history repeating

Fenway Park: Old, tired, cramped, worn down, and as beloved as ever (by most)

Use the scroller on the images above of Fenway Park to see the park on April 20, 1912, left, and Yawkey Way on Oct. 19, 2013, right.

By Joseph P. Kahn | Globe Staff

Like a lakeside summer camp, Fenway Park is now closed for the season. It’s been quite the past couple of years at the Olde Ballyard. Fenway’s 100th anniversary celebration, in 2012, had everything but a reenactment of the Titanic disaster, followed closely by the sinking of the SS Bobby Valentine. Few called for the ballpark to be torn down at year’s end, just the team roster and maybe a section near the right-field corner.

This year, disgruntled fans ended the ballpark’s dubious “sellout” streak, and the crowds along Yawkey Way temporarily thinned. Robust or not, crowds like the one pictured above, before a playoff game against the Tigers, provide a striking contrast to the street scene outside (also pictured) when the park opened in 1912 with a Boston victory over the New York Highlanders.

Undaunted and unshaven, this year’s team battled their way to a World Series title. Mercy, as broadcaster Ned Martin used to say. Can you seat me now?

Success is bound to breed future sellouts. If Sox owners could fit more fannies atop the Green Monster, they probably would. Make that will.

For $7.3 million — $2.2 million less than Stephen Drew''s 2013 salary — the Boston Redevelopment Authority granted ownership permanent rights to (a) develop the air space over Lansdowne Street and (b) close off part of Yawkey Way on game days for commercial use. Those rights have already been exercised on a yearly basis. But bet your Xander Bogaerts jersey that no profit will go unturned under the new agreement.

In fact, Fenway and its immediate surroundings have been a work in progress — architecturally, commercially, sportingly — from the day the ballpark opened. Baseball may be its raison d’etre, but it has also hosted football, soccer, and hockey games; boxing and wrestling matches; political rallies; and pop, jazz, and rock concerts. To break an alleged curse, it even staged an exorcism, performed in 1992 by comedian Don Novello, a.k.a. Father Guido Sarducci.

The ballpark saw its first substantial renovation in 1933-34 under then-owner Tom Yawkey, who added a leftfield wall, scoreboard, and new grandstand area to the facility. By 1968, however, basking in the glow of the “Impossible Dream” year, Sox officials were openly clamoring for a new stadium. Like a Series title, it never happened on their watch.

Luxury suites were added in the ’80s, in yet another move to modernize and expand the ballyard. Nevertheless, by ’99 Sox ownership was again campaigning to build a new park, something along the lines of Camden Yards in Baltimore. A grass-roots Save Fenway Park movement helped squash that idea, possibly forever.

Enter John Henry, Tom Werner, and Larry Lucchino, who, along with architect Janet Marie Smith, created the Fenway we know today, with turnstiles on Yawkey Way, seats perched above the left-field wall, wider concourses, and adjoining real estate “redeployed to create greater value,” as Smith once put it.

Many fans still find Fenway and its surroundings hopelessly antiquated and wouldn’t mind seeing the park abandoned. All might agree, though, that no amenity beats the championship banners flying overhead, a fresh one to be raised next spring.

Joseph P. Kahn can be reached at