From Wiffle Ball in the alley to fireworks at the Derby
Posted: Tuesday July 13, 1999 02:10 AM
CNNSI.com's Bryan Boyle was on-site in Boston. He filed his impressions of the atmosphere at Fenway Park during the runup to the Home Run Derby.
MAIN CONCOURSE, FENWAY PARK [7:45 PM]-- Batting practice is nearing a close. Folks in the concourse scurry for the final Fenway Franks, cups of chowder and beer, and drags from cigarettes before settling in.
The Home Run Derby is about to begin.
Enjoy the fireworks.
Down in front, knucklehead
DIRECTLY BEHIND HOME PLATE SCREEN -- I wiggle into position to watch Sammy Sosa take his final BP hacks. Before Sosa digs in, I hear, "Find your seat, knucklehead."
Instead, I find my way to the rail 15 rows back. Sosa uses his final swing to reach the netting over the Green Monster -- the only pitch I saw -- as an usher tugs my sleeve.
"I have to keep this [area] open," she says. "I know you are writing, but ..."
CANVAS ALLEY IS THE TUNNEL LEADING TO FOUL TERRITORY, FIRST-BASE LINE -- John Wetteland talks trash with a number of young participants from the Home Run Diamond Skills National Finals.
He's gone so far as to turn the tables, asking each youngster to sign an autograph underneath the bill of his Rangers cap.
Meanwhile, Fox Sports anchor Keith Olbermann ambles by with a caustic comment for a naysayer in the crowd. Olbermann cut the 8-year-old to pieces.
Save Fenway Park!
LANSDOWNE STREET, JUST OUTSIDE FENWAY PARK -- A contrast to the polished proposal of plans for a new Fenway Park conducted by MLB commish Bud Selig and Red Sox CEO John Harrington earlier Monday, a sweaty rally is staged half a block down Lansdowne Street.
Save Fenway Park! is the organization. This preservationist group's grass-roots rally reflects its interest: keeping the grass rooted at Fenway Park, a "national landmark attracting pilgrims from across the country and around the world."
"After this All-Star Game, that's it for the last real ballpark in America," says rallier Caroline Krause, whose great grandmother was at Opening Day -- in 1912, when the Red Sox first opened the ballpark.
That great grandmother lived until the age of 104, a Red Sox fan the whole time, Krause says. Which is why, along with attending her own first game at Fenway when she was 5 years old, Krause wants to see Fenway stay put.
"Once it's gone, it's gone," says Krause. "It happened at the [Boston] Garden. It's disgusting."
The group not only is rallying around the cause, but it also financing it. According to Krause, Save Fenway Park! has paid for a renowned architect to present Red Sox officials with viable renovation plans. When the team illustrated problems with the plan, Save Fenway Park! spent even more dough on a revision.
CORNER OF LANSDOWNE STREET and BROOKLINE AVENUE -- Outside the park and over the Green Monster, Cal Ripken Jr. is warmly welcomed as a steady flow of folks swing into Cask 'n Flagon Saloon, a Boston watering hole mainstay.
Only not for this trooper.
The first bouncer checked my ID.
The beefier one asked for 10 bucks.
"Exit to your left!"
TED WILLIAMS ROOM, MAIN CONCOURSE LEVEL -- Two months ago, the Red Sox announced their initial vision for a new ballpark that "preserves the Red Sox experience, provides fans with all the amenities of a modern facility and enables them to continue to field a competitive team." That means tearing down 87-year-old, tradition-rich, old-school, quirk-heavy, Babe-Ruth-first-pitched-here, mack-daddy Fenway Park, the oldest -- and the smallest -- ballpark in the majors.
A collection of roughly 100 media members -- newspaper, TV, radio and Internet alike -- wait anxiously for Selig and Harrington to explain such irreverent plans. Some of us wonder aloud who among us plans the first irreverent question.
In front of a dais, there's a model of the proposed ballpark. At stage left are artist renderings: one outside view, one inside view, one bird's-eye view.
After noting that the Red Sox have an "extensive outreach plan" to brief the community of the their proposal and "owe a great debt of gratitude to Camden Yards" regarding initiative and design, Harrington lays down the law, then lets down his guard.
The Red Sox have "studied renovation," they're "maxed out" on the renovation at Fenway, says Harrington. Then he chokes up.
"We're facing the future with our hearts in our hands," says Harrington. "And it's time to move on."
Selig takes the mike, stating that the new park is the only way the Red Sox can "generate revenue" to be successful in the competitive AL East. Then he drums away: "Renovation is not economically feasible," says Selig. Again. And again. ... And I begin the think of the drum set and other instruments I saw from the bleachers in one bullpen in right field. Somebody said something about some band named "Smash Mouth."
SETION 41, ROW 50, SEAT 14 -- The view is from the back row of the bleachers in right field, directly below the "S" in the Dunkin' Donuts advertisement.
The crowd, first allowed in the ballpark at 4 p.m., begins to occupy seats. Only a few minutes after opening the gates, nearly half the standing room just behind the home run fences is occupied by fans thinking long ball souvenirs for the AL and NL batting practices and, of course, the Home Run Derby.
But for now, fans cheer on the Diamond Skills National Finals, featuring 8- to 14-year-olds in a competition similar to the NFL's Punt, Pass & Kick.
Each of the whipper-snappers are introduced over the PA system and takes a stand between first and second base. I swear I can see the toothy grins from here.
A glance away from beaming children and to the right reveals the Green Monster and the American flag, both, it seems, to perhaps come into play in Monday evening's Home Run Derby. The flag is suspended by a breeze blowing steady -- out to right field.
YAWKEY WAY -- It's dueling vendors.
One young man roams a corner outside Fenway advertising All-Star magazine.
"Get your All-Star Magazine! Only five bucks here!" yells the roamer.
Before his voice trails, the vendor at the booth hollers, "Get your official program here, folks!"
ROAMER: "Get your All-Star Magazine, five bucks cheaper than inside!"
BOOTH MAN: "Here's the official major league baseball program."
ROAMER: "AL rosters, NL rosters, scorecard, home run contest. Get your All-Star Magazine here, only five bucks."
BOOTH MAN: "Get your official program here, folks."
Though they echo each other, so to speak, they never once acknowledge each other.
EN ROUTE TO FENWAY PARK -- Two folks costumed as foamy cans of Coors Light hand out free placards that read: "HOME RUN! Coors Light." They're a hit. Nearly everybody's carting one around.
Not too far away, a pair of teenagers sit on the curb by a fire hydrant. They munch feverishly on Italian sausages. Norman Rockwell should see this.In an alley just two blocks from Fenway Park, three grown men play Wiffle Ball.
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