The wall is so important to the sustaining popularity that Red Sox General Manager Dick O'Connell has even suggested that if Boston ever does build one of those 55,000-seat all-purpose municipal stadiums, a similar left-field wall should be constructed. This is a very sentimental thought, but, of course, the wall at Fenway could not be duplicated, especially since standardized baseball rules would require it to be at least 330 feet away. This would be like rebuilding the Titanic perfectly in every detail except that it would have watertight compartments that really worked.
Pitchers have long called the Fenway wall "the Green Death." Others who use that epithet are football owners. The wall does nothing for football. Neither does the stadium as a whole, and sage Hub Men for generations have avoided football games at Fenway. Only rarely has a football game there managed to capture their fancy.
One such occasion happened in the mid-'30s, when George Preston Marshall's Boston Redskins played a key contest there. Standing at the top of Fenway an hour or so before kickoff, Marshall looked out with surprise toward a huge traffic jam at Kenmore Square.
"Where are all those cars going?" he asked a newspaperman standing with him. "What do you mean?" the writer said. "They're coming to the game."
Dumfounded at this turn of events, Marshall recovered quickly enough to rush downstairs and raise all the ticket prices. Unfortunately for him, the writer described Marshall's perfidy in his paper the next day, and the ensuing reaction never really subsided.
The Redskins left for Washington, the Yanks lasted only five seasons and the Patriots fell, or were pushed, out of Fenway after the '68 season. In a numbing bow to imagery, the Patriots' offices are still located within the very shadow of the left-field wall, but the team found a stopgap playing home last fall at Boston College stadium in the suburb of Newton. Sullivan, whose fuel company supplies the archdiocese, managed this by skirting the BC athletic department and going farther up in the church/school hierarchy. His team and the fans so enraged BC and the surrounding community, however, that the Patriots could not get back in again even if they wanted to.
Sullivan, who is characterized in Boston as being so charming that "he could talk a dog off a meat wagon," was a fuel company executive and one of the 10 men who put up $25,000 each for the Patriots. Soon Sullivan was spokesman for the group, then president of the Patriots, president of the AFL and head of the Boston stadium commission. That was his big mistake; even in Boston they could smell conflict of interest there, and Sullivan has never been permitted to live it down. "It has been a terribly upsetting thing for me and my whole family," he says.
Sullivan wanted to get his team into the Harvard Stadium, but he annoyed the Harvards by doing all his negotiating in the newspapers. By the time last December that Sullivan finally got around to officially approaching the college, he had apparently lost any chance.
Harvard formally turned the Patriots down on Jan. 26, and then a couple of months later the City Council voted 7-2 to reject yet another proposal that had been suggested by Bill Veeck. This called for construction of a stadium in the Neponset section of Dorchester with moneys derived from extra racing days that would go to Suffolk.
"I never figured I would get involved," Veeck says. "I thought Harvard would surely take them in. How could the pitty-pat of professional feet seven times a year manage to desecrate Fair Harvard?"