Friday, April 18, 2008

Boston ball grounds - 1912 (panorama #3), 9/28/12 (LOC)

This is part of a panoramic series of pictures of brand-new Fenway Park in Boston in 1912. It's from a glass-plate negative taken by an unidentified photographer for the Bain News Service -- possibly George Grantham Bain himself, I wouldn't know. The Library of Congress has it up on their Flickr page.

This particular view shows the left field bleachers, the little jog next to them, and the famous Green Monster, the biggest wall in baseball, in the days before it was green; it's covered with advertisements.

The bizarre thing about this is the six or seven rows of seats in front of the wall. These must have been insanely dangerous, being closer than 300 feet to the plate (the wall is 304 feet, whatever lie the Red Sox are telling these days), and well within right-handed line drive range.

I'm guessing that's why these seats were removed. I've never seen or heard of them before. Left field at Fenway in front of the wall is famous not for seats but for "Duffy's Cliff", a slope of grass running up to the wall, an unprecedented (and never repeated) ballpark feature that confused and tumbled opposing fielders until 1934 when it was leveled. Duffy Lewis, the master of climbing this mountain, was the left side of Boston's incredible outfield of the teens.

There's a shot of his centerfielder Tris Speaker right after this in the series; Speaker is seriously on the short list of possibly greatest players ever -- a hitter comparable to Ty Cobb, and arguably the greatest defensive centerfielder ever (though I'll argue for Gary Pettis, a player I've actually seen).

There's no better place to watch a baseball game than Fenway Park. I know Safeco Field and all the modern parks have the brick and retro gewgaws that make numbskull traditionalists swoon, plus all the modern amenities like adequate toilets and edible food (or so they claim), but there's nothing like sitting in a hundred-year-old park and seeing the mound that Babe Ruth pitched off of and the grass Speaker and Ted Williams patrolled.

Unlike modern stadiums, the "rake" or angle of the stands is sharp, which raises the fans up but keeps them close. The views at Fenway are incomparable; you simply cannot get that close in a modern ballpark. For comparison, the closest row of seats in New Comiskey ballpark in Chicago is further away from the action than the furthest row at Old Comiskey, built in the same era as Fenway here.

On the downside, all the seats in the right field stands face not towards the plate but towards the field, resulting in about 10,000 cricks in 10,000 necks on a typical day, but hey, you can't have everything. The atmosphere is worth it.


heywhatsit said...

Actually, Minute Maid Park in Houston has an incline named Tal's Hill. Any idea how big the incline was at Duffy's Cliff?

Fnarf said...

I assume it was about the size of that bleacher out there -- short and steep, I know.

Martin said...

1) In the dead ball era, 300 ft from the plate was pretty damn far. Home runs were generally cases where the ball was hit to the gap and just rolled, and rolled, and rolled. The Huntington Ave. Gnds, precursor to Fenway, was 635(!) to center.

2) Comiskey Park: I assume you mean "upper deck seats".

emmylou said...

Fenway is the shit. Not to mention, it's still considered in the nice part of town which does good things for my psyche on game days. Probably because I don't own a hummer or have to fight traffic, but it's nice to see all the kiddies walk by.

I think you should check out the further/farther distinction though. I won't say anything terribly prickish, but metaphorical distances = further, actual distances = farther. I only mention it because you seem to love details so much...

ally. said...

i've never been to baseball but when i do i'll go there. its wp kinsellas fault.