It’s Fenway And That Ain’t So Bad
I’m not a Red Sox fan, much less a Yankees fan. Hell, until my Astros finally found their way into the Series, I never even gave a flying weasel about the American League. However, I am fascinated by historic ballparks. If the Yankees came to my home bearing free beer, I would call the cops. But I pined for a chance to go to the House that Ruth Built. Their new palace, I could care less. The Babe, Gehrig, Mantle, never played there.
I loved the Houston Astrodome. You had to be a Houstonian to ignore its monolithic dullness; but oh, those comfy padded seats and blasts of chilled air! And don’t forget the “Coldest Foam in the Dome!” When the Astros moved to Minute Maid Park, I wasn’t happy; I hate change and despise trying to find a parking spot downtown. Of course, I fell in love with the joint immediately. It has all the benefits of outdoor baseball with the ability to slam the roof closed and turn on the A/C in July. The food is actually good, the concourses wide and navigable and places aplenty to release your overpriced beer back to nature. Minute Maid Park and other modern houses are far more clean, convenient and well-appointed than the old parks like Wrigley; but, no offense to my home park, Wrigley and its brethren are still better.
I loved Wrigley on my first visit last season; geared up fans talked up the game in packed Wrigleyville watering holes even though the Cubs were 20 games out. That was unheard of in Houston in the pre-Biggio/Bagwell days. Entering the green coated field with ivied walls, I was stunned. I drank Old Style because, well, that’s what you do. It was a scary nice day. I made several visits back to Chicago to see my mighty, mighty ‘Stros battle the Lovable Losers. We stayed at the Palmer House and enjoyed good-natured taunts from the locals at the sight of our Astros jerseys. Wrigley will always be my favorite away park.
I found myself in Boston on business a few years back. My colleague couldn’t take me to Fenway but he helped me scalp a ticket for a great seat just 18 rows up from the visitor dugout. Following my personal protocol, I bought a beer, a dog and some peanuts to take to my seat in the middle of some Boston fans. I had a refill (or two) of beer and then got another in the 7th inning to walk around the park. Ted Williams played here. Babe Ruth started his career on the mound. Carlton Fisk willed a ball into the foul pole for goodness sakes. Clemens followed.
It’s a terrible park in terms of modern conveniences; the Juice Box is far better when you do the math. Fenway sports water dripping from cracked concrete. Dark and grimy corners reek of stale beer and age. It’s hardly comparable to carpeted walkways and electronic game enhancers of Houston. But as a real fan, of the game, it’s just better than the shiny bells and whistles offered in Houston because of the history and tradition. I don’t need or want a Kiss Cam or t-shirt cannon; I’m there for baseball, not silliness. I prefer hot dogs and peanuts over salads and carving stations; it’s baseball, man.
Strolling down Yawkey Way, you’d think you were in a warehouse district if you didn’t know better. Going through those turnstiles is like stepping back in time to better days. When I first emerged into the stadium, my first view was the Green Monster and I was awestruck. During my 7th inning walk about, I just wanted to marinate in all of the baseball karma; every rusted bolt, the years of accumulated wear and gorgeous filth; the heaving roar of the home crowd that has been there for about a century. At its core, baseball is history and tradition and it survives and inspires for that reason. Fenway is an aged cask filled to the brim with both.
I love the City of Boston. Like Fenway, it boasts a very proud history. We are taking our first family trip there and have mapped out trips down the Freedom Trail, to some ancient pubs, fine eateries. And a dear friend has been kind enough to score us some tickets to the Stros-Sox game (hat tip and thanks, Tim). Wrigley isn’t on the schedule anymore and that will always be a fly in my beer. But Fenway is and that ain’t bad. Time for a stroll down Yawkey Way and a Fenway Frank.