Fenway Park, New England's treasured temple of baseball, is officially 100 years old. Only Chicago's Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, can approach the bond of affection among a team, its fans and their park that is found at Fenway.
And with good reason. No other venue in sports can boast of such a history of victory and defeat, of triumph and suffering as that witnessed at Fenway.
That history began on April 20, 1912, with a victory over the New York Highlanders, the team that the following season would become the Yankees. That inaugural season would see the Red Sox win the World Series, a feat they would accomplish three more times that decade — although they would play the 1915 and 1916 World Series games in the larger capacity Braves Field.
After winning the 1918 World Series, owner Harry Frazee broke up the team in 1919, selling his stars to the highest bidders. Young Babe Ruth went to the Yankees and the Sox entered a bit of a dry spell. They wouldn't win another World Series for 86 years. The team didn't even have another winning season until 1934.
The decade of the 1930s saw owner Tom Yawkey begin to assemble a team that once again could challenge the Yankees. In 1938, slugger Jimmie Foxx blasted 50 homers and drove in 175 runs while hitting .349. That team home run record would stand until 2006 when David Ortiz hit 54.
By the 1940s, new names like Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Dom DiMaggio would grace the team. Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived, was the last player to hit above .400 with his .406 average in 1941. In a piece written for the New Yorker about Williams' last game on Sept. 28, 1960, John Updike called Fenway Park a "lyric little bandbox of a ballpark," a description that has endured to this day.
The 1960s saw the "Impossible Dream" team of Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Conigliaro, Rico Petrocelli, George Scott, Reggie Smith and Jim Lonborg make it to the World Series in 1967, only to lose, as in 1946, to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The 1970s brought the "Gold Dust Twins" — Fred Lynn and Jim Rice — to Fenway. They, along with fellow outfielder Dwight Evans, catcher Carlton Fisk and pitchers Luis Tiant and Bill Lee, led the Red Sox to the classic 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. When Fisk hit his barely fair home run to win Game 6, the seating capacity of Fenway Park must have magically expanded to nearly a million as, years later, virtually every New Englander claims he or she was there and witnessed the shot in person.
In 1986, the Red Sox lost a heartbreaking World Series to that other New York team, the Mets. The defeat snatched from the jaws of victory had everyone talking about a "Curse of the Bambino" — Babe Ruth controlling the team's fate from beyond the grave in revenge for his sale to the Yankees. In retrospect, Ruth's career in New York made him one of the most famous people in the world — so it's hard to imagine why the Babe was upset.
The late 1990s and early 2000s saw something unusual for Fenway Park — stunning pitching delivered by Pedro Martinez. The diminutive Dominican posted incredible numbers in what has always been a hitter's ballpark.
And in 2004, Martinez, along with Curt Schilling, Manny Ramirez, Ortiz, Kevin Millar, Johnny Damon and the rest of "The Idiots" rallied from a 3-0 game deficit against the Yankees to win the pennant, then went on to sweep the Cardinals for their first World Series win in 86 years. They would win another in 2007.
That's a history many baseball fans only dream about. For Red Sox fans here in New England, it's our birthright. And it's the reason Fenway Park will always be dear to our hearts.