Today In History – Fenway Park Officially Debuts

20 April 1912 – On this day one hundred years ago, the Boston Red Sox played their first game at Fenway Park, defeating the New York Highlanders (later to be named the Yankees) 7-6 in 11 innings.  It is often noted that the opening was overshadowed in Boston by a much bigger news story at the time: the recent sinking of the RMS Titanic, a British passenger ship, in the North Atlantic Ocean five days earlier.

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Today In History – Red Sox and Yankees Rivalry Debuts

07 May 1903 – On this day 104 years ago, at Huntington Avenue Grounds, Boston and New York meet for the first time in this storied rivalry as the home team wins over the visitors, 6-2. This was not the first time that the two franchises had played each other, however; in 1901, the future New York Yankees had debuted as the Baltimore Orioles and played for two seasons there before making the move to New York to become the Highlanders (New York would not adopt the Yankees name until 1913). Since 1903 through the 2006 season, New York holds a distinct advantage over Boston in terms of wins head-to-head, 1076 to 882, not including postseason play. Boston’s best season against New York came in 1912, the year in which the franchise won a record 105 games and the World Series, when the Red Sox won 19 of 21 meetings between the two clubs. Likewise, the Yankees’ best season against the Sox came in 1927, when Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the rest of Murderer’s Row took 18 of 22 against the Sox and also went on to win the World Series that fall.

Today In History – First Red Sox Patriots’ Day Game

19 April 1902 – One hundred five years ago today, the Boston American League franchise took the field at Huntington Avenue Grounds against the Baltimore Orioles (who would later become the New York Yankees) and rallied from three runs down in the ninth to win 7-6 in the first-ever Patriots’ Day home game in team history. The holiday in itself is observed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in honor of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War, fought on that date in 1775; since 1969, Patriots’ Day has been observed on the third Monday in April. The Red Sox have made it a tradition to play a game at Fenway Park on that date every year since 1960, not including scheduled off-days in 1965 and 1967 and games missed due to the players’ strike in 1995,[1] with the start time usually scheduled to coincide with that of the Boston Marathon, giving ticket holders a chance to watch the race at Kenmore Square following the game.

In 1902, however, the holiday was observed as it was every year until 1969 on 19 April; as it fell on a Saturday, Boston decided to take advantage of this opportunity and received permission from the league to open its season four days ahead of every other club in the American League. Records at Retrosheet show that Cy Young, who led the league in wins (33), ERA (1.62), and strikeouts (158) in 1901, was given the ball by manager Jimmy Collins to start the game for Boston, opposed by Tom Hughes, though it does not show who eventually won the game for the home team nor who scored the game-winning run. The following year, the team began the tradition of making the contest a morning baseball game; with a 10:00 AM start time, Boston defeated the Philadelphia Athletics, 9-4.[2]

[1],[2] Patriots’ Day and the Red Sox. Boston’s Pastime, retrieved on 18 April 2007.

Today In History – Fenway Park Opens

09 April 1912 – Ninety-five years ago today, Fenway Park hosts its first-ever baseball contest with the Boston Red Sox defeating the Harvard Crimson 2-0 in an exhibition contest amid snow flurries and near-freezing temperatures. Over the past eleven seasons, the Boston franchise had played each and every one of its home games at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, which had been hastily built between March and April of 1901 after the city had been awarded a franchise in the newly-minted American League. The original capacity of that park was 11,500 people and, as was typical of early ballparks built in urban settings, Huntington had some rather odd dimensions. To the left field foul pole, it was 350 feet; to left center, it was 440 feet. The right field foul pole was a mere 280 feet away, but to center field, a ball had to travel an impossible 530 feet to clear the fences. Oddly enough, when renovations were made in 1908, the center field fence was moved 635 feet from home plate![1]

In June of 1911, then-Red Sox owner John I Taylor announced plans to build a new ballpark in the Fenway section of Boston on a plot owned by the Fenway Realty company, of which the Taylors were substantial stockholders. The announcement came at a time when baseball was experiencing a building boom of new ballparks like Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Comisky Park in Chicago, and the Polo Grounds in New York. Ground was broken in September that same year on land that as recently as the late nineteenth century had been nothing more than a swampy saltwater marsh and the Red Sox played their last game at the old ballpark on 07 October, an 8-1 win over the Washington Senators.

The new ballpark was designed by Osborn Engineering with a capacity of 35,000 seats and construction was overseen by James McLaughlin; in total, the new ballpark cost $650,000 to build.[2] Following the exhibition win, Boston’s initial opener was suppose to take place on 18 April against New York, but steady rains for two straight days delayed the first regular season until 20 April, with the Red Sox defeating the Highlanders 7-6 in 11 innings. Under player-manager Jack Stahl, Boston would go on to win 105 games in 1912 and the World Series championship, besting the New York Giants four games to three.

[1], [2] Ballparks by Munsey and Suppes.