Everyone has their little embarrassing holes and shortcomings in their baseball knowledge and experiences. Here's mine: I've never seen a game at Fenway Park.
Oh, I've been to Boston before. Yet it seems like every time I'm in town, the Red Sox are either out of season or out of town. That leaves me pacing the perimeter of the oldest park in the majors, picturing in my head what it's like on game day, when almost 40,000 fans pack the place to see their Sox.
I'm hoping the Fenway gap on my ballpark checklist gets filled in later in the pennant race, or maybe even during the postseason. Until then, I'll take the great advice contained in this latest installment of Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review and try to think of what I'll do once I finally get there.
For an insider's look at visiting Fenway, follow the jump. To submit tips on your home ballpark, e-mail 'Duk at email@example.com. This week's schedule finishes with Camden Yards and Miller Park.
Facts and figures (More at Ballparks.com)
Address: 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA 02215
Dimensions: Left field 310 feet; left-center 379; center field 390; right-center 380; right 302; backstop 68
Biggest moment: On Oct. 21, 1975, Carlton Fisk hits a homer in the 12th inning to beat the Reds in Game 6 of the World Series.
Fun fact: The initials of former owners Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey are printed in Morse code in the center divider columns of the manual scoreboard on the Green Monster.
How to get there
"Subway! This is by far the easiest and sanest way to get to the park, because the traffic around Fenway can be murderous on game days (think regular Boston drivers, only MORE SO). The Kenmore stop on the green line is right near the park, and it's easy. The only mistake out-of-towners sometimes make is accidentally getting on the E line inbound (every other line goes to Kenmore, E is the only one that doesn't).
|AL EAST||NL EAST|
|N.Y. Yankees||N.Y. Mets|
|AL CENTRAL||NL CENTRAL|
|Chi. White Sox||Chi. Cubs|
|AL WEST||St. Louis|
|L.A. Angels||NL WEST|
"What I often do for night games is take the subway in, and then walk to a subway stop on the E line (Symphony or Prudential) after the game, or walk all the way back to where I pick up the blue line (Government Center), instead of getting back on at Kenmore. This avoids the enormous mass of humanity that all tries to get on at Kenmore after games, which is the only drawback to the subway." — Samara Pearlstein, Roar of the Tigers and an avid Red Sox photog + fan
"The only holdback to public transit would be simply if the game runs obscenely long — Last trains are around midnight." — Nicole Ryan
"If you must drive, get to the park early as there are metered parking spaces to be had. My favorite places to scope for these treasured spots are Evans Way (behind the Isabella Gardner Museum; roughly a 12 minute walk to the park) and the Newbury Street extension that runs between Charlesgate West and Brookline Ave. (five minutes from the Fenway gates). As most meters in Boston run til 6:00pm, it's absolutely free parking, freeing up more cash for things like beer, Mike Timlin bobbleheads and beer. Mapquest these suckers at once!" — Red, Surviving Grady
"For those who live in Western Massachusetts and Connecticut, the best way to get to a Red Sox game is to drive into Newton and taking the T in from Riverside Station. It’s 4 dollars for parking and $4 round trip. The T drops you off at Fenway Station which is in walking distance of Yawkey Way. For the locals, I also suggest taking the T in and getting off at Kenmore Station and making the short walk." — Ian Bethune, Sox and Dawgs
Before and after the game
"After a Sox game, the drunken masses will spill out onto Yawkey Way and Lansdowne looking for the quickest way to keep the buzz going. Savvy drunkards will bypass this madness and zip through Kenmore Square to Crossroads Ale House at the corner of Beacon Street and Mass Ave. It's a sweet Irish pub with plenty of TVs, cute waitresses, some of the best onion rings you'll find anywhere in the city and an assortment of fine beverages to delay the onset of hangover by at least a few hours. Be sure to mention that Red sent you to ensure a swift and painful beat-down." — Red
"Since the subway covers a lot of the city, though, it's easy to do stuff elsewhere — say, have lunch in Faneuil Hall and check out the Aquarium during the day, then hop on the green line at Government Center and go straight to Fenway for a night game. The Boston Common and Public Garden are both within sane walking distance of the park. The Museum of Fine Art is on the green line. The theater district is on the green line. Cambridge is on the red line. Finding stuff to do in Boston is not a problem unless you're not actually trying. Of course first-time visitors to Fenway should get there early just to see the park. It's freakin' FENWAY!" — S.P.
