date published: June19, 2006

Fenway Park Tours take visitors inside Boston’s baseball paradise
by Sarah Brickley
photography by Heidi Moesinger

Trying to purchase the best seats in the house for a Boston Red Sox game can be a pricey proposition. But getting a chance to explore Fenway Park, America’s most historic ballpark, up close actually costs less than a bleacher seat.

Every day of the week, rain or shine, hundreds of people flock to Yawkey Way to enjoy a Fenway Park Tour—a behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of the house that Ted Williams built. Some are dedicated baseball fanatics, for whom a trip to Fenway is something of a religious pilgrimage. Others start out with little knowledge of the sport or the park, but are soon swept away by the enthusiasm and excitement of their fellow patrons. “The people who come here are so passionate—everyone has a story about how baseball has touched them,” said 44-year-old Fenway tour guide Sandy Barber—a Red Sox fan since age 7 and a tour guide for the past three years—during a recent tour. “Adults, no matter how old they are, automatically turn into 14-year-old boys when they come here.”

From the Babe Ruth salad days of 1916–1918 and the Impossible Dream of 1967 to the World Series victory of 2004 and all the other exciting highs and implausible lows in Red Sox lore, Fenway Park has been home to some of the most dynamic players and memorable moments in sports history. The hourly tours of Major League Baseball’s oldest operating park take guests into the parts of Fenway that generations of baseball fans have only seen on television—and some places they haven’t seen at all.

Tourgoers catch their first glimpse of the Fenway playing field from the press box, where they can take in the unparalleled view and perhaps imagine penning a story for the next day’s paper while a tour guide offers a brief history of the park the Red Sox have called home since 1912.

The tour makes its way around the TV and radio broadcast booths and past the newly constructed State Street Pavilion, where fans get a good look at the park’s most famous element: the Green Monster. This 37-foot, 2-inch high left field wall has been both delighting and frustrating batters since 1934. Originally, the wall was covered with advertisements, but the dizzying array of text and images made a less-than-ideal backdrop for players keen to keep their eye on the ball. A solid coat of “Fenway Green” covered the ads in 1947, and a new nickname made its way into the baseball lexicon.

After surveying the face of the wall, tourgoers explore several rows of barstools known as the “Green Monster Seats.” Added in 2004, these coveted seats sit atop the wall, dangling out over Lansdowne Street below. “That was certainly a viewpoint that I had never seen before,” Los Angeles resident John Wilbur enthused.

Depending on the schedule of the grounds crew, tourgoers are sometimes even permitted to meet the Monster face-to-face by walking along the crushed brick of the left field warning track. This up-close view reveals a cryptic memorial to former Sox owners Tom and Jean Yawkey, which is embedded in the scoreboard. It also gives fans a chance to see things from the unique perspective of Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez.

Of course, no visit to America’s most vintage ballpark would be complete without a chance to sit in the oldest seats in all of baseball—Fenway’s grandstand seats, which were built in 1934 and remain to this day. Steve Meterparel, 75—a tour guide for five years—can recall sitting in those seats when they were new. At just 15 inches wide, though, the wooden grandstand seats often leave today’s tour patrons wondering whether it is the Sox’s flair for the dramatic or simply the discomfort of their seats that so often brings fans to their feet. Meterparel conceded that the venue is outdated by many standards, but said, “It’s the intimacy and the history that makes it special.”

As the original ballyards of yesterday are replaced with new state-of-the-art stadiums, expect more and more visitors to be drawn to Fenway not just by the exploits of its hardball heroes, but by its unique quirks and authentic character. Curiosities like the Pesky Pole in short right field, the oddly-angled bleacher seats that face right field instead of home plate, and the last hand-operated scoreboard in the majors have made Fenway much bigger than its John Updike-dubbed status as “a lyric little bandbox” for baseball fans around the world.

“I was in Boston 15 years ago,” said tourtaker and Hawaii native Mel Freitas, as he took it all in, “and Fenway was the one thing I missed. I’ve always regretted it, and now I’ve finally come back to see it.”

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Author Sarah Brickley has been a Fenway Park tour guide since 2005. For more information on Fenway Park Tours, refer to listing.