It sits in a sea of green, a single red chairback in the outer limits of Fenway Park’s right field bleachers. It is Seat 21 in Row 37 of Section 42.
It is known simply as the red seat, and it marks the spot where Ted Williams hit the longest home run in Fenway’s 84-year history.
Like a fleck of red paint on an otherwise lush green canvas, the commemorative chair draws the eye. Someone is almost always sitting in it, even when just a few patrons are in the bleachers. New fans ask about the red seat, and citizens of Red Sox Nation are happy to relay the Fenway folklore.
Teddy Ballgame’s mighty clout was struck 50 years ago today, on a windy, sun-splashed Sunday afternoon in the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the Tigers.
``Hell, I can tell you everything about that one,’’ Williams said from his Florida home last week. ``I hit it off Fred Hutchinson, who was a tough lefty who changed speeds real good.
``Let me tell ya -- changing speeds didn’t bother me nearly that much. I could pick up the movement of his arm. He threw me a changeup and I saw it coming. I picked it up fast and I just whaled into it.’’
Indeed. The ball sailed over the head of right fielder Pat Mullin, then carried beyond the visitors’ bullpen and kept on going. And then it crashed down on top of Joseph A. Boucher’s head. More accurately, it landed on Boucher’s straw hat, puncturing the middle of the fashionable skimmer.
Boucher was an Albany construction engineer who kept an apartment on Commonwealth Avenue when he worked in Park Square during the week. He loved baseball and the Red Sox. But sitting more than 30 rows behind the bullpen, he wasn’t expecting to catch any home run balls.
Scratching his head, Boucher spoke with the Globe’s Harold Kaese after the game and asked:
``How far away must one sit to be safe in this park? I didn’t even get the ball. They say it bounced a dozen rows higher, but after it hit my head, I was no longer interested. I couldn’t see the ball. Nobody could. The sun was right in our eyes. All we could do was duck. I’m glad I didn’t stand up.’’
Boucher went to the first aid room briefly, where he was treated by a doctor and (according to Kaese’s account) ``two pretty nurses.’’ He returned to watch the Sox complete their sweep of the Tigers (obviously, Detroit’s pitching was bad then, too).
The next day’s Globe featured a Page One photo of Boucher holding his hat, his finger stuck through the hole. The caption read, ``BULLSEYE! . . .’’
But that homer had two victims. And the man who surrendered the prodigious shot was not as cheerful as the one who got hit in the noggin. Immediately after Williams circled the bases, Hutchinson fired a pitch under Bobby Doerr’s chin.
``Hutch was so goddamn mad he went into the tunnel and broke all the lights after the inning,’’ Williams said.
Newspaper accounts claimed Williams’ homer traveled 450 feet, but the Red Sox measured the distance in the mid-1980s and arrived at an official distance of 502 feet. This doesn’t take into account where the ball would have landed had it not been stopped by Boucher’s head.
The fact that Williams hit a changeup made the feat all the more impressive.
``I got just the right trajectory,’’ said Williams. ``Jeez, it just kept going. In distance, it was probably as long as I ever hit one.’’
Taking batting practice at Fenway this week, mighty Mo Vaughn gazed into the horizon, located the red seat, shook his head and said, ``Man, they keep moving it up higher every year.’’
No. The left field wall may be moving closer (last year the Green Monster sign was changed to 310 feet from 315) but the red seat is fixed. It just seems farther.
``It’s hard to believe anybody could hit a ball that far,’’ said Mo. ``I know I’ve never even come close -- not even in batting practice. I mean, it’s not even down the line. It’s in the gap! You can barely see that thing.’’
The bleachers were replaced with chairback seats in 1977 and ‘78. In 1984, Sox owner Haywood Sullivan decided to commemorate Williams’ clout by putting a red chairback in the spot where Boucher sat June 9, 1946.
Williams said, ``When they asked me about it, I said, `Look it up in the paper. It says right there where it landed.’ No one believed me. I told them to go ahead and look it up and they did. And now I hope they keep that seat like that forever.’’
Hutchinson went on to become manager of the Cincinnati Reds and died in 1964. The man in the straw hat died in 1954, eight years after his 15 minutes of Fenway fame.
This week, as the anniversary approached, Joseph Boucher’s grandson, 59-year-old William McGuire of Quincy, said, ``You never would find a more devoted Red Sox fan than my grandfather. When he didn’t go home to Albany on weekends, he always went to Fenway Park. I used to hop on the train and go meet him when I was a kid.
``He wore straw hats all the time. Years later I sent Ted a picture of my grandfather holding the hat with the hole in it. Ted wrote me a beautiful letter and I still have it. I’ve also got that front page story framed on my wall at home. If they ever tear down Fenway, I want first dibs on that seat.’’
Today some lucky patron will hold a ticket for Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21. Don’t bother to bring a glove. Your hat and head are safe. There’s only one man alive who can hit a ball that far, and he’s 77 years old, retired and living in Florida.