The Grand Opening

By SAUL WISNIA  |  March 30, 2012

The park's regular-season opener with New York was slated for April 17, but warmer climes merely turned the snow to rain and forced its cancellation. Three more games, including the traditional Patriots' Day morning-afternoon doubleheader held in concurrence with the Boston Marathon, were also wiped out. At least one of these contests could have been played were the field properly covered, but a new tarp ordered from Detroit had not yet arrived. This resulted in more than 10,000 frustrated fans heading home in the bright sunshine after the water-slogged field was declared unplayable.

When the inaugural contest finally came off on April 20, it didn't disappoint. Although the Red Sox looked flat in falling behind the Highlanders 5–1 in the early going — as noted on the park's new-fangled electric scoreboard — they rallied to tie and then win 7–6 on a single by Tris Speaker in the 11th inning. The outcome delighted the mayor and most of the 24,000 fans on hand, who had passed through 18 turnstiles — which, noted the Boston Globe, were "more than at any ball park in the country, with the exception of the Polo Grounds in New York." The bad views that had hampered standing-room-only fans at the Huntington Avenue Grounds were less of a factor here, thanks to a sloping hill that ran up to the base of the tall outfield wall and allowed those watching in back a better glimpse of the action. The 10-foot knoll created a defensive challenge. Because it was expertly guarded most often in its early years by Red Sox leftfielder Duffy Lewis, it was quickly dubbed "Duffy's Cliff."

"The mammoth plant, with its commodious fittings, met with distinct approval," Paul Shannon reported in the Boston Post the next day. However, not all early comments were positive. Although Fenway is praised for its intimacy today, fans in 1912 were not yet used to having seats so far from the playing field as those in the new center-field bleachers. One Boston Globe cartoon showed two patrons using telescopes to take in the action, and a front-page story in the Sporting News, the weekly national publication known as the "baseball bible," was entitled "Boston's Odd Ways — Reasons for Patronage at New Fenway Park: It's Too Big for Fans To Exchange Pleasantries About Weather and They're Used To Going in Another Direction."

"The fact that the park is not as handy to reach and get away from as the old park has hurt some and will until people get accustomed to journeying in the new direction," T. H. Murnane reported in the article. He asserted that "the kings of the bleachers . . . resent the idea of being pushed back to make room for the big grand stand." Because the new park featured two separate entrances on its opposite ends, rather than one long passageway like at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, Murnane worried that there was less opportunity for fans to run into friends. Even the length of the games was seen as a culprit; more drawn-out contests were causing patrons to miss their trains.

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  Topics: Sports , Fenway Park, Baseball, History
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