Next Tuesday night, the Hundred Year War will be renewed.
The New York Yankees vs. the Boston Red Sox.
The Bronx Bombers vs. the Beantown Boys.
The Pinstripes vs. the Olde Towne Teame.
The Good Guys vs. The Scum.
The details of the rivalry don't need to be posted here. We all know the names:
Babe Ruth. Harry Frazee. Joe DiMaggio vs. Ted Williams. Billy Rohr. Jim Lonborg vs. Thad Tillotson. Thurman Munson vs. Carlton Fisk. Graig Nettles vs. Bill Lee. Don Zimmer, first with the enemy, then with the good guys. Reggie Jackson and Bucky Dent. Goose Gossage vs. Carl Yastrzemski.
Don Mattingly vs. Wade Boggs. Boggs, first with the enemy, then with the good guys. Roger Clemens vs. all the Yankees... and Roger Clemens vs. all the Red Sox. Pedro Martinez vs. all the Yankees, including 3 memorable postseason duels with Clemens. Manny Ramirez. David Ortiz. Aaron Boone. Jason Varitek vs. Alex Rodriguez. Curt Schilling. Mariano Rivera vs. Jonathan Papelbon. Johnny Damon, first with the enemy, then with the good guys. Kevin Youkilis, first... uh, let's not go there. Jacoby Ellsbury, first with the enemy, then with the good guys.
In the movie Green Street Hooligans, Charlie Hunnam (who went from a hoolie's crewcut to a biker's long mane on Sons of Anarchy) tries to describe the rivalry between his favorite "football club," West Ham United, of the East End of London, and Millwall, of Southeast London.
That rivalry is particularly nasty, not just because of proximity, or even because both clubs have working-class roots. It's also because it's got its roots in a labor dispute (or, since it's England, "labour"): West Ham was a "works team," or what we in the U.S. would have called a "company team," the only real survivors of which (as far as I can tell) are a far less violent pair of rivals, the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. The dockworkers went on strike, and men from Millwall were hired as the strikebreakers.
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 don't quite hate the Yankees, and Yankee Fans, as much as the Arab murderers who call themselves "Palestinians" hate the Israelis. But they do hate us with an intensity that tends to warp their perceptions of reality. 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.
Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), who grew up in Queens and became the world's leading paleontologist, also wrote significantly about baseball. First, he was a New York Giants fan, hating the Brooklyn Dodgers, before both those teams moved to California in 1957. By that point, however, he had already also embraced the Yankees. He taught at Ivy League universities in both New York (Columbia) and Boston (Harvard), before spending the last few years of his life teaching back home, at NYU.
He was well-versed in the rivalry, partly because he had known an equally nasty one that was all-New York. Interviewed for the miniseries Baseball by Brooklyn-born, New Hampshire-living Dodger-turned-Red Sox fan Ken Burns, he said, "I was a rabid Giant fan in those days. I hated the Dodgers, with that love that only hate can understand."
That love that only hate can understand. What a phrase.
Red Sox fans hate the Yankees so much, they cannot conceive that their team simply wasn't good enough to beat the Yankees. Hence, they made up the story of The Curse of the Bambino: We're
better than the Yankees, we're more moral than the Yankees, we deserve to win more than the Yankees do, but we haven't won the World Series since 1918, while the Yankees have won it 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 times; so there must be something supernatural that stops us from beating the Yankees and winning the World Series. Yankee Fans didn't make the Curse up, but we did embrace it, until the end finally came in 2004.
Red Sox fans hate the Yankees so much, they call the Yankees steroid users and cheaters, even though the only World Series they've won since World War I (2004, '07 and '13) were won mainly due to 2 men, Ortiz and Ramirez, who have since been exposed as steroid users. (Of course, Manny was gone after '07, but Papi was still there until the end of last season, injecting away.) They hate the Yankees so much, they cannot accept the fact that the only titles they've won since before radio broadcasting was invented are tainted. 1918* Forever.
Forget the Interleague games, even Yankees vs. Mets. Forget Dodgers vs. Giants – since 1958, anyway, the California version has hate but it’s 400 miles, not 14, and even the beating of a Giant fan nearly to death in the Dodger Stadium parking lot a few years back doesn't change that. Forget Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals – that’s a joke, mainly because it's rare that both teams are good at the same time.
Forget Alabama vs. Auburn and Ohio State vs. Michigan in football. Forget Duke vs. North Carolina and Louisville vs. Kentucky in basketball.
Forget Rangers vs. Islanders, Rangers vs. Devils, or Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs. Forget Knicks vs. Boston Celtics, Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers, or Celtics vs. Los Angeles 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 Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers, not even Washington Redskins vs. Dallas 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 the police presume that they will have to break up some fights.
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 abuse.
And this will be the Yankees' 1st visit to Fenway without the big fat lying cheating bastard being on the Sox roster since August 28, 2002 -- 14 years and 8 months.
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."
You should check the websites of the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald before you leave. For the moment, they're predicting low 50s by day and mid-40s by night for Tuesday and Wednesday, and a little warmer for Thursday, but a chance of rain on each of these days. So the possibility of a postponement will be greater than usual. So is that of a rain delay that makes a typically long Yanks-Sox game at Fenway even longer.
Wind is sometimes an issue inside Fenway Park, although it shouldn't be one in the rest of the city unless you're by the waterfront of either Boston Harbor or the Charles River.
The Berkeley Building, a.k.a. the Old John Hancock Building, has a spire that lights up, and is a weather beacon, complete with poem:
Steady blue, clear view.
Flashing blue, clouds due.
Steady red, rain ahead.
Flashing red, snow instead.
If it flashes red during the baseball season, that doesn't mean snow. It means the game has been called off. Or, as one wag added to the poem:
But if it's baseball time and Boston
and the weather is to blame
if you see the light is flashing red
that means there'll be no game.
You need to be mindful of what clothes you should pack, for reasons above and beyond the weather. You can wear your Yankee cap around town, and even inside Fenway Park. If you have a Yankee jersey or T-shirt, it will probably be okay to wear it.
What you do not want to wear is the kind of T-shirt you see sold at the souvenir stands on River Avenue across from Yankee Stadium, 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, and there's no reason to make it that much worse. Bald Vinny will thank you for your patronage, but he's smart enough to remind you that there is a time and a place where his product is inappropriate.
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. If you order now for later in the season, you may have a chance.
Boston is the easternmost city in Major League Baseball (and in the other North American sports leagues, too, and will remain so even if Quebec City returns to the NHL), but it is still in the Eastern Time Zone, so adjusting your watch and your smartphone clock is not necessary. And, of course, despite the silliness 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.
Tickets. The Red Sox didn't play to an unsold seat between May 14, 2003 and April 11, 2013. That's just short of 10 years, easily a record. Of course, as Barry Petchetsky put it in Deadspin, the streak...
...was kept alive by means both creative and benevolent. Standing room tickets counted in the total but not against the stadium's capacity; tickets donated to local charities, even if not used, went toward the attendance figure. The hundreds or thousands of tickets withering on the secondary market, going for less than the price of a beer, or perhaps not being re-sold at all, were allowed to count.
Nevertheless, tickets to Red Sox home games are still hard to get. Fenway Park's current official seating capacity is 37,731 (with some center field seats tarped off as a hitter's background for day games, reducing it to 37,281), 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), and, more often than not, the place still sells out.
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: Do it now, if not for this series, then for a later one.
Most seats are close, but because of the way the park was built in 1912 (and largely rebuilt after a fire in 1934), some of them have weird angles. Loge Boxes are $149, Pavilion Boxes are $123, Pavilion Reserved are $99, Grandstand seats are $87, and Outfield Grandstand seats are $45, 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? The 269 available seats are $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 $48: Legend has it that, in 1978, the Red Sox hired Boston College linemen as security guards, and the club 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.
For my first Fenway Yanks-Sox game 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 2016 dollars, I was paying $60 for a $34 seat, so you can see just how much the Red Sox' 2003-present success has driven up prices. (At the 1999 level, it was well 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.
