Pros: nostalgia, good to watch on TV or from few good seats
Cons: dirty, bad food, expensive, too small, hard to see field, evil organization
The Bottom Line: Visit this classic park before it is torn down. But then hope they tear it down as soon as possible.
The first time I went to a game at Fenway Park was June 21, 1986. I remember that walking up the ramp to enter the stadium and seeing the incredibly green grass gave me a wonderful feeling that I later realized was the feeling of falling in love . I have an extreme amount of ambivalence about Fenway Park. Wonderful things have happened there, but I have also been mistreated by the organization when I worked for them. It was a dream come true and a nightmare at the same time. So, the first part of this review will be about the stadium and the second part will be about some of my experiences working for the Sox.
I am conflicted about what to do about Fenway Park. I feel certain that Boston needs a new ballpark for the Red Sox, but it seems sacriligious to TEAR DOWN Fenway, the site of so many historic events in baseball history. Instead, I believe it should be made into a museum, since it is certainly not fit to continue playing in.
The nickname on the TV ads is "Friendly Fenway," and I heartily disagree with this epithet. Just because Fenway Park is the smallest stadium in Major League Baseball (seating capacity 33,871) does not mean that it is friendly . In fact, some aspects of the park are downright harsh. The beautiful field and the green monster make Fenway a great place to play or watch a game on TV, but the majority of the seats in the stands are uncomfortable and have obstructed views. When Fenway was built nearly 100 years ago, the architectural technology was such that many more poles were needed to keep a structure standing. Therefore, only a small portion of the seats in Fenway have clear views of the field. Also, some of the seats in right field are angled the wrong way, so fans end up with a stiff neck from positioning their bodies to look at home plate and the pitcher's mound.
Other reasons that there needs to be a new Fenway are that it is disgusting in the concourse underneath the stands. It is crowded and dark. Although, if you looked up at the crumbling ceiling and exposed wires, you might be glad that the lighting is poor. There is also a lack of parking and inadequate public transportation to the park. The Green Line , which delivers fans to the nearby Kenmore Square stop, is the worst of Boston's four subway lines. The trains are too small, move slowly, and screech as they go around corners.
Also, Fenway Park is simply too small ! The laws of supply and demand dictate that the smaller the stadium, the more expensive the tickets will be. And sure enough, Fenway, the smallest stadium in the majors, has the most expensive tickets, as well. (The cheapest bleacher seats are $20!) Many Red Sox fans simply cannot afford to buy a ticket to a game, which I think is wrong since baseball should be a sport for the people. It's America's Pastime and shouldn't just be for the rich. The organization is not motivated to improve the stadium or conduct ticket promotions, since they sell out every game anyway!
The food is also extremely expensive. A bottled water is $4.50 or something outrageous like that. You are better off buying food from the independent vendors outside the park (on Yawkey Way ). I heard that this year, they were confiscating water that people tried to bring into the park, even when the temperature was 100 degrees! People were passing out in the bleachers since they couldn't afford to purchase the bottled water and didn't want to miss the game by waiting in the huge queues at the concession stands!
The gates open 1.5 hours before the first pitch, meaning that you can see the visiting team's batting practice, but not the Red Sox's. If you park close to Fenway, the lots cost $20 and your car might get blocked in. Your best bet is to park on the street. You may have to walk a bit farther, but you will save tons of money and have an easier time getting out when the game is over. Meters cost 25 cents for 15 minutes, but they stop charging you money at 6PM, so the parking will at most $0.75 if you want to get to the park when it opens.
Despite the fact that I want Boston to build a new stadium, I still think of Fenway fondly. No matter how many times I walk up the ramp leading to the box seats on the first base side, and seeing the awe-inspiring field. I can still feel the butterflies in my stomach...
A dream job
During the summer of 2000, my summer job was leading tours through Fenway Park. What more could I ask for?! I got to meet lots of people and tell them about the park's unique features. The Park was built in 1912 , but most of the features are original from the renovations in 1934 including the (uncomfortable) blue, wooden grandstand seats. The 37-foot tall left field wall is called the Green Monster and it features the original the hand-operated score board. The right field foul pole is called Pesky's Pole, after Johnny Pesky, a Red Sox infielder in the 1940s and '50s who hit most of his 17 career homeruns by wrapping the ball just around the pole, 302 feet from home plate (the shortest distance in the majors.) Another cool feature of the park is the red seat marking the longest homerun hit in the park (502 feet to right field in 1946 by Ted Williams).
