We’re less than a week away from celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first major league baseball game at Fenway Park. With the Red Sox struggling mightily out of the gate (again), it might be better to think about past glories at Fenway Park.
The most famous player to ever don a baseball uniform made his big-league debut at Fenway Park. Babe Ruth first played in the major leagues as a member of the Boston Red Sox on July 11, 1914. Ruth’s pitching prowess, maybe more so than his bat, helped the Red Sox capture three World Series titles, the last famously in 1918.
Of course, Ruth was famously sold to the New York Yankees after the 1919 season, and the Red Sox wandered in the baseball desert of title-less seasons for 86 years. (The common storyline is that Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to help finance the musical No, No, Nanette. Did you know that Frazee also tried to roll-out a sequel, Yes, Yes, Yvette? That musical bombed as badly as the fried chicken n’ beer the Red Sox did last September.)
For years, the futility and tragedy of the Red Sox was blamed on the “Curse of the Bambino.” But if there was a curse, a blood sacrifice at Fenway Park may have broken it. During an August 31, 2004, game at Fenway, as the Red Sox floundered many games behind the Yankees, a Manny Ramirez foul ball screamed into the stands down the right field line. Sixteen-year-old Lee Gavin stretched out his hands to catch the ball but it instead caught him square in the face, knocking out his two front teeth and sending the bloodied fan into the back of an ambulance to receive treatment. So what, you ask? Well, amazingly Gavin lived in Ruth’s old farmhouse in Sudbury, and weeks later the Red Sox completed their epic comeback from 3-0 down against the Yankees and won their first World Series since Ruth was sold to New York. Weird.
Check out this great shot of Ruth from the collection of the Boston Public Library. No, Babe’s not being carted around after one of his legendary nights on the town. He was legitimately hurt and being carried off Fenway’s turf by the Yankee trainer and his teammates. No word on whether he or Gavin got the worst of it.
Interested in learning more about the history of Fenway Park? Tune into 89.7 WGBH’s The Callie Crossley Show on April 19th at 1 p.m. to hear Chris discuss the park’s storied past.
Christopher Klein is the author of The Die-Hard Sports Fan’s Guide to Boston and Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands: A Guide to the City’s Hidden Shores. He is a regular contributor to the travel pages of The Boston Globe, and his articles and photographs have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, The Boston Globe Magazine, New England Travel, GO Magazine, AAA Horizons, Smithsonian.com, AmericanHeritage.com, and ESPN.com.