A walk through the Fenway area of Boston just west of downtown and you might just walk past its most famous landmark. Amidst a mix of shops, restaurants, office buildings, warehouses and a university, along the southern edge of the I-90 Massachusetts Turnpike near Brookline Avenue, you will find perhaps not only one of Boston’s finest treasures, but one of baseball’s finest treasures, Fenway Park.
Breaking ground in late September 1911 and taking less than seven months to complete in time for the start of the 1912 season, the home of the Boston Red Sox has served the city well for a century. Opening just five days after the Titanic disaster, the new ballpark was christened by the Mayor of Boston and grandfather of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, John “Honey Fitz” Kennedy, when he threw out the first pitch on April 20th. The Red Sox won the game 7-6 in 11 innings against the New York Highlanders, a team renamed the Yankees the following year and a partner in perhaps the fiercest rivalry in sports.
The Red Sox even shared Fenway Park with the Boston Braves franchise, a club which now calls Atlanta and Turner Field, home. In 1914, the “Miracle” Braves performed one of the most memorable reversals in major league history when they went from last place to first place in two months. The team finished first in the National League, winning the pennant by 10˝ games over the New York Giants. A four-game sweep of the heavily favored Philadelphia Athletics in the World Series was completed at Fenway Park. After an uneventful 1915 season, the team moved to Braves Field in Boston before moving to Milwaukee in 1952.
Still, the venue belongs to the Red Sox. Nearly twenty-one years after the inaugural season at Fenway Park, Thomas Yawkey entered the Boston sportscape. Born Thomas Austin, he was the grandson of lumber and iron magnate William Clyman Yawkey, who once agreed in principle to buy the Detroit Tigers in 1903, but died before the deal closed. The purchase was eventually closed by Tom's uncle, Bill Yawkey. After his father died, Tom's uncle adopted him and he took the Yawkey name. Bill Yawkey died in 1919, and left his $40 million estate to his adopted son, but a clause in the will forbade him from taking possession of it until he turned 30 years old.
Five days after Thomas Yawkey’s 30th birthday, he closed on the purchase of the Red Sox and Fenway Park for $1.2M as a gift to himself. Upon closing the sale, he quickly made three major changes to improve the ballpark after it had fallen into disrepair. He had the left field seats which had burned in a 1926 fire replaced, added bleacher seats in center and right field and perhaps the most significant change of all, erecting a 37-foot wall in what is now known as The Green Monster, a move largely designed to prevent viewing of live baseball by non-paying fans.
Thomas Yawkey’s wife, Jean, chose the distinct color which appears on the wall claiming she wanted it to resemble as close as possible the color of the lush green grass of Fenway Park. Currently, this color appears not only on the Green Monster, but the surrounding walls and facades and is uniquely named “Fens Green”, a unique shade of the color most associated with Boston due to its Irish roots, which can only be found at Fenway Park.
The Yawkeys, who owned the team and Fenway Park from 1933 to 2002, made many contributions to the city and as longtime stewards of the franchise are forever honored at Fenway Park in a clever way. The next time you get a peek at the lower portion of the Green Monster (a photo of this appears in this review’s photo gallery), take a close look just below the word “AMERICAN” where the first column of scores appears.
There you will see two vertical white bars on opposite sides of this column. As part of these vertical bars, you will find a series of dots and dashes representing Morse code. The left-hand side bar shows the initials TAY for Thomas Austin Yawkey while the right-hand side bar shows the initials JRY for Jean Remington Yawkey. It remains a touching reference to the couple who along with family spent nearly seventy years shepherding Red Sox baseball for Bostonians.
Within the last decade, the Red Sox have risen to greater prominence by contending more frequently than in decades past breaking an 86-year World Series drought in 2004 and then winning a second title three years later. The renewed excitement for this franchise has fueled the longest sell-out streak in baseball which will top 800 by the end of the 2012 season and in 2013 threaten the all-time sports sell-out record in the four major leagues of 814 held by the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers from 1977-1995.
For purposes of this piece, the focus is exclusively on baseball, although Fenway Park has hosted hockey, football and concerts over the years. Attending a baseball game here is an experience like no other so approach it in this manner and allow plenty of time to absorb the experience. It is unique in that over the years, its history has artfully been preserved while modern amenities have been added to satisfy our desire to enjoy our pastime through technology. The ballpark is a myriad of narrow and wide concourses, steep and shallow ramps and unique spaces and crevices loaded with period advertising, unique references and historic artifacts to be read and viewed as a testament to the more than 8,200 games and many thousands of memories.
When you arrive at Fenway Park, you will quickly learn why it is called Baseball’s Most Beloved Ballpark. It’s only major league competition comes from Chicago in what is known as the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. Fenway enjoys its own unique place in history, though. Fueled with wildly asymmetrical field dimensions and an array of special ground rules unlike any other ballpark, it stands alone.
On the day you attend the Red Sox game at Fenway Park, abandon any allegiance to their opponent and immerse yourself in old-time baseball and the experience of cheering for the Red Sox. You will be happy you did. In 2012, this gem of a ballpark celebrates its 100th Anniversary, a tribute to its status as a living baseball museum which looks very much today like it did in 1912.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
If you want it, they probably have it. Consider the price is a little cheaper outside the stadium along Lansdowne Street behind left field. There are a few special items listed at the end of this segment, but first, a few common items found at MLB baseball stadiums for comparison sake.
