Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Let the poor reporting begin.

In the initial report of the disposition of Howard Bryant’s case on Masslive.com, the online news source for the Springfield Republican that covers Western Massachusetts, reporter Fred Contrada, although essentially correct, nevertheless managed to leave an incorrect impression which has since been picked up by numerous other outlets passing off second hand reporting as something more. Contrada accurately reports that Bryant “agreed to serve six months of pretrial probation.” Unfortunately, by failing to define “pretrial probation” a number of subsequent reports and headlines have erroneously stated that Bryant was “sentenced to probation.” That is not the case.

As described under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 276 Section 87, Bryant was not sentenced to probation. He agreed to a very specific form of probation, commonly known in Massachusetts as “pretrial probation.” This is an administrative, negotiated agreement between Bryant and the court. It DOES NOT contain any admission of guilt and the defendant does not give up either his right to a trial or a presumption of innocence. It is not a “plea bargain,” since there is no plea, or acceptance of any kind of “lesser” charge. In essence, the court offers to make a procedural finding that, after a period of six months, will result in the case being dismissed and disappearing entirely unless the defendant violates terms of probation, which in this case means he is charged with a subsequent crime. Such an agreement is usually offered by the prosecution when the facts and evidence do not merit a trial, i.e. the State has no credible case. It is generally accepted by a defendant because, unlike some other procedural outcomes, such as a continuance without a finding (CWOL), which is sometimes offered in weak or inconsequential cases that the State does not wish to bring to trial, by accepting pretrial probation the defendant never pleads guilty or admits to anything about the charges. With a continuance without a finding (CWOL) the defendant still must admit to something on the record. Bryant, by agreeing to pretrial probation, does not. In six months the case, including his record of pretrial probation, disappears entirely from the record, as if he were never charged or arrested.

In the reporting of this case, what should have been the “lede,” (or, for those non-journalists now reading, the major point), was buried, and it has been buried in nearly every other subsequent report. The most significant point was the statement that “A careful review of all of the statements of percipient witnesses that have been collected do not support allegations that Mr. Bryant struck, choked, pinned against a car or committed any other act of violence against Mrs. Bryant,” a statement that repudiates the States’ own witnesses and the police reports of the incident.

In the end, the State concluded that there was no evidence that a crime was committed, and therefore no crime to prosecute. Case closed.

But it takes an open mind – and accurate reporting - to admit that.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Earlier this morning my friend and colleague Howard Bryant was exonerated of criminal charges stemming from an incident in late February in Buckland, Massachusetts that resulted in his arrest and being charged with domestic assault and battery, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. To be absolutely clear, the statement released earlier today and signed by both Bryant’s attorney and Jeremy C. Bucci, Chief Trial Counsel of the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office in Greenfield, Massachusetts, reads in part:

“A careful review of all of the statements of percipient witnesses that have been collected do not support allegations that Mr. Bryant struck, choked, pinned against a car or committed any other act of violence against Mrs. Bryant. [emphasis mine] ”

In other words, the prosecutor’s office admits that there is no evidence that Bryant committed a crime, a level of vindication far stronger than a trial finding of “not guilty.” Similarly, neither is the district attorney prosecuting Bryant for either assault and battery on a police officer or resisting arrest. While the negotiated statement contains the usual pap that allows the district attorney’s office to save face politically, Bryant’s vindication is complete and undeniable. He has not “plea bargained” his way to a lesser charge; he is innocent.

This result – justice in a legal sense – is not a surprise to me. Howard Bryant is my friend. We often speak and he called shortly after his arrest, explaining what happened and proclaiming his complete and total innocence, something I never questioned. Yes, Howard and his wife had a dispute, one that unfortunately took place in public and one which they both regret, but one that involved neither violence nor the threat of violence. That is no crime. If such public disputes were criminal then we are all guilty.

I congratulate both Howard and his wife and now ask a question of all those who concluded that, simply because he was charged, that he was guilty or that “He must have done something.” As of earlier this morning, before the disposition of his case was made public, there were no less than 167,000 references to “Howard Bryant” “ESPN” and “assault” on Google – 55,000 from “News” sources alone. This does not include the thousands of reader comments that attacked Bryant’s character that were posted on news stories that reported on the incident in sources such as the Boston Herald, Boston Globe, Masslive.com, ESPN.com and others, or the hours of despicable, vitriol leveled at Bryant from certain Massachusetts-based sports broadcast outlets that were disseminated nationwide through the Internet and cable and satellite television. In combination, this has caused harm to his personal reputation that might well be irreparable.

