: 9, 4, 1, 8. Someone noticed that the numbers could signify a date: 9/4/18, or September 4, 1918, the day before the start of the last World Series the Red Sox won. (And, legitimately, still the last one. Because of World War I, the season ended a month earlier than intended.) So the next time the roof was painted, they were rearranged in chronological order: 1, 4, 8, 9, with new ones added, until it now reads 1, 4, 6, 8, 9, 14, 27, 42 – the 42 being Dodger blue, the others being Sox red.
On the scoreboard at the bottom of the Green Monster, there’s a display so subtle you could easily miss it, or see it and not notice it. The Yawkeys’ initials are there in Morse Code: TAM for Thomas Austin Yawkey (who bought the team in 1933 and owned them until his death in 1976), and JRY for Jean Remington Yawkey (who held control of the team until her death in 1992).
The Red Sox do have a team Hall of Fame, but no display for it inside the public areas of the ballpark.
Stuff. You can get pretty much anything you want, from T-shirts with names and numbers of long-gone players to team-oriented DVDs, in the souvenir stands across Yawkey Way, including the official Team Store. Before the Sox bought this store, it was pretty much the originator, along with the River Avenue shops across from the original Yankee Stadium, of the ballpark souvenir stand we’ve come to know.
During the Game. A lot of the Grandstand seats are wooden with iron armrests. These are a remnant of the park’s 1934 renovation, and aside from many of the seats at Wrigley Field they are the oldest remaining seats in the majors. They’re not very wide and provide little legroom. You may need to stand up a few times to improve your circulation.
Because of their connection with the Jimmy Fund, the Sox often let disabled or sick children sing the National Anthem. Say whatever you want about the Sox players and loudmouth team president Larry Lucchino, but the organization, as run by John W. Henry and Tom Werner, does seek to have and show class, and usually they do.
You may hear references to the foul poles. The one in right field is Pesky’s Pole: Johnny Pesky led the American League in hits 3 times (just leading the team, with Ted Williams on it, in hits was amazing), but hit just 17 home runs in his entire career; 6 of these were curled around this pole, although never off it. So the nickname is ironic, kind of like naming the left-field pole at Yankee Stadium after John Flaherty.
The one in left field is named Fisk’s Pole, and if you’ve ever seen the video of Carlton Fisk “doing the Fenway Twist” to end Game 6 of the 1975 World Series, you’ll know why. One of the amazing things about Fenway Park is that, as much past as the place has, and as much as it nods in the direction of that past, the Fisk Poles, to the top of the Monster, is lit up with bright yellow neon. Rather a modern touch by the standards of the park.
You may hear someone call Ted Williams “the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived.” This is an opinion based on some facts, but the greatest hitter who ever lived, according to the Splendid Splinter himself in his 1995 book Ted Williams’ Hit List, was Babe Ruth, who is still something of a sore spot among Sox fans. The red seat in Fenway’s bleachers – Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21 – is where a Williams home run landed in 1946, 502 feet from home plate. By a weird turn of events, this is exactly the same distance as the official longest home run ever hit at the original Yankee Stadium, by Mickey Mantle to that park’s center field bleachers in 1964 (not to be confused with the 3 times he hit the façade atop the upper deck in right field). But in his book The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs (referring to 1921 when, if the teams Ruth played against had then been playing in the parks they play in now, with shorter distances, Ruth would have hit a lot more than his official 59), in 1926 Ruth hit one into Fenway’s bleachers that went around 545 feet.
The Red Sox don’t have a special song they use to follow “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the 7th inning stretch. Nor do they have a true theme song. But in 1903, when the Boston Puritans (the name “Red Sox” did not become official until 1907) won the first World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, one of the big hit songs of the year was “Tessie,” from a Broadway musical called The Silver Slipper. The Sox fans of the day, known as the Royal Rooters, sang it really loud, and it began to unnerve the Pirates: Outfielder Tommy Leach said, “It was a real hum-dinger of a song, but it sort of got on your nerves after a while.” In 2004, the Boston-area-based punk band the Dropkick Murphys recorded a new version, with new lyrics about how the Rooters used the original over a century before. That version has led me, on a number of occasions, to shout, or type in this blog, “Tessie Was a Whore.” (And this was before I got into rooting for the English soccer club Arsenal, whose fans always sing about the current manager of arch-rival Tottenham Hotspur, having a mother who is a whore.)
