For baseball fans a trip to Fenway Park is a religious pilgrimage. The Boston Red Sox have played here since 1912. The oldest Major League Baseball ballpark is one of the last of its kind, a place where the scoreboard is hand-operated and fans endure uncomfortable seats.
For much of the ballpark’s history Babe Ruth’s specter loomed large. The team won five titles by 1918 but endured an 86-year title drought after trading away the Sultan of Swat. It wasn’t enough to lose; the team vexed generations of fans with late-season collapses and post-season bungles. The Sox "reversed the curse" in 2004, defeating the rival Yanks in the American League Championship Series after being down 3–0 in the series (an unheard of comeback in baseball) and sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The Red Sox won it all again in 2007, against the Colorado Rockies, and yet again against the Cardinals in 2013, the first time since 1918 that the team cinched the series in its hometown. The curse is no more.
A lone red seat in the right-field bleachers marks the spot where Ted Williams’ 502-foot shot—the longest measurable home run hit inside Fenway Park—landed on June 9, 1946.
The Sports Guy
For a glimpse into the psyche of a Red Sox fan read Bill Simmon's book Now I can Die in Peace.
The Red Sox have the most rabid fans in baseball. Knowledgeable and dedicated, they follow the team with religious-like intensity. Red Sox Nation has grown in recent years, much to the chagrin of diehards. You may hear the term "pink hat" used to derisively tag someone who is a bandwagon fan (i.e., anyone who didn’t suffer with the rest of the "nation" during the title drought).
Fenway’s most dominant feature is the 37-foot-high "Green Monster," the wall that looms over left field. It’s just over 300 feet from home plate and in the field of play, so deep fly balls that would have been outs in other parks sometimes become home runs. The Monster also stops line drives that would have been over the walls of other stadiums, but runners can often leg these hits out into doubles (since balls are difficult to field after they ricochet off the wall).
Fans sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th-inning stretch in every ballpark; but at Fenway, they also sing Neil Diamond’s "Sweet Caroline" at the bottom of the 8th. If the Sox win, the Standell’s "Dirty Water" blasts over the loudspeakers at the end of the game.
In 1920 the Red Sox traded pitcher Babe Ruth to the Yankees, where he became a home-run-hitting baseball legend. Some fans—most famously Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, who wrote a book called The Curse of the Bambino—blamed this move for the team’s 86-year title drought, but others will claim that "The Curse" was just a media-driven storyline used to explain the team’s past woes. Still, fans who watched a ground ball roll between Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 World Series or saw Aaron Boone’s winning home run in the 2003 American League Division Series swear the curse was real.
Visit the Nation
Not lucky enough to nab tickets ahead of time? Try your luck at Gate E two hours before the game, when a handful of tickets are sold. There’s a one-ticket limit, so everyone in your party must be in line.
If that doesn’t yield results, you can still experience the Nation. Head down to the park and hang out on Yawkey Way, which borders the stadium. On game days it’s closed to cars and filled with vendors, creating a street-fair atmosphere. Duck into a nearby sports bar and enjoy the game with other fans who weren’t fortunate enough to secure seats. A favorite is the Cask’n Flagon, at Brookline Avenue and Lansdowne Street, across the street from Fenway.
The closest you can get to Fenway without buying a ticket is the Bleacher Bar (82A Lansdowne St.), which actually has a huge window in the center field wall overlooking the field. If you want to see a game from this unique vantage point, get here early—it starts filling up a few hours before game time.