Boston's Fenway Park has been around officially since April 20, 1912, making it the oldest ballpark still standing in Major League Baseball. A lot of historical events—some of which are curious—have gone down over the last several decades at 4 Yawkey Way. Here are some facts about the home of the Green Monster, the Citgo Sign, and a Williamsburg you probably have never heard about.
1. IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE FIRST CORPORATELY NAMED STADIUM.
When Red Sox owner John I. Taylor, who also owned the new ballpark (which cost $650,000 to build), was asked why he chose Fenway Park for a name, he said, "Well, it's in the Fenway, isn't it?" Taylor wasn't wrong, but historians note that his family held "considerable stock" in the Fenway Realty Company at the time.
2. ITS OFFICIAL DEBUT WAS DELAYED MULTIPLE TIMES.
The first official baseball game at Fenway took place on April 9, 1912, when the Sox beat Harvard University 2-0. The first regular season game between two professional teams was scheduled for April 18, 1912, but was rained out. April 19 was a new day, but the same weather. So April 20, 1912 became known as the Fenway Park opener, a Red Sox victory over the New York Highlanders (they became the New York Yankees the following season), 7-6 in 11 innings. Most people didn't pay attention because of the unfolding tragedy of the Titanic sinking. The formal dedication ceremony for the ballpark was thus delayed until May 17, 1912.
3. ELEPHANTS TOOK OVER IN 1914.
The city zoo purchased three circus elephants named Mollie, Waddy, and Tony. Fenway Park held their coming out party, which was attended by 60,000 kids and their parents and included clowns, acrobats, a marching band, and a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator in safari gear. Two months later, the real Theodore Roosevelt showed up for the Progressive Field Day at Fenway Park; but Roosevelt had been advised by his doctors not to give open air speeches, so after a quick meet and greet at Fenway, they went to nearby Boston Arena (now Matthews Arena) for the speech.
4. SUNDAY GAMES WERE BANNED UNTIL 1932.
Even though Massachusetts voters decided in 1928 to allow sports on the Lord's Day between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., it was still illegal to play a professional game on Sundays within 1000 feet of a church, which Fenway was. As a result, the Red Sox played the first Boston Sunday game ever on April 28, 1929—at Braves Field, home of the then other professional Boston baseball team, the Boston Braves. Eventually, the church rule was lifted, so the Red Sox got to play a Sunday game at Fenway for the first time on July 3, 1932. The Yankees beat the hell out of them that day by a score of 13-2.
5. THE PARK ALMOST BURNED DOWN.
A fire on May 8, 1926 burned the bleachers along the left-field foul line down so severely that Fenway Park’s owners decided against replacing them. On January 5, 1934, a five-alarm, four-hour blaze almost completely destroyed the already-underway construction of new features to Fenway. Part of the estimated $220,000 worth of loss in the fire was the destruction of the 25-foot wall made of wood in left field. It was replaced with a 37-foot wall made of tin over wooden railroad ties. In 1947 it was painted green. In 1976, it was replaced with hard plastic.
6. A FAMILIAR FACE HIT THE FIRST HOME RUN HIT BY AN OPPOSING PLAYER OVER THE NEW LEFT FIELD WALL IN 1934.
The feat was accomplished by a former Red Sox player named Babe Ruth.
7. THERE IS MORSE CODE ON THE GREEN MONSTER.
The lines on the side of the scoreboard are the initials of Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey, who owned the Red Sox from 1933 to 1992 (and whose trust would own the team until 2002).
8. THE BULLPENS WERE IN FAIR TERRITORY UNTIL 1940.
9. TED WILLIAMS SHOT PIGEONS THERE.
In May of 1957 Williams reportedly shot 30 to 40 pigeons from "Williamsburg," to the consternation of construction workers on duty during a Red Sox off-day. Apparently, shooting pigeons at Fenway was a tradition started by Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove. Even after the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals talked to Williams, Fenway's pigeons still weren't safe; during a 1974 game, Detroit Tiger Willie Horton hit a foul ball at Fenway that killed a low-flying pigeon.
10. WILLIAMS HIT THE LONGEST HOME RUN AT FENWAY EVER. IT LANDED ON SOMEONE'S HEAD.
Williams' home run on June 9, 1946 off the Tigers' Fred Hutchinson went 502 feet, landing in Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21. It hit a 56-year-old, straw hat-wearing construction worker named Joseph A. Boucher right in the head. "I didn't even get the ball," Boucher said later. "They say it bounced a dozen rows higher, but after it hit my head I was no longer interested. I couldn't see the ball. Nobody could. The sun was right in our eyes. All we could do was duck. I'm glad I didn't stand up."
11. IT WAS THE SITE OF THE LAST SPEECH OF FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S 1944 ELECTION CAMPAIGN.
Before 40,000 supporters and a nationwide radio audience, Roosevelt delivered his final campaign speech on November 4, 1944, three days before getting elected as POTUS for the fourth time. He was seated in an open automobile. Sinatra sang the national anthem, and Orson Welles was one of the warm-up acts.
12. THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS WON A GAME THERE.
In addition to hosting high school football, college football, professional football, soccer, professional hockey, boxing, and professional wrestling, the Harlem Globetrotters defeated the George Mikan United States All-Stars on July 29, 1954 by the score of 61-41, on a basketball court placed in the Fenway infield. The biggest cheer from the 13,344-person crowd, according to The Boston Globe, came when Goose Tatum punched the ball over the third base dugout into the grandstand.
13. THE CITGO SIGN HAS HAD A TUMULTUOUS HISTORY.
The 60' x 60' sign over 660 Beacon Street has been around since 1940, when it was a green and white Cities Service sign. In 1965, the company changed its brand to CITGO. Its lights were shut off during the oil crisis of 1973. After 1974, the electricity was only turned on from 8 p.m. to midnight. The Massachusetts energy office asked the owners to turn it off "as a symbol of the state's effort to reduce energy waste" in 1979, and they acquiesced for four years.
Thanks to a last-minute intervention by the Boston Landmarks Commission, the sign was saved and re-lit on August 10, 1983. During the 2004 season—which ended with the Red Sox's first championship since 1918—workers replaced the original neon lighting with 8000 feet of LEDs. In 2008, the sign caught fire, causing $5000 in damage. In 2010, the sign had to be renovated because the LED lights installed just six years earlier were no longer being produced. It was re-lit during a Red Sox game on September 17, 2010, during the seventh inning stretch.
Earlier this year, new concern for the sign's future arose when Boston University announced it was going to be selling several of the buildings in Kenmore Square, including the one on which the sign hangs. This has led to a push to finally designate the sign as a landmark to protect it for generations.
14. YOU CAN GET MARRIED THERE, BUT BEN AFFLECK MIGHT RUIN IT.
While The Knot calls the price range to tie the knot at the ballpark "affordable," some claim it can cost up to $25,000. One wedding took place during the filming of The Town (2010), which shot at the ballpark for 13 days. "So we were shooting with automatic weapons there and we fired off a full mag and, we didn’t know it, but there were some people getting married," Affleck recalled. "People were screaming! They thought they were under attack! I don’t know if we ruined a wedding or if it will end up a great story."
15. IT HAS HAD HISTORICALLY LOW AND HIGH ATTENDANCE.
On September 29, 1965, only 409 fans were in the building to watch the Red Sox face the California Angels. Winning can change things. All 820 games from May 15, 2003 through April 8, 2013 were sellouts (which broke the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers' record of 814 for most consecutive sellouts by a professional sports franchise).