A 16 oz. draft beer is $8.50 for premium and $8.25 for domestic. Bottled soda is $4.75 and bottled water is $4 and when you buy these, they take the caps off for you and throw them away (so bring your own cap if you want to have them while you carry your overpriced drinks to your seat). The best beverage buy can be found with the $7.50 special 100th Anniversary souvenir cup, refillable all day long with many Coca-Cola soft drinks available.
A Fenway frank is $5 and very tasty, or you can upgrade to an equally tasty and larger Monster Dog for $7.50. A relatively small size cup of popcorn is $4 and a good buy, a small bag of peanuts or a pretzel is $4.75. Try the fried dough for just $5.
Papa Gino's Pizza is offered for $6.25, but neither looked appetizing or worth the money even if it would have looked appetizing. There are a few healthy servings such as veggie burgers for $6.75, veggie dog for $5 and yogurt for $3. The area where these last three items were sold was pretty slow.
Of the unique items offered, you will find whole belly clams for $15, crab cakes for $11 or lobster rolls for $13.50 along Yawkey Way. You can also find lobster rolls inside along with a bowl of clam chowder for $8.50. If you even think of ordering one of these, please consider having your head examined. To pay those ridiculously high prices for something that is better ordered at say, Union Oyster House (more on this later), is a mistake you will regret the rest of your life. They are good, but you can get much better in Boston for much cheaper.
Earlier in the review, I mentioned some of the fun historical pieces and references at the ballpark. I will cover these in comprehensive detail later in the "Extras" section of the review. For now, though, let's get to the fundamentals of Fenway Park, the streets, what is around the ballpark and where to sit.
Fenway Park sits on an odd-shaped parcel of land bordered by five distinct thoroughfares, all of which possess distinct value relative to your visit and things to see. I walked completely around the ballpark at least three times in one day wanting to revisit certain things and thinking I missed a few items. The five thoroughfares around the ballpark are:
Brookline Avenue, northwest side and a short distance connecting a Fenway ticket office to Cask & Flagon, a popular spot voted by ESPN as the Top Bar in baseball. Across the street on the Fenway side of the street is Game On! Sports bar which features access to the visiting team's batting practice cage, available for private parties.
Lansdowne Street, northeast side and a very long stretch extending from behind the Green Monster deep behind the large center field video board and even further behind the bleachers. Here you will find WEEI 850 AM on the air before games broadcasting at street level with their windows wide open. Among the restaurants, The Bleacher Bar offers a unique dining experience from center field. There are also several food carts closer to Brookline Avenue serving sausages and cold drinks. Along the westernmost length of this street you will find Gate E while on the easternmost length you will find Gate C.
Ipswich Street, southeast side and a very short street that connects the areas behind deep center field and deep right field. Where it meets Van Ness Street you will find the area where players enter the ballpark and the first of two magnificent sculptures. "Teammates" features a sculpture of four Red Sox standing together. Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio were teammates for seven seasons, but best friends for life. Gate B is found where Ipswich Street meets Van Ness Street.
Van Ness Street, south side and very long connecting deep right field back to behind home plate. The second of two sculptures and a few steps west of the previously mentioned piece is Ted Williams depicting the famed hitter holding a bat over his left shoulder while he places his cap on the bald head of a cancer-stricken child. Williams was intensely devoted to helping sick children, a tradition which continues today by the Red Sox family in many forms, among them the Jimmy Fund which is referenced throughout the stadium complex. Also on this thoroughfare along the outer wall you will find banners commemorating Red Sox Hall of Famers up high with retired numbers mounted below along the brick wall. As you walk further west toward home plate, the distinctive World Series Championships are displayed with the period logo. This street is largely closed to vehicular traffic as game time approaches.
West side is Yawkey Way, named after the longtime owners of the Red Sox. Banners commemorating Division, League and World championships hang high against the brick façade. On game days, Yawkey Way is limited exclusively to ticketholders two hours before game time Friday through Sunday and 90 minutes before game time Monday through Thursday. Here there is a unique collection of eating, drinking, entertainment and souvenir shopping. On the day I attended the game, I found Big League Brian who walks on stilts while playing catch with fans, a live three-person band playing the afternoon I was there and classic carnival games. In addition, the largest team store known to man is on this street. It is magnificent and my $100 spent in just ten minutes proved it. You will find Gate A on the northernmost edge of Yawkey Way while Gate D can be found on the southernmost edge.
As you select where to sit, consider a few things relative to sun and rain exposure along with sightlines, price and comfort.
The left field line runs directly north reaching the Green Monster while right field runs directly east. The batter views the pitch being thrown his way by looking northeast. The Red Sox take the first base side of the field for their dugout while the visitors take up space along the third base side. The bullpens are side-by-side in deep right field, the Red Sox to the left and the visitors to the right.
There is 60 feet from home plate to the backstop. The protective netting is directly in front of three sections, 44, 45 and 46. Also, the netting stretches from the top of the fence all the way back to the second deck balcony which may obstruct views in ways that prove uncomfortable for some fans.
The infield foul territory is a smaller than what you find in most ballparks and the space narrows as the seating area travels toward the foul lines. George Will, author of best-selling baseball book Men at Work, once noted the smaller foul territory likely improved the batting averages of Red Sox hitters by as many as seven points given enough foul pop ups ordinarily in play would likely be out of play at Fenway Park allowing for another opportunity to hit during the same plate appearance.
On the left field side of the field, the distance between the seats and the foul line is just three feet and from where they are at their closest point, runs 100 feet until the chalk reaches the foul pole. On the right field side, three feet separates the seats from the foul line and run for 60 feet before reaching the foul pole.
Speaking of foul poles, Fenway Park is the only ballpark in all of baseball which has names for both.
