Fenway Park is a little lyrical bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus like the inside of an old fashioned Easter Egg. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934 and offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between man’s Euclidean determinations and nature’s beguiling irregularities.
– John Updike , “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” New Yorker, 1960
The centennial celebrations for Fenway Park have begun! A Special Section in today’s Boston Globe features all things Fenway in honor of the ballpark that has captivated the hearts of Bostonians, and visitors from around the world, for 100 years.
It’s a beautiful issue that covers great moments for the ballpark, praise for its many distinctive features, and reflections from notable Bostonians on what makes it so magical. But there is a story that the issue does not tell; it is the story of the ballpark that almost wasn’t and the regular people, under the banner of “Save Fenway Park!“, who fought hard against all odds to stop Fenway Park’s demolition.
Flashback to the mid 1990s. A new Fenway Park was planned. The 1912 ballpark was slated for demolition. Civic and business leaders lined up to support bulldozing the existing ballpark and the building a shiny new one next door. Local media published countless articles with headlines like “A new and better Fenway Park” and “New Fenway Park is a good investment for all.” Fenway Park had lost its sheen. Its seats were too cramped and its stands were too grimy. It wasn’t living up to the standards of the newer ballparks that were cropping up across the nation. And it just seemed too small to bring in the revenue that the ownership needed to keep it up.
But something wasn’t sitting right with Red Sox Nation, and a small group of concerned citizens decided to speak out about it. They believed that Fenway Park was forever intertwined with the legacy of the Red Sox as well as Boston itself, making it an invaluable landmark for the city. What made it challenging was also what made it special. Its irregular angles, its intimacy, its funny green wall. So they launched a campaign, using whatever platform they could find to call attention to their cause. Before long they had thousands of supporters. And when the new ownership took over in 2002 the tide of opinion miraculously turned. The new owners committed to investing in renovations and improvements to the ballpark, fixing its problems while retaining what made it so beloved. Fenway Park had been saved.
This Wednesday night, April 4, the Alliance will host our annual Gala & Auction at Fenway Park in honor of its 100th Anniversary. Some of our old friends from Save Fenway Park! will be there, and we can’t wait to recognize them, alongside the current ownership and others who believed in the little ballpark with an immeasurable spirit.