Sports

Patience paid off at home run derby in 1999

Fans lined Lansdowne Street behind the Green Monster during the home run derby in 1999.

Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

Fans lined Lansdowne Street behind the Green Monster during the home run derby in 1999.

This photograph is about never giving up.

When the All-Star Game was played at Fenway Park in 1999, Red Sox management at the time would not issue me a photo credential for the game because Dan Shaughnessy and I were working on a book about Fenway Park. The book was essentially a valentine to the old ballpark. But that ownership wanted the park torn down and I wanted it preserved.

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I ran into Mayor Menino at an event and asked him if he would issue a permit to put a cherry picker on Lansdowne Street behind the Green Monster. When I explained the reason for the request, the mayor just put his hand to his mouth and started laughing. Request granted.

We rented a lift from Shaughnessy Crane, hired a police officer for crowd safety, and rose above the Wall just before the home run contest began. We could see the Red Sox brass watching us with binoculars, but there was nothing they could do. We were on a public street.

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Mark McGwire, who had broken the season home run record the year before, wound up with a total of 16 homers in the Derby (though he didn’t win it). Outside the ballpark, it was a party atmosphere. There were thousands of people jockeying in the street to get a souvenir home run ball.

There also were dozens of balls corralled in the net above the Wall and the fans wanted them shaken loose. I wouldn’t do it, though, because I kept thinking about that tragic Who concert in Cincinnati where 11 fans got trampled to death.

To settle things down, we would give the fans hand signals to let them know where the ball was going.

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The Home Run Derby — juiced or not — was thrilling. As the sun set, I realized this was the best seat in the house. But it took the new owners to save the park and put the fans up there.

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