The left field foul pole is known as Fisk's Pole, named after the longtime Boston catcher, Carlton Fisk whose 12th inning home run won Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Cincinnati eventually won the Fall Classic the following night, but the sight of Fisk's two-handed wave administered to seemingly help the ball stay fair to win the game is just one of many great moments delivered at Fenway Park.
Incidentally, the original left field foul pole from that game was found in one of the Yawkey's barns where it had been stored for decades. It has since been relocated to one of the private club levels at Fenway Park, but can be seen by all fans who take the standard ballpark tour. More on this later.
The right field foul pole is known as Pesky's Pole, named after Johnny Pesky. Many believe the foul pole bears his name because he was a right fielder or hit many home runs to this part of Fenway Park. Both are false as Pesky was a shortstop and hit a measly 17 home runs his entire career. The truth in the naming involves Pesky's association with the Red Sox as a player, coach, manager and broadcaster for the team during 61 of his 73 years in professional baseball.
Field dimensions are 310 down the left field line, 379 in left center, 390 in straightaway center (this is not marked on the wall), 420 in deep right center (again, not true center), 380 in right and 302 down the right field line. The height of the wall varies as it travels from left field to right field measuring 37 feet, 2 inches high beginning at the left field pole and continuing for 231 feet toward center field before there is a hard break 20 feet below. At 17 feet in center field, the wall travels south until it reaches the side-by-side bullpens and then lowers to five feet. The wall then approaches its final stretch at 3 feet high at the 380 foot distance mark from home plate and continues a wide and wild curve toward the foul pole rising to five feet as it runs parallel to the foul line.
With respect to distance from home plate to the Green Monster along the foul line, there had been debate as to the true length which had been posted as 315 feet. A reporter from The Boston Globe was able to sneak into Fenway Park and measure the distance in the mid-90s. When the evidence was presented to the club in 1995, the distance was re-measured by the Red Sox and restated at 310 feet. The companion 96 meters sign remained unchanged until 1998 when it was corrected to 94.5 meters.
In center field, there is an enormous scoreboard where you will find replays shown. Two other scoreboards on opposite sides of the largest scoreboard display statistics for the batter, hitter, line-up and batting order. Secondary electronic signage can also be found on the second deck façade on the extreme end. This is also the only area which shows pitch speed and pitch count.
Now it is time to learn a few things before determining where to sit. For an afternoon game, the sun begins behind the right field foul territory and travels across the sky behind the stadium. If you sit in the upper third of the lower level seats, known as the grandstand, you will have shade the entire game. This area is most easily spotted by the navy-colored seats that likely have at least one support pole partially obstructing your view. These are the original seats at Fenway and there are 12,000 of them.
While these sections provide shade, you should know the seats themselves are the smallest in the stadium. The armrests and chair seat are a few inches narrower than what you find at modern venues and the distance between rows is several inches narrower as well. The rows themselves tend to be a little longer and in the majority of them, a walk down the row does not necessarily provide the opportunity to exit the other side as there are bars separating sections. I enjoyed the pitch in the rows providing a better view than those seats closer to the field where rows are less stacked. Also, there are no cup holders on the older seats. These older seats will likely never be replaced with modern-sized seats as the installation would result in a reduction of 3,000 seats from the ballpark's capacity.
My seat for the afternoon game was one of these navy seats, a $55 face-value ticket in section 16, row 5, and seat 11. The section is right behind the Red Sox dugout side of foul territory with a roof over my head. Additionally, the Green Monster in straight away left field provided an opportunity to see the trajectory of mammoth drives that might reach or surpass the historic monument. It was exactly what I wanted and determined only after doing my research. For evening games because the sun will fall behind the stadium and then behind the third base foul area, consider any seat in the lower grand stand.
As to what areas to avoid, unless you want a unique perspective, stay away from the bleacher areas in center and right field as you are completely exposed and far away from the action. The seats are among the cheapest. Buy these if you intend to just gain access to the ballpark and then find a home in one of the many common areas where you can view the action. There is some uniqueness to this part of the ballpark, but it is best enjoyed as a visitor before the game, not during. More on this later.
If you feel like really making the experience worth your while, consider one of the 269 seats atop the Green Monster. They are fantastic, but come at a steep price of $165. Proclaimed by ESPN as the best seats in sports, access to these tickets are first obtained through lottery. Ticketholders to this area gain access to the ballpark two additional hours earlier than the general public to enjoy batting practice. On average during this special time, every ninety seconds, a batting practice ball makes its way to these seats making a ticketholder's claim to a seat here intensely memorable.
This hugely popular viewing spot was one of many innovative ideas from Janet Marie Smith, noted ballpark design and planning executive hired by the Red Sox as a consultant in 2002. Smith has recently accepted the role of Senior Vice President of Planning and Development at Dodger Stadium and has worked closely with the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves with the ballpark redevelopment efforts over the years.
Her impact on stadium design over the last few decades integrating new venues into the fabric of downtown areas in major league cities is legendary. The movement of fewer individual seats in favor of larger public areas to view ballgames is another example of her influence on the modern ballpark. Her work is recognized in Cooperstown, New York at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Green Monster tickets were offered for the first time prior to the 2003 season at a price of $50 each. The team was concerned these tickets would not sell, but 75 minutes after they became available, all 21,789 tickets for the team's 81 home games were sold out.
A check on Stubhub in early August 2012, for a mid-week game in late September against the division-rival Tampa Bay Rays revealed 35 of the 269 Green Monster tickets were for sale in a range of $300 to $600 per ticket. I suspect at some point in my life it would be good to sit atop the great wall, but waiting until the market softens a bit might be advisable for now. There is another way you can sit in one of these seats and check out the view from these seats. More on this later.