"The Cask & Flagon has been a Fenway Tradition for going on 40 years. It used to be a claustrophobic old haunt and one of my favorite places in town. I watched the 2004 World Series victory from a dusty stool there. Now it sucks. A couple years back, the fancy-pantsed Game On sports bar opened across the street. Sporting dozens of plasma TV's and hot waitresses, it drew in the lusty masses. This is to say that it also sucks. Instead of celebrating their uniqueness, the Cask followed suit, gutting the entire place, installing 360-degree panoramic windows and dozens and dozens of TV's. Blech.
"If you want something a little more personal and with lots more character check out The Lower Depths in Kenmore Square. It's a relative newcomer but its lineage is derived from Bukowski's Tavern, an old standby. The food manages to be both hearty and creative and the beer menu is so expansive as to make you wonder where they're putting it in all in this little place." — Camp Tiger Claw, Walkoff Walk
What to eat
"You can't set foot in Fenway Park without having a Fenway Frank. Like engaging in an illicit affair, you'll likely hate yourself and your intestinal tract about six hours later, but it's a rite of passage that no one should deny themselves." — Red
"They finally started serving Dunkin' Donuts coffee in the ballpark! Hallelujah, praise be to Wally! Dunkin' Donuts coffee is a vital part of the collective New England psyche, so if you're in town you should probably have some." — S.P.
"The hot dogs are famous for being disgusting and mostly undercooked. They are often slimy, pale, sometimes slightly greenish, occasionally with tails still on. This has become a sort of masochistic point of pride with locals (maybe a little sadistic as well), so there's no point in arguing about it. The best advice I can give you is to say that the hot dogs you get at the concession stands in the concourses are usually slightly more cooked than the ones you get from the vendors in the seats. Also, do not skimp on condiments — you often need that ketchup/mustard/etc. as an extra buffer zone between your stomach and the hot dog itself." — S.P.
"I love the flatbread roast beef and cheddar sandwiches. YUM! ... We also have "Remdawgs" which are oversized hotdogs served with all kinds of junk on them. On your way into the park the Italian sausage vendors are plentiful — I recommend the ones that stand near the corner of Brookline and Landsdowne as they've been there forever and are well loved by fans and staff alike. You can even bring it into the game with you!" — N.R.
Where to sit
"As far as ticket scarcity goes, you can spend all day on the computer on the onsale date and get a game or two, but you have to do this in December. The aftermarket here is insane. Not only do you have StubHub, the major player, but I think we have more mid-level ticket brokers than any other city. ACE Tickets and Higs' Tickets are huge businesses and as far as I know, deal exclusively in Boston area events. Scalping is possible but if you want to get in for first pitch at a decent game, don't expect to pay anywhere near face value. I consider myself a pretty excellent haggler (having gotten into Wrigley with these skills), but these guys are stone faced." — CTC
"The Fenway bleachers are the best place to take in a game. The crowd's a bit livelier and the seats a bit wider than what you'd get in the grandstands. But folks of Irish or Swedish descent should take note: There ain't a lick of shade to be had out there. But I just slap on the SPF 5000 and my asbestos suit and I'm ready to roll. If you prefer to be under cover, the grandstands between first base and third base offer great views of the action." — Red
"A number of the seats in right field are pointed the wrong way, so you have to do that twisting-around-in-your-seat bit to actually watch most of the action. And there are the (in)famous obstructed view seats, which are directly behind poles. These are not a joke, the view is EXTREMELY obstructed, and, if I remember correctly, the Sox charge full price for them, which is probably completely unconscionable but whatever the market will bear, etc etc. There's an article here about the worst seats in Fenway. You can read about how Boston fans sit in these horrendous seats and shrug it off because we're all out of our damn minds." — S.P.
