On Friday, April 20, Fenway Park celebrates its 100th anniversary. Designated a National Historic Landmark on March 7 of this year, Fenway is the oldest major league baseball park in the United States. It is a unique and interesting facility that has been a popular draw for thousands of Connecticut residents. In fact, the Red Sox annually sponsor a "Connecticut Day" in early September.
The grandfather of President John F. Kennedy, Mayor John F. Fitzgerald, threw out the first pitch to christen the ballpark on April 20, 1912. The cost of the new facility was only $650,000, and it held about 33,000 fans, a big crowd for its time, though low by modern standards. The game was a huge success for the home team, as the Sox defeated the New York Highlanders 7-6 in 11 innings.
The Highlanders were re-named the Yankees in 1913, and their rivalry with the Red Sox remains one of the oldest and most intense in professional sports. The exciting news of the opening day win, however, was eclipsed by news concerning the sinking of the Titanic only five days before the first pitch was thrown at Fenway.
The Red Sox franchise predates Fenway Park by 11 years, the team having been formed in 1901. The early Red Sox teams played their home games on Huntington Avenue in Boston, near Boston University.
According to the Baseball Almanac, in 1912 there were eight Connecticut natives playing in the major leagues, four of whom debuted in 1912. Marty McIntyre of Stonington, an outfielder, was the veteran of the group, having begun his major league career in 1901 with the Philadelphia Athletics. McIntyre divided his next 10 years between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox. He retired in 1912, having played 1,039 games with a career batting average of .269.
Howard Baker from Bridgeport had a three-year career in the majors from 1912 to 1915. A third baseman, Baker played for the Cleveland Naps and the Chicago White Sox, playing part-time and batting just .220. Herman "Dutch" Bronkie from Manchester played intermittently for seven seasons between 1910 and 1922 with five different teams. Dutch played in a total of 122 major league games, batting .242. He died in Somers in 1968.
Jud Daley of Coventry played for two years for the Brooklyn Dodgers — 1911 and 1912. He was an outfielder who played in 71 games, batting .250. Ray Keating of Bridgeport played seven years in the majors as a pitcher, mostly for the Yankees. Keating pitched in 130 games, winning 30 and losing 51. He had an ERA of 3.29. He gave up only 13 homers in over 750 innings.
Pat Maloney of North Grosvenordale played one season with the New York Highlanders as an outfielder. He batted .215 over 25 games during the 1912 season. Jimmie Savage of Southington was a Villanova grad who caught the attention of the Philadelphia Athletics. They drafted him in 1912. He had a three-year career as a utility player, playing various infield and outfield positions. Jimmie played in 148 games and batted a respectable .276.
Jack Barry of Meriden had an 11-year career in the majors. A graduate of Holy Cross, Barry was an infielder who began his career in 1908 with the Philadelphia Athletics. Halfway through the 1915 season, he was traded to the Red Sox, becoming the first Connecticut native to don a Bosox uniform. Jack played in more than 1,100 major league games, with more than 300 as a member of the Red Sox. He was a teammate of Babe Ruth. His lifetime average was .243.
Here are some of the most interesting facts about the oldest baseball stadium in the majors:
- As of April 17, 2012, the Sox have had 717 consecutive sellouts at Fenway. The old record was 455 by the Cleveland Indians.
- Baseball experts estimate that the very narrow foul territory at Fenway adds between five and seven points to the home team's batting average.
- Despite being unfriendly to left-handed pitchers, Babe Ruth won more than 67 percent of his games in Fenway — a record of 94-46.
- The "Green Monster" in left field is just over 37 feet high and is made mostly of wood. It wasn't painted green until 1947.
- While a Yankees outfielder, Babe Ruth hit the longest homer ever at Fenway — an estimated 545 ft — on May 25, 1926.
Happy 100th to Fenway Park, a New England landmark cherished by many Nutmeggers!