Fenway Park: Boston’s Bandbox

Fenway Park is one of the long-standing treasures of New England, that contains within it the history and tradition of many generations and their beloved baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. Nestled on the intersection of Lansdowne and Yawkey Way, it was originally situated to accommodate the crowded surrounding streets and neighborhood. It is the oldest surviving venue in American professional sports, and its reach in Boston extends beyond that of the baseball team that has called Fenway home for 106 years.

On November 18, 2017, Boston College will compete at Fenway Park against The University of Connecticut, along with four other storied New England universities: Brown, Dartmouth, Maine and The University of Massachusetts. This will be the 77th contest for the Eagles at the storied ballpark. Many great BC games and memories have been staged at Fenway Park, including, most recently, the 2015 Shamrock Series showdown against Holy War rival Notre Dame, in front of a sold out crowd of 38,686. Prior to that November evening, it had been over 40 years since Boston College last played in America’s bandbox. The owner of the Red Sox had put a stop to football being played on the ballfield because of the damage that cleats would cause to the turf, especially if the game took place in poor weather conditions.

Image of Fenway Park, Boston MA

Fenway Park, Boston, MA

In the 20th century, Boston College played many pivotal and historic games at Fenway Park, including many of their match-ups against Jesuit rival Holy Cross. In BC’s first 43 years playing at Fenway, they posted an overall record of 67-21-6. One of their most notable match-ups took place in 1942, when BC entered the contest as a heavy favorite at 8-0. Holy Cross stood at 4-1-1, and, as three touchdown underdogs, no one gave them a chance to keep the game competitive, not to mention winning the game. To everyone’s shock, not only did Holy Cross compete with Boston College, they throttled them 55-12, forcing 10 turnovers.

Fenway Park has also seen its share of events other than baseball. It has hosted football games (many involving BC), boxing matches, soccer, Irish hurling, ice hockey, and concerts. Just as the ballpark structure itself was modified to fit within the surrounding streets, the playing surface could transform to accompany most other major events. Boxing stars commonly fought at Fenway in the first half of the 20th century. The National Hockey League’s 2010 Winter Classic drew 38,112 spectators, who watched the Boston Bruins square off against the Philadelphia Flyers, amidst the snow and chilly conditions. Over the last 20 years, summer concerts by artists like The Grateful Dead, Florida Georgia Line, Billy Joel, and Lady Gaga  have generated a strong crowds and revenue while the Red Sox are on long road trips.

Image of NHL winter classic in Fenway Park, 2010

NHL Winter Classic, 2010. David Day, Boston, MA

Fenway Park has also served as a place for the community to come together. Catholic masses were commonplace at the ballpark for the influx of Irish immigrants coming to the city in the early 1900’s. Additionally, a pro-Jewish service, during which 40,000 people were present, took place following World War II. Another packed house of 40,000 gathered to hear a speech from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, right before he ran for his record fourth straight term in office. More recently in 2008, over 3,000 immigrants took their oath of citizenship at the park during a naturalization ceremony.The only bill to be signed into legislation at Fenway Park was done so in 2010 by Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who supported legislation to guarantee insurance coverage for services for people with autism.

The integration of the ballpark into the community and surrounding neighborhoods played a role in the decision to extend its life and revitalize the Back Fens area. New ownership, led by principal owner John Henry, took over the team in 2002 and pitched their vision for the revitalized Red Sox and preservation of Fenway Park. Despite the pressure  to knock down the park and replace it with a new, modern venue, the new ownership advocated heavily for saving historic Fenway Park. They argued that the ballpark stood before any of them had even been born, and dedicated themselves to ensuring it would also be there long after they were gone. The ownership group pumped millions into improvements to bring Fenway Park up to the modern standards while retaining the unique historical features that make the park so beloved. Today, it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places at local, state, and national levels of significance.

Fenway Park is a linchpin of modern New England tradition and history. Many boys and girls grow up playing wiffle ball in their backyards and dreaming of getting the chance to hit at Fenway Park. Fenway has seen seven generations pass through its turnstiles, and thanks to the renovation efforts of the new ownership, its legacy will live on for a long time.

  • Matthew Sottile, Burns Library Reading Room Student Assistant & Boston College, Class of 2020

Works Consulted:

 

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