Getting There. Getting to Boston is fairly easy. However, I do not recommend driving, especially if you have Yankee paraphernalia on your car (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 the West Side of Manhattan or The Bronx, take the West Side Highway until it becomes the Henry Hudson Parkway, until reaching Interstate 95 (with the George Washington Bridge, which you will not be taking, to the left). Although your immediate direction will be east, the direction you want on I-95 will be labeled North. I-95 will become the Cross Bronx Expressway and then, after turning north and moving 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 Interstate 278 North, where it becomes the Bruckner Expressway, and will flow into I-95.
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 Interstate 678, the Van Wyck Expressway, and then follow the directions from Queens. If you're going from Staten Island, take the Staten Island Expressway (I-278) 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 the 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 North into Connecticut to Exit 48 in New Haven, and take Interstate 91 North toward Hartford. When you reach Hartford, take Exit 29 to Interstate 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.)
Theoretically, you could take I-95 all the way, but that will take you though downtown Providence, Rhode Island, up to the Boston suburbs. I like Providence as a city, but that route is longer by both miles and time than the route described above.
Although you will see Fenway Park, or at least its light towers, from the Mass Pike a couple of minutes before you reach the exit for the park, you'll take Exit 22 for "Prudential Center" – not to be confused with the Newark arena that is home to the New Jersey Devils. This is a skyscraper with a major area mall on its 1st 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 seriously delayed by traffic within the city limits of either New York or Boston (either of which is very possible), 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 Boston proper 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.
So my recommendation is that, whenever a Yankee series in Boston approaches on the schedule, whatever your plans are for going, bag them, and make your game ticket and lodging plans for the next series.
For any lodging in Cambridge rather than in Boston proper, take Exit 18 off the Mass Pike and follow the signs for Cambridge, across the Charles River to the north. For lodging in Newton, Exit 15, 16 or 17. For lodging south of the city -- in, for example, Quincy -- take Exit 15 off the Mass Pike, for I-95/495 South (Boston's "beltway," in which case, it might be more convenient to take I-95 all the way up), to Exits 12 to 15; or, if going further, where it flows into Interstate 93, Exits 1 through 12.
Boston, like Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, is 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. It certainly won't save you any money.
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 $137 and $460 round-trip from New York’s Penn Station to South Station, and it will take roughly 4½ hours. The Acela Express (the new name for the Metroliner, the $460 option) will take about 3½ hours.
That pointy thing in front of it is a subway entrance.
Once In the City. Named for the town of the same name (a shortened version of "St. Botolph's Stone") in Lincolnshire, in England's East Midlands, Boston is home to about 670,000 people, with a metropolitan area (including the areas of Hartford, Providence, and Manchester, New Hampshire) of a little over 8 million people, making it the largest metro area in the country with only 1 MLB team (Dallas is 2nd; trailing the 2-team areas of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area).
The State House, on Beacon Hill
Boston is easily the largest city not just in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but in all of New England. The next-largest are Worcester, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island, each with around 180,000. The largest in Connecticut is Bridgeport with 145,000; New Hampshire's largest is Manchester with 110,000; Maine's is Portland with 66,000, and Vermont's is Burlington with a mere 42,000. Of New England's 100 largest cities and towns, 53 are in Massachusetts, 30 in Connecticut, 9 in Rhode Island, 4 in New Hampshire, 3 in Maine and 1, Burlington, in Vermont; only 2 of the top 17 are outside Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Counting New England as a whole -- except for the southwestern part of Connecticut, which tilts toward New York -- there are about 13.5 million people in "Red Sox Nation." This isn't even close to the top, when "markets" are viewed this liberally -- the Yankees have close to 20 million in theirs, and the Atlanta Braves lead with over 36 million -- but it does rank 7th out of 30 MLB markets, and aside from the Yankees none of the pre-expansion teams has as big a market.
Boston is also one of the oldest cities in America, founded in 1630, and the earliest to have been truly developed. (New York is actually older, 1626, but until City Hall was built and the grid laid out in 1811, it was pretty much limited to the 20 or so blocks from the Battery to Chambers Street.) It's got the history: The colonial era, the Revolutionary period its citizens did so much to make possible, the abolitionist movement prior to the Civil War, Massachusetts' role in that conflict, the Industrial Revolution. Aside from New York, it was the only city on the Eastern Seaboard to have grasped the concept of the skyscraper until the 1980s.
It also has America's 1st college, Harvard University, across the Charles River in Cambridge; and a few other institutions of higher learning of some renown in or near the city: Boston College, Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Northeastern University, Tufts University, College of the Holy Cross, and so on. The particular instance of Harvard, funded by Boston's founding families, resulted in Boston and the surrounding area having a lot of "old money." And then there's all those Massachusetts-based writers.
All of this gives Boston an importance, and a self-importance, well beyond its interior population. One of those aforementioned writers, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (grandfather of the great Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.), named the city "the Hub of the Solar System"; somehow, this became "the Hub of the Universe" or just "The Hub."
Early 19th Century journalist William Tudor called Boston "the Athens of America" -- but, as a Harvard man, he would have studied ancient Greece and realized that, while contributing greatly to the political and literary arts, Athens could be pretty dictatorial, warmongering, and slavery-tolerating at times. Later sportswriters have called the Sox-Yanks (in that order) rivalry "Athens and Sparta." (Remember: If not for Sparta, all of Greece would have fallen to the Persian Empire.)
Well, to hell with that: We are Yankee Fans. New York is the greatest city in the world, and we don't even have to capitalize that.
The sales tax in Massachusetts is 6.25 percent, less than New Jersey's 7 percent and New York City'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 City, and more than in the NYC suburbs. In other words, a bundle. So don't get sticker-shock.
When you get to South Station, if you haven't already read The Boston Globe on your laptop or smartphone, pick it up. It's 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 did not coin but certainly popularized the phrase "The Curse of the Bambino" and wrote a book with the title) and Tony Massarotti (who started at the rival Herald and whose style is more in line with theirs) 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, previously owned by William Randolph Hearst and Rupert Murdoch. Although neither man's company still owns it, it carries all the hallmarks of the papers that they have owned (Murdoch still owns the New York Post, the Hearst Corporation owned the New York Journal and its successor, the New York Journal-American, which went out of business in 1966). In other words, the Herald is a right-wing pack of sensationalism, frequently sloppy journalism, and sometimes outright lies, but at least it does sports well (sometimes).
Once you have your newspapers, take the escalator down to the subway. Boston had the nation's 1st subway service, in 1897, along Boston Common on what's now named the Green Line. Formerly known as the Metropolitan Transit Authority, leading to the folk song "MTA," 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.
(Here's a link to the most familiar version of the song, done by the Kingston Trio in 1959. Keep in mind that Scollay Square station is now named Government Center, and that the reason Mrs. Charlie doesn't give him the extra nickel along with the sandwich isn't that she keeps forgetting, but that they're acting on principle, protesting the 5-cent exit fare -- my, how times have changed.)
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. They cheekily call the cards CharlieCards, after the song character. A ride costs $2.75 with cash, the same as New York's subway, and if you're there for the entire series, it may be cheaper to get a 7-day pass for $21.25. The MBTA 1-day pass is $12, so the 7-day pass is a better option.
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 International Airport. (General Edward L. Logan was a South Bostonian who became a hero of World War I and then the commander of the Massachusetts National Guard. Boston kept the name on their airport in spite of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, leaving New York to name an airport after that great Bostonian.) 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 (which should not be confused with the separate neighborhood of South Boston); and it has an East Boston, although the West End was mostly torn down in the late 1950s to make way for the sprawling complex of the new Massachusetts General Hospital.
Note also that Boston doesn't have a "centerpoint," where all the street addresses start at 1 and move out in 100-segments for each block. It doesn't even remotely have a north-south, east-west street grid like New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, and so on.
So for subway directions, remember this: Any train heading toward Downtown Crossing (where the Red and Orange Lines intersect), 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."
Red Line train, crossing the Charles River
via the Longfellow Bridge
South Station is on the Red Line. If you're coming by Amtrak or Greyhound, and are up only for one game and are going directly to Fenway, 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 then 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), because it breaks off before reaching Kenmore Square.
Green Line D Train at Pahk Street Undah
If you're starting your Fenway voyage from your hotel, take any train that gets you to a transfer point to a Green Line B, C or D train. (There is no official A train, although I suppose you could call the little spur of the Green Line that crosses the Charles into Cambridge, terminating at Lechmere, the A.)
