As the Hanson family made the drive from York, Maine, to Fenway Park for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, they drove under a number of overpasses scrawled with graffiti, prompting 7-year-old Jonah to ask his mom a question.
“Mom, have you ever done graffiti?” Her answer was a definitive no.
But when Michelle and her husband, Bob, along with sons Jonah and Sam, 10, arrived at their seats for the game, that answer was possibly going to change by night’s end.
They were ushered to seats 9 through 12 in Right Field Box 5, Row F, immediately behind Pesky Pole. Tucked snuggly in the right-field corner, 302 feet away from home plate, the foul pole attracts hundreds of visitors before and after every game. Fans often take a picture standing by the pole, and then sign their name in black marker on the base of it.
Named after Boston’s iconic second baseman Johnny Pesky, a lefthanded hitter known to curve a home run or two around the yellow marker, Pesky Pole doubles as a written record of those that have visited.
For the Hansons, it was pure luck they landed behind the pole.
“I went online Friday and bought them,” Michelle said. “I went through the list and thought, these looked good. And here we are. I didn’t know it would be right here. It’s pretty exciting.”
Of all the signatures covering the pole, no two are alike. Some are as simple as a name and a date, followed by “Go Sox.” Others celebrate love, their names encompassed by a Magic Marker heart.
Before the All-Star break, at the start of each season, and the start of the postseason, the pole is repainted in an effort to scrub the signatures clean. But it’s nearly impossible, as the old ones remain faded and fossilized under thick coats of paint, while new ones are added over and over.
Standing in the Pesky Pole area, there is a detectable air of uncertainty as fans contemplate whether to sign the pole.
Is somebody watching? Is it a punishable offense?
“I haven’t [signed it],” said Daniel Salgado, a fan who traveled to the game from Texas. “When every one comes here to Boston, they go to Pesky Pole. I don’t know if I can sign it or not.
“I want to. But I don’t want to spend the night somewhere else except my motel.”
Signing the pole is, in fact, classified as tagging, and can end with one spending the night in jail. But most often, those caught are simply reprimanded.
Paul Williams, a facility worker and former grounds crew member, is irked when fans sign it.
“You don’t go to a museum and sign a dinosaur bone, right?” Williams said.
A ceremony was held at Fenway Park last September for Pesky, who died Aug. 13, 2012 at 93. Players past and present signed the pole in remembrance of Pesky.
Williams is most bothered by fan signatures on the fair territory side of the pole, which covers the extraordinary player signatures from the September ceremony.
But for many, signing Pesky Pole is an innocent act, not one intended to disrespect the Red Sox legend.
“You have Pesky Pole, the Ted Williams chair, the Green Monster, things that are original to this ballpark,” said 22-year-old Garrett Hickey, who has signed the pole three times. “Obviously, it’s even better to say my name is on that and is going to be on it until this park is gone, which is hopefully never.”Anthony Gulizia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gulizia_a.