In the middle of the 8th inning, the public-address system plays Neil Diamond’s 1969 hit “Sweet Caroline.” This song has nothing to do with Boston, or New England, or the team. Neil Diamond is not a Red Sox fan: Like the Dodgers, he started in Brooklyn, moved to Los Angeles, and, unlike most Brooklynites, stayed loyal to the Dodgers. And 1969 was not a particularly special year for the team. So why this song? Whoever knows for sure, he isn’t talking.
I don’t care how big the Yankees’ lead might turn out to be, or how dispirited the Sox fans might get as a result: Let sleeping dogs lie. In other words, do not mention Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, or Aaron Boone. Unless you do get into a civil conversation with a Sox fan (it is possible), and they actually do want to talk about the tumultuous events in question.
Because, let’s face it, like any other group of people, there’s always a 1 percent (or less) who ruin it for the other 99 percent. The type of people parodied in the Saturday Night Live sketch “The Boston Teens” (featuring Jimmy Fallon before he played a Sox fan in the U.S. version of Fever Pitch) were, in the Pedro Martinez era (1998-2004), too young to remember 1986, let alone 1978, 1975, 1967, or Boston’s agonizing close calls of the late 1940s. These fans, these Townies, the British would call them “chavs” (and no American city is chavvier than Boston, at least not that I know of), really didn’t deserve the victories of 2004 or 2007, and yet they’re the first to brag about them.
Most Sox fans are intelligent, and love the game as well as their own team. Many of them embrace the idea of keeping score. In the city that has been the center of American intellectual life for over 200 years, the Sox have had a lot of famous writers as fans: John Cheever, John Updike, Robert B. Parker, Stephen King, Doris Kearns Goodwin. The Kennedys, who have celebrated intellectualism for over half a century, are nearly all Red Sox fans. (Except the Shriver wing: They’re from Baltimore and Oriole fans.)
“Red Sox Nation” also counts among its citizens lots of comedians who, while occasionally crude, are very observant: Lenny Clarke (Uncle Carl in Fever Pitch), Steven Wright, Mike O’Malley, Conan O’Brien, Dane Cook, and SNLers Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler – but not, as it turns out, Fallon, who’s a Yankee Fan in real life. (Wow, he really can act.) We may mock Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, his brother Casey Affleck, and their friends Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, but they’re smart people and Red Sox fans. Michael Chiklis may have played a New York cop in The Commish and a New York superhero in the Fantastic Four movies, but he’s a Sox fan. Denis Leary, one of the funniest comedians in the business, may have played a New York cop in The Job and a New York fireman in Rescue Me, but in real life, he's another Sox fan – who says, “Every Yankee Fan, whether I know you or not, can kiss my ass.” Hey, Denis: Kiss my rings, all 27 of them!
So if you’re surrounded by Sox fans (and you probably will be, it’s not like soccer where they still all the enemy fans in the same section, one of the few occasions in life where segregation is good), and they just want to talk, by all means, talk with them. But keep it on a civil level. If they don’t want to antagonize you, why antagonize them? These are not the drunken Townies: They’re baseball fans first and Sox fans second. So be a baseball fan first and a Yankee Fan second. It’s worth it.
When the game ends, if the Sox win, the P.A. system will play “Dirty Water” by the Standells, a 1966 garage-rock hit (often called one of the earliest punk-rock songs) that is the singer’s perception of “my town,” Boston. Actually, the Standells were from Los Angeles. So was the song’s author, Ed Cobb, a member of the 1950s pop group the Four Preps – make of that whatever you want! Unlike the Standells, he had other hits: Besides the Preps’ songs, he also wrote Brenda Holloway’s song “Every Little Bit Hurts” and, believe it or not, “Tainted Love,” which was a non-charting song for R&B singer Gloria Jones in 1965, before its 1981 cover by Soft Cell and its reworking into Rihanna’s 2006 song “SOS.” (And, yes, Jones’ version is still the best of the 3.) “Dirty Water” is also used as a victory song for the Celtics, Bruins and Northeastern University hockey team.
After the Game. Win or lose, get out of the ballpark and back to your hotel (or to South Station) as quickly and as quietly as possible. This will require you to be on the streets of Boston, and, unlike you can get a taxi (don’t count on it), to take the Green Line in one direction or the other.