Going In. Fenway Park, or, as I've called it, "the little green pinball machine in Kenmore Square" and "the wretched hive of scum and villainy," is the oldest active venue in North American major league sports, having opened on April 20, 1912, 5 days after the Titanic sank and 2 years before World War I began.
Along with Wrigley Field in Chicago, it is 1 of 2 remaining ballparks to have hosted games played by Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Bob Feller and Joe DiMaggio. Wrigley is the only one left that hosted Honus Wagner and Dizzy Dean, but, of the 2, only Fenway hosted Ted Williams.
(Mickey Mantle never played at Wrigley except in an All-Star Game. The remaining ballparks where he played are Fenway, Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium of Anaheim, and the Oakland Coliseum. Willie Mays? Only Wrigley and Dodger Stadium. Hank Aaron? Only those and Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. This does not count stadiums still standing that MLB teams have left. If you do, then add Robert F. Kennedy Stadium to Mantle's list; to Mays' and Aaron's, add RFK, the Astrodome in Houston, and Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.)
Fenway is 2 miles west of downtown. It is named for the Fenway District, itself named for "The Fens," once a marshy area. Parking at, or even near, the old yard is going to be incredibly hard. But not impossible, as this link shows. Still, you're better off not driving -- to Boston, never mind to its ballpark.
The B, C and D trains all stop at Kenmore station. 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, at 660 Beacon Street, 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.) A sign with the company's original name, Cities Services, went up in 1940, and the current sign replaced it in 1965.
You'll cross over the Mass Pike and the railroad tracks, and come to the intersection of Brookline Avenue and Lansdowne Street, a.k.a. Ted Williams Way. This is home to one of Boston's premier sports bars, the Cask 'n' Flagon.
The other side of the Green Monster, on Lansdowne Street,
a.k.a. Ted Williams Way. The reason it doesn't look so tall
from this angle is that the field is well below street level.
Do not go into the Cask 'n' Flagon. It is not a place for a Yankee Fan. Trust me on this one: 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.
That tree now makes it next to impossible to get a good shot
of the 1912 FENWAY PARK sign.
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. In what is, as far as I know, a unique feature in Major League Baseball, the Red Sox close off the street that includes their main entranceway way with turnstiles on game days. This is a recent phenomenon: It was not there when I visited during the 2003 ALCS, but it was there when the U.S. version of Fever Pitch was filmed there in late 2004.
When you get to Fenway, Gate A is at Brookline & Yawkey, Gate B at Ipswich & Van Ness, Gate C on Lansdowne, Gate D at Yawkey & Van Ness.
The ballpark's interior 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: We are Yankee Fans, we're not going to be afraid of a mere building.
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 volunteered, and 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 gave him more time to do so, until becoming too ill to do so a few years prior to his death in 2002.
Mike Andrews, the 2nd baseman on the 1967 Impossible Dream Red Sox -- some of you might remember him as the near-scapegoat of the 1973 World Series, when the Oakland A's beat the Mets in spite of his errors, and team owner Charlie Finley tried in vain to have him benched and replaced -- was Chairman of the Jimmy Fund from 1984 to 2009. Whenever I've visited Fenway, I've looked for those little boxes on the wall, and put in a dollar bill.
The field is, of course, natural grass, and points northeast. One of the things Fenway has been known for, aside from its age and "classic" status, is its asymmetrical field dimensions, especially in the 1970s and '80s when most of the newer stadiums were symmetrical (usually around 330 to the poles, 370 to the power alleys, and 400 to center).
From the 1934 renovation until 1994, the left field pole was listed as being 315 feet from home plate. In 1975, as part of a feature about the park for the World Series, someone decided that everybody who said the Green Monster was actually closer than 315 had a point, and he hired a man who'd been a targeter for a bomber plane in World War II to take and study aerial photos of the park. By his calculations, it was actually 304 feet, give or take a few inches.
Note the standings board and the out-of-town scoreboard.
In 1995, the Sox admitted that "everybody" may have been right, and relabeled the pole as 310 feet -- still longer than the WWII pilot said it was. Left-center is 379, straightaway center is 390, the right-field corner (the deepest part of the park) is 420, right-center is 383, straightaway right is 380, and to the right of that, the fence (only 3 feet high, as was the one at the old Yankee Stadium before the 1973-76 renovation, allowing more home runs but also more catches preventing them), curves so that the right field pole is just 302, the shortest distance in the major leagues.
But don't let that fool you: A distance of 380 feet to straightaway right makes it tough for a lefthanded hitter, even for such Red Sox greats as Tris Speaker, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs and David Ortiz.
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 (at a time when just leading the team, with 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 none were actually hit off it. So the nickname is ironic, kind of like naming the left-field pole at Yankee Stadium after John Flaherty. Mel Parnell, a Sox pitcher and teammate of Pesky's, later became a Sox broadcaster, and called it "Pesky's Pole" during a broadcast. The name was unofficial until 2006, when the Sox declared it official.
David Ortiz with Johnny Pesky at the Fenway Park Centennial,
April 20, 2012, 4 months before his death.
Shortstop, 1942-52; manager, 1963-64 and interim 1980;
broadcaster, 1968-74; coach, 1975-84;
"special assistant to the general manager," 1985-2012.
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 Pole, to the top of the Monster, is lit up with bright yellow neon. Rather a modern touch by the standards of this park.
12:34 AM, October 22, 1975
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, which went around 370 feet before being stopped).
Obviously, the original wooden seat, painted red,
has been replaced by a plastic one.
But baseball historian Bill Jenkinson wrote a book titled 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 their current, shorter, outfield distances, Jenkinson argued that Ruth would have hit a lot more than his official 59. According to this book, in 1926, Ruth hit one into Fenway's bleachers that went around 545 feet. He may also have hit a home run longer than 502 feet within Yankee Stadium, but never all the way out of it.
Williams' 502-footer is probably the longest ever hit at Fenway by a home player, though we can't be certain about even that, as righthanded sluggers like Jimmie Foxx, Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez hit some blasts over the Green Monster and Lansdowne Street that may have been longer than Ted's blasts, or the one the Babe supposedly hit there.
Football games were played there by Boston College, Boston University, and the Boston Redskins before they moved to Washington in 1937. The NFL's ill-fated Boston Yanks (yes, that name was real) played there from 1944 to 1948. And the Boston Patriots, not yet having moved to Foxboro and taken on the "New England" name, played there from 1963 to 1968.
Notre Dame has played "Shamrock Series" (home-away-from-home) games there, tapping into Boston's status as America's most Irish city, including a 2015 game against Boston College -- making BC the visiting team, despite being only 4 miles from Alumni Stadium.
It's hosted college hockey and, on New Year's Day 2010, the NHL Winter Classic, with the Bruins beating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime.
The view from the Green Monster
I took the regular tour in 2002, before the Sox ended The Curse of the Bambino, kept my Yankee fandom to myself, and enjoyed it a lot.
Food. On Yawkey Way, you'll see a few small eateries, including a Cuban-themed barbecue stand named El Tiante, after Luis Tiant. Sometimes he's there, signing autographs, like Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia or Boog Powell in Baltimore, although I'm not sure if he's as involved in running it as the Bull and Boog are with theirs. But as Cuban food is too spicy for me, I won't eat there.
(It's nothing against Tiant: He was a great pitcher and a great character, and he's one of the few Red Sox, past or present, who doesn't sicken me. Besides, he did leave them to come to the Yankees for the 1979 and '80 seasons, though he always did look weird in a Yankee uniform. Then again, he looked weird in any uniform.)
On the inside, no frills. Standard ballpark fare, with concourses behind home plate and down both the 1st base and 3rd base lines, and on the right field roof deck.
Fenway Franks have a nasty reputation: Even Drew Barrymore turned one down in Fever Pitch. I've actually liked them on my visits, and a recent Thrillist article on the best food at each MLB park
called it Fenway's best item. And Fenway had Dunkin Donuts long before Yankee Stadium (old or new).
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*, 2007* and 2013* World Champions; 1904, 1946, 1967, 1975 and 1986 American League Champions; and 1988, 1990, 1995 and 2016 American League Eastern Division Champions. (They do not give the same treatment for their 1998, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2009 AL Wild Card berths.) These achievements are also referenced inside, as flags on the press box.