“How does one regain his or her reputation?” is a question that has no easy answer. ESPN deserves some credit for not only standing behind Bryant from the start and rapidly disseminating today’s legal proceedings through ESPN.com, but that is just the beginning. For all those who publicly jumped to a conclusion of guilt, and, just as significantly, for those who by their silence left the same unmistakable impression, their complicity in that question remains. Whether they choose now to respond with continued cowardice or a measure of public courage and shame will prove telling.

Justice requires a response.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Four Fenways

In this the one hundredth season of Fenway Park there is a tendency to see the ballpark as a single entity, a place that is somehow timeless, where a bygone era, while not preserved under glass, has nonetheless been protected, uncorrupted by the crass changes that elsewhere have stripped the game of its history. Not so. While Fenway still occupies the same physical space, it is Fenway Park’s ability to absorb change that has allowed it to remain standing to this day, the ballpark equivalent of Faneuil Hall. While that place survives to this day its origins are similarly buried. Wander its space today and it is impossible to imagine that Faneuil Hall itself started out as little more that a glorified sheep barn.

Fenway Park is a historical artifact and to see it clearly today one needs to examine it like an archaeologist. There are, I believe four Fenways, four distinct eras in the history of this place, four layers that history needs to examine and then peel back and remove to understand why it has survived.

At age one hundred, Fenway Park today – let’s call it Fenway IV - is dominated by everything that is now draped over its surface and essential structure. Never before has Fenway been more utilitarian, supporting all the accoutrements – save comfortable seats - that one now expects in any other modern “retro” ballpark. The ubiquitous and unrelenting barrages of piped in sound and signage, the restaurants, food courts, and pedestrian malls today makes the Fenway experience – apart from the actual contest – more like going to Faneuil Hall than going to a ballgame. Since the Henry/Warner group took over a decade ago, Fenway Park, far from clinging to its past, has instead embraced the future so rapidly that the past has become subservient. It’s most genuine elements, once functional features like that ladder on the left field wall, are now vestigial organs without purpose, footnotes of a history long gone.

It is staggering to me to think that fans of recent vintage have no memory of what I think of as Fenway III, classic Fenway which lasted from the re-construction of 1933/34 until the last decade. Fenway III, which bridged the era of Babe Ruth almost to the present, is the ballpark that I discovered and fell in love with when I first came to Boston in 1981. For more than fifty years Fenway was essentially the same, a quiet, solid, stodgy venue that for the most part no one thought of as very special and which stayed in the background, deferring to the game on the field. Watch footage of any game of this era today and one is struck by the starkness of the place, how barren and spare it appears, as plain and understated as Ned Martin. Not that Fenway remained static during this time period; it did not, but change took place at an almost glacial pace – bullpens in 1940, lights in 1947, etc. Fenway III was the ballpark that fathers took their sons to and then watched as those sons grew to fathers who took their sons to Fenway, a cross-generational experience whose essential nature changed only slightly over the years.

But even this classic version is a corruption of what preceded it. Fenway II existed from September of 1912 until Tom Yawkey bought the team and tore most of old Fenway down. This Fenway, much of which was built over a two-week period in September 1912 to increase the parks’ seating capacity for the 1912 World’s Series, spent the next twenty years in a state of decay, baking and bleaching under the summer sun. By the 1930s portions were condemned, making Fenway Park perhaps the most dangerous building in Boston. Its partial burning in the winter of 1933/34 was a blessing; had it not turned to smoke and ash it simply would have rotted away.

No one alive today remembers Fenway I, the infant ballpark, which lasted just less than a season. Consisting only of a simple concrete grandstand that barely extended past the dugouts, a small covered pavilion and a rectangle of bleachers seats isolated in center field, bound together by only a rough plank fence, Fenway I was almost formless. An outpost on outskirts, it was not shaped by the city. Instead, it was a place the city grew to surround and then a place its people eventually embraced on its own, changed to be sure, but somewhere underneath it all, still at the center of something approaching love.