Other seats include all-inclusive areas which include food and drink. If you just want to get into the ballpark and roam, get a $12 upper bleacher seat, maybe sit there a few innings and then roam round. When the game is going on, you will rarely see any cluster of open seats, just the occasional open seat vacated by someone getting something to eat or drink.
As you can imagine for a ballpark with so many quirky dimensions, there is a unique set of ground rules which are applied by umpires depending upon the play. They are:
Foul poles, screen poles and the screen on top of left field fence are outside playing field.
A ball going through scoreboard, either on the bound or fly, is two bases.
A fly ball striking left-center field wall to right of line behind flag pole is a home run.
A fly ball striking wall or flag pole and bounding into bleachers is a home run.
A fly ball striking line or right of same on wall in center is a home run.
A fly ball striking wall left of line and bounding into bullpen is a home run.
A ball sticking in the bullpen screen or bouncing into the bullpen is two bases.
A batted or thrown ball remaining behind or under canvas or in tarp cylinder is two bases.
A ball striking the top of the scoreboard in left field in the ladder below top of wall and bounding out of the park is two bases.
One other interesting note is that I was told due to the unique shape of the ballpark, there are less than ten seats in Fenway that provide the seat holder with a clear view of every square inch of the playing surface between the foul lines. Magical!
Fenway Park is smack dab in the middle of the Fenway section of town. The name comes from the word "fens," which is an Old English term for a marshy area. On game day, arrive early and plan on staying late as there is much to see and do here, all centered around the ballpark.
There are plenty of restaurants and pubs within a few blocks of Fenway Park. The first time I attended a game there, I stopped at Cask & Flagon, near Gate A along Brookline Avenue and behind the Green Monster. You will pass the restaurant on the way from the Kenmore Station.
Cask & Flagon was voted by ESPN as the top baseball bar offering many public spaces inside with high table tops, televisions carrying all the games, and a patio which accommodates the wedge formed by Brookline Avenue and Lansdowne Street. Service is impeccable even with the swelling crowds. Your glass will never be dry here. Consider the fish and chips or the burgers.
Across Lansdowne and part of the Fenway land block is Game On!, a sports bar that is a little more upscale than Cask & Flagon and a good choice as well. In addition to serving steaks, their claim to fame is the ability to reserve a private party room. Reservations should be made at least two weeks in advance and availability is only on non-game days. This room has access to a batting cage normally reserved for the Red Sox opponent Cost is $250 for two hours with each additional hour offered at $100. Pretty cool, but again, only on non-game days.
A little further south of Fenway, walk a block South along Yawkey Way from Van Ness and when you get to Boylston, cross the street and make a left. A few hundred feet away, you will find The Baseball Tavern, founded in 1963. The place has three floors of good food and fun including a balcony on the top floor arranged to give you the feeling you are inside the ballpark, complete with light standards and the Green Monster scoreboard. The Baseball Tavern provides great food at a fair price with plenty of televisions and video games.
If you look North across the street, you will find a CVS to your right and a Rite Aid to your left for all your needs. Thankfully they were close when I needed Tylenol to prevent a nasty headache from spoiling my day. You will also find very cheap, but very basic Red Sox souvenirs there including a $9.99 t-shirt.
While in Boston, consider getting away from Fenway Park to enjoy dining at non-national chains and culture. There is much history to enjoy in Boston outside of baseball. At this stage in my life, I would like to apologize to all of my history teachers in school for not listening as much as I should have during their classes. Now I cannot get enough of it.
Take time to enjoy the Freedom Trail where a painted line on the sidewalks and streets provides a self-guided opportunity to take you step-by-step to all of the historical places you need to see while in Boston. There are some companies that offer tours and some sites along the way that charge admission, but you can do this on your own and pick and choose where you want to take a closer look.
You can start anywhere on the route and it can be long, but if nothing else, at least visit North Church (where many famous people worshipped and the famous lantern was displayed to alert the British were coming), Faneuil Hall and the site of the Boston Massacre. There is so much to see, take another day separate from the ballgame to do this while in Boston.
For dining, a must-stop if for no other reason just to say you did, is Union Oyster House which happens to be on the route of the Freedom Trail. Established in 1826, it is America's Oldest Restaurant. The Kennedy clan used to meet upstairs in booth 18. Ask for it when visiting for lunch or dinner. The clam chowder is magnificent and the fish and chips are also very tasty. Be sure to select a local brew (something other than Sam Adams) when you dine.
If riding the subway, two stations are close. Government Center station is close and can be accessed by travelling along the BLUE or GREEN line. A second option is Haymarket station which can be accessed by travelling along the ORANGE or GREEN line.
Another place I stumbled across is the British Beer Company with twelve locations throughout the Boston area, largely in the suburbs and not downtown. Their clam chowder is quite good and the atmosphere is fantastic. Décor is that of an Old English Pub with plenty of soccer on the many televisions they have mounted on the walls and always a Boston team on when the action is live. Live music after 9:00 PM along with a friendly collection of servers and patrons make it worth your while.
I have been fortunate to live in St. Louis most of my life where generations of fans grow up with Cardinal red flowing through their veins. They are passionate and knowledgeable and incredibly fervent. Having witnessed this for more than four decades, I can tell Red Sox fans possess a similar regard for their team.
Strike up a conversation with any Bostonian who looks like they might have seen a few decades worth of baseball and you will likely enjoy a memorable conversation with not just a Red Sox fan, but a baseball fan. They appreciate great plays from opposing teams and are not shy about applauding such events. They know who is hot, who is not, how the team will play behind a certain pitcher and all things which essentially provide you with a preview of the upcoming game and the rest of the season.
