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Gearing up for Game 6 at Fenway

Oct 30, 2013, 6:45 PM EDT

BOSTON — Your first baseball experiences inevitably shape your tastes. My first baseball experiences were in the late 70s and early 80s so I like lower scoring games. And I’m more tolerant of pullover jerseys than many people are. The first ballpark I ever went to — and I went there a lot — was Tiger Stadium.  So, when it comes to ballparks, my tastes skew old too.

I love the intimacy of the old places. I love the smell. I love that they fit rather nicely in the neighborhood as if they have always been there because, for all practical purposes, they have always been there. I know there are 50 things or more that are made more difficult or more inconvenient in places like Tiger Stadium used to be, but I don’t care. It’s just a personal — a deeply personal — preference. Today is the first time I’ve ever been to Fenway Park as a fan or as a writer. And while we’re still a couple of hours from game time, I don’t think it’s too early to say that it has immediately become one of my favorites.

In an age where ballparks tend to be the focal point of the neighborhoods — and I use that term loosely — in which they sit, and in an era when ballparks skew toward the gigantic, Fenway’s modesty in those regards are almost shocking. Indeed, it sort of snuck up on me as I walked toward it. It’s quite different after all of the people show up and walk all up and down Landsdowne Street and Yawkey Way before game time, but several hours earlier it’s a quiet, human-scaled place that just belongs where it does. It does not insist upon itself and draw attention to itself as so many ballparks do. It just is.

I got my credentials and set down my stuff and then walked around a bit. Here’s some of the stuff I saw.

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The Red Sox have essentially leased Yawkey Way and Landsdowne Street next to the ballpark for about a decade, allowing them to shut them down to traffic and set up all manner of revenue-generating attractions. It’s hard to imagine that it’s only been that long and harder to imagine what it’d be like if they didn’t. The Cubs are trying to do this with Sheffield and Waveland around Wrigley. The biggest thing teams trade off with these human-scale, neighborhood-appropriate parks are big revenue and excitement-generating promenades. Letting them have the nearby streets on game days — streets that locals avoid on game days anyway — seems like a no-brainer. Even if it did take close to 100 years to figure out.

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Of course, open promenades do attract, um, interesting people. I’m not sure what’s scarier: Jonny Gomes actually having an army or this guy being one of the soldiers. For what it’s worth, minutes before I took this picture John Farrell announced that Gomes would be in the lineup. I told the General here about that and he said “hot damn!”

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I really would love a picture of the guy with the “I need tickets” sign here, but he wouldn’t let me take one. The conversation started out amicably enough. I went up to him and said “how much you willing to pay?” He said “whaddaya got?” I thought I should identify myself as media before I got him on record with some tale of desperation. When I did he rolled his eyes and said “forget it, not talking to you.” As I walked away he said “I’ve had more reporters come up to me than people with tickets!” He was disgusted, it seems. Can’t say as I blame him.

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I don’t know if this door to the ballpark on Yawkey Way has always been there, if it’s a reproduction of one that had been there or if it’s some kind of nostalgic homage that came along as the park was renovated. I don’t know if that’s the door John Henry and Ben Cherington use when they walk into work each day or if it’s just a useless old totem. And I don’t care. All I know is that I love it.

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This is me trying to convey a sense of the scale. Team offices are just a few stories right above the sidewalk. It’s the opposite of the suburban office park feel so many more modern ballparks have.

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Effort at scale of a different kind. I’m standing next to the park as I take this. That’s the famous Citgo sign you can see over the Green Monster. The one that, if you’ve only seen games on TV, you’d think was right over the fence. When I was a kid and I’d watch SportsCenter highlights I always expected to see a guy hit a home run into it Roy Hobbs-style. Unfortunately, it’s really far away, There’s a freeway and train tracks and a city block between it and Fenway.

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Speaking of famous.  If John Lackey wins Game 6 tonight, I hope he and John Lester run across the street to this place and hold a personal champagne, chicken and beer celebration.

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Back inside the park and watched some workouts. Here’s Will Middlebrooks taking infield. He remained upright the entire time.

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Maybe it is. And maybe, as the banners in Pittsburgh say, PNC is its most beautiful park. And maybe Cardinals fans are The Best Fans in Baseball. It’s all a matter of taste and conjecture and argument. But I also think it’s pretty tacky to put that label on yourself, no matter who or what you are.

