After this weekend’s brutal opening series in Detroit, Red Sox fans like myself are in need of some sort of escape. I’m going to retreat my good ol’ safe place: history.
Now, in case you might not have heard, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of Fenway Park. (Oh, did you hear the Titanic went down 100 years ago, too?) Most of the commemoration is focused on celebrating the events of April 20, 1912, when the Red Sox took on the New York Highlanders (soon to be Yankees) in Fenway Park’s first major league game.
But that was not the first time that the Red Sox took to Fenway’s emerald diamond to play a game. Fenway Park was actually baptized as Boston’s baseball cathedral 100 years ago today–on April 9, 1912. The weather was better suited for football rather than baseball when the Red Sox took on a squad from Harvard University in an exhibition game. Snow flurries danced in the air as the hard-core fans entered into a still-unfinished ballpark. Even though it was the first chance that many Boston “cranks” (as baseball fans were called in those days) had to check out the state-of-the-art baseball stadium, the weather was so raw that it helped to keep the attendance to only 3,000. According to the Boston Herald, the sparse crowd “rattled around like a squadron of lima beans in a number eight hat.”
The Red Sox had arrived back in Boston late the prior night from Cincinnati, but they still fielded most of their regulars. At 3:30 p.m., third baseman and Harvard sophomore Dana Joseph Paine Wingate stepped up to the plate and into the history books as Fenway’s first batter. Red Sox pitcher Casey Hageman promptly fanned Wingate for the first of his nine strikeouts. In the bottom of the first inning, Boston second baseman Steve Yerkes followed with a single to right for Fenway’s first hit.
After setting down Harvard in order in the second inning, Hageman singled home shortstop Marty Krug to score Fenway’s first run. The Boston pitcher kept the Harvard batters at bay all afternoon. The Crimson managed just one hit before the game was called after Harvard batted in the seventh inning. The Red Sox won 2-0.
To commemorate the centennial, the Harvard baseball team will be taking batting practice at Fenway Park today. Not exactly the blowout planned for April 20. Once again the events of April 9 are being lost in the cobwebs of history.
If you’re interested in reading more about Fenway Park’s first pitch, check out my article about the game in Harvard Magazine. And hopefully, after washing my eyes out, I can get back to watching the Red Sox soon.
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.