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A LYRIC TO THE LITTLE BANDBOX
STEVE RUSHIN
April 23, 2012
From the moment it opened in April 1912, Fenway Park has been a muse for poets and a monster for pitchers and modernists. What, you never thought it would see its 100th birthday? It might have 100 more
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April 23, 2012

A Lyric To The Little Bandbox

From the moment it opened in April 1912, Fenway Park has been a muse for poets and a monster for pitchers and modernists. What, you never thought it would see its 100th birthday? It might have 100 more

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By the late 1980s, the Sox planned a $50 million "revitalization" of Fenway that included a five-deck parking garage. Fenway, built four years after the introduction of the Model T, never had a place to put the auto-mobile. More than an ancient joke, "Pahk the cah in Hahvad Yahd" was sound advice for anyone foolish enough to drive to Fenway Park.

And so the Sox spent the final decade of the 20th century trying with renewed vigor to kill this ancient creature. There was the proposed "Megaplex," a sports-and-convention center on Northern Avenue. There were various plans to build a new park next to Fenway (and a new Pats stadium next to that) with parking for both suspended above the Massachusetts Turnpike. In 1995 two Cambridge architects proposed putting not the parking garage but the new ballpark itself above the Mass Pike, evidently on the grounds that if you couldn't drive to a Red Sox game, you could at least drive under one.

The team had by then decided that renovating Fenway was inadequate. There would be no Band-Aids on Updike's bandbox. The team announced its intention in 1995 to have a new home by that futuristic year of 2001. Harrington told a state commission that Fenway would remain structurally sound only until '05 or so, but was already "economically obsolete," rendering the team unable to compete with his luxury-boxed brethren in the Bronx and elsewhere.

And so a new stadium site was being pushed, in South Boston, to be developed by a Boston real estate magnate. That project died, like all those before it, in a thicket of politics, red tape and residential opposition, and the thwarted developer would go on to buy the Dodgers. Frank McCourt proceeded to plunge that franchise into bankruptcy, suggesting that Fenway had dodged a bullet, a silver bullet, as the ballpark was by now a horror-movie monster—apparently immortal but almost certain to die in the final reel.

One thing was certain: The new Fenway Park—whatever it was, wherever it was—would not be called Fenway Park but something more remunerative. "If AT&T or New England Telephone want to pay $50 million and name the park after them," a Sox executive told the Globe in 1996, "tell 'em to come talk."

The 1999 All-Star Game, then, seemed a farewell to Fenway. The latest $300 million park being proposed on 14 acres adjacent to the ballpark was to have the Green Monster transplanted into it and the brickwork facade transplanted onto it, creating a Frankenstein's monster of old and new.

The stake was on the heart, and the mallet was being raised when, in December 2001, John Henry and Tom Werner bought the Red Sox and set about straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They at once renovated the park and the team, neither of which had seen a world championship since the fall of 1918, when Frazee celebrated by making that first fumbling attempt to flee Fenway.

You know the rest of the story: How the Sox, in 2004, with a ritual shedding of blood, finally won the World Series again based in a revamped—a revampired?—Fenway Park. The victory came as a great relief to countless fans, among them Stephen King, the most renowned horror novelist since Bram Stoker, to whom he is tied not just through genre but through Fenway, a monster every bit as unkillable as any other conjured by man.

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