Today In History – Red Sox Name Becomes Official

17 December 2007 – On this day 100 years ago, the Red Sox’ team name becomes official in an announcement by club owner John I. Taylor. Before that, the team had no true identity other than that of being the American League representative in Boston; in fact, most teams of that era did not have true names other than what creative sportswriters deemed necessary to make good copy. Though Bill Nowlin has shown that the name most often used by columnists was either the “Bostons” or the “Americans” (and not the Pilgrims, as some historic references have falsely reported), the truth was that there was no official nickname used by the team.

So how was Red Sox chosen by Taylor? Following the 1907 season, the National League representative in Boston, managed by Fred Tenney, had switched from wearing red stockings to white on the belief by Tenney that the red dye would cause infection if a player was spiked in the course of action on the ball field. Taylor took note of this and decided to switch his team from wearing uniforms trimmed in pale blue to bright, fire-engine red, though it should be noted that the “Nationals” had worn a dark, deep red. He also took an old nickname that had been used for the NL club, the Red Stockings, and shortened it to simply Red Sox. To emphasize the name, on the center of the jersey, he had a large red sock shown with the name Boston in white letters. That design just lasted one season and the uniforms switched back to read as they had in 1907, with just the name Boston on the front of the jersey, but the name stuck with fans and the media long enough to become synonymous with the identity of the team.

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.