[Glenn Stout’s next book Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark, a Championship Season, and Fenway’s Remarkable First Season, will be published in October. To order now, visit www.glennstout.net This essay first appeared in Boston Baseball, May 2011.]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Historical Fenway Facts

In a book of 416 pages that completely re-writes the early history of Fenway Park, [ that's not just me talking - according to SportsIllustrated.com: “In the capable hands of Stout, it promises to make all other books about Fenway’s construction and first season obsolete.”], a few things end up on the cutting room floor. Since Fenway 1912 won't appear until the fall, here's a tease. And if this stuff didn't make the book, just imagine what did.

For more join Fenway 1912 on Facebook. To pre-order, see www.glennstout.net.
Infield sod was transplanted from the Huntington Avenue Grounds to Fenway Park before the 1912 opener.

When Fenway Park opened on April 20,1912, there were no stands in right field. It served as the teams’ parking lot, holding twelve automobiles.

The flagpole in deep center field was in play when Fenway opened – and 550 feet from home plate.

No one ever played center field more shallow than Sox center fielder Tris Speaker. On bunts, he covered second base.

“Duffy’s Cliff,” the slope in left field names after Duffy Lewis, was diminished in 1926 and removed after the 1933 season.

On April 26, 1912, Boston’s Hugh Bradley became the first man to hit a ball over the left field fence.

On September 7,1914, the Boston Braves played a separate admission doubleheader at Fenway Park before more than 75,000 fans. Between games, shortstop Rabbit Maranville showed off his arm, entertaining fans by pitching while sitting on second base.

The “Miracle” Boston Braves played the 1914 World Series at Fenway Park defeating Philadelphia 3-1 to win in four straight.

George Whiteman’s tumbling catch in left field in the eighth inning of game six of the 1918 World Series preserved a world championship, the Red Sox last until 2004.

On July 5, 1919, Babe Ruth homered over the left field wall for the first time.

In 1922 the City of Boston determined that the centerfield bleachers were unsafe due to the deterioration of the wood foundations that supported them.

On May 8,1926, the left field bleachers burned to the ground – the equivalent of sections 39-33 in today’s Fenway. The were not rebuilt until 1934, although at times temoporary bleachers were erected in this space.

Red Sox outfielder Smead Jolley once made two errors on the same play as the ball rolls between his legs going up and down Duffy’s Cliff.

In the midst of owner Tom Yawkey’s renovation of Fenway Park, the center field bleachers burned on January 5, 1934. Fearing arson, work continued under armed guard.

A two-story construction office stood on the infield during the renovation between the 1933 and 1934 seasons.

In 1934 foundations beneath Fenway Park were strengthened for a proposed second deck.

Temporary bleachers were placed in left field when football was played at Fenway Park. The NFL Redskins (1934-1937), Boston Yanks (1944-1948) and the AFL Patriots (1963-1968). Boston College occasionally played here in the 1940s, as did Boston University in the 1950s.

The all-electric scoreboard, the first in baseball to use red lights for strikes and green for balls, was unveiled in 1934.

Height of wall was increased to 36 feet during 1934 renovations. When the last of Duffy’s Cliff was removed later, it reached its current height – 37 feet.

Fenway was painted “Dartmouth Green,” during the 1934 renovation.

Signs recorded distance to left field wall as 315 feet in 1934, although building plans from the renovation show the distance as 308 feet.

A twenty-three foot screen is built atop the wall in 1936 to protect windows and automobiles on Lansdowne St.

Ted Williams played right field in 1939, his rookie year. He moved to left in 1940.

On April 23, 1939,Ted Williams hit his first home run into the right ield bleachers at Fenway, becoming only the sixth man to do so at the time. The others were Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Bill Dickey and Hal Trosky. Williams hit a total of seven home runs into the bleachers in 1939. Babe Ruth never hit any.

After the 1939 season, the bullpens were moved to right field and seats added, cutting the power alley from 402 to 380 feet and the distance down the right field line from 332 to302 feet to help Ted Williams hit more home runs. The press calls it “Williamsburg.”

White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes was the first manager to use the infamous “shift” to stop Ted in Fenway Park on July 23, 1941. He sliced a double down the left field line and Dykes abandons the plan. Cleveland’s Lou Boudreau adopts it five years later.

The BUCK PRINTING sign was here on the left field wall during the 1940s and 1950s.

The Red Sox greatest fan, Lib Dooley, acquired season tickets between the Boston dugout and on deck circle in 1944, which she retained for the next fifty-five years.

