Whack! A baseball rockets off the bat at 110 miles per hour and ricochets off the Green Monster, leaving an anonymous dent.
It could be 38 years ago or it could be yesterday. Either way, there’s baseball history imprinted all over the left field wall at Fenway Park. When the sunlight strikes it just right, it reappears like ghosts of doubles past.
We’ll never know if it was a Yastrzemski liner, or one by Boggs, Pedroia, Nomar, Cabrera, Trout, Jeter or any other player who has visited Fenway since 1976 when the old tin wall was dismantled and a new Formica-type one was installed.
Ask any Red Sox player past or present how many dents there are in The Wall and the numbers vary wildly from 850 (Jonny Gomes) to 10 million (Dustin Pedroia).
Nobody knows. Nobody has tried to accurately count the dents — until now.
While the team was on the road, The Globe rented a two-man telescopic boom lift and attempted to hand-count the entire 231-foot-long wall.
The Globe also shot a series of photos and sent them to ImageGraphicsVideo, a Silicon Valley company that uses imaging software designed by Dynamic Ventures Inc.
Reaction to the project was enthusiastic but skeptical.
“How are you going to find all those dents?” wondered Pedro Martinez aloud.
The Rocket was also initially suspicious. “Oh, you got no chance,” said Roger Clemens.
Many current Sox players pronounced themselves eager to know the final tally, but considered the task impossible.
What about dents on top of dents, some wondered? Or the balls that hit the scoreboard? Or scuff marks left by balls, sometimes with the seams imprinted on the wall and “Rawlings” written backward? Do those count?
Yes, they were told. Everything counts.
Big Papi smiled when asked how many dents are up there on that famous wall, when we told him of our quest.
“On the Green Monster?” said David Ortiz, his eyes getting big, like when he sees a fat pitch. “Oh, you all are going to go crazy.”
Nomar was thinking the counting team would soon be saying: enough already.
“Oh, my God,” said Garciaparra, whose guess was a uniform 5,555. “When you get up close it looks just like a golf ball. . . . You wondered, whose dent was that?”
Maybe the groundskeeper knows how many dents there are in The Wall? Dave Mellor winces at the question.
“Those are called dimples, they’re not called dents because of Bucky Effin’ Dent,” said Mellor. Dent hit a pop fly home run into the left field net in a one game playoff to win the 1978 American League East for the Yankees.
But virtually everything has changed since the Seventies. Unlike today, The Wall in 1976 had no advertising on it.
Yastrzemski still leads the Sox in doubles at Fenway. He had mastered left field in front of the pock-marked pre-1976 wall like no other mortal.
“The old wall was tin and had all those rivets,” recalled Yaz. “So if the ball hit those rivets, which it did quite a lot, it could go either left or right on you. It wouldn’t come straight back to you.”
The Wall was his protector.
“I used to deke hitters. If they hit a ball I used to go back and if I knew it was going to hit the Wall, I’d make believe I was under it and going to catch it. If there was a runner on first base, he’s holding. You’d keep him at second base.”
Asked to guess the number of dents, he asked the reporter to get a calculator.
“Geez and you’re just counting the new wall?” he said. “Let’s see — BP (batting practice), probably would get hit by both the teams probably 100 times. In a game, 10 times. 210 x 81. Multiply that out (646,380).”
Yaz isn’t done.
“A lot of times a high fly ball that scrapes the wall, it’s not going to make a dent,” he observed. “I’ll bring it down to 400,000.”
Pedroia thinks that number is low.
“I’m gonna say, 10 million. I’ll bet you there’s 3-400 a day with BP and all.”
During batting practice before a recent game against the Astros, there were 129 balls hit off The Wall.
New left fielder Yoenis Cespedes still hasn’t had a chance to practice fielding Wall ball fungoes. But he has done some research.
“I’ve made various inquiries to how many there could possibly be and I’m going to go with 100,000,” he said through an interpreter.
The number of tiny craters on the Wall also intrigued visiting players.
Derek Jeter thought long and hard before he finally answered. “15,000,” he said. “Even.”
This year’s All-Star Game MVP, Mike Trout of the Angels, guessed “a bunch,” then shrugged and said “5 million.”
“I’ve hit it a couple of times . . . it feels good.”
After the recent Red Sox Hall of Fame ceremony, Clemens and his sons Koby and Kacy huddled together over an iPhone to do some math.
“It’s mostly BP and that’s got to be 100 a game,” said Clemens. Then the Rocket misfired. “Times 162 games.”
Uh, 81 home games.
“Right,” he said.
There was more deliberation between father and sons.
“300,000,” they collectively said, then the Rocket adjusted their estimate down to 195,000.
Ten minutes later he was on the mound throwing batting practice to his kids in the twilight of his career.
“Where do you want it?” he asked Koby, who crushed the ball against the Green Monster.
Clemens smiled. His boys had just added several new dents.
The Rocket count turned out to be the closest of all the players.
Dynamic Ventures counted 164,630 dents using multiple algorithms to detect density, radius, size, and depth of the dimples. Some spots had been hit at least six times, they said.
“That is conservative,” said Vlad Avanu, software development project manager “It cannot be 100% accurate for sure.”
The Globe’s low-tech estimate is 211,044, which comes from hand counting 33 of the 116 2-foot-wide panels, and estimating the rest.
The bottom line is that Ortiz was right. Counting the dents in the wall is a crazy-making enterprise.