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THE SECOND LEVEL OF FENWAY IS HELD UP BY 26 poles, each 16 inches wide, spaced throughout sections 1 to 33 of the grandstand. On Memorial Day 1997, my first trip to Fenway, I became intimately acquainted with one of those poles. Back then, before Pedro and Big Papi, a college student without a lot of cash could score a decent ticket. A scalper offered me a single in the grandstand along the first base line for $20. It seemed a little too cheap, even then, but the Red Sox were a fourth-place team and Wil Cordero was their number 3 hitter. Splashing through the puddles inside the stadium, left over from a rainout the day before, I rejoiced at what I assumed was a bargain.
Then I found my seat, with a perfect view of the green grass, the Green Monster and the green pole 10 feet in front of my nose. I could see the mound fine, but I couldn't have made out the plate with a telescope. I did not witness Tim Wakefield's knuckler floating over the inside corner that day or Tim Naehring's double that beat the Brewers in the ninth. But I did get a nice close-up of peeling paint, which today's ballpark architects would call character.
The next day I started an internship at The Boston Globe, where I spent most of my time in the press box on the second level, buttressed by more of those very poles. After games I battled human traffic jams to the home clubhouse, where Cordero was peppered with questions about his domestic-abuse case and manager Jimy Williams about his foundering club. The Red Sox were not what the Red Sox are now. I probably could have gotten a decent ticket, with an unobstructed view, for $20. Today, that wouldn't even get me a glimpse of the 26 poles, each holding aloft its own piece of history.
By Brian Cazeneuve
I'LL ALWAYS REMEMBER SWOONING OVER MY COLLEGE sweetheart. She was the ballpark that opened the week the Titanic sank and had been known for breaking hearts ever since. Maybe I have a penchant for self-torture, but I confess that I, too, gave myself to her. I was a hardened New Yorker, transplanted not only to Boston University but also to Myles Standish Hall, the dorm located just a Butch Hobson throwing error from the Fenway Park bleachers.
Not only did I grow attached to the absurdity of Fenway's geometric angles that ate up centerfielders as if the warning track were the Bermuda Triangle, but I also knew a little secret: Security guards opened the bleacher gates after the seventh inning, and you could get in for free. I mean it was on my way to the library ... if you took the back way ... sort of. It didn't matter that I missed the first 19 strikeouts of Roger Clemens's masterpiece against Seattle in 1986; I saw the 20th. It was a week or two before finals, but the library had to wait as I sat amidst a rowdy bleacher crowd. A man next to me with K's written on placards was trying to borrow anything from sheets to white shirts on which to write the last few K's he was affixing to the green wall behind us. The last K, of Phil Bradley, he marked on the inside of a pizza box.
Though I never brought my books to Fenway, it seemed I often took Fenway to class. We once asked a French teacher how to say someone "hit a home run." She balked at the translation, but when asked what it would be to give up a home run, she came up with "mauvais sort," loosely translated, she said, as a "bad thing." For the rest of the semester I used the mnemonic "Calvin Schiraldi" for mauvais sort and never forgot the phrase.
Also that year one of my history professors compared the Irish potato famine to Boston's famished wait for a World Series. And if you were ever sent to one of Stalin's gulags, he said, it was probably worse than being demoted to Pawtucket.