Three Negro League players – Marvin Williams, Sam Jethroe and Jackie Robinson – received a tryout in Fenway Park on April 16, 1945.

Ted Williams’ home run off Fred Hutchinson on June 9, 1946 struck Joe Boucher, a construction engineer from Albany sitting in row 37, section 42,in the head, putting a hole in his straw hat. The site is marked by a red seat.

Between games of a doubleheader on July 14,1946, Ted Williams ducked out of the park by way of the scoreboard for ice cream.

Joe DiMaggio played centerfield – wearing a Red Sox uniform after his Yankee uniform is misplaced – in an exhibition game when a team of American League all-stars played the Sox before the 1946 World Series.

The “Green Monster” was created when ads are removed from the left field wall following the 1946 season and it is painted green.

Light towers were installed before the 1947 season and Fenway hosted its first night game on June 13.

On May 17,1947 a seagull once dropped a smelt at the feet St. Louis Brown pitcher Ellis Kinder.

In the first inning of the 1948 playoff game vs. Cleveland, Indian player/manager Lou Boudreau bounced a home run off the top of the wall against Sox pitcher Denny Galehouse, giving Cleveland a 1-0 lead in their eventual 8-3 victory.

On April 30,1952, in his last game before joining the Marines to serve in Korea, Ted Williams hit a home run to right field – his 324th – in what many thought would be his final major league at bat.

On August 7, 1954 Ted Williams spit toward fans behind first and third in an incident known as “the Great Expectoration.”

In May of 1957, Ted Williams used a shotgun to shoot at pigeons from the Red Sox bullpen.

After striking out on September 21,1958, an irate Ted Williams flungs his bat into the stands, striking manager Joe Cronin’s housekeeper, Gladys Heffernan.

Ted William’s final home run in the last at bat of his major league career on September 28, 1960 landed on the canopy shielding pitchers in the right field bullpen.

Frank Malzone made a great catch on the dugout steps to save Earl Wilson’s no-hitter on July 7,1962.

After striking out three Yankees on ten pitches, Sox relief ace Dick “the Monster” Radatz raises threw his hands over his head as he walked off the mound, beginning a tradition he would follow after every subsequent victory or save.

In his first Fenway Park at bat on April 17, 1964, nineteen-year-old Tony Conigliaro homered onto Lansdowne St.

On the final day of the 1965 season, only 487 fans turned out at Fenway Park.

After the Sox clinched a tie for the pennant on the final day of the 1967 season, pitcher Jim Lonborg was mobbed by delirious fans and carried to the dugout. Along the way he loses his undershirt and shoestrings.

Carl Yastrzemski escaped the delirious mob after the Sox clinched the 1967 pennant through the roll-up door on the left field line.

Cardinal Julian Javier broke up Jim Lonborg’s no-hitter with two outs in the eighth inning with a double to the corner in game two of the 1967 World Series.

Tommy Harper received second base after breaking the Red Sox stolen base record with his 53rd theft on September 29,1973.

In the eighth inning of Game Six of the 1975 World Series, pinch-hitter Bernie Carbo tied the game with a line drive home run to center.

In the eleventh inning of Game Six of the 1975 World Series, Dwight Evans made a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch of a drive by Joe Morgan.

At 12:34 a.m., October 22, Carlton Fisk hit the most memorable home run in Red Sox history to win Game Six of the 1975 World Series. None who saw it will ever forget.

After the 1975 season, the tin was removed from the left field wall. It was replaced with fiberglass, and the scoreboard was reduced to show only American League scores.

A center field message board was added before the 1976 season.

Bucky Dent earned a new nickname in New England with his three-run pop-fly homer off Mike Torrez in the seventh inning of the Boston-New York playoff game in 1978.

Carl Yastrzemski bounced hit number 3000 to right field on September 12, 1979.

After manager Joe Morgan removes him for a pinch hitter, slugger Jim Rice and Morgan scuffled in the Boston dugout. Morgan announced “I’m the manager of this nine!” and the Sox won nineteen of their next twenty games.

In 1982 and 1983 private suites were added to the grandstand roof.

In 1988 and 1989, the “600 Club” was built and the press box was moved from the grandstand roof to above the 600 Club.