At Fenway's 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 2nd baseman for the Philadelphia Athletics and the White Sox, and was Yawkey's close friend and the Sox' general manager when he died in 1951.
On the Van Ness Street side of the park, their retired numbers are posted: 1, Bobby Doerr, 2nd baseman, 1937-51; 4, Joe Cronin, shortstop 1935-45, manager 1935-47, general manager 1948-58; 6, Johnny Pesky, shortstop 1942-52 and longtime coach known as "Mr. Red Sox"; 8, Carl Yastrzemski, left fielder and sometimes 1st baseman, 1961-83; 9, Ted Williams, left fielder, 1939-60; 14, Jim Rice, left fielder, 1974-89; 26, Wade Boggs, 3rd base, 1981-92; 27, Carlton Fisk, catcher, 1969-80; and 45, Pedro Martinez, pitcher, 1998-2004. (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. On June 23 of this season, the Sox will add 34, David Ortiz, designated hitter, 2003-16.
There are 3 numbers that the Red Sox have not officially retired, but also haven't reissued, since those players left: 21, Roger Clemens, pitcher, 1984-96; 33, Jason Varitek, catcher, 1997-2011; and 49, Tim Wakefield, 1995-2011. There's also a movement to retire 25 for Tony Conigliaro, right field, 1964-70.
Upon the park's Centennial in 2012, they were again rearranged in the chronological order of their retirement: 9, 4, 1, 8, 27, 6, 14, 45, 26 (34), followed by 42 – the 42 being Dodger blue, the others being Sox red.
On Boggs' number retirement day, May 26, 2016
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, 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 then held control of the team until her death in 1992).
The Red Sox also have a team Hall of Fame. The 86 members' plaques are inside the big press box and luxury box are behind home plate, where the general public can only see them on the Fenway Park Tour. The members are:
* From the 1903-04 World Champions: Pitcher Cy Young and 3rd baseman-manager Jimmy Collins.
* From the 1912-18 quasi-dynasty: Center fielder Tris Speaker, right fielder Harry Hooper, left fielder Duffy Lewis, 3rd baseman Larry Gardner, shortstop Everett Scott; pitchers Smokey Joe Wood, Herb Pennock and Hubert "Dutch" Leonard; and manager Bill Carrigan. And, uh, pitcher-right fielder Babe Ruth. (The club automatically elected every former Red Sox player already in the big Hall in Cooperstown.)
* From the 1920s: Pitcher Red Ruffing and outfielder Ira Flagstead. (Ruffing is in the Cooperstown Hall for what he did for the Yankees, after leaving the Red Sox, but the Sox abided by their own rule and inducted him into theirs.)
* From the Yawkey rebuilding project of the 1930s: 1st baseman Jimmie Foxx, catcher Rick Ferrell, his brother pitcher Wes Ferrell, pitcher Lefty Grove, and shortstop-manager Joe Cronin.
* From the 1946 Pennant winners: Left fielder Ted Williams, 2nd baseman Bobby Doerr, shortstop Johnny Pesky, center fielder Dom DiMaggio; pitchers Dave "Boo" Ferriss, Cecil "Tex" Hughson and Joe Dobson; and manager Cronin.
* From in between '46 and '67, but not on either of those teams: 2nd baseman Billy Goodman, shortstop Vern Stephens, 1st baseman Pete Runnels, right fielder Jackie Jensen, 3rd baseman Frank Malzone, center fielder Jimmy Piersall; and pitchers Mel Parnell, Ellis Kinder, Frank Sullivan, Bill Monbouquette and Dick Radatz.
* From the 1967 "Impossible Dream" Pennant: Left fielder Carl Yastrzemski, pitcher Jim Lonborg, shortstop Rico Petrocelli, 1st baseman George Scott, right fielder Reggie Smith, manager Dick Williams, and coach Eddie Kasko.
* From in between '67 and '75, but not on either of those: Center fielder Tommy Harper.
* From the 1975 Pennant winners: Yaz, Petro, Kasko, coach Don Zimmer, catcher Carlton Fisk, left fielder Jim Rice, shortstop Rick Burleson, right fielder Dwight Evans, center fielder Fred Lynn, and pitchers Bill Lee and Luis Tiant. (Manager Darrell Johnson has not been elected.) From the 1978 choke, add Scott (who was with Milwaukee in '75), 2nd baseman Jerry Remy, pitchers Dennis Eckersley and Bob Stanley, and manager Zimmer.
* From the 1986 Pennant winners: Rice, Evans, Stanley, 3rd baseman Wade Boggs, left fielder Mike Greenwell, 2nd baseman Marty Barrett, and pitchers Roger Clemens (apparently, all is forgiven) and Bruce Hurst. (Manager John McNamara has not been elected.) From the 1990 Division winners, add center fielder Ellis Burks and manager Joe Morgan. (Burks returned to the Sox for 2004, but played only 11 games that season, only 2 after April 24, and did not appear in the postseason, and then retired. The team did, however, give him a World Series ring.)
* From the 1995, '98 and '99 Wild Card teams: 1st baseman Mo Vaughn, shortstop-3rd baseman John Valentin, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, catcher Jason Varitek, and pitchers Pedro Martinez and Tim Wakefield. (Nomar, 'Tek and Pedro were not yet there in '95.)
* From the 2004 and '07 "World Champions": Nomar, Pedro, Varitek, Wakefield and pitcher Curt Schilling. One of the criteria for election is that the player must have been out of uniform as an active player for at least 3 years, so Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon are now eligible.
* Executives: John I. Taylor (the owner who oversaw the building of Fenway), Eddie Collins, Dick O'Connell, Haywood Sullivan, Lou Gorman, Dick Bresciani, George Digby, Eddie Kasko, Ed Kennedy, Ben Mondor, John Harrington, Larry Lucchino, and Tom and Jean Yawkey. And, while not an "executive," groundskeeper Joe Mooney.
* Broadcasters: Curt Gowdy, Ken Coleman, Ned Martin, Joe Castiglione, Parnell and Remy.
Oddly, while these men became New England legends for their associations with the Sox, and continued to perform for them until their deaths, the Sox have not elected them to their team Hall of Fame: Public-address announcer Sherm Feller, and organist John Kiley. Like Gladys Gooding of Ebbets Field and the old Madison Square Garden, Kiley, who also played the organ at the old Boston Garden, became the answer to a cheesy trivia question: Who is the only man to "play" for the Red Sox, the Celtics and the Bruins? True, the Yankees have never given a Monument Park plaque to the late organist Eddie Layton, but they did give one to PA announcer Bob Sheppard while he was still active.
When the 1st All-Star Game was played in 1933, the Red Sox were terrible, and Rick Ferrell was the only player then with them. Young, Ruth, Grove, Williams and Clemens were named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. That same year, they, Speaker, Foxx, Yaz, Eckersley and Boggs were named to The Sporting News' 100 Greatest Players. In 2006, when the DHL Hometown Heroes poll was conducted, Red Sox fans chose Williams -- not Yaz, and not David Ortiz.
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.
Despite the foolishness and ignorance so often associated with Red Sox fans in the 21st Century, in the late 20th, they had a much better intellectual reputation. The typical Red Sox fan used to be seen not as a drunken "townie" (or drunken college student), but as a tweedy professor from a liberal arts college in New England.
Boston is America's most literary city, and New England its most literary region, and this is reflected in the Sox being the most-written-about team in baseball, even more than the Yankees. As newspaper columnist and baseball fan George Will has said, "All this happens in New England, the literary capital of America, and so the Red Sox get written about to death."
As a result, good books about the Red Sox are plentiful. Unfortunately, so are bad ones. Here's a selection:
* Autumn Glory: Baseball's First World Series, Louis P. Masur's book about the 1903 season and how the World Series was first set up, leading to a battle between the team then known as the Boston Americans and the Pittsburgh Pirates, including all-time titan Cy Young of Boston and Honus Wagner of Pittsburgh facing off against each other.
* The Year They Called Off the World Series, written by Benton Stark in 1991 -- obviously, before 1994 -- about the 1904 Pennant Race between the Americans and the New York Highlanders, and the Giants' refusal to play the AL Pennant winners, especially if it turned out to be the proto-Yankees, and how the Giants were shamed into not only participating in, but setting up the ground rules for, future World Series.