In terms of sheer numbers, the Red Sox enjoy great popularity not so much because of their success on the field and the value of playing in a historic ballpark, but because their appeal for more than a century has been regional as opposed to local.
Similar to the extraordinary appeal the St. Louis Cardinals enjoy due to their status for decades in being the major league team furthest west and drawing from twelve states, the Red Sox benefit from a similar dynamic. On the day I attended, it was Vermont Day, a state whose nearest point to the city of Boston is over one-hundred miles. The Red Sox draw fans throughout Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. Their radio network includes stations which carry games in Florida and Wyoming as well.
Along with this fervency for Red Sox baseball, there is also a tradition which can be enjoyed at the bottom of the eighth inning and involves nearly 40,000 fans singing Neil Diamond's song, Sweet Caroline. There are several stories as to how this tradition began, but only one is true.
In reality, the song got its start at Fenway Park thanks to Amy Tobey, who was the ballpark's music director from 1998 to 2004. She was responsible for choosing the music between innings and picked Sweet Caroline simply because she had heard it played at other sporting events.
At first, Tobey played the song at random games sometime between the seventh and ninth innings, and only if the Red Sox were ahead. Tobey considered the song a good luck charm and it soon became something the fans anticipated. Since 2002, the song has been played (and sung by the 40,000 fans) at the bottom of the eighth inning at every Red Sox home game.
There are several options and it all depends on how much you are willing to pay for convenience. Be warned as prices are steep and the traffic in and out of the area before and after a game is horrible. Parking is ample throughout downtown in small, odd-shaped lots and a few parking garages where cars are shoehorned into small spaces of pavement or gravel. If you decide to drive to Fenway, we recommend that you use Gotta Park to secure parking near Fenway Park in advance.
The cheapest parking you will find is a mile and a half east of the ballpark for $12. Parking close enough to throw a baseball at the perimeter of Fenway runs $50 (the price of food that two average-sized fans could enjoy during an entire game). You can even pre-pay for many of these lots to reserve your spot and if you decide to drive and park, make sure you choose a parking location closest to the direction you intend to travel after the game. Otherwise, you will just be contributing to the traffic nightmare by going against traffic flow.
I recommend using the MBTA subway (Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority) which not only provides the cheapest option, but the most convenient and adventurous way to help build excitement all while taking on the experience as being one of the Boston faithful. You will pay $2 each way on the subway along with a nominal charge to park your car which varies by station. Here is what I did for a Sunday morning which started very early for a 1:35 game.
Because I would need to fly home for a 6:30 PM flight back to St. Louis Sunday night, I found a station close to the airport which is along the BLUE line. The Orient Heights Station just two stops north of the airport stop was the closest station with a parking lot to where I wanted to be. I paid $5 to park for the day and boarded the inbound BLUE line with a $2 ticket. If you intend to ride the train more frequently during your visit, purchase a Charlie Card which is a reloadable transit card and can be initially bought pre-loaded for $5, $10 or $20.
I boarded the train at 7:20 AM travelling six stops until it reached the Government Center Station at 7:30 AM. I knew I needed to transfer to the GREEN Line outbound toward Riverside, the end of the line to the west. Unlike the BLUE Line subway train, the GREEN Line is actually a streetcar. The GREEN line train would take me to the Kenmore Station, the closest to Fenway Park. However, of the four Green Lines operating in the system, B, C, D and E, only the first three of the four travel there. The Green Line E turns south two stations prior to reaching Kenmore so avoid this one.
At 7:37 AM, I boarded Green Line D travelling six stops before reaching the Kenmore Station at 7:51 AM. Upon exiting, it was clear I was in the right spot as the platform was adorned with vintage images of Fenway Park and on the way to exit the station, the ticket booth and adjacent walls were covered with Red Sox and Fenway directional references. A walk up the stairs to Commonwealth Street and there was the famous CITGO sign (which when asked one time why he hits so many home runs at Fenway Park, former Toronto Blue Jays slugger Joe Carter said he thought the sign meant "C - IT - GO".
Once I reached the street and stopped by for morning fuel at the Dunkin' Donuts which seems to be on every street corner in Boston, I made a left to head west and travelled 400 feet before reaching Brookline Avenue making a slight left there. Three streets form this six-way intersection here so be carefully to follow the correct street. You will be looking for an overpass you will walk on up ahead. Travel along Brookline 1/5 of a mile across the Massachusetts Turnpike until you reach Yawkey Way. Make a slight left there, walk 266 feet and you are at the Red Sox offices and the beginning of your visit to Fenway Park.
A couple of important notes as you plan your trip. You might see on the subway system map the Fenway Station. This station references the neighborhood of Fenway, not the ballpark. The Fenway Station along the Green D line is not as close as the Kenmore Station. In fact, it is about double the walking distance and not in any way a direct route.
Also, you might see the Yawkey Station which is just northwest of the ballpark. It was closed while under construction when I was at Fenway, but the line that runs along this route is for commuter train traffic, that where passengers travel greater distances than subways lines. One of the Purple Lines, the Framingham / Worcester line, typically stops at Yawkey Station when it is not under construction. The line begins in the West at the Worcester Union Station (about 45 miles away) and travels east to South Station just south of downtown Boston. Travel time between one end and the other with stops takes nearly two hours.
So to re-cap, you have two choices. You can pay $50 to park, money for gas to drive roundtrip to and from Fenway Park, aggravation to and from the game regardless of the outcome versus $9 for parking and roundtrip subway fare along with ease and calm the entire trip. Again, take the subway. You will be so glad you did for very many reasons.
