bob ryan

Flaws are part of Fenway Park’s charm

The seats are too small and some sightlines are poor, but the intimacy in the park can overcome those drawbacks

In this 2005 game, Carmen Roberts sat in a right-field seat that faces the bleachers.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
In this 2005 game, Carmen Roberts sat in a right-field seat that faces the bleachers.

This just in: Fenway Park was built in 1912. It has poles. Poles mean obstructed-view seats. Lots and lots of them. A few of those seats are planted directly behind massive girders.

It also has a roof over the main grandstand. A roof over the main grandstand means many people cannot do two important things, which one being more important depending on your point of view. These are 1. You can’t keep track of a ball in flight. 2. You may not be able to see the scoreboard. The former is an annoyance, well, just because. The latter is a shame because management has spent many millions of dollars on that scoreboard, not to mention the fact that the thing is actually pretty cool.

Having once owned four season tickets in Section 17, Row 17, Seats 26-29, I can tell you that not being able to see the ball in flight and not seeing the scoreboard do indeed detract from your ability to enjoy the game.


I have been going to games at Fenway since 1963 and I am here to tell you that if you have purchased a ticket to a game at Fenway, you need to be prepared for the experience. It may not be exactly what you’re expecting.

Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Many fans encounter obstructed views because of poles inside Fenway Park.
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Oops, almost forgot. If you’re sitting past first base down the right-field line, make sure your neck is in good working order. At the very least, make sure it turns comfortably to the left, because you are angled to look directly at the left-field wall, not home plate. If you choose not to turn your head to the left, your best bet to see the game may be on your iPad.

Finally, Fenway Park, built in 1912, was constructed for tiny people born in the 19th century. Judging from the space in between rows in the grandstand, perhaps one out of every several million Americans born in the 19th century was 6 feet tall. The rest had no trouble sitting in those seats. Those of us who have passed the 70-inch barrier (I’m 6-1) find our knees banging up against the seat in front. Angling oneself is a must.

But don’t get me wrong. There is no place else on earth where I’d rather see a baseball game, at least not since the team in Detroit stopped playing in Tiger Stadium (I still get weepy thinking about that place).

Of course, I can say that because when I go to Fenway, I will be viewing the game from either the press box or my own season tickets in Section 19. It makes a difference.


I had been going sporadically to Fenway since that first appearance in September of 1963, but it was the legendary summer of 1967 when I became a true Fenway aficionado.

My Fenway debut that season happened to be on Memorial Day. I invited my girlfriend Elaine Murray to join me in the bleachers for a doubleheader — a real doubleheader, not the abominable day-night horror — against the Cleveland Indians. The Red Sox swept the Tribe, 4-3 and 6-2, with George Scott’s homer winning the first game. I can still see it coming toward us. I still have that stub. The experience was well worth the dollar investment.

I would return 26 times that spring, summer, and early autumn, most of the time in the company of Elaine Murray. A majority of those visits were to the bleachers, but I did have a few tickets elsewhere, including a box seat, just to the left of the screen, purchased from a guy on the street the night of Aug. 18, which, as any historically minded Red Sox fans knows, was the night Tony Conigliaro was hit in the face by Jack Hamilton. I also got a foul ball off the bat of Jimmie Hall in the first inning. I can show it to you if you like.

But my absolute best move came late in July when, after getting paid for my summer job, I hustled down to Fenway on my lunch hour to buy a batch of tickets for upcoming games. I noticed that the Sox would be playing Minnesota on the final weekend, Sept. 30-Oct. 1. I said to myself, ‘‘That would be nice,’’ and purchased two box seats behind the screen slightly up the third base line for the Oct. 1 finale.

From Oct. 2, 1967: Red Sox clinch AL for first pennant in 21 years


I imagine that young people have grown tired of hearing about 1967, especially since the Red Sox they know have won the World Series twice. To them I say this: For those of us who lived through the extraordinary Summer of Yaz (and Lonnie and Boomer and Reggie and Rico, etc. etc.), being in Fenway Park on Oct. 1, 1967, was every bit as exhilarating an experience as anything we lived through in 2004 or 2007.

Elaine Murray, now Elaine Ryan, and I were there, sitting behind the screen in Section 22, Box 133, Seats 9 and 10. Yeah, that was pretty nice, all right.

Nowadays, I sit in Section 19, just on the edge of the screen. I wish the seat was a bit roomier, but when the game is good, you don’t even notice. Trust me on that.