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The Boston Globe

Sports

From the archives

Taking apart the Green Monster’s ‘315’ myth

It’s not 315 feet. It’s 309 feet 3 inches. I know. I measured it myself.

The sign at the base of Fenway’s famous left-field wall indicates that the fence is 315 feet from home plate. Since the sign was first posted, batters have insisted that the wall is less than 315 feet from home.

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No doubt some of this skepticism is due to the height and breadth of the wall. Its imposing dimensions make it appear closer than it really is. But there’s more to it than that. There’s proof.

Citing national security and other silly reasons, the Red Sox for years have been reluctant to let anyone measure the distance from home to the wall. It’s part of the Fenway mystique.

Author George Sullivan once used a yardstick and came up with a distance of 309 feet 5 inches. Turns out Sullivan was darned close.

In 1975, Globe sports editor Dave Smith was presented with aerial photos of Fenway, accompanied by the report of an expert who flew reconnaissance in World War II. The military man concluded that the distance from home to the fence was 304 feet. (It was not unlike a scene at the beginning of “The Missiles of October” in which an actor portraying McGeorge Bundy presents aerial photos of Cuba to an actor portraying President Kennedy. Bundy tells the president that the photos are conclusive proof that Soviet missiles are in Cuba.)

Armed with the goods, Smith made a formal request to have someone from the Globe measure the foul line. He told the Red Sox that the paper had obtained conclusive proof that the dimensions were not as advertised. The Sox refused to comply, and the next day it was Page One news in the Globe.

Original blueprints from the Osborn Engineering Co. -- which built Fenway in 1912 -- indicate that the wall is 308 feet away.

One day in late March, in broad daylight, armed with a 100-foot Stanley Steelmaster measuring tape, I vaulted the rail at Fenway and measured the line. It was 309 feet 3 inches, give or take an inch. So there.

Even if the left-field wall were as far from home plate as the Sox say it is, Fenway’s dimensions would be against the rules if the ballpark were being built today. The league stipulates that fences must be no less than 325 feet from home plate.

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