Fenway Park turns 100 on Friday afternoon with a celebration that will look a lot like the day it opened. Like the contest on April 20, 1912, the Boston Red Sox will take on a team from New York (now known as the Yankees instead of the Highlanders). They'll wear throwback uniforms and play on an early spring afternoon in New England. Perhaps the home team will even take home a victory like it did on that day in 1912.
There will be differences, of course. The big green wall in left field wasn't added until 1934 and the seats atop it until much later after that. The crowd lucky enough to score tickets will also come armed with 100 years of memories, many of which may not have even seemed possible when Red Sox fans watched that inaugural 7-6 win.
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Think about all that Fenway has seen in the century since it opened its doors. There was Ted Williams' Hall of Fame career and Carl Yastrzemski's Triple Crown. Babe Ruth's early years and Carlton Fisk in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. Roger Clemens' 20-strikeout game in 1986 and the 1999 All-Star game. Vintage Pedro taking the mound on a hot night in August and Dave Roberts taking second on a cold one in October. Bucky F'in Dent.
All of those popular touchstones and more will be discussed in the stands on Friday as well as many more personal ones. You don't operate a ballpark for 100 years without it becoming the setting for many a family memory, the shared experiences tying multiple generations together. It's an enviable thing that Red Sox fans have there in Boston and they have every reason to celebrate it. Their version of the Globe Theatre has stood the test of time.
Thing is, you don't even have to be a Red Sox fan for Fenway to occupy a corner of your heart or mind. As I've mentioned in this space a time or three before, it's my shameful secret that I've never actually attended a game within the walls of Fenway. Despite having been to over two-thirds of baseball's other ballparks, the forces of the universe have conspired to keep me away from one of the sport's crown jewels. (There are few sports disappointments like looking at the calendar of a baseball team in another city and learning they won't be there when you will be.)
I'll make it to Fenway one day, of course. John Henry and Co. have seen to it that the old place will be open far into this century and perhaps ever further with the renovations they've done. The awkwardly angled seats and view-obstructing posts are going nowhere, nor are more charming aspects like the Green Monster and the Citgo sign.
In a way, though, I sort of like the fact that I've never stepped foot in Fenway because I've been able to develop an affinity for it anyway. Whether it was through watching countless games on television or sitting through repeated viewings of the Fenway scene from "Field of Dreams" or having my breath stolen by John Updike's famous piece on Teddy Ballgame, a version of Fenway Park has been created and it exists only in my mind.
As I get older and travel around to see more, I think there's something to be said for a place keeping a pristine spot in your imagination, tucked away from the disappointing reality of a visit. And while there are millions of people who will be recalling their own times in Fenway on a day like today, I suspect there are just as many who will hold a toast not because of any personal experience inside the place, but because of the bedrock that it has formed inside of our minds for our favorite sport.
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Yes, a ballpark can become many things when it's open for 100 years — a place, a playground, an idea, a myth, a mirage — which is just as much reason to celebrate it than any of the great baseball moments that happened inside.
So, happy birthday old girl. Here's to 100 years of playing a role in the lives of those who have held tickets to your seats and in the lives of those who have not.
And here's to 100 more for a true American icon.
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