Friendly Fenway

Some folks are still wondering if I’m finding any positives in the move back to CT, and slowly I do uncover one or two things. This weekend I had two in one shot — a trip to Fenway Park and a beautiful day out with friends I hadn’t seen in quite awhile.

Like coming home...

Like coming home...

The trip was planned back in March, as part of my birthday celebration. It felt good, familiar, to stroll the streets around the park – across Boylston, up Lansdowne – after a tasty brunch at The Other Side Cafe, a vegan-friendly, hip little bar-restaurant in Back Bay. I thought about sampling one of their tempting microbrews, as I could have made an exception to the no-booze-before-noon-on weekends rule (always allowable for sporting events, holidays with family you’d maybe rather not see, and vacations), but I knew we’d be heading to Boston Beer Works to watch the first of the day’s two games.

The beer at the brewpub was disappointing, but good conversation with Samantha and my buddy Andy (the subject of my previous post) made up for it. By the time the game ended, most of the rest of the day’s crew had arrived and we set off for the park.

Ah, the brick walls, the Green Monster looming over head, the festive crowd: I soaked it all in, realizing how good we Red Sox fans have it. Sure, the seats can be a little too cozy at times, but the urinal troughs are gone, the bleachers now have real seats, and most importantly, the Werner/Henry team made the commitment to keep baseball where it belongs in Beantown instead of building a new park, as the previous owners once threatened. Can anyone, Boston fan or not, imagine baseball without Fenway Park? And come 2012, the 100th anniversary season should bring out some good festivities.

AT&T Park, in San Francisco: Great food and views

AT&T Park, in San Francisco: Great food and views

I know a lot of people are not nostalgic for the older parks, preferring the amenities of the new ones. And I’ve been to some of those parks and enjoyed them. But when you think about all the great players who have stepped out onto the field at Fenway, the amazing games played there…yes, yes, I am biased, and I’m sure any park where you saw your first pro game will always be special. But Fenway is in a class by itself.

Keep the sign, then blow up the joint

Keep the sign, then blow up the joint

Many Chicagoans, of course, will dispute that, trying to put Wrigley on a par with Fenway. Do not be fooled. As I’ve told many people, Wrigley is the most overrated attraction in Chicago. Except for the sign at Addison and Clark, the exterior is a nightmare of Stalinist architecture brought to the States. The inside is better, with the brick, but the ivy is a joke. What is this, the sandlot game we used to play in the front yard, where we had to dig the ball out of bushes or pluck it out of the swamp across the street? Then there’s the lack of an electronic scoreboard. The purists say they don’t need one. I say the Tribune is just too cheap.

Soviet housing--get rid of a few windows, and you have Wrigley

Soviet housing--get rid of a few windows, and you have Wrigley

Moving on – the concessions have to be the worst at any park I’ve ever been too, especially the beer. (Though Fenway, I have to admit, is also not too imaginative with its food, and like Wrigley scores low on being vegan-friendly). The atmosphere outside Wrigley is nothing special, while the closing of Yawkey Way at Fenway creates a nice little festive space. Then we have the fans: a large contingent of Midwestern tourists and local  frat boys largely more interested in saying they are at Wrigley (which they do often, while talking on their cell phones) than in watching the game.

All right, the last one is a generalization. I know the Cubbies have their hardcore fans, and the Red Sox theirs who go only for show. But in all the times I went to Wrigley, I saw few people keeping score, and the concourse was  packed with people who seemingly didn’t realize their ticket meant they had a seat.

For all that, I was never above using Wrigley as a handy reference to prove that we weren’t just near Chicago, we were in the city — “only a mile- and-a-half from Wrigley. We can walk to the games.” That always seemed to impress people, certainly in a way it wouldn’t if I had said we were just a mile-and-a-half from the Cell (assuming most people would even know I was not referring to the Cook County Jail). And I did see one memorable game there — when the Red Sox salvaged a win in 2005, during their first appearance ever at the Friendly Confines. But if I never saw another game at Wrigley, that would be fine. Maybe I’d go if the Sox played there during the World Series.

(Hoo boy, that’s kinda funny; the Cubs in the World Series! But hey, Cubs fans were magnanimous to us in ’04; I’ll return the favor if they finally win – as long as it’s not against the Sox.).

Now, though, I don’t have to wait for Red Sox road trips to see them play. I can see them at home any time I want –  if I can afford it. So maybe I’m not living in one of the great US cities anymore. There are some plusses to saying, “I’m only a hundred miles from Fenway.”  And even if I can’t walk it, I can watch the games with the old gang, which is just another bonus.

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~ by mburgan on September 16, 2009.

One Response to “Friendly Fenway”

  1. You picked the right day for a game last weekend! And the Bosox won too, which was nice.

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