You’ll have to take some verbal on the streets and especially on the subway. Respond as little as possible. If the Yankees have won, you’ll know the bastardry the Sox fans spew at you will not change the result. If the Red Sox have won, they will be in a better mood, and may actually give you less of a hard time. This is a good time to observe the advice of the great football coach Paul Brown said, “When you win, say little; and when you lose, say less.”
Chances are, no one will try to pick a fight with you, or damage your Yankee gear (by spilling a drink on it, or worse). If they do, there will most likely be other Yankee Fans nearby, and they may have your back. Most Sox fans, regardless of how much they’ve had to drink, will not fight. And if they see Yankee Fans ready to defend each other, they could very well back off entirely.
Perhaps the best way to avoid a confrontation is to stay at your seat for as long as the Fenway ushers will let you. This is a tactic used in international soccer, with stadium stewards keeping the visiting fans in their section until the entire rest of the stadium is emptied of home supporters, to minimize the chance of hooliganism. This will also allow the crowd to thin out a little and make it easier to leave the park, regardless of the level of aggression.
Another way to avoid any unpleasantness is to find a bar where New Yorkers not only hang out, but are left alone. Easier said than done, right? Well, just as the Riviera Café off Sheridan Square in the West Village and Professor Thom’s on 2nd Avenue in the East Village are Sox-friendly bars in New York, there are places in Boston that welcome Yankee Fans.
The following establishments were mentioned in a Boston Globe profile during last year’s World Series: Champions, at the Marriott Copley Place hotel at 110 Huntington Avenue; The Sports Grille, at 132 Canal Street (across from North Station and the Garden); and, right across from Fenway itself, Game On! At 82 Lansdowne Street. I’ve also heard that Jillian’s, across from Fenway at 145 Ipswich Street, takes in Yankee Fans, but I’ve only seen it rammed with Chowdaheads, so I would advise against it.
Sidelights. Boston is probably America’s best sports city, per-capita. (It’s got 600,000 people as opposed to New York’s 8 million; 4.5 million in the metropolitan area as opposed to New York’s 20 or so million.) And the number of sports-themed sites you might want to check out is large.
* Solomon Court at Cabot Center. This is part of Northeastern University’s athletic complex, and was the site of the Huntington Avenue Grounds, the only other home the Boston Red Sox have ever known, from their founding in 1901 to 1911. When the Sox won the first World Series in 1903, it was here. At roughly the spot where the pitcher’s mound was, there is a statue of Cy Young, who pitched for the Sox in their 1903 and 1904 World Championship seasons. Huntington Avenue at Forsyth Street. Green Line E train to Northeastern.
* Carter Playground. There is a baseball field here, at what is still the most successful baseball location in Boston history. It was home to 3 ballparks, all named the Sound End Grounds. In 1871, the first such park was built there, and was home to the Boston Red Stockings of the first professional baseball league, the National Association. This team featured half the members of the first openly professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings (hence the name), and also had a young pitcher named Al Spalding, who would later found the team now known as the Chicago Cubs and the sporting-goods empire that still bears his name. That team won Pennants in 1872, ’73, ’74 and ’75, and its strength was one of the reasons the NA collapsed.
When the National League was founded in 1876, the Red Stockings were a charter member. They won Pennants in 1877 and ’78, and by the time they won the 1883 Pennant, they were popularly known as the “Boston Beaneaters.” Building a new park on the site in 1888, they won Pennants in 1891, ’92 and ’93. But on May 15, 1894, in a game against the NL version of the Baltimore Orioles, a fight broke out, and no one noticed that some kids had started a fire in the right-field seats. (Or maybe it was the ashes of a grown man’s cigar. Who knows.) The story goes that the park and 117 (or 170) buildings burned to the ground – and nobody died. (I don’t buy that part at all.)
A new park was hastily built on the site, while the Beaneaters played at the home of the city’s team in the 1890 Players’ League. This last South End Grounds hosted the Braves' 1897 and '98 Pennant winners, and lasted until 1914, when, with the team now called the Braves (owner James Gaffney had been a “Brave,” or officer in New York’s Tammany Hall political organization), decided it was too small for the crowds the team was now attracting. So he moved the team to Fenway, and played their 1914 World Series games there, and opened Braves Field the next season. Overall, 12 Pennants were won here, in a 44-year span -- as many as the Red Sox have won at the Huntington Avenue Grounds and Fenway Park combined in 110 years. Columbus Avenue at Hammond Street. Orange Line to Ruggles.