Tickets to see the Red Sox are among the highest in the game, the product of a supply and demand component and the relatively low ballpark capacity which sits at 37,495 before standing room. The condition shows no signs of slowing down.
You can take a chance by waiting to pick up a ticket that is turned in to the box office right before game time by the team or purchase from a scalper, but why not give yourself peace of mind and get one in advance. I was very comfortable with my $50 single ticket which could have been bought through the Red Sox website in advance. Tickets on Stubhub for the same section were priced at $65 which I would have gladly paid.
Programs are moderately priced at $5 and include a customized scorecard for the series and a pencil to score the game. The program is among the best in baseball and part of a monthly subscription you can continue after the game.
A 100th Anniversary baseball was $10. T-shirts seem to start at $30 if you get one with the Green Monster or 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park logo. If you cannot decide what you want, pick-up one of the complimentary catalogs available as you enter the store. Although at least half the merchandise seemed to be priced a little high, there was no sign of trepidation to those who entered the team store before and after the game.
On food, I recommend eating before you get to the game, but save room for some clam chowder or fried dough when you get there. The $7.50 souvenir refillable soda cup might be the best value of all the offerings in the ballpark.
In this review, you have read references to the visit as "more on this later". This section of the review includes lots of stuff. Sorry for the length, but essentially, these are things you must see and do while at Fenway Park. Essentially, there are MANY things to do here. Please be sure to start your day very early while in Boston to pack it all in.
Presuming you have just one day for Fenway, begin with a tour. There are several of them and I have witnessed two different ones (The Public Tour and the Sunday Premium Tour). Consider these two, because they offer different things that cannot be missed. Tour hours can change relative to game start times. Tours are typically offered daily from 9 AM to 5 PM every hour on the hour. On game days, the last tour is offered three hours before game time.
The Public Tour is the regular 60-minute tour that walks you through the stadium, behind the scenes in the private areas complete with team, ballclub and player history. You will walk through the perimeter of the stadium ramps, along the concourses where old style signs and painted brick adorn the walls revealing what it was like in the early years of Fenway.
On occasion you will sit in seats and listen to the knowledgeable tour guides telling you great stories about the history of Fenway and things that happened over the last century. You will walk through the public areas near the retired numbers, near, but not on top of the Green Monster and private areas where you will see the famous left field foul pole grill where Carlton Fisk's 12th-inning, game-winning home run bounced off of in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Admission is $16 for adults, $14 for seniors and $12 for children 3-15, students and military personnel.
The second tour is the Sunday Premium Tour. Here you will meet Wally the Green Monster, stop on the warning track to take a photo and hear the amazing history of Fenway Park and the Boston Red Sox. Along the tour, you start with a trip down onto the field, have your photo taken with Red Sox mascot Wally the Monster (and have someone use your camera to take your photo as well to save money), sit in the oldest seats in baseball, sit atop the Green Monster and walk through some of the other unique parts of the stadium not seen by regular ticket holders. This tour is only available on afternoon Sunday games before 3 p.m. Field level access is subject to availability. Admission is $20 for all fans.
The tour I have not been on is the Batting Practice Tour. This is the chance to get up close and personal to all the action. Enter the ballpark before the general public, a quick photo stop on the warning track, a visit to the oldest seats in Major League Baseball and the opportunity to catch a ball from atop the Green Monster. This tour is offered three hours prior to game time on game days only. Field level access is subject to availability and the tour is only available on late afternoon and night game days. Admission is $20 for all fans.
Tickets may only be purchased day of tour in person at the box office at Gate D beginning at 8:50 in the morning. There is no sign indicating tour ticket lines begin here for the early morning risers, but you will begin to see the line form and it forms fast and grows. Tickets sell out for these tours so don't be left out. Later in the morning, tour tickets are available in the office near Gate A inside. In this office, there are several kiosks for fans to pick-up electronic tickets which likely prevented additional shipping charges to be tacked on to the already high prices.
When you take any of the tours, they begin inside the enormous Red Sox team store, in my opinion, the largest sports store devoted to any team. Enter through the northernmost entrance closer to Gate A and get there early, but no later than ten minutes prior to your tour time. You will want to be there to hear the tour guide early-on and watch the short film montage of Red Sox history at Fenway Park. The tour guides will have you rolling in laughter with their jokes and make a point to survey what teams fans on their tour cheer for on a regular basis. They particularly enjoy pointing out Yankees fans.
As the tour guides walk and talk, they have microphones and mobile speakers at front and rear which ensure all visitors can hear during the trip. When the tour is stopped, though, I recommend sitting closer to where the speaker is standing. For some reason, it was difficult to hear when in the upper deck looking out over the field while the guide was speaking.
If you have time for just one tour, take the regular tour. If time for two, take the batting practice tour as well. The Sunday Premium tour was nice, but left me a little disappointed that it did not offer more.
After the tour when you are ready to get inside the ballpark, be aware of the entry steps. Prior to game time, 90 minutes Monday through Thursday and 120 minutes Friday through Sunday, Yawkey Way is closed off to accommodate ticket holders only. The actual ticket gates accessing the stadium are mobile turnstiles in the street with high fencing around them to funnel the crowd appropriately. Gate A is on the North end while Gate D is on the South end. I recommend entering through Gate D for reasons which will be clear shortly.
