There are certain places in this world that can leave people speechless upon seeing them for the first time. For nature lovers, it's the Grand Canyon. For history buffs, it's the Smithsonian Institute.
For baseball fans, it's Fenway Park.
The Boston Red Sox opened the oldest active park in all of baseball with a 7-6 extra-inning win over the New York Highlanders on April 20, 1912, in the shadow of the Titanic's sinking. But from that moment on, the Fenway legacy would be constructed by generations of fans and players, making it one of the world's most storied sports venues.
Walking up from the concourse to see the 37-foot, two-inch high Green Monster for the first time is a jaw-dropping experience for new fans, and it puts a smile on the faces of those who return to 4 Yawkey Way year after year.
Fans get a sense of history just being there. It doesn't matter if they're sitting behind the dugouts, where foul balls have been caught, in the bleachers, where more than 10,000 home runs have found a landing spot, or the worn-out wooden grandstands that remain unchanged since their installment in 1934 — spectators realize Fenway is something special.
They realize they're not sitting in a modern ballpark, a 45,000-seat, corporate-sponsored leviathan with extra-wide concourses and plush box seats. They're taking in a game from what John Updike called a "lyric little bandbox." And although its dimensions are asymmetrical, its field views can be obstructed and its seats are cramped, fans realize they are part of something more than just a Red Sox game. They are part of a living museum exhibit of baseball history.
The story of Fenway Park is one no Hollywood director could conjure. Its first seven seasons saw a Red Sox dynasty that won four World Series titles, only to be followed up by an 86-year curse filled with heartbreaking losses.
From Johnny Pesky holding the ball in 1946, to Bucky Dent and his "pop-fly" home run in 1978, agonizing defeats left fans saying "almost," "not quite" and "wait 'til next year." And even then, in those times of darkness, bright spots emerged. An "Impossible Dream" was accomplished in 1967. Carlton Fisk waved a home run fair in 1975. In 1999, Ted Williams left baseball legends and more than 34,000 fans awestruck with his appearance at the All-Star Game.
But in 2004, when the Red Sox' luck changed, Fenway Park again became a palace where baseball kings reigned. It became home to World Series champions and future baseball legends looking to write their own chapters in Fenway's epic tale.
When Fenway becomes a centenarian on Friday, the history will continue on for years to come. Current Red Sox ownership has done an incredible job preserving and improving the park sothat it can be enjoyed by future generations of baseball fans. And when the last out is recorded at the old ball yard, the memories and history will be enough to fill an archive.
Going to Fenway Park is about more than watching a Red Sox game. It's about seeing the Citgo sign from the Mass. Pike, and getting excited like a 5-year-old on Christmas morning knowing you're almost there. It's about taking the T to Kenmore Square and smelling the sausage and beer from the moment you step on the street. It's about walking down Commonwealth Avenue after a night game and watching the lights from the light towers fade away and saying, "Wow, I was just apart of history."
One of the most famous lines from the movie The Sandlot was "heroes get remembered, but legends never die." At 100 years young, Fenway Park is a legend.
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