First Opening Day at Fenway Park
was damp and chilly throughout New England for most of the spring of
in Boston, it took a few tries before baseball at a brand new ballpark
played in decent weather.
April 9th, the Red Sox and Harvard's baseball team met in an exhibition
football weather and as one who was there observed, “with a little snow
side.” About 3,000 braved the elements. Boston
won the game, 2-0 with both runs
driven in by their pitcher, Casey Hageman.
scheduled official Opening Day
match on April 12th, however, was rained out. Finally on
the weather improved a bit, and Fenway's first major league game: the
versus the Yankees (then known as the Highlanders), was set to be
a crowd of 27,000 on soggy, lumpy grounds and infield grass
the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds, the team’s former home.
Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald threw out the ceremonial first
ball. The man, whose grandson would become the thirty-fifth president
of the United States,
was an ardent member of the "Royal Rooters" - a group of Red Sox fans
who staged pre-game parades accompanied by the singing of "Tessie"
and "Sweet Adeline."
the game would
have been the stuff of front-page headlines in New
dailies. Six days earlier, however, the largest passenger ship in the
struck an iceberg and gone down in the icy waters of the Atlantic. The news
of the sinking of the Titanic on its
maiden voyage and the accompanying loss of 1,517 lives would eclipse
it was good news in Boston
that the Red Sox finally had a modern
ballpark. The original field that the team -- then known as the Boston
Somersets -- played on was a former circus lot where sand covered much of the outfield and a tool shed sat in the
middle of centerfield.
Charles Henry Taylor, a Civil
War veteran and owner of the "Boston Globe," had decided back in 1910
to build a new ballpark in the Fenway section bordering Brookline Avenue, Jersey Street, Van Ness
Lansdowne Street. It would cost $650,000 (approximately $14 million today), and seat 35,000. Ground
was broken September
attractive red brick façade, the first electric baseball scoreboard,
turnstiles, the most in the Majors, were all features being talked
about. Concrete stands went from behind
around to third while wooden bleachers were located in parts of left,
and centerfield. Seats lined the field allowing for excellent views of
but limiting the size of foul territory.
was 20 feet above
sea level. Barriers and walls broke off at different angles.
Centerfield was 488 feet from home
plate; right field was 314 feet away.
The 10-foot wooden fence in left field ran straight along Lansdowne Street
was but 320 ½ feet down the line from home plate with a high wall
it. There was a ten foot embankment
making viewing of games easier for overflow gatherings. A ten foot high
in left field posed challenges for outfielders who had to play the
territory running uphill.
This was the Opening
Day Lineup for the 1912 Boston Red Sox.
The Sox, with
player-manager first baseman Jake Stahl calling the shots, won the
in 11 innings. Tris Speaker -- who that season would bat .383,
steal 52 bases and stroke eight inside-the-park home runs at Fenway -- drove in the winning
run. Spitball pitcher Bucky O’Brien was the winner in relief of Charles
Lion” Hall. The first hit in the park belonged to New York's Harry Wolter.
how it all began.
BOOKENDS: Tom Yawkey: Patriarch of the
Boston Red Sox by Bill Nowlin
(University of Nebraska Press, $36.95, 531 pages) is a masterwork on
long-time BoSox owner that is long over-due. And Nowlin, whose resume
almost 40 books on the Sox and a multitude of articles, has truly
Nowlin writes in his intro: “As I began to write a
biography of Tom Yawkey, I was surprised to learn how little had ever
written about him.”
a lot written about the man who owned the team from 1933 to 1976.
well written, filled with fascinating new information, Tom
Yawkey: Patriarch of the Boston Red Sox is a must read for fans
of the franchise and all those interested in baseball history. Warts
Tom Yawkey and his time comes to life. HIGHLY
Frommer is one of
the most prolific and respected sports journalists and
oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of
Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey has been a
more than two decades in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer
dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine. He’s also
founder of www.HarveyFrommerSports.com.
His The Ultimate Yankee Book is available
Amazon or directly from the author.