All-Stars ready to say goodbye to Fenway Park
Posted: Friday July 09, 1999 12:45 PM
BOSTON (AP) -- Injured or not, Tony Gwynn will make the cross-country trip to the All-Star game just so he can shag flies at Fenway Park for the first time in his career.
He'll get here just in time.
The oldest park in baseball is due for demolition. Although the Red Sox are still working on plans for a replacement, and community groups are fighting those plans, it's safe to say that the last All-Star game of the century will be the last one at Fenway as well.
"I'll go to the workout, you know, take some balls off the Green Monster, just for my own sake" said Gwynn, a career Padre who has played in Tiger Stadium and Yankee Stadium in the World Series but has never played in Fenway.
"You're honored to be able to go and be voted in by the fans," said Gwynn, who's nursing a strained left calf. "But this time, I can't."
Gwynn, who earned his 11th starting All-Star spot and his 15th overall, will sit in the dugout and watch as NL teammates like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa fire away at the Green Monster, the 37-foot high left-field wall that stands a tantalizing 310 feet away from home plate. For lefties like Ken Griffey Jr., there's Pesky's Pole -- just 302 feet down the line in right before the wall juts out to the bullpens.
But even if no one homers -- there was only one in the last All-Star game here, in 1961 -- the hometown fans will have something to cheer about: Two Red Sox players will start for the American League, the first time that's happened since 1986.
Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra was voted in by the fans in a tight and controversial election over the Yankees' Derek Jeter, who will suit up as a reserve. And Pedro Martinez, who has a 15-3 record and 2.10 ERA, will be the AL's starting pitcher.
The AL starting lineup will also include catcher Ivan Rodriguez, first baseman Jim Thome, second baseman Roberto Alomar, third baseman Cal Ripken Jr., outfielders Griffey, Manny Ramirez and Kenny Lofton and designated hitter Jose Canseco.
In addition to McGwire and Sosa, starting for the NL will be catcher Mike Piazza, second baseman Jay Bell, third baseman Matt Williams, shortstop Barry Larkin and outfielder Larry Walker. Gwynn's replacement won't be picked until closer to game time.
Although Gwynn has never been to the ballpark that opened in 1912, the same day as Tiger Stadium and the same week in which the Titanic sunk, McGwire and Sosa played there during their American League days.
In 55 games at Fenway while with the Oakland A's, McGwire hit 18 home runs and 42 RBIs to go with his .260 batting average. Sosa, who played with the White Sox and Rangers before he emerged as a top power hitter, hit just one homer while batting .227 in 44 career at-bats at Fenway.
This game had been scheduled for Milwaukee, but it was moved to Boston when the opening of the Brewers' new field was delayed. The Red Sox had been hoping to host an All-Star game at their own new ballpark, penciled in just across the street, but they're still so far back in the planning stages that they couldn't be sure when that would be.
So that means baseball's stars will get a chance to see Fenway.
And say goodbye.
"It's going to be fun for me to sit in that dugout for the first time," said NL backup first baseman Jeff Bagwell, who played in Fenway once -- in a college all-star game the same day he was drafted by the Red Sox. He was traded while still in the minors, before he ever got a chance to play for his hometown team.
"I think when they traded me, the emotion of the business kind of went out of me. I learned at a young age that baseball is a business and you just never know," he said. "After I got traded away, my feelings kind of got lost there."
True, not everyone is sentimental about the old ballpark.
Ted Williams said he "won't shed a tear" when Fenway is replaced. And, when he was still putting on his uniform in Fenway's home clubhouse, first baseman Mo Vaughn regularly implored the team to "blow it up."
Most players, like Vaughn, are more concerned about amenities such as weight rooms and indoor batting cages. Fans want efficient concession stands, good sight-lines and plentiful bathrooms. Owners say these things are necessary to make the money needed to produce the revenue.
Noting the lack of championship pennants fluttering above Fenway's leaky roof, Vaughn acknowledged that it might be time for Boston to join the modern era.
"People talk about tradition," he said. "But where are the flags?"
So, after a few days of cramming into Fenway's cramped clubhouses, you may hear more players join the chorus that's calling for a new ballpark on Yawkey Way.
"It's just like history. History is meant to be broken," said McGwire, who did a little of that last year. "And records are made to be broken, too."
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