* The First Fall Classic, Mike Vaccaro's book that argues that, even more than the 1st one and the 1909 Wagner vs. Ty Cobb battle, the 1912 edition made the World Series into "The World Series."
* When the Red Sox Ruled: Baseball's First Dynasty, 1912-1918, by Thomas J. Whalen.
* The Year the Red Sox Won the Series: A Chronicle of the 1918 Championship Season, by Ty Waterman and Mel Springer, written in 1999, obviously before 2004.
* Emperors and Idiots, Vaccaro's account of the history of the rivalry.
* It Was Never About the Babe, Jerry M. Gutlon's history of the club that exposes the real reason they didn't win the World Series for 86 years: Mismanagement, often including bigotry.
* Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero, by Boston native Leigh Montville, is the definitive look at the Splendid Splinter. While it properly lauds him for batting .400 at age 23, nearly doing it again at age 39, serving in 2 wars and nearly dying in combat in the 2nd, how he actually earned a place in the Hall of Fame of a 2nd sport (fishing), and the fact that he literally wrote the book on hitting (The Science of Hitting, recommended although it's not about the team in question -- Ted Williams' Hit List, on his picks for the 25 greatest hitters ever, is also fantastic), it doesn't shy away from the flaws in his character. How he could be a bit prickly if you weren't reverent. How he wasn't the best family man, to put it politely. And how he went out of his way to deny his Mexican ancestry, thus denying Hispanic ballplayers, and fans, the man who could have been their 1st true major league hero (before Minnie Minoso and Roberto Clemente).
* The Stars Are Back: The St. Louis Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox, and Player Unrest in 1946, Jerome M. Mileur's book about baseball's troubled return from World War II, and how the Red Sox of Williams and the Cardinals of Stan "the Man" Musial set up what was, at least on paper, the best World Series matchup ever: The Cards won 106 games, the Sox 105.
* 1967 Red Sox: The Impossible Dream Season, by Raymond Sinibaldi and '67 Sox pitcher Billy Rohr, the most recent book about the year that turned an afterthought ballclub into the defining sports team of New England. Worth taking in during this 50th Anniversary of that season.
* The Long Ball, by Tom Adelman, about the 1975 season that culminated in that great Boston vs. Cincinnati World Series.
* '78: The Boston Red Sox, A Historic Game, and a Divided City. in which Bill Reynolds does for Boston what Jonathan Mahler's The Bronx Is Burning did for New York, Mitchell Nathanson's The Fall of the 1977 Phillies did for Philadelphia, and Michael Fallon's new Dodgerland has since done for Los Angeles. It tells an epic urban tale of which the rise of the local baseball team is a large part of what life was like there in the late 1970s. It describes the run to the '75 Pennant, but also the Busing Crisis, and its denouement in "The Soiling of Old Glory" at City Hall in '76. It also mentions the Blizzard of '78, and how it trapped people inside the Boston Garden during the Beanpot Tournament.
(Having already read the New York, Philly, Boston and L.A. versions of this story, I'd love to see a Chicago version, involving the Cubs' fall from 1st place at the '77 All-Star Break, Bill Veeck, the White Sox' "South Side Hit Men," the death of Mayor Daley Sr., and the blizzard that electorally buried his successor, Michael Bilandic. And a San Francisco version, with the fall and then rise of the A's, the fall and then rise of the Giants, the glory days of the Raiders, the '75 title and then fall of the Warriors, the Moscone-Milk assassination, and Jonestown. And a Montreal version, with the Canadiens dynasty, the Alouettes winning 2 Grey Cups, the rise of the Expos, the Olympics, and the great struggle between the Canada nationalists led by Pierre Trudeau and the Quebec nationalists led by Rene Levesque.)
* One Strike Away: The Story of the 1986 Red Sox, by Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe, the man who's written more, and better, about the team than anyone. Lots of Sox fans hate him. That's reason enough for me to respect him.
* The Curse of the Bambino, the 1990 book by Shaughnessy that popularized the phrase, though he admits that he didn't think of it.
* Reversing the Curse: Inside the 2004 Red Sox. Shaughnessy finally gets to write the sequel.
The team sells DVDs honoring the team's 100th Anniversary (1901-2001) and the ballpark's 100th Anniversary (1912-2012). There are highlight film packages for their 3 21st Century World Series wins*. They have ESPN's film about their 2004 ALCS win, Four Days in October; and the MLB series "Baseball's Greatest Games" for both Game 6 of the 1975 World Series and Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.
They also have Impossible to Forget: The Story of the '67 Boston Red Sox, issued on the 40th Anniversary, including the original postseason highlight film put together by WHDH (then on Channel 5) and narrated (in verse) by then-Sox broadcasters Ken Coleman and Ned Martin. It also includes not the clinching season finale against the Minnesota Twins on October 1, 1967 (though it does have highlights thereof), but the previous day's game against the Twins, on September 30, 1967, which is believed to be the oldest surviving MLB game whose entire content is still available in color.
And they have The Essential Games of Fenway Park. The games included on this DVD set are: The September 30, 1967 game with the Twins; Game 6 of the '75 Series; Roger Clemens' 20-strikeout game of April 29, 1986; the 1999 All-Star Game, complete with the pregame moment with Williams; Game 3 of the 1999 ALCS, in which the Sox clobbered the Yankees, knocking the "traitor" Clemens out of the box while Pedro kept dealing, but it turned out to be the only game the Yanks lost in that entire postseason, thus, as Shaughnessy pointed out, the Sox fans totally missed the point; and April 22, 2007, when the Sox beat the Yankees with a record-tying 4 straight home runs: Manny, J.D. Drew, Mike Lowell and Varitek.
About that 1975 Game 6: That Fisk home run is mainly remembered because of the camera of shot of Fisk waving his arms, as if that would keep the ball from going foul. The legend is true: The NBC cameraman inside the Green Monster scoreboard was supposed to follow the ball, but a rat ran past him, and he was too afraid to move, and so he kept the camera on Fisk, and that's why we have that clip.
It is the most-replayed moment in baseball history, ahead of such homers as title-clinchers by Bobby Thomson, Bill Mazeroski, Chris Chambliss and Joe Carter; milestones like those of Roger Maris, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds; and otherwise famous homers like those of Bucky Dent and Kirk Gibson. Indeed, in 1999, TV Guide ruled it the greatest moment in the history of televised sports.
But its endless replaying brought up what should have been an obvious question: "Wait a second, the Red Sox haven't won the World Series since 1918, and this was Game 6, so, obviously, the Sox lost Game 7. So this home run ended up not mattering. So what's the big deal?"
The big deal is that the home run, and the great game that it capped, brought a lot of people back to baseball, after it had declined in popularity for a few years, especially in comparison to football. That Series also helped to cement the Sox as an American cultural icon, not just a regional one, as are the Cincinnati Reds -- the team that actually won that Series. It made a lot of people who didn't previously like baseball, or who didn't previously have a favorite big-league team (including many who lived near a minor-league team but not a major-league one), or whose love for their local team had waned for whatever reason, become Red Sox fans.
That home run also, I think it can be safely said, made the difference between Fisk being elected to the Hall of Fame in his 2nd year of eligibility, through the Writers' Association, and Fisk not being in yet, having to wait until he became eligible through the Veterans' Committee. (The opposite happened to Mazeroski: He became "the guy who hit the home run who won the 1960 World Series," rather than "the greatest-fielding 2nd baseman ever," overwhelming his chief qualification. If the Pirates had won that Series any other way, Maz probably would've gotten in years sooner.)
Also, as Shaughnessy put it, "Game Six" was something very special for Red Sox fans -- for 11 years. But, after 1986, as he puts it, when you say "Game Six" to a Red Sox fan, you have to explain which one.
During the Game. A recent Thrillist article on "Baseball's Most Intolerable Fans" ranked Red Sox fans 3rd out of the 30 Major League Baseball teams -- ahead of the Yankees at 4th, but, surprisingly, behind 2 other teams. (Read the article to find out which ones.) I quote:
There has never been a fall from national grace quite like Red Sox fans' tumble over the last 12 years (2004 to 2016). Before that first World Series win, they were the lovable losers, a provincial town of hilariously accented n'er-do-wells crushing Fenway Franks, that spicy brown mustard lodged in the sides of their "Cowboy Up" Kevin Millar playoff beards. People appreciated the spectacle, and felt a little sorry for the chubby guys from Revere wearing Tom Brunansky jerseys who spent all their money on beers at the game, and ended up passing out in Kenmore station until the blue line picked back up.