Once you are inside this area, you still have access to the massive team store and several raised stands to purchase Red Sox Magazine, the only Official Game Program. For $5, you get the program, updated scorecard for the current home stand and a pencil to score the game. Be advised, there are a dozen or so unkempt vendors outside this area selling knock-off programs called Boston Baseball. They claim to be the official program at a cheaper price of $3. Also, it is this area that offers many permanent booths for food and drink. Order and then find a high table with covered umbrella to enjoy your overpriced $13.50 lobster roll. Once you are done, it is time to enter the structure to do one thing first.
Just inside Gate D where you will see a wide doorway to enter the building, walk in and look to your right. There you will find a fan relations office. Stop there and ask for a Fenway Park Living Museum brochure (shown in the photo gallery of this review). This will be to enjoy later so tuck it away and hold onto it.
Also, this might be the time to begin listening to the pre-game show leading up to game time. Grab your headset and tune to WEEI for either 850 AM or 93.7 FM. Incidentally, this is the same station that carries their live show leading up to the game at a studio along the street level of Lansdowne Street behind the Green Monster. It will set the mood for the game at hand while you enjoy your journey through Fenway Park.
Now you want to head all the way to the far right field end of the ballpark. Along the way, you will walk through concourses of varying widths adorned with signs and artifacts worth stopping to view as you travel to the East end of the structure. Signs detailing sections, seating levels, food choices and rest rooms are simple and resemble that which would have been found in the early years of the ballpark. Once you get to the back corner near your destination, the concourse opens up to a much wider walkway with a multitude of food and drink choices and many seating areas to sit and enjoy them.
Once you have this brochure, make your way immediately to deep right field and make a bee line for the following seat; Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21. There you will find the only red seat in the outfield. You might want to take a picture of you with your arm around the seat, maybe take a picture while sitting in the seat. When I was last at Fenway Park, I stood a few rows behind the seat and took a picture where the red seat was in the lower part of the frame while the backstop behind home plate was in the upper part of the frame. Why is this so special?
This is the seat where Ted Williams hit the longest documented home run in Fenway Park history. On June 9, 1946, during the second of two games which were both played during the day against the Detroit Tigers, Ted Williams hit the home run that was officially measured at 502 feet. It was later determined that if unobstructed, the ball would have flown 520 to 535 feet.
The ball landed on Joseph A. Boucher, a Yankees fan from Albany, New York who was in Boston on business that day. On this warm afternoon, Boucher's view of home plate was at least partially obstructed by the sun being in his eyes and even wearing a large straw hat didn't help. The Splendid Splinter's home run shot punched a hole in Boucher's hat hitting him in the head.
When asked about the incident, Boucher responded, "How far away must one sit to be safe in this park? I didn't even get the ball. 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 did not stand up."
Although there has been some evidence other home runs might have travelled further, the one red seat remains an important part of Fenway lore and is a popular site for fans to take pictures.
On your way back from visiting the red seat, walk to nearby section 5 and make your way to the edge of the low railing at the right field foul pole. That is where you will find Pesky's Pole marking the separation between fair and foul territory. Bring your black sharpie marker to add your name to the pole as it is a popular and accepted activity of fans. The foul pole is repainted at the beginning of each season. Just be careful if you choose to sign it and can only find space on the upper end of the yellow post. On the afternoon of the game I attended, one man climbed atop the five-foot wall and nearly fell before he was done signing his name (a photo of which appears in this review's gallery).
Other unique parts of the field include "The Triangle", a region of center field where the walls form a triangle whose far corner is 420 feet (130 m) from home plate. That deep right-center point is conventionally given as the center field distance. The true center is unmarked at 390 feet from home plate, to the left of "The Triangle" when viewed from home plate. The foul line intersects with the Green Monster at nearly a right angle, so the power alley could be estimated at 336 feet.
Another area is known as "Williamsburg", a name invented by sportswriters for the bullpen area built in front of the right-center field bleachers in 1940. It was built primarily for the benefit of Ted Williams so that he and other left-handed batters might hit more home runs since it was 23 feet closer than the bleacher wall.
Another nearby feature of the field is known as "The Belly", a sweeping curve of the box-seat railing from the right end of "Williamsburg" around to the right field corner where it meets Pesky's Pole. The box seats were added when the bullpens were built in 1940. The right field line distance from the 1934 remodeling was reduced by about 30 feet.
Before you leave this area, look up to the second level behind "The Belly" and you will find the team's retired numbers; 9, 4, 1, 8, 27, 6, 14 and 42 honoring respectively Ted Williams, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Johnny Pesky, Jim Rice and Jackie Robinson, the latter of which has been retired by all major league baseball clubs.
Now you have a bit of a walk ahead to the other foul pole. On days where there is batting practice (NEVER on afternoon games which take place the day after a night game), walk deep to the left field corner and sit in some of the old seats while the sluggers bang balls off the tin-covered wall. Just about every couple of minutes, you will hear a soundly struck baseball hitting the famed structure. It is just as fun to watch the fielders shagging fly balls and watch their heads follow the ball from home plate to the wall and then back down to the ground.
While there is a state-of-the-art replay board in center field along with two other scoreboards which display electronic stats, the main scoreboard which covers all of the numbers is manually operated and can be found at the base of the Green Monster in left field. At the end of each half inning, the scoreboard operator walks onto the field from the only access door (to the left of the "AT BAT" sign) armed with a new set of green planks with white numbers painted on them. This is how all of the scoring updates from hits, errors to pitching changes and out-of-town results are recorded. This is just one of dozens of historical touches which has remained from the early years.
