BASEBALL CONNECTS TO THE PAST LIKE NO OTHER SPORT, AND FEW PLACES PROVIDE a richer connection than the old ball field at 4 Yawkey Way in Boston. In some sense Fenway Park is baseball ... and baseball is Fenway Park.
Yet when the venue hosted its first major league game, on April 20, 1912, the national pastime wasn't all that the $600,000 stadium was about to witness. Fenway was built as a ballpark, sure—and on that inaugural day the Red Sox beat the New York Highanders 7--6 before a standing-room crowd of 27,000—but the park would soon resound with more than Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
In 1914 alone Fenway hosted former president Theodore Roosevelt for a field day promoted by the Progressive Party; more than a dozen high school and college football games; and a circus featuring real, live elephants. The next year 15,000 people came to Fenway to honor soldiers who had died in the Spanish-American War 17 years earlier. In '18 twice as many turned out as the head of the Boston archdiocese, Cardinal William O'Connell, conducted a memorial Mass for those lost in World War I. A year later the future president of Ireland, Eamon De Valera, delivered an impassioned speech at Fenway advocating Irish independence.
Of course there was some baseball played at Fenway in those years—some very good baseball. The Red Sox won four World Series (1912, '15, '16 and '18), and the Boston Braves won the Series at the park in 1914, one of the four seasons during which the National League team played some of its games at Fenway. In fact by the time the Red Sox beat the Cubs four games to two in '18, winning Game 6 in Boston, it seemed as though an annual World Series title was something that the Fenway faithful could practically count on.