* Third Base Saloon. There’s some question as to what was the first “sports bar”: St. Louis Brown Stockings (the team now known as the Cardinals) owner Chris von der Ahe’s place on the grounds of Sportsman’s Park, or Michael T. McGreevy’s establishment that opened just outside the South End Grounds, both in the 1880s. “I call it Third Base because it’s the last place you go before home,” McGreevy would tell people. “Enough said?” McGreevy used that phrase to settle any and all arguments to the point where not only did “Nuf Ced” become his nickname, but he had it (spelled that way) laid in mosaic tile on the bar’s floor.
It became the headquarters of the Royal Rooters, a Beaneaters’ booster club, founded in 1897. In 1901, when the American League and the team that became the Red Sox was formed, Beaneaters owner Arthur Soden made one of the dumbest mistakes in sports history: Despite competition practically next-door to his team, he raised ticket prices. This infuriated the working-class Irish fan base of the NL club, and they immediately accepted Nuf Ced’s suggestion of switching to the AL outfit. (Wonder if they built their park near Nuf Ced for just that reason, to get his customers?) Nuf Ced and the Rooters stayed with the Sox after their 1912 move to Fenway, until 1920 when Prohibition closed him down. He died in 1930, and to this day, no Boston baseball team has ever won a World Series without him being present at all games. (Not legitimately, anyway.) Parking for Northeastern University is now on the site – and save your Joni Mitchell joke. 940 Columbus Avenue. Orange Line to Ruggles.
A new version, named McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon, was founded by Dropkick Murphys member Ken Casey, with “an exact replica of McGreevy’s original barroom.” 911 Boylston Street. Green Line B, C or D train to Hynes-Convention Center.
* Nickerson Field. Although Boston University no longer has a football team, it still plays other sports at this facility that opened in 1957. Its home stands are the surviving right field pavilion of Braves Field, where the Braves played from 1915 until they left after the 1952 season. In return for being allowed to play their 1914 World Series games at Fenway, the Braves invited the Sox to play their Series games at Braves Field, which seated 40,000, a record until the first Yankee Stadium was built. The Sox played their home Series games there in 1915, ’16 and ’18. The Braves themselves only played one World Series here, in 1948, losing to the Cleveland Indians, who had just beaten the Sox in a one-game Playoff for the AL Pennant at Fenway, negating the closest call there ever was for an all-Boston World Series.
The Braves’ top farm team was the Triple-A version of the Milwaukee Brewers, and, with their team in decline after the ’48 Pennant and the Sox having the far larger attendance, gave up the ghost and moved just before the start of the 1953 season, and then in 1966 to Atlanta. But they already had Warren Spahn and Eddie Mathews, and, ironically, if they’d just hung on a little longer, they would have had Hank Aaron (they’d already integrated with Sam Jethroe in 1948, 11 years before the Sox finally caved in to the post-1865 world and added Pumpsie Green), and could have played the 1957 and 1958 World Series in Boston instead of Milwaukee, and, once Ted Williams retired in 1960, Tom Yawkey could have gotten frustrated and the Red Sox could have moved with the Braves staying. If so, while the 1967, ’75, ’86, 2004 and ’07 World Series would have been somewhere else, Boston would have gained the 1957, ’58, ’91, ’92, ’95, ’96 and ’99 World Series, and, because of the proximity, the Mets-Braves rivalry of 1997-2001 might have meant a lot more.
Anyway, BU bought the grounds and converted it into Nickerson Field. The NFL’s Boston Redskins (named for the Braves) played their first season, 1932, at Braves Field, before playing 1933-36 at Fenway and then moving to Washington. The AFL’s Boston Patriots played at Nickerson 1960-62, and then Fenway 1963-68. The BU police HQ is the former Braves Field ticket office. Unfortunately, the field is now artificial. Commonwealth Avenue at Babcock Street and Harry Agganis Way. (Agganis was a BU quarterback who briefly played for the Red Sox before getting sick and dying at age 24 in 1955.) Green Line B train at Pleasant Street.
