I’m sitting here in my 112-year-old house, wearing my 20-year-old sweatpants, working under the light of a lamp I took home from Holy Cross in 1975, looking over my shoulder at a slumping, springless brown chair that my dad sat in every night to read his newspaper when he came home from work in the 1950s and 1960s.
It’s amazing that I’m not punching the keys of an Olivetti Lettera typewriter. That’s progress, I guess.
I like old things.
I resist change.
And you wonder why I like Fenway Park?
It’s not about baseball. It has nothing to do with hits, runs, errors, winning, or losing. It’s independent of ERA, RBI, OPS, WHIP, or VORP. It has never been about fashion or trendiness.
I love Fenway Park because it’s a place where things happened. And in a world where kids grow up and move out on their own, and lifelong colleagues retire from a workplace, and friends and family die, Fenway stays the same.
Houses, jobs, clothes, and hairstyles come and go. Fenway is always there.
Sure, there have been significant tweaks and upgrades at the old ballyard. The Monster Seats are new, the Coke bottles came and went, the hideous troughs have been removed from the men’s rooms, the old press box space yielded to the EMC Club, and the big Jimmy Fund sign no longer warms us from atop the right-field grandstand.
But it’s still Fenway. When you flip on your TV and see all the green, the Wall, the Citgo sign, and Jeremy Kapstein and Dennis Drinkwater in their standard seats behind the plate . . . you know the game is at Fenway.
Fenway still has the triangle in center, the red seat in right, and Pesky’s Pole down the line. It still has the ladder on the Wall, Canvas Alley, and the bathroom in the bullpen in right. It has the goofy railing that juts out toward left field from the third-base dugout, turning certain doubles into bad-luck singles as the ball down the line bounces back toward the shortstop. It has the black hole in the left-field corner where visiting outfielders disappear and never return. It still has the seven light towers, and the tapestried red brick with decorative diamonds, mosaics, and keystone arches on the original facade that you can see from the intersection of Brookline Avenue and Yawkey Way.
The poles haven’t moved. Some of the obstructed views are remarkably similar to those that blocked the sightlines of your great, great grandfather at the 1912 World Series. Public address announcer Carl Beane sounds remarkably like Sherm Feller, who served as the ballpark’s Voice of God when Baby Boomers came of age at Fenway in the 1960s and ’70s. Those were the days when Curt Gowdy said, ‘‘Hi, neighbor, have a ’Gansett!’’
Our century-old baseball park is like a neighborhood church — a place of passages, sacraments, celebrations, sadness, and above all ritual. We go there because our fathers and mothers went there. We take our sons and daughters there, hoping they will do the same when it’s their turn to introduce a new generation to Boston baseball.
For most of us, Fenway is personal. It’s about family. It’s where your dad held your hand and walked you up the ramp, through the portal just to the right of home plate and for the first time you saw the giant green wall and the lush green grass. For those of us raised on black-and-white Philcos in the 1950s, the first Fenway visit was a ‘‘Wizard of Oz’’ moment — the first time we saw baseball in color.
There is still plenty about Fenway that doesn’t work. It’s never going to be climate-controlled. The parking is abysmal, the seats are too small, and the lines are too long. The poles aren’t going away, and those seats down in right field are forever dreadful.
But I learned my lesson when we went from the Old Garden to the New Garden in 1995. We lost our sports soul in the name of air conditioning and luxury boxes. The new building has never been as loud or intimate as the drafty old barn. We can’t look at the ice and say, ‘‘That’s where Bobby Orr skated.’’ It will never be the place where Bill Russell jousted with Wilt Chamberlain, the place where we took the train in from Ayer to watch NBA doubleheaders during February vacation.
Fenway is 100 years old. It’s where Babe Ruth and Ted Williams played. It’s where I sat with my sister in Section 27 when Carlton Fisk hit the home run off the pole. It’s where my bald 8-year-old daughter threw out a first pitch when she was a Jimmy Fund patient, and where I saw my dad for the last time when I was 26 years old.
It’s not about the baseball. It’s not about home plate or home runs.
It’s about home.
From April 18, 1994: Shaughnessy’s daughter throws out first pitch