On May 29,1984, the Red Sox retired Joe Cronin’s #4 and Ted Williams #9, mounting the numbers on the facade of the right field roof.

Bobby Doerr’s # 1 was retired on May 21,1988, and Carl Yastrzemski’s # 8 retired on August 6, 1989. For a time, the four retired numbers are arranged 9/4/1/8 – the date the 1918 World Series was scheduled to begin. The order was changed in 1999.

A sliding Tom Brunansky caught Ozzie Guillen’s drive in the right field corner to clinch Boston’s division championship in 1990.

On July 8,1994 vs, Seattle, shortstop John Valentin stabbed a line drive, doubled the runner off second base and tagged the runner coming from first to record an unassisted triple play. Slugger Alex Rodriguez made his major league debut in same game.

Jackie Robinson was honored in every major league park with the retirement of his #42 in 1997, the 50th anniversary of his major league debut.

The Sox retired Carlton Fisk’s #27 on September 4, 2000

In the late 1980s, Sox pitcher Bob Stanley regularly entertained bleacher fans by “sacrificing” beach balls that bounced into the bullpen with a rake.

According to Hall of Fame sportswriter Harold Kaese of the Globe, Ted Williams hit 20 of his 248 Fenway Park home runs to left field.

Initials of Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey appear in Morse code on the left field wall.

For years, the only sign allowed in Fenway Park was one for the Jimmy Fund.

No one has ever hit a fair ball onto or over the right field roof.

An electric sign touting “City Services” oil was erected in Kenmore Square in 1940. In 1965, it became the famous “Citgo” sign. When the distinctive lights were turned off in the 1979 energy crisis, Sox fans lobbied to have them turned back on and had the sign declared a Boston landmark.

Ted William’s greatest baseball thrill was his home run off Rip Sewell’s “eephus” pitch in the 1946 All-Star game at Fenway Park. Ted was so happy that after rounding first he jumped for joy

When the Red Sox were on the road in the late 1940s and 1950s, Tom Yawkey and his wife Jean often picnicked on the infield and listened to the game on a radio connected to the dugout by extension cords.

Ted Williams hit his first two 1947 home runs in Fenway Park on May 13. Both were hit into the net above the left field wall.

Before one game in the late 1960s, Red Sox outfielder Reggie Smith, known for his cannon arm, wowed teammates by throwing the ball over the left field wall from home plate.

With a comfortable eight-game lead over Baltimore in late August of 1974, a black cat mysteriously appeared on the field crossing in front of the Red Sox dugout. The Orioles then won twenty-right of thirty-four to overtake Boston.

In the ninth inning of the Red Sox 1978 playoff vs. the Yankees, New York outfielder Lou Piniella lost Jerry Remy’s fly ball in the October sun. He blindly stuck out his glove and caught the ball on one hop, preserving the Yankee win and breaking hearts throughout New England.

Before his final game on October 2, 1983, Carl Yastrzemski jogged around Fenway and bid his fans farewell. When he left the field after the game, he signaled the end of his career by handing his hat to a young boy sitting beside the dugout.

Fan tours of Fenway Park began in 1993.

After the Sox clinched the division title on September 20, 1995, Mo Vaughn celebrated on the field atop a Boston Police horse. When asked if he was concerned about seeing his slugger in the saddle, Red Sox CEO John Harrington quipped, “I was worried about the horse.”

On September 22, 1996, Roger Clemens tied his own major league record by striking out twenty Detroit Tigers. He also won his 192nd - and last – game in a Red Sox uniform, tying Cy Young for the club record.

The Red Sox mascot, “Wally” the Green Monster, was introduced on Kids’ Opening Day, April 13,1997, emerging from the score board.

Before the All-Star game on July 13, 1999, Ted Williams rode out on a cart for the first pitch ceremony. Players from both teams surrounded the Sox star and he received the longest ovation in Fenway history.

During one game in 1999 Pedro Martinez was bound by his teammates to a dugout support and his mouth taped closed.

The ladder on the left field wall is the only ladder in play in the major leagues. If a ball strikes the top of the ladder and bounces into the net, it is a ground-rule double.

The three foot-high fence in right field is the lowest in the major leagues.

The center field wall towers seventeen feet above the playing field.

If a ball manages to go through one of the openings in the hand operated scoreboard, either on the fly or bounce, the batter is awarded a ground-rule double.