Friday, November 4, 2011

Requiem for the Bleachers

In the winter, when it is cold and dark and the snow is blowing and blotting out the far shore of Lake Champlain in northern Vermont, where I now live, and I think of summer and Fenway Park, I do not think of 1967 or 1986 or 2004 or any other season best known for either victory or loss.

I think of 1982.

I had graduated from college only a year earlier and had been in Boston only a few months. Unemployment was pressing ten percent and there was no work worth doing. For only a few pennies more than minimum wage I spent most days doing crossword puzzles and reading the Herald as a security guard at the Harvard Medical School.

But I lived in Kenmore Square, and that meant I was neighbors with Fenway Park. That winter and spring my walk back and forth to work each day brought me past Fenway. I would tip my cap, nod a ‘hello” and with each step summer was a little bit closer.

I had first seen Fenway Park sixteen years before, when I was all of eight years old. My mother was a native of Newfoundland and we were, somewhat improbably, driving there from Ohio on vacation. My father had piled us all into the old Pontiac station wagon one summer afternoon and then drove non-stop through the night. As the sun peaked over the horizon at dawn, we entered the outskirts of Boston. I remember nothing of the city as we drove through but the light towers of Fenway Park looming over a distant horizon.

I had never been to a major league ballpark before and held out little hope of doing so anytime soon. My traffic adverse father frowned on trips to either Cleveland or Cincinnati, much less Detroit or Pittsburgh or Chicago, the other cities within a reasonable driving distance from central Ohio, meaning I missed opportunities to see most of the classic ballparks of the age – Crosley Field, Tiger Stadium, Forbes Field, Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park. Even Cleveland’s rusting Stalinesque Municipal Stadium, not really a ballpark at all, eluded me.

So when I moved to Boston nearly two decades later Fenway Park was both a reason for my pilgrimage and a destination. This time I promised myself would do more than drive by with my face pressed against the car window. I planned to spend the whole summer in my neighbor’s backyard, Fenway Park. . .

[You can read the rest of this essay appear in Richard Johnson's fine new heavily illustrated book about Fenway Park, Field of our Fathers. If you are going to buy one book on Fenway Park, make it Fenway 1912. But if you are buying two, please consider Richard's book. Esaay copyright Glenn Stout, 2011, all rights reserved.]

No comments:

Post a Comment