"One of my favorites is the Standing Room Only ticket. When tickets go on sale, these are the last to go. Often, the box office on Landsdowne Street will release them the day of the game. For the low low Fenway price of $20 your standing room seats give you a rail to lean on and the freedom to roam behind either right or left field grandstand and the upper deck. If you're a nature buff who enjoys identifying species indigenous to various suburbs, consider this your trip to the Serengeti.
"As important as obtaining the ticket is knowing how to maximize your use of it. Most of the second deck is now made up of something called the "State Street Pavilion." It affords great views of the park (like just about any seat), with the added perk of waiters that bring stuff to you. After you've spent the first 3 or 4 innings watching the game behind the grandstands make your way up to the Pavilion. Since huge swaths of this area are usually reserved for company outings it ensures that many sitting here are less than diehards and will usually leave the game by its midpoint. Watch someone leave, wait for the usher to go to the bathroom and sidle up to your very own $70 seat for the price of a standing room. Of course the seatside service will ensure you blow your $50 in savings on a few $9 beers, but you already knew that, didn't you?" — CTC
"If you’re fortunate to win of the Red Sox ticket lotteries before the season and can get your hands on Green Monster seats, by all means get them. It is one of the best places in all of baseball to watch a game. Where else can you sit on top and watch Manny be Manny plus have a good chance to be in the line of fire for home run balls? The tickets are expensive at $125-140 but to me it was worth the experience. I’ve sat up there twice and enjoyed it both times." — I.B.
"If you want a program/scorecard and aren't wedded to the idea of getting the big 'official' one, get one for $2 outside the ballpark. They sometimes come with free bumper stickers or baseball cards (for a while last season they were coming with free Dice K pseudo-hachimaki, which is either awesome or vaguely racist, depending on your perspective), they're perfectly serviceable as programs, the scorecards are bigger than they are in the official ones (the kicker for me), and the ones you get inside the ballpark are at least $5." — S.P.
"The Red Sox usually put about 300 tickets on sale the day of the game as all Red Sox games are usually sold out. The day-of-game tickets are available at Gate C on Landsdowne Street two hours before the game. You can get into line 5 hours before the game starts and purchases are limited to one ticket per person and are sold on a first-come first-serve basis. With the exception of Yankees games on the weekend, if you’re looking to get a ticket to a weekend game for the Red Sox, try going online on Monday or Tuesday to see if you can score one for the weekend." —I.B.
"I have to say this for the place: The bathroom situation is not at all what you would expect. Actually I have no idea what the men's bathrooms are like, but the women's bathrooms in the main concourse are generally clean, and they're quite big. I have only rarely had to deal with a line." — S.P.
"Any time you go to a game at Fenway, there will be lots of knowledgeable fans there. There will also be lots of ***holes who are there more to drink and chat and 'be seen', as opposed to watching the game. Partly this is due to bandwagon fans from the past few seasons, partly this is the fault of the expensive tickets (which makes it easier for corporate jerks to get tickets than blue collar fans), and partly this is because Fenway has become such a Thing-with-a-capital-T that it's almost prestigious to say you've gone-- like people who go to an opera because it sounds good when they tell people they've been to the opera, even though they have no idea what's going on and maybe don't even particularly like opera. Y'know?" — S.P.
"This is old time baseball. This is generations of people who have been born loving the game coming back with their children year after year to enjoy something that has tied families together since 1912 here in Boston. Everyone there has a story, a memory, a thrilling moment there and we all love to share them. As a smaller ballpark it gives a more intimate closeness to the game as well and there's never a game that goes by that the park is not thrumming with excitement and energy. Boston loves baseball and baseball, despite that niggling curse we once had, has always loved us too. In my humble opinion there's no other city, not even New York, that rivals Boston with her passion." — N.R.
Have an insider's tip for Fenway Park that you didn't see listed here? E-mail it with your name and hometown to 'Duk at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in the post.
Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review will run all summer, will feature all 30 MLB ballparks and is based on recommendations from you, the reader. We welcome reviews for any ballpark. To do so, visit this post for submission guidelines.
COMING WEDNESDAY: Baltimore's Camden Yards SOON: Miller Park, Dodger Stadium, Petco Park