And then they won. And as anyone who's ever been to Gillette Stadium can attest, there is nothing worse than Boston fans when a Boston team is winning. But unlike the unshakeable confidence of the Yankees fan, the Sox fan possesses a terrifyingly pessimistic view of the game. Boston sports talk radio is filled with conspiracy theorists and apologists in equal measure, as is Fenway.
Luckily, unless you’re in a Yankees jersey, the fans are more likely to pick fights based on local high school Thanksgiving Day football rivalries ("There go those kids from Catholic Memorial! Get 'em!"), but then again, in Boston it’s usually best not to press your luck.
Having been to Boston many times, including a few times when the teams were playing each other, and having actually been inside Fenway for such games, I can vouch for all of this: This is one of the few places in North American major league sports where safety is an issue. Aside from a few college sports matchups, it may be the one where a strong security presence is most necessary.
This isn't like soccer games in Europe or South America, where fans of the visiting team are all put together in one or two sections, to keep the home fans from physically assaulting them -- one of the few instances where segregation is a good thing.
If a fan near you wants to engage in civil discussion, by all means, engage back. If not, get a feel for those around you, to see if they're going to be okay, before you start talking to any of them. Most likely, if you behave yourself, so will they. If you simply support your team, and lay off theirs, you should be all right.
Because, let's face it, like any other group of people, there's always a 1 percent (or less) of the bunch 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, 2007 or 2013, and yet they're the first to brag about them.
Most Sox fans are intelligent, know the game, and love the game, not just 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 most of Fenway's existence, are nearly all Red Sox fans. (Except for the Shriver wing of the family: They're from Baltimore and they're Oriole fans, and John F. Kennedy Jr. and I both attended the same Yankee game at least once -- the night before his plane crash, as it turned out.)
"Red Sox Nation" also counts among its citizens lots of comedians who, while occasionally crude, are very observant: Lenny Clarke (who played Uncle Carl in Fever Pitch), Steven Wright, Mike O'Malley, Conan O'Brien, Dane Cook, John Krasinski, and SNLers Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler – but not, as it turns out, former SNLer Fallon, who's a Yankee Fan in real life. (Wow, he really can
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 (but also perhaps the most plagiarizing), 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, from Worcester – 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 the Sox fans around you 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 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.
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. (Aside from the outer shell of the stadium, including that front entrance, I don't think there's anything left from the original 1912 construction. This would still make it the 2nd-oldest active MLB stadium, aside from Wrigley, but the 1912 date is considered official, so it is the oldest.) These seats are not very wide and provide little legroom. If you end up with one of these seats, 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 about loudmouth former 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 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. So tread on that opinion lightly.
As I said, the mascot is Wally the Green Monster. Wall-y, get it? He doesn't look like an especially mean monster. He looks like... how can I put this... If Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street is the evil twin, then Wally the Green Monster is the good twin. (I know, I know: "He's a Red Sox fan, so how 'good' can he be?")
The Silver Slipper. (So the Sox' connection with Broadway predates Harry Frazee.)
The Sox fans of the day, known as the Royal Rooters, sang it really loud, and it began to unnerve the Pirates: Interviewed 60 years later by Lawrence S. Ritter for the book The Glory of Their Times, 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, saying that his mother is a whore. That's also where I began referring to the arch-rivals of my teams -- the Red Sox, the New York Rangers, Penn State and my high school's rivals -- as "The Scum.")
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 do the Sox play 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.
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, the Bruins and the Northeastern University hockey team.
After the Game. Win or lose, get out of the ballpark and back to your hotel (or to South Station if you came up just for the day) as quickly and as quietly as possible. This will require you to be on the streets of Boston, and, unless 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 venom the Sox fans are spewing at you will not change the result. If the Sox have won, their fans 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: "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 European and Latin American 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 the 2009 World Series: Champions, at the Marriott Copley Place hotel at 110 Huntington Avenue (Green Line to Copley); The Sports Grille, at 132 Canal Street (across from North Station and the Garden, Green Line to North Station); 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.
The local Giants fan club meets at The Greatest Bar, 262 Friend Street off Canal, a block from the Garden. The Green Briar Pub, at 304 Washington Street in the Brighton section of town, is one place that has been suggested as the local home of Jets fans. (Green Line to Kenmore, then switch to Number 57 bus toward Watertown Yard, get off at Washington Street at Waldo Terrace.) Another is M.J. O'Connor's, at 27 Columbus Avenue in the Back Bay. (Green Line to Arlington.)
However, there's so little overlap between the MLB and NFL seasons that showing up at either place with a Yankee cap on a non-NFL gameday may not be a good idea.
If your visit to Boston is during the European soccer season, as we are now in, there are 2 great area bars at which you could watch your favorite club. The Phoenix Landing in Cambridge is the original Boston-area footie pub, and is still the best. Red Line to Central. The Banshee Pub in Dorchester (which, unlike Cambridge, actually is in the City of Boston) is much more working-class, but if you think you're "hard enough," "come and have a go." (No, I'm not suggesting that anyone will try to fight you: As long as you show respect, you will have that respect returned.) Red Line to JFK/UMass.
On February 3, 2017, Thrillist made a list ranking the 30 NFL cities (New York and Los Angeles each having 2 teams), and Boston came in 8th, in the top 1/3rd. They said:
It seated 11,500, and had faraway fences, typical of the ballparks of the dawn of the 20th Century. So when the World Series had overflow crowds, it was no big deal to plant stakes in the outfield, and tie ropes to them, and let fans stand behind the rope, as seen in this photo, the most familiar photo of the 1903 World Series.
Huntington Avenue Grounds, with the 1894-1914 version
of the South End Grounds in the background
The ballpark was torn down shortly after Fenway Park opened in 1912. In 1954, Northeastern University opened the Godfrey Lowell Cabot Physical Education Center on the site. Solomon Court is an 1,800-seat gym that hosts basketball and volleyball. The Solomon Indoor Track hosts track & field meets. The adjacent Barletta Natatorium hosts NU's swim meets.
Since 1993, a statue of Cy Young, who pitched for the Sox in their 1903 and 1904 World Championship seasons, and ended his career with the 1911 Braves, has stood outdoors, at roughly the spot where the pitcher's mound was. 360 Huntington Avenue at Forsyth Street, with a side street named World Series Way. Green Line E train to Northeastern.
In 1871, the 1st such park was built there, and was home to the Boston Red Stockings of the 1st professional baseball league, the National Association. This team featured half the members of the 1st openly professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings (hence the name). They also had a young pitcher named Al Spalding, who would later co-found the team now known as the Chicago Cubs and the sporting-goods empire that still bears his name.
That Boston Red Stockings team won Pennants in 1872, '73, '74 and '75, and its strength (its domination, really) was one of the reasons the NA collapsed.
1888-94 version, outside
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." No, I'm not making that name up. Their success gave them the money they needed to build a new park on the site in 1888, they won Pennants in 1891, '92 and '93.
1888-94 version, inside
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. Both have been suggested, and it's likely that nobody knew for sure.) It became known as the Great Roxbury Fire, and the story goes that the park and 117 (or 170, or 200) buildings burned to the ground, and 1,900 people were left homeless – but nobody died. (I don't buy that last part at all.)
A new park was hastily built on the site, while the Beaneaters temporarily 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.
This is the best photo I could find
that clearly shows the 1894-1914 version,
which the Huntington Avenue photo really doesn't.
So he moved the team to Fenway, and played their 1914 World Series games there, and opened Braves Field the next season. Overall, 13 Pennants were won here, in a 44-year span -- as many as the Red Sox have won at Huntington Avenue Grounds and Fenway Park combined in 103 seasons.
Parking for Northeastern University is now on the site -- and save your Joni Mitchell jokes. Columbus Avenue at Hammond Street. Orange Line to Ruggles.
A recent photo of the site
* 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, adding, "Enough said." McGreevy used that phrase, usually accompanied by contributing tobacco to a spittoon or the ground, to settle any and all arguments. Not "Nuf Ced" become his nickname, but he had it (spelled that way) laid in mosaic tile on the bar's floor.
