Sunday, August 7, 2011
My Piece of Fenway
My Piece of Fenway
By Glenn Stout
I have long contended that one of the reasons Fenway Park is still with us is not because it has been “preserved” or kept static, but because it has been susceptible to change. This is how what was once the left field wall became “the Green Monster”, why we call the right field foul pole “Pesky’s pole,” and why other areas of the park – “canvas alley” for one – have become named and, in a sense, personalized. This, more than anything else, makes Fenway Park special.
It is particularly special to me, and for a reason that goes beyond the fact that the ballpark - not the ballclub - was the reason I moved to Boston in the fall of 1981, a decision that has determined the course of my life as much as any other I have made. One reason that Fenway Park remains so special to me is that each time I am at the park – or see it on television – there is a small feature that I partly claim as my own.
After the 2002 season the Red Sox, finally succumbing to a modicum of common sense under new ownership, built seats atop the Green Monster in left field. Although this was not the first time fans would be able to watch a game from that vantage point, as I have recently uncovered several references that note that fans watched games from atop the wall in 1912, the “Green Monster seats” are the first legitimate seats in this area.
Now, to place as many seats as possible in such a limited space, the Sox built those seats at a pitch far more severe than elsewhere in the park. While seats in the main grandstand are arranged at a “rising pitch” that increases from 15 degrees from the base to 20 degrees at the back of the stands, the Green Monster seats – like many seating areas in new ballparks, are at a much steeper pitch, approaching 45 degrees.
As workers rushed to finish the seats before the start of the season select VIPs were allowed to take in the view and a few photographs of the new seating area began to appear in print. I saw some of these pictures and talked with some of these people.
The first thing everyone said was how great the view was. The second thing they said was that they hoped no one fell onto the field. It was easy to imagine a fan stumbling headlong down the steep aisle stairs and flipping over the front row and then onto the field, or for a fan in the front row to lean over too far reaching for a ball and fall, or else accidently drop something on Manny Ramirez’s head. While none of these scenarios seemed likely, as the recent tragic fall at Texas’s Arlington Stadium demonstrates, such accidents are not impossible.
In my May column in Boston Baseball that year, I wrote that if the Sox didn’t put up a railing the Green Monster could become a gravestone. When I mentioned this to an attorney friend he stated that once the issue had been raised it put the Sox were on notice in regard to a danger “they know of, or should know of.” If they didn’t take action any of these accidents ever took place they were leaving themselves wide open to a lawsuit.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed. At about the same time Jack Curry wrote in the New York Times that there was only “an 18-inch ledge separating you from leaning too far for a baseball and becoming a flying object,” and in the same article Larry Lucchino mentioned there was “the possibility of a protective railing being added to the front row.”
Now it could just be a coincidence, but all I know is that lo and behold, a short time after my column was published a solid barricade about eight inches high appeared atop the Green Monster, making it much less likely that any kind of accident would occur.
Call it the “Writer’s Rail, ” but every time I see that barricade on the top of the Green Monster, I feel the same way Johnny Pesky does when he sees the right field foul pole.
A piece of that sucker is mine.
Glenn’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.
from Boston Baseball August 2011