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A couple of hours before what could be the biggest game in Fenway Park history and they’re still giving tours, just as though it was any other day. I gotta say: if I was on that tour I would give serious consideration to slipping away, hiding out in a bathroom and then walking out for some standing-room action once the game starts. There’s enough activity going on right now that I think you could pull it off.

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Game time is less than two hours away. I’m not sure what it will be like when the place fills up and people go crazy, but I can’t wait to find out.

  1. hpt150 - Oct 30, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    You’d previously never been to Fenway? Gobsmacked. Enjoy the heck out of your time there. And good on you for getting there so early.

    • indaburg - Oct 30, 2013 at 7:15 PM

      Craig doesn’t leave The Lair very often. But when he does…

      Those are some cool pics. I never realized how far the Citgo was from the park. Even though Craig says there’s train tracks, a city block, and a freeway, I still kinda expect Big Papi to hit a homer into it. I’m very much looking forward to my own visit someday. I am also so, so jealous of him tonight. Nothing like a baseball crazy city in the throes of World Series passion.

      • raysfan1 - Oct 30, 2013 at 9:51 PM

        One of my favorite assignments when I was in the Air Force was the year I spent in Boston. As a result I got to see many games a Fenway, and it was awesome. My first experience was very like Craig’s.

  2. peterjohnjoseph - Oct 30, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    Love this article. I’ve been around Fenway so long, worked at so many bars across the street, that you start to forget how awesome it is to have a landmark like that in your city that instills that type of reaction. I remember my first time as a kid. Even then without anything to compare it with, I knew that it was something special. The rustic feel of the place reminded me of places my parents would bring me on vacation, kind of like a large antique, and it was that comparison I made that let me understand the magic of the park from a young age. At some point, between hating my managers and walking out on jobs, throwing up on the sidewalks, getting knocked out on two separate occasions on Lansdowne, and being removed from the street in handcuffs, the place starts to just become just that; another place. I wish I was there tonight. Its one of those rare nights where I might be able to put all that aside and be able to feel the Fenway magic again.. until I’m throwing up, and knocked out cold on the sidewalk again.

  3. detectivejimmymcnulty - Oct 30, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    I went to Fenway a couple years ago. I’ve always heard how snobby people from Boston, and the northeast in general are, but they were all really nice and the park itself is awesome. If you have some time tomorrow go up in the Prudential Center and you can see the entire city. The only thing I didn’t get to do was see the view from the Monster, but the park itself is beautiful.

  4. kappy32 - Oct 30, 2013 at 7:18 PM

    I went up to Fenway to catch a Red Sox Yankees game a couple years back & I immediately fell in love with Fenway Park. I’m a Mets fan & I enjoyed the updated amenities of Citi Field (IMO, the best “new” ballpark), but the lore & history of Fenway took me. I love how you can exit the stadium on Yawkey Way – a normal city street – yet still be in the ballpark per se. Fenway was a great experience & I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  5. thebadguyswon - Oct 30, 2013 at 7:20 PM

    Fenway has the tradition going for it, but its a flat-out dump compared to the newer parks. Not Tropicana Field level of dump, but a dump nonetheless.

  6. Jack Marshall - Oct 30, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    My single favorite place in the whole wide world. I live far away now, but when I come back to Fenway, it’s coming home in warm and intimate ways coming back to my real home never quite was. Everyone is like family, and I remember so many of the best times of my life spent there. We should all have one place that never changes, where it always feels friendly, safe, and you always belong. For me, Fenway Park will always be that place, until the day I die.

    Which will be Thursday night, if the Red Sox manage to blow this Series….

  7. pastabelly - Oct 30, 2013 at 7:48 PM

    I have a love / hate thing with Fenway. There are 12,000 great seats and 26,000 fair to awful seats with many obstructions. Parking is expensive and traffic awful. The place has charm and there is something special about it. As they say in the movie, The Town, it’s The Cathedral. I have been lucky to be there for Game 7 in 1975 (why Jim Burton?) and game 6 of this year’s ALCS.

  8. ch0psuey - Oct 30, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    Lets go…… ugh….nevermind. I could care less about either of these two teams. Bring on 2014 Baseball!

  9. gameover78 - Oct 30, 2013 at 9:09 PM

    BOSTON STRONG!!!

  10. hojo20 - Oct 30, 2013 at 10:50 PM

    Nice post Craig!

  11. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 31, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    testing

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