Third Base Saloon became the headquarters of the Royal Rooters, a Beaneaters' booster club, founded during the Pennant-winning season of 1897. In 1901, when the American League and the team that became the Red Sox was formed, Beaneaters founder-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. (I wonder if they built their park near Nuf Ced's place for just that reason, to get his customers?)
Michael T. McGreevy. Nuf Ced.
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 home games. (Not legitimately, anyway.)
A park with a bike trail is now on the site, so the address, 940 Columbus Avenue, is no longer in use. The approximate site is the east corner of the X intersection of Columbus Avenue and Melnea Cass Blvd. (Roxbury and the South End are now mostly black, and Cass was a local activist, essentially Boston's answer to Jane Addams, as well as a suffragette and a union leader.) As with the site of South End Grounds, take the Orange Line to Ruggles.
A tribute bar, named McGreevy's Boston, was founded by Dropkick Murphys member Ken Casey, with "an exact replica of McGreevy's original barroom." A sign proclaims that the bar is "1200 Steps to Fenway Park." 911 Boylston Street. Green Line B, C or D train to Hynes-Convention Center.
* Site of Congress Street Grounds. Built in 1890, this was the home of the Boston Reds, who won the only Pennant of the Players' League that year, and moved to the American Association in 1891 and won that league's Pennant. Both leagues folded. Does that make the Reds the original "cursed" baseball team in Boston?
The only known surviving photograph of Congress Street Grounds
The ballpark still stood in 1894, so when the South End Grounds burned down, the Beaneaters moved in, playing 26 "home" games there before the South End Grounds reopened on July 20. One of those games featured the 1st time a player hit 4 home runs in a major league game. It was May 30, 1894, the player was Beaneaters 2nd baseman Bobby Lowe, and all 4 were down the left field line, where the fence was very close. It was a Decoration Day (Memorial Day) doubleheader, and the Beaneaters swept a doubleheader from the Cincinnati Reds, the teams scoring a combined 54 runs in one day. (Lowe hit only 71 home runs in his career, counting those 4. He was better known for his fielding: When he retired in 1907, he had the highest fielding percentage for his position in baseball history.)
It's not clear when the ballpark was demolished. Office buildings now occupy the site, and a scene for The Departed was filmed in an alley there. A bar named simply "Drink" is at 348 Congress Street, between Farnsworth Street and Thomson Place, across the Fort Point Channel from downtown. A 10-minute walk from South Station, past the Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum and the Boston Children's Museum.
* Matthews Arena. Opened on April 16, 1910 as the Boston Arena, this is the oldest currently-used multi-purpose athletic building in use in the world. Northeastern still uses it, while BC, BU, Harvard, MIT and Tufts all once played home games here.
The Celtics played the occasional home game here from 1946 to 1955, on occasions when there was a scheduling conflict with the Garden. In 1985, the Celtics played an alumni game here, with the opposing teams coached by Red Auerbach (his players wearing the white home jerseys) and Bill Russell (who didn't play, his players wearing the road green).
A gift from NU alumnus George J. Matthews led the school to rename the arena for him. In spite of its age, the building is fronted by a modern archway. 238 St. Botolph Street at Massachusetts Avenue. Green Line E train to Symphony. Symphony Hall, Boston's answer to Carnegie Hall, is a block away at Massachusetts and Huntington Avenues.
* Site of Braves Field/Nickerson Field. Although Boston University no longer has a football team, it still plays other sports at Nickerson Field, which opened in 1957. Its home stand is the surviving right field pavilion of Braves Field, where the Braves played from 1915 until they left town.
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 1st Yankee Stadium was built. The Sox played their home Series games there in 1915, '16 and '18. The Braves themselves only played 1 World Series here, in 1948, losing to the 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.
Notice the ticket office behind the right field pavilion.
Notice also the serious parking issues.
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, they 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 1950, 9 years before the Sox finally caved in to the post-1865 world and added Pumpsie Green). They could have played the 1957 and '58 World Series in Boston instead of Milwaukee.
If this had happened, once Ted Williams retired in 1960, interest in the declining Sox would have faded to the point that Tom Yawkey, not a Bostonian, could have gotten frustrated, and the Red Sox could have moved with the Braves staying. If so, while the 1967, '75, '86, 2004, '07 and '13 World Series would have been played somewhere else, Boston would have gained the 1957, '58, '91, '92, '95, '96 and '99 World Series. Or, to put it another way: Since 1953, Boston would have appeared in 7 World Series instead of 6 -- although they would have won 1 instead of 3. (But who knows? Maybe having a ballpark other than Fenway, or Milwaukee County Stadium, or Fulton County Stadium, or Turner Field, changes a result or two.)
And, because of the proximity, there would still have been a big New York-Boston rivalry in baseball, but it would be Mets-Braves. (Of course, this would have meant the Yankees' main rivals would be the Baltimore Orioles -- who are, after all, the closest AL team to them, closer than the Red Sox.)
Instead, the Braves moved, and BU bought the grounds and converted it into Nickerson Field. The NFL's Boston Redskins (named for the Braves) played their 1st 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 at Fenway 1963-68. A team called the Boston Bulldogs played the 1929 season at Braves Field. A team called, yes, the Boston Yanks played a few NFL games at Braves Field, but Fenway was its main home in its existence, 1944 to 1948. And the Boston Breakers of the USFL played there in 1983.
The field, sadly, is now artificial, so it can stand up to having several sports played on it. The former Braves Field ticket office still stands, converted into the BU Police headquarters. Agganis Arena is across the street from the BUPD HQ. Harry Agganis was one of several athletes of the era nicknamed The Golden Greek, a a BU quarterback who briefly played for the Red Sox, before getting sick and dying at age 24 in 1955. The extension of Pleasant Street that separates the stadium from the arena is now named Harry Agganis Way. Commonwealth Avenue at Babcock Street. Green Line B train at Pleasant Street.
Nickerson Field. Those dorm towers were built
on the site of the old grandstand.
* TD Garden and site of Boston Garden. The TD Garden, 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 Celtics finally ended their drought in 2008, winning their 17th NBA Championship, 22 years after winning their 16th in the old Garden. The Bruins ended a drought in 2011, winning their 6th Stanley Cup 39 years after winning their 5th. (However, they still 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 1st title).
Elvis also sang in Massachusetts at the Springfield Civic Center (now the MassMutual Center) on July 14 and 15, 1975; and July 29, 1976.
NCAA basketball tournament games have been held at the TD Garden, the Hartford Civic Center (now the XL Center), the Providence Civic Center (now the Dunkin Donuts Center), the Worcester Centrum (now the DCU Center), and the University of Rhode Island's Keaney Gymnasium in Kingston. But no New England building has ever hosted a Final Four, and none ever will, due to attendance requirements, unless the Patriots put a dome on Gillette Stadium.
No school within the city limits of Boston has ever reached the Final Four. One Massachusetts school has: Holy Cross, in Worcester, winning the National Championship in 1947 with George Kaftan, another "Golden Greek," and reaching the Final Four again in '48 with Bob Cousy, a freshman in '47 and ineligible under the rules of the time. (Kaftan is also the last surviving member of the Knicks teams that reached the NBA Finals in 1951 and '52.)
The University of Massachusetts, with its main campus in Amherst, made the Final Four in 1996, under coach John Calipari, but had to vacate the appearance when later Knick Marcus Camby admitted he'd accepted money and gifts from agents. The University of Connecticut (UConn, in Storrs, closer to Boston than to Manhattan) has made it 5 times, winning it all in 1999, 2004, 2011 and 2014, and losing in the Semifinal in 2009.
The only New Hampshire school to make it is Dartmouth, in Hanover, in 1942 and 1944, losing in the Final both times. The only Rhode Island school to make it is Providence, in 1973 and 1987 (coached by future Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt and future preening schmo Rick Pitino, respectively). No school from Maine or Vermont has ever reached the Final Four.
* 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), winning goal scored by Number 4, Bobby Orr, while tripped up by Noel Picard, Number 4 of the St. Louis Blues, to clinch the Bruins' 4th Stanley Cup. (Some people like to point out that it was Orr's 4th goal of the Finals, but it was actually his 1st.)