* TD Garden. This arena, formerly the Shawmut Center, the FleetCenter and the TD Banknorth Garden (TD stands for Toronto-Dominion Bank), opened in 1995, atop Boston’s North Station, as a replacement for the original Boston Garden, home to the NHL’s Bruins starting in 1928 and the NBA’s Celtics starting in 1946. The old “Gahden” (which stood on the site of the parking lot in front of the new one) and the new one have also, since 1953, hosted the Beanpot hockey tournament, contested by BC, BU, Northeastern and Harvard. While the Celtics finally ended their drought in 2008, winning their 17th NBA Championship 22 years after winning their 16th in the old Garden, the Bruins still haven’t won a Stanley Cup since taking their 5th in 1972 (and haven’t clinched at home since Bobby Orr’s “Flying Goal” in 1970, 2 days after Willis Reed limped onto the court and gave the Knicks their first title). The Beatles played the old Garden on September 12, 1964. (On their last tour, on August 18, 1966, they played the Suffolk Downs horse-racing track.) Elvis Presley played the old Garden on November 10, 1971. The new Garden is also home to the Sports Museum of New England. 150 Causeway Street. Green (outbound, so no letter necessary) or Orange Line to North Station.
* Garden Bars. Several noted drinking emporiums are near TD Garden. Perhaps the most famous, and once rated the best sports bar in America by Sports Illustrated, is The Fours, at 166 Canal Street. It’s named for “the Miracle of the Fours”: 1970 Stanley Cup Finals, Game 4, overtime (therefore the 4th period), Number 4, Bobby Orr, scores his 4th goal of the Finals, while tripped up by Noel Picard, Number 4 of the St. Louis Blues, to clinch the Bruins’ 4th Stanley Cup. As mentioned, the Sports Grille Boston is at 132 Canal Street. McGann’s is at 197 Portland Street. The Greatest Bar – a name, if not an apt description – is at 262 Friend Street.
* Alumni Stadium. Boston College has played football here since 1957, and the Patriots played their 1969 home games here. Prior to 1957, BC played at several sites, including Fenway and Braves Field. Beacon Street at Chestnut Hill Drive. Green Line B train to Boston College.
* Harvard Stadium. The oldest continually-used football stadium in America – the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field is on the oldest continually-used football site – this stadium was built in 1903, and renovations (funded by those wealthy Harvard alums) have kept it in tip-top condition, if not turned it into a modern sports palace. In fact, this stadium is responsible for the legalization of the forward pass in football. When the organization that became the NCAA was founded in 1906, rules changes were demanded to make the game safer. One suggestion was widening the field, but Harvard – at the time, college football’s equivalent of Notre Dame, Michigan and Alabama all rolled into one – insisted that they’d just spent all this money on a new stadium and didn’t want to alter it to suit a rule change. Much as Notre Dame has sometimes been a tail wagging college football’s dog, the Crimson were accommodated, and someone suggested legalizing the forward pass, which had occasionally been illegally done, instead. Today, the stadium is best known as the site of the 1968 Harvard-Yale game, where the two ancient rivals both came into the game undefeated, and a furious late comeback from 29-13 down led to the famous headline “HARVARD BEATS YALE 29-29” and a tie for the Ivy League Championship. The Patriots played 1970, their first season in the NFL and last as the “Boston Patriots,” at Harvard Stadium.
Although its mailing address is 65 North Harvard Street in “Allston,” and the University is in Cambridge, the stadium is actually on the south, Boston side of the Charles River. Harvard Street at Soldiers Field Road. Unfortunately, it’s not that close to public transportation: Your best bet is to take the Red Line to Harvard Square and walk across the Anderson Memorial Bridge.
* Gillette Stadium. The NFL’s New England Patriots and MLS’ New England Revolution have played here since 2002. It was built next-door to the facility known as Schaefer Stadium, Sullivan Stadium and Foxboro Stadium, which was torn down and replaced by the Patriot Place mall. The Pats played at the old stadium from 1971 to 2001 (their last game, a Playoff in January 2002, being the Snow Bowl or Tuck Game against the Oakland Raiders). It was home to the New England Tea Men of the North American Soccer League and, from 1996 to 2001, of MLS’ Revs. BC played a couple of games here in the early 1980s, thanks to the popularity of Doug Flutie. The old stadium was basically an oversized high school stadium, and it was terrible. The new stadium is so much better.
