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Opening Day 2012: Fun Fenway Facts You May Not Know

In honor of Fenway Park's 101st season, we have put together some fun facts about baseball's crown jewel that you may not know.

In honor of Fenway Park’s 101st season kicking off today, we thought we would honor that “lyric little bandbox,” as writer John Updike famously called it, that has become as much a part of Boston as dropped “Rs,” the Charles River and disgraced public officials, with some fun facts, courtesy of funtrivia.com and baseball-statistics.com.

So without further ado, here are some things you may not know about Boston baseball’s holiest of holies:

  • What was Yawkey Way’s original name? Jersey Street, the City of Boston renamed it “Yawkey Way” in 1976, after the greatest Red Sox fan of them all, former owner Tom Yawkey.
  • Is there morse code on the Green Monster? Yes, yes there is. If you know where to look, the initials “tayjry” can be made out, commemorating Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey in perpetuity.
  • How many times did Johnny Pesky actually hit a ball off “Pesky’s Pole?” Zero. Pesky hit six career home runs at Fenway Park, and the pole got its name when former Sox lefty Mel Parnell referred to it as such after Pesky tucked one of those homers right inside it, winning a game for Parnell.
  • When was the padding added to the lower left and center field walls? The Red Sox added padding to the lower portions of the left and center field walls after the 1975 World Series, in which Fred Lynn crashed into the padding-free wall to make a play.
  • What was Fenway’s opening day capacity in 1912? It was 35,000, not all that much different than it is today.
  • Did Fenway Park formerly have a sloping patch in centerfield? Yes, betweem 1912 and 1933. Known as Duffy’s cliff, after Sox outfield Duffy Lewis, who had become skilled at running up it to make plays.
  • Has anyone ever hit a ball over the rightfield roof? No, but chemically-enhanced slugger Mark McGwire came pretty close during the 1999 All Star Game’s Home Run Derby.
  • Why is there a ladder on the Green Monster? So the groundskeeper can retrieve batting practice home runs from the netting above the wall.
  • What are the dimensions of the scoreboard numbers? Runs and hits: 16 inches by 16 inches, 3 pounds; errors, innings, pitcher’s numbers: 12 inches by 16 inches, 2 pounds.
  • What’s the deal with the distance along the left field foul line? The authors of The Picture History of the Boston Red Sox, Art Keefe and George Sullivan, measured the distance in 1975 as 309 feet, 5 inches. The Boston Globe used aerial photography the same year and set the distance at 304.779 feet. Original documents from designer Osborn Engineering put the distance at 308 feet. In 1995, the Red Sox revised the distance to 310 feet.
  • Who won the first game at Fenway? The Red Sox beat the New York Highlanders—renamed the Yankees less than a decade later—by a score of 7-6 in 11 innings. Hall of Fame outfielder Tris Speaker drove in the winning run. 
  • Who threw out the first first pitch? That would be none other than “Honey Fitz” himself, former Boston mayor John F. Fitzgerald, maternal grandfather of former President John F. Kennedy, and Senators Robert “Bobby” Kennedy and Edward “Ted” Kennedy.

Check out this report of Fenway’s first game, penned b y Boston Globe scribe T.H. Murnane.

We would love to hear our Back Bay readers’ memories of Fenway over the years, and would love to share some of ours. Tell us your favorite Fenway Park moments in the comments below, and let’s get this discussion started!

Fred Leonard April 14, 2012 at 12:58 PM
Was there a flagpole in center field - on the playing surface? and if so when was it removed? Thanks
Andrew Jeromski April 15, 2012 at 07:11 PM
@Fred: Yes, there was a flagpole in center until 1970, when it was moved off the playing surface. With that crazy corner right behind, I wish I were old enough to remember what must have been some wild plays in that area ...

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