Saul Wisnia: Talking 100 years of Red Sox baseball
Author Saul Wisnia, who penned ‘Fenway Park: The Centennial’ dishes with Metro on the past century of ‘America’s Most Beloved Ballpark.’
What led to you to writing this book?
I am a Boston native, grew up in Newton, and have lived less than 10 miles from the park for most of my life. I know as a fact that I was exactly 5.79 miles at one spot I lived at. The park has really just always been a big part of my life.
What is it that makes Fenway so special compared to other, newer ballparks?
Unlike some of the cookie cutters of the 50s and 60s and a lot of the new parks is that it genuinely feels retro. And it’s a real home. It’s in the middle of the city. At Dodger Stadium you’re surrounded by parking lots. But here you can walk up Brookline Avenue and you’re there.
At what point(s) were the powers that be close to tearing it down?
There were two major points. In the early to mid-60s, [Tom] Yawkey was quoted as saying he wanted to move it. You have to remember, Fenway wasn’t considered a jewel back then. It was considered a place that was becoming run-down. The Red Sox also went through a poor period on the field during this time. The fans stopped coming out. There were only 1,247 fans there when Dave Morehead threw his no-hitter. The 1967 season saved it and then its status grew in 1975.
In the ’90s it was the same thing. The team wasn’t doing well and there was talk of tearing it down. If the old ownership under [John] Harrington had stayed, it would have come down.
Why was the ballpark designed the way it was?
The Red Sox originally played at the Huntington Avenue grounds where Northeastern is now. Around 1910 that ballpark was going down and the Taylor family, who were big real estate guys at the time owned the land at Fenway. They wanted to keep much of the same design of the Huntington Avenue grounds.
Talk about some of the best stories you heard while writing this book.
Rich Gedman, a local kid, was playing in his first major league game at Fenway and all these kids were yelling at him. He was taken aback by this but then he realized that for some reason they weren’t saying his name. He goes over to the group that was yelling and realizes that the Red Sox had the wrong name listed for him. It was a very humbling moment, I guess.
There’s the guy who sells peanuts on the corner of Yawkey Way and his father and grandfather did the same. It’s the same cart and everything.
There was the Yankees fan that bought Monster seats so he could sit as close as he could possibly come to being in the spot where Bucky Dent had hit his home run in ’78 exactly 32 years earlier.
For more on Saul Wisnia’s book, “Fenway Park: The Centennial,” please visit saulwisnia.blogspot.com.