It has one problem: The location is awful. It’s just off Route 1, not a freeway such as I-95, and except for Pats’ game-days, when an MBTA commuter rail train will take you right there, the only way to get there without a car, is to take the Forge Park-495 Line to Walpole station and get a taxi. That’ll cost you $18 each way, as I found out when I went to see the New York Red Bulls play the Revs in June 2010. 60 Washington Street (Route 1) – or “1 Patriot Place,” Foxboro. It’s actually closer to downtown Providence, Rhode Island than to downtown Boston.
* Museum of Fine Arts. This is Boston’s equivalent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m not saying you have to visit, but you should see one major Boston tourist site that doesn’t involve sports, and it’s a 10-minute walk from Fenway and a 5-minute walk from the sites of the Huntington Avenue and South End Grounds. 465 Huntington Avenue at Parker Street. Green Line E train to Museum of Fine Arts.
* Freedom Trail. Boston’s most familiar tourist trap is actually several, marked by a red brick sidewalk and red paint on streets. Historic sites include Boston’s old and new City Halls, Massachusetts’ old and new State Houses (old: Built 1711, with the State Street subway station somehow built into it; “new”: 1798), the Old North Church (where Paul Revere saw the two lanterns hung) and the Old South Meeting House (where Samuel Adams started the Boston Tea Party and would be horrified at the right-wing bastards using the “Tea Party” name today), Revere’s house, the Boston Tea Party Ship, the U.S.S. Constitution, and the Bunker Hill Monument. Starts at Boston Common, Park and Tremont Streets. Green or Red Line to Park Street.
* Cambridge. Home to Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it is not so much “Boston’s Brooklyn” (that wouldn’t be Brookline, either, but would be South Boston or “Southie” and neighboring Dorchester) as “Boston’s Greenwich Village,” particularly since Harvard Square was the center of Boston’s alternative music scene in the Fifties and Sixties, where performers like Joan Baez and the aforementioned Kingston Trio became stars. Later, it would be rock acts like Aerosmith and the J. Geils Band. The city is also home to the Longfellow House, home of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. And while it is worth a visit, no, you cannot “Pakh yuh cah in Hahvuhd Yahd.” Harvard Yard does not allow motorized vehicles. Centered around Harvard Square at 1400 Massachusetts Avenue. Red Line to Harvard Square.
* John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. This fall marks the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s election as President, and next year will mark the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of his Presidency with that epic Inaugural Address. The museum’s exhibits already reflect this. Unlike the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, which is a 2-hour drive north of Midtown Manhattan in Hyde Park, closer to Albany, the JFK Library is much more accessible – not just to drivers and non-drivers alike, but to anyone. Maybe it’s because it’s more interactive, but maybe it’s also because FDR is a figure of black-and-white film and scratchy radio recordings, while JFK is someone whose television images and color films make him more familiar to us, even though he’s been dead for 47 years. (Wow, he’s now been dead longer than he was alive.) Sometimes it seems as though his Library is less about his time than it is about our time, and the time beyond. While I love the FDR Library, there’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best Presidential Library or Museum there is. Columbia Point, on the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts. Red Line to JFK/UMass, plus a shuttle bus.
Other Massachusetts Presidential sites include the JFK Tour at Harvard, JFK’s birthplace at 83 Beals Street in Brookline (Green Line B train to Babcock Street), those involving John and John Quincy Adams in Quincy (Red Line to Quincy Center – NOT to “Quincy Adams”), the house at 173 Adams Street in Milton where George H.W. Bush was born (Red Line to Milton, now has a historical marker although the house itself is privately owned and not available for tours), and the Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum, in Northampton where he was Mayor before becoming the State’s Governor and then President (20 West Street, 100 miles west of Boston, although Greyhound goes there). Closer than that are sites relating to Franklin Pierce in Concord and Hillsboro, New Hampshire.
I hope every Yankee Fan gets to see at least one game at Fenway Park -- although not necessarily a Yankees-Red Sox game. They are not for the faint of heart. But it is a truly great experience to see a game there. And, since the plans for a New Fenway Park were scuttled a few years ago, it looks like the original will be in place well past its April 20, 2012 centennial. Good luck, and remember: Safety first. Despite Boston's reputation of having several fine medical centers, if given a choice, it's better to be an uninjured coward than a hospitalized tough guy.