A tour of Boston’s Fenway Park, now America’s oldest active Major League baseball stadium, begins in the huge souvenir store across the street from it. I’m glad it did because I otherwise wouldn’t have seen that for-sale baseball signed by Carl Yastrzemski. Ted Williams was not available. That price would have been astronomical. Yaz’s was $350. Ruth was not around when I saw it. She had disappeared into the vastness of this retail behemoth because we still had 20 minutes before the tour began. She was looking at jewelry, caps, and, not too surprisingly, red socks.
We were both surprised that when we called that morning we got on the next tour available at 11 am. We had been told that this was a very popular activity and, at that time, the Red Socks still had a chance to be in the playoffs. Maybe the fact that they had lost the previous night helped. When it was time to leave on the tour, however, more than 50 people gathered for the walk across the street.
Our tour guide, Nick, was enthusiastic but seemed tired. Perhaps he had given his talk a few times too often because he lost his place a couple of times and often had trouble explaining things. I didn’t fully understand the fabled importance of the Green Monster, for example, until I got home. Perhaps Nick sensed that most of the tourers were Red Sox fans and detailed explanations weren’t necessary. The 8-times champion Boston Red Socks formed in 1901, and they won their first world championship 2 years later. Construction of Fenway Park began in 1912.
The Green Monster was an area of Fenway that was subject to availability for tours. Luckily, we were soon seated in it. Nick told us that this was the best place to watch a game. When its 274 seats were added in 2003, they could be had for $5 but now they go for $250 or more and $10,000 is not unusual if a World Series game is being played. Nick also told us that baseballs fly up here at 100 mph and The Green Monster (TGM) is a great location to catch a home run ball. It started as a simple fence but is now the highest wall in a major league field and preventing home runs on many line drives. The 1934 manual scoreboard embedded in TGM is still used. The seats atop The Monster were added only 14 years ago, and sitting in them was the highlight of the tour according to the faces of locals.
We filed through the press box, saw an unexpected sight in the form of a large rooftop garden, and climbed many stairs. We did not go onto the playing field. Toward the end of the tour Nick told us that baseball wasn’t the only game played in Fenway and mentioned an upcoming hurling competition to illustrate. The tour ended in what appeared to be a makeshift museum with lots of stuff about Ted Williams. Seeing the red seat among a sea of green ones that his 1946 home run traveled 502 feet to was a definite highlight of the tour for me. At the time, it was the longest in-park home run in history and remains the longest “in park” in Fenway history. However, Yankee Mickey Mantle’s 656 feet blast in 1960 remains this professional sport’s longest home run.
ps. Bostonians still don’t have too much good to say about the Yankees who were The Highlanders the first time they faced them in Fenway Park in 1912.