If you take the tour, you will also learn about the retired numbers (1-Bobby Doerr, 4-Joe Cronin, 8-Carl Yaszstremski), 9-Ted Williams, 27-Carlton Fisk) and how numerology links them to the Curse of the Bambino. The Curse, in brief, says that the Red Sox will never win the World Series again since they sold the greatest player of all time, Babe Ruth , to their hated rivals, the New York Yankees. Babe Ruth helped the Sox win it all in 1918 and they haven't won the title since. If you go to Fenway now, you'll see loads of fans wearing "Yankees Suck" t-shirts, which you can purchase outside the stadium. The tour is a lot of fun, as you learn many interesting facts and get to walk around the warning track and sit in the dugout! (weather permitting-- call to confirm that there is field access).
A new stadium?
Tourists would often ask me when Fenway will be torn down. The answer is that it is entirely up in the air at this point. The Red Sox were bought by new owners last year, so the plans for the new stadium are unclear at this point. Fans, residents of the Fenway area, and politicians bicker over whether tax dollars should be used and where to put the new stadium. It's been long enough! Boston fans deserve a more modern stadium like the ones in Houston, San Francisco, Baltimore and others. These new stadiums have plenty of old-fashioned character but with modern conveniences and good sight-lines.
Why the Red Sox are Evil
I don't think I can ever go back to Fenway Park and pay for tickets. That would be like giving money to an abusive ex-husband or something. I loved the Red Sox and they broke my heart.
As you read above, I worked as a tour guide for the Red Sox in 2000. Toward the end of the summer, the grounds keepers needed help with the infield tarp during a rainy day game. Some of the other tour guides and I jumped at the chance. It was probably the most exciting day of my life! I got to sit in the dugout near the players during the rain delay! The game was eventually canceled as the rain never stopped, and, since the Red Sox were going on a road trip, we got to pull the tarp off the field to let the field get some rain. When my feet touched the grass, I thought I was going to fall over because I couldn't breathe. It was amazing! If you are not a Red Sox fan, you might not understand why this would be so important to me. Walking on the field would be like visiting Mecca or something.
So, of course I wanted to continue helping out on the grounds crew. Since a lot of the other employees were going back to college before I had to go back, they let me help out during games. I got to sit in "canvas alley" (basically, front row seats along the right field line) and got paid to watch the games! I didn't usually have to do anything unless it rained, and at the end, I would remove the bases from the field. It was all extremely wonderful. When we ran onto the field to put the tarp on, people booed, and when we ran up the dugout steps to remove it, the crowed cheered! Those were my moments of glory... I knew it was the closest I'd ever get to being a Major League baseball player.
At the end of the season, before I went back to university, I filled out an application to work on the grounds crew again the next summer. My boss assured me that everything would be fine and that I could work again the next year. I even went to Fenway during my spring break (March, 2000) to speak to him and make sure that everything was all set. He said to come back on May 22, 2001 to start working. But when I arrived that day, a new grounds keeper had been hired The new guy sent me home because he said that the office needed to figure out what was going on with my "paperwork" that I had filled out the year before. He said to call back in a few days. Which I did. Then, he said to call back in a few more days. This went on for a couple of weeks before I finally spoke to Human Resourses, who had never heard of me! It is a huge organization but there are only TWO PEOPLE in HR!! They said, "There are no openings on the grounds crew." So, my boss had been lying to me and stringing me along all that time! I lost out on a lot of money because I waited 3 or 4 weeks to find another job.
But I didn't give up on the Red Sox even after I got two other summer jobs. They had cheated me out of a lot of money and I didn't want them to get away with it. I didn't want to, but in order to get it back, I had to pull the "gender discrimination" card. There were no other girls on the grounds crew, and I was certainly capable of doing the work. The old grounds keeper had always said that I worked harder than all the boys. So, I wrote letters to all of the higher-ups in the organization telling them my story, and I got a job offer sent to me by overnight mail. I got to work for the month of August, 2001.
However, when I got there, my new boss treated me differently than all of my co-workers. He resented me and made a big deal out of the fact that I was a girl, calling me "Miss Becky" or "Ma'am" all the time. (The old grounds keeper was always very egalitarian about everything and called me "Becks" or "the Beckster" or something neutral.) I didn't have a place to keep my stuff because I wasn't allowed to go in the crew room since it was a men's locker room. So, I had to keep my stuff in my car and walk all the way across the stadium to get it and change in the gross bathrooms. Plus, he would always send me home earlier than everyone else! The way it worked was that we would get to the stadium at 7:30 AM and work hard (watering, cleaning up, etc) until around 2:30 PM or so when the players would show up. Then, we would set up for batting practice and basically relax for a while. And working during the game was a piece of cake. But my boss would almost always send me home before all the fun stuff!
Most other people in the organization who I talked to seemed extremely bitter, too. It's sad: you get exactly what you want and then you don't want it anymore. Like most people there, it had been my dream to work for the Sox, and they let me down. They think that since they are THE RED SOX they can treat their employees badly.
Although I was treated so poorly, sometimes I am still nostalgic for my days on the grounds crew. I got to walk on the field! I even signed my name inside the Green Monster ! And I will have plenty of stories to tell my grandchildren.