October 29th, 2012
We normally don’t do the guest post thing here at Boston Red Thoughts, but fellow BBA-er Kurt Smith shared his Fenway/Wrigley comparison with me, and since Wrigley is my 2nd favorite park after the Holy Land, (I always said that if I ever had twins, I would have named them Fenway and Wrigley…) I couldn’t resist.
And since both Kurt and I are smack dab in this mess that is the Hurricane Sandy, I offer this excellent distraction.
Fenway Park is now a century old. It’s a milestone practically inconceivable today in the age of facilities being discarded like vinyl records and tube televisions. Of the 30 major league teams besides the Sox, just five play in venues that were built before 1990: the Royals, Angels, Dodgers, Athletics, and, oh yes, the Cubs.
Only Wrigley Field rivals Fenway in historic value and enough tradition to withstand efforts to have it replaced. Oakland is in discussions for a new ballpark, however stalled they may be. The Angels and Royals appear content in their homes, but both homes have undergone major overhauls that make them almost different ballparks. It is doubtful that the Dodgers will reach 100 seasons in Dodger Stadium; it’s conceivable that Fenway and Wrigley could outlive Chavez Ravine.
So the Sox and Cubs play in the two undisputed, classic, real old-time ballparks. And even today, in the age of superstars like AT&T Park and Camden Yards, many fans still rank these two old relics among their favorites. But which one ranks higher is often a matter of individual taste-or loyalty.
I must honestly say I can’t make a choice between the two. Gutless, I know. But for you Red Sox fans, Fenway in Boston does have some wonderful features that can’t be found in Chicago:
1) The Green Monster. Well, this one’s obvious. That huge green wall that dominates left field in Fenway may be the most distinctive feature of any major league ballpark. So much so that several of the new ballparks sort of emulated it-like the high out-of-town scoreboard at Camden Yards, the tall wall below the bleachers at Progressive Field in Cleveland, or the high fence in left field at Citi Field before the Mets went limp and moved the fences in.
What makes the Monster extra special is that it was necessitated by the ballpark’s location, as opposed to being forced like the Western Metal building in San Diego. The Green Monster is a big part of how Fenway reminds us of a simpler time in baseball, when ballparks were put on a small sliver of land.
2) Poetic History. Cub fans have it harder than Red Sox fans these days, no doubt about it. But that wasn’t so before 2004. You could argue that the Cubs and Indians were just having a bad century…both teams finished in the second division almost every season, and both teams didn’t often take their fans to the edge of glory. Not so the Red Sox. For 86 years, many seasons saw the Red Sox in contention…many times finishing just behind the hated Yankees, the worst of them in a one game playoff because of a cheap shot by Bucky Dent, whose middle name in New England remains a harsh expletive. Four times the Red Sox reached the World Series; four times the Red Sox fell in game seven. “No, No, Nanette” may be a long forgotten play today were it not for Harry Frazee. I remember a Yankee fan telling me he cried when reading Dan Shaughnessy’s book The Curse of The Bambino.
In 2004 the Red Sox finally redeemed it all in a fashion that may have been worth the wait, coming back from a 3-0 deficit against the Evil Empire and cruising to a World Series victory. Someday the Cubs may take down the Cardinals for an NL title and win it all, but it won’t be quite the same.
3) Yawkey Way. OK, this is a fairly new feature in a sense, but it was a brilliant masterstroke to close off Yawkey before games. Not only has it added an outlet for congestion in the concourses, it also brings the spirit of baseball alive outside of the ballpark, where it should be just as endearing. The carts selling peanuts, the guy on stilts, the huge team store on the street, and the bands playing-all those things should be extensions of any ballpark.
There’s been talk of the Cubs doing the same thing with Sheffield Avenue at Wrigley, which if nothing else shows what a great idea closing off a nearby street was, and how it’s only at Fenway for now.
4) Outside Sausages. Wrigleyville has a vibrant pre- and post-game scene in the neighborhood, no doubt about it. But it doesn’t compare to Fenway’s for lovers of a good extra large sausage link with peppers and onions. At Fenway they’re everywhere… not just dogs and sausages but steak tips, chicken teriyaki or burgers, all cheaper than inside even if they’re not the bargain that outside eats are at most ballparks.
Wrigley has plenty of T-shirt and gear vendors outside, and there are a few takeout joints next to the aggressive ticket resellers where you can grab a sandwich. But there’s nothing there that stands up to the Sausage Connection. I know you’ll agree with me if you’ve compared.
5) Game Day Sales. The Red Sox still to this day make extra pasteboards available on game day to walk-up fans…enabling even the riffraff among us to get a great seat at face value. I’ve never used this option (I wish I had known about it before paying a scalper way too much for a bleacher seat), but every Sox fan I have asked about it says they’ve always gotten a ticket when they’ve tried it. Most other teams probably do this, but they don’t specifically create a window and line for it. The Cubs used to do it, but as of a few years ago, they now give the extras to “Wrigley Premium Ticket Services”, and you pay whatever the market price is for them. Kind of a crappy way for the Cubs to treat fans that filled a ballpark for a century of mediocrity. Worse, the Cubs are now cracking down on season ticket holders reselling their tickets. After a 100-loss season.
No small thing to be able to get a Field Box seat at Fenway for face value, given what they’d go for from a third party-like a premium service owned by the team itself.
That’s just five things that separate Fenway from Wrigley; I could have added a few more of course, like the Green Monster seats, fans singing Sweet Caroline, Boston Beer Works, the tiny blue Grandstand seats, Pesky’s Pole or the Fenway Frank, which the Wrigley Dog doesn’t match in iconic status.
I’ve written a companion piece on what Wrigley has on Fenway, which I’ll publish eventually, so I can’t in good conscience use this essay to say Fenway’s a better ballpark.
But if you’d like to, be my guest.