Red Sox Have 500 Reasons to Thank Fenway Faithful

In these tough economic times, the Red Sox are as close to recession-proof as possible. While unemployment rates continue to rise and 401(k) values continue to fall, attendance at Red Sox games remains stable.

Wednesday night’s game against Florida will be the 500th straight sellout at Fenway Park.

Some teams have trouble giving away tickets. The Red Sox don’t have enough for everyone who wants to see the show. Walk around Fenway before a game, and there are almost as many people on the streets as there are in the stadium for a Marlins game. Any Marlins game.

The capacity at Fenway is 37,373 at night and 36,945 during the day. Even if the Red Sox doubled the number of seats in the park, they would have no trouble filling the stands. The Nation loves the Red Sox the way supermodels love Leonardo DiCaprio.

The last time there was an empty seat at Fenway was May 14, 2003.

It isn’t a coincidence that the Red Sox have sold out their entire 81-game home schedule five seasons in a row and are well on their way to making it six. Fenway is the crown jewel of Major League Baseball. It may be ancient, but that’s why the park has so much character and what makes it so endearing. Just like great-grandparents you adore, visiting Boston’s famous yard never gets old.

Throw in a baseball organization that has become the model of how to run a team, and the net result is bottled lightning. The Red Sox have made the postseason five of the last six years and are the only team to win two World Series in the 21st century. The way things are going, winning three championships this decade is possible.

And so is selling out another 500 straight games.

Only three professional sports teams in the United States have had longer sellout streaks than the Red Sox, and all of them were NBA franchises: the Portland Trail Blazers (744 games, 1977-95), Boston Celtics (567, 1980-95) and Chicago Bulls (515, 1987-2000).

The Sox could pass the Bulls this season, the Celtics next year and the Trail Blazers in 2012 – the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. How fitting would that be? The oldest park in the majors, a living museum to baseball history, celebrates a century of existence with an honor fit for a king.

Some key personnel have been with the Red Sox for the entire streak — from the top (owners John Henry, Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner) to the front office (GM Theo Epstein) to the coaching staff (manager Terry Francona) to players (David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield). Consistency and a commitment to excellence laid the groundwork for the team’s cursed-to-first progression.

But none of this would have been possible without the fans.

“This record is the fans’ record, and we want to salute the members of Red Sox Nation for reaching this extraordinary milestone,” John Henry said in a statement. “It’s a testament to the passion and dedication they have for the game, for the team, and for the ballpark. Every day, we work hard to ensure that we are worthy of their loyal support.”

The Red Sox are doing a good job making up for lost time. If the Nation can remain loyal throughout 86 years of heartache and misery, rooting for a winner is a walk in the park. And parks don’t get any better than Fenway.

Thanks for the memories, and here’s to many more sellouts.

Stay faithful, my friends.