Now back to that brochure I recommended you pick-up when you entered Fenway Park. It unfolds nicely to show multiple panels with individual numbered dots identifying where 100 historical items such as signs, trophies, and vintage ticket booths among them worth seeing can be found. Start with #1, Yaz's sign, the vintage ticket booths are not too much further from this point, then the collection of movie posters which display the movies filmed at Fenway Park.
The marked locations are listed in the order by which to most efficiently see them. Work your way around the ballpark until you get to all one-hundred. It will take some time and likely will involve pushing the effort to during and after the game. This was one of the nicest surprises to have the opportunity to see these items and method to ensure I would not miss seeing these items.
It's hard to know where to begin when talking about Fenway. Oldest park in Major League Baseball? Check. Home to some of the most significant moments in baseball history? Check. Famous landmarks, quirks and hall of famers? Check. Rabid fan base? Check. The list goes on and on. If you've read our previous reviews, you've got an idea of what you're getting with Fenway. If you're a first-time visitor to this page, then suffice it to say that this is a can't-miss ballpark. Despite some imperfections, Fenway remains a classic baseball - no, scratch that - a classic sporting experience. In this review, I'll highlight some of the improvements both in the park and the surrounding neighborhood that only add to the fan experience in 2011.
Fenway Park is a living piece of baseball history. This is a complete must-see for any baseball fanatic - stepping through the gates of Fenway is like taking a step back in time to the days when baseball was a young, fresh sport and stadium construction was not a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. You can almost see the old wool uniforms and taste the crackerjack. However, there's a reason newer parks aren't built like Fenway. While incredible to experience, there are plenty of challenges accessing the stadium and - in case you hadn't heard - it's really expensive to attend. As a newcomer to Fenway, I was able to take a look around the place with a critical but unbiased eye, and this stadium puts up a strong showing despite a few flaws.
Fenway. The name alone is imbued with an incredible mix of history, heartache and, at long last, success. Built in 1912, it is currently the oldest Major League ballpark in operation, narrowly besting Wrigley Field by two years. Despite its age (and in some ways, because of it), it remains one of the best places in the country to watch a game.
The current ownership team of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino has made a commitment to continual improvements of the park during every-off season, and their efforts have paid off as Fenway has added both new seats and amenities that enhance the fan experience further each year.
To me, Fenway is at its best when the weather is cold. That may just be because I love the clam chowder that you can get from Legal Seafoods, or that I think Sam Adams is better with a little nip in the air.
If there was a perfect park- this would be it.
Not that i'm one of those. Eew. Something about that color green is so perfect on a cold April night or a warm summer day. With a beer and a boiled hot dog on a bun that's soggy as heck.
Though I haven't been to too many pro stadiums, Fenway Park thus far is my favorite. Citizens Bank is close, but can't match the history and that "take your breath away" feeling when you first see the field. There is just so much to love about this stadium: the neighborhood, the bar scene, the stadium design and it's quirks, the atmosphere, the monster. Yes, the seats are tight, but I'll trade comfort for atmosphere any day (ex. TD Garden or Boston Garden, which would you rather want to see a game in?). As for the parking...just take the T, it's easy. If you have the chance, try to get to Boston for a game and combine it with some other special parks that their affiliates play in: Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium is 50 minutes away and Portland's Hadlock Field is less than two hours away
boo the yankees
boo the yankees
boo the yankees
boo the yankees
boo the yankees
boo the yankees
This is the mecca for baseball enthusiasts. The old Yankee Stadium was historical but ugly and lacked atmosphere. Wrigley has the atmosphere but just is a bit behind where Fenway is...the neighborhood around Wrigley has more charm than Fenway though. The fans, just as with Yankee Stadium, can be snobbish at times. Don't drive and definitely take the T.
Every trip to my hometown team's ballpark astonishes me. Just thin of all the great players who have played on this field over an illustrious 100 years.
As a Yankee fan, I must first say it is a small park that fits the number of trophies perfectly. Now that my dig is out of the way, great ball park! You all have a piece of history, enjoy it. Food was great and so were there fans, even with my New York grey jersey leading the way.
Must see stadium. I sat in awe of the "Green Monster" for the longest time. It's one of those iconic things, watching sports on tv, growing up. The place is obviously very old, so bathrooms, concessions and seating are all very subpar compared to other stadiums. Having said that, I can't imagine changing much of anything. The place is amazing and so are the fans. They know they have something special.
Went for a night time game. Good time besides the fans. Bunch of drunk idiots and I wasn't even cheering for the visiting team.
I've been fortunate enough to attend games in over 100 venues in 10 countries. Whenever anyone asks my favorite stadium, I always want to tell them about some obscure site that no one has never heard of. But I can't. Fenway is the best there is.
A few places come close-ish, but for me, Fenway is the clear winner. It's an icon. It's historic. It's intimate. And it's beautiful.
I don't think the perfect stadium has ever been built, but Fenway comes close.
(It loses fractional points for high ticket prices, some obstructed views, leg room, and parking. But it's still as close to perfect as I've seen. And thankfully, renovations haven't hurt it at all.)
had an awful time
Fenway Park is old, cramped, overpriced, hard to get to, harder to find parking, and half the fans there don't even watch the game. Many of the seats face the wrong way, and plenty more are located behind poles. If you are any bigger than 5'6" and 150 pounds, you won't fit in the seats. Despite all these flaws, there is no other park I would rather go to watch a ball game. Nothing matches coming out of a tunnel and seeing all that perfect green.
Been going to Fenway since I was a kid. It will always be my favorite place to watch a baseball game. When I was in college I found a broken telescope on the top floor of the John Hancock building. By broken I mean it didn't require any coins to see through it. Needless to say I caught a few games up there with a great bird's eye view of the city and the game.
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