As mentioned, the Sports Grille Boston is at 132 Canal Street. McGann's is at 197 Portland Street; while 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.
* 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.
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 Harvard Crimson (school newspaper) headline "HARVARD BEATS YALE 29-29" and a tie for the Ivy League Championship. (Actor Tommy Lee Jones, then listed as "Tom Jones," started at guard for Harvard in that game. His roommate at Harvard was future Vice President Al Gore.) The Patriots played 1970, their 1st season in the NFL and their last season under the name "Boston Patriots," at Harvard Stadium.
Although its mailing address is 79 North Harvard Street in "Allston, MA," 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.
A short walk down Soldiers Field Road, at 65 N. Harvard Street, is Jordan Field, the 4,000-seat home of the Harvard men's and women's soccer teams, and of the Boston Breakers -- not a descendant of the USFL team, but the local XI in the National Women's Soccer League. The Breakers previously (2009-11) played at Harvard Stadium.
Boston College has won the NCAA Championship in hockey in 1949, 2001, 2008 and 2010; Boston University in 1971, 1972, 1978, 1995 and 2009; Harvard in 1989. Northeastern has never won it.
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. Games of the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup were played there.
Before the Tea Men, the NASL's Boston Minutemen played there, including Mozambicuan-Portuguese legend Eusébio da Silva Ferreira (like many Portuguese and Brazilian players, usually known by just his first name). Because of this, and because of New England's large Portuguese community, a statue of Eusébio stands at Gillette, possibly puzzling people who don't know soccer and only go for Patriots games. The statue was there at least as far back as 2010, well before his recent death.
The U.S. national soccer team played 10 games at Foxboro Stadium, winning 7. They've now played 12 at Gillette as well, winning 7. The most recent game was on September 8, 2015, a 4-1 loss to Brazil. Games of the 2003 Women's World Cup were played there.
It has one problem: The location is awful. It's just off U.S. Route 1, not a freeway such as I-95, and except for Pats' gamedays, when an MBTA commuter rail train will take you right there, the only way to get there without a car is to take the MBTA Forge Park-495 Line from South Station to Walpole, and then 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. Adjoining is the Patriot Place mall.
* Suffolk Downs. Opened in 1935, this is New England's premier horse-racing track. On their last tour, on August 18, 1966, the Beatles played here. However, as horse racing has declined, so has the track, to the point that New England's best known race, the Massachusetts Handicap (or the Mass Cap) hasn't been run since 2008. Previously, it had been won by such legendary horses as Seabiscuit, Whirlaway, Riva Ridge and Cigar.
So, unless you really loved the film Seabiscuit or are a huge Beatlemaniac, I'd say that if you don't have the time to see everything on this list, this is the 1st item you should cross off. 525 McClellan Highway, at Waldemar Avenue, in the East Boston neighborhood, near Logan Airport. Blue Line to Suffolk Downs station.
George Wright, of the 1869-70 Cincinnati Red Stockings and the 1872-75 Boston Red Stockings dynasty that grew out of it, is buried at Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline. So is Francis Ouimet, the young Bostonian who shocked the world by beating British golf superstars Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at The Country Club in Brookline in 1913. So are Joseph and Rose Kennedy, parents of Jack, Bobby and Teddy. So is their daughter Rosemary. Heath Street & Tully Street. Green Line D Train to Chestnut Hill. (The Country Club, if you can get in, is at 191 Clyde Street, but is not really reachable by public transit.)
Legendary Boston Beaneaters catcher Mike "King" Kelly, often (but erroneously) called the 1st baseball superstar, is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, 355 Walk Hill Street in Mattapan. Also buried there is George Dixon, the 1st black (and the 1st Canadian-born) boxing champion in any weight class (bantamweight, then featherweight, off and on from 1890 to 1901). Eddie Collins, one of the best 2nd basemen ever and GM of the Red Sox when he died in 1951, is buried at Linwood Cemetery, at U.S. Route 20 and Linwood Avenue in Weston. Jack Chesbro, a native of Western Massachusetts and the 1st great Yankee pitcher, is buried at Howland Cemetery on Shelburne Falls Road in Conway, 120 miles to the west. None of these is easily reached without a car.
* 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 station.
* Museum of Science. Boston's answer to the Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium, the MoS has just completed a major renovation to update its exhibits. 1 Science Park, on the Monsignor O'Brien Highway, as part of a dam on the Charles River. Green Line to Science Park/West End.
* 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.
The Trail starts at Boston Common, at Park and Tremont Streets. Green or Red Line to Park Street.
* Cambridge. Home to Harvard and MIT, it is not so much "Boston’s Brooklyn" (despite the name, 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 that would make their names in Cambridge.
The city is also home to the Longfellow House, home of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. And while Harvard Yard is worth a visit, it does not allow motorized vehicles, so, no, you cannot, as the old saying demonstrating the Boston accent goes, "Pahk yuh cah in Hahvuhd Yahd." Centered around Harvard Square at 1400 Massachusetts Avenue. Red Line to Harvard Square.
* John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Ask now what a visit here can do for you, ask what you can do on your visit here (or "heah").
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 over 50 years now. (Incredibly, 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.
Also on the UMass-Boston campus is the Clark Athletic Center, which hosted one of the 2000 Presidential Election's debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush. 100 Morrissey Blvd., 4 blocks from the JFK Library.
Salem, home to the witch trials, is to the north: MBTA Commuter Rail Newburyport/Rockport Line out of North Station to Salem. Plymouth, where the Pilgrims landed and set up the Massachusetts Bay Colony, is to the south: MBTA Kingston/Plymouth Line out of South Station to Kingston, then switch to FreedomLink bus.
Lexington & Concord? Lexington: Red Line north to its terminal at Alewife, then switch to the 62 or 76 bus. Concord: MBTA Fitchburg/South Acton Line out of North Station to Concord. Bunker Hill? 93 bus on Washington Street, downtown, to Bunker Hill & Monument Streets, across the river in the Charlestown neighborhood, then 2 blocks down Monument.
The Bull & Finch Pub, which was used for the exterior shot and the basis for the interior shot of Cheers, was at 84 Beacon Street at Brimmer Street, across from Boston Common and near the State House. It's since been bought and turned into an official Cheers, with the upstairs Hampshire House (the basis for the show's Melville's) also part of the establishment. Green Line to Arlington.
A version designed to look more like the one on the show, complete with an "island bar" instead of a "wall bar," is at Faneuil Hall. Congress & Market Streets. Orange or Blue Line to State, since Government Center is closed for renovations.
The Suffolk County Court House, recognizable from David E. Kelley's legal dramas Ally McBeal, The Practice and Boston Legal, is at the Scollay Square/Government Center complex. The official address is 3 Pemberton Street, at Somerset Street. Again, use State, due to the closure of Government Center.
The Prudential Tower, a.k.a. the Prudential Center, at 749 feet the tallest building in the world outside New York when it opened in 1964, contains a major mall. 800 Boylston Street. The finish line of the Boston Marathon, and the site of the bombing, is at 755 Boylston at Ring Road. Green Line B, C or D to Copley, or E to Prudential.
There are two John Hancock Buildings in Boston, although neither one officially carries the name anymore. The older one, at 200 Berkeley Street at St. James Avenue, went up in 1947 and is better known as the Berkeley Building. As I said earlier, it is 495 feet high counting a spire that lights up, and is a weather beacon, complete with poem:
Steady blue, clear view.
Flashing blue, clouds due.
Steady red, rain ahead.
Flashing red, snow instead.
Blue. Whether steady or flashing
is not obvious in this photo.
If it's flashing red during baseball season, when snow is not expected (except maybe in April), that means that day's Red Sox game has been postponed. When the Sox won the Series * in 2004, '07 and '13, it flashed red and blue: "Flashing blue and red, the Curse of the Bambino is dead!"
The glass-facaded newer building, at 200 Clarendon (which is now its official name as well) across from the old one, was completed in 1976 and is 790 feet tall, making it not just the tallest in Boston, in Massachusetts, or in New England, but the tallest in North America east of Manhattan. Green Line to Copley.
I hope every Yankee Fan gets to see at least one game at Fenway Park -- although not necessarily a Yankees-Red Sox game. Those games 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 recent 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.