Having won the World Series, in both 2004 and 2007, the Boston Red Sox are lovable underdogs no longer. As a result, management has, at least temporarily, stopped making noises about replacing Fenway Park.
"Stadium" is almost too grand a term for Fenway, the oldest baseball park in the major leagues. Built in 1912, it's smaller than modern parks, and full of quirks that only add to its mystique. Seats are narrow, often wood-slatted chairs dating back to 1934; many have poor sightlines and no legroom. The scoreboard is still, incredibly, hand-operated; pitchers warm up in bullpens right on the edge of the diamond, in plain view of the spectators. And then there is the 37-foot-high (11m) left-field wall known as the "Green Monster" for its tendency to rob opposing hitters of their home runs. (During pitching changes, left fielders have been known to sneak inside the Green Monster to get relief from the sun.)
From management's perspective, it would be great to have more seats to sell -- Fenway can only hold 36,298 spectators, or 34,482 for day games (one bleacher section has to be covered over to keep sun glare from distracting batters). It would be an enormous relief to replace the dingy, cramped locker rooms and have a drainage system that would keep the outfield playable during heavy rains. And so a number of different plans are on the table, everything from piecemeal renovations to building an entirely new stadium.
But current management acquired the Red Sox on a "Save Fenway" platform, and change isn't popular in Red Sox Nation. The 2005 movie Fever Pitch didn't exaggerate anything: Sit among Red Sox fans in the stands and you'll definitely remember that the word "fan" comes from "fanatic." The seats may be uncomfortable but they're gratifyingly close to the field, without the wide swaths of grass other parks have put between the fans and the players. In 2003 a new section of seats-more like barstools, at nosebleed heights-opened atop the Green Monster; uncomfortable as they are, they're the most sought-after seats in the park.
If you can't get tickets to a game -- and in the heat of a pennant race, they're scarcer than Rs in a Boston accent -- take a Fenway Park tour (conducted year-round, though there are no tours on game days or holidays). You actually get to peer inside the cramped space behind the Green Monster and walk out onto the warning track, stop in the press box, and visit the Red Sox Hall of Fame. Best of all, you get a running commentary on all the legends who've played here. Raze Fenway? Sacrilege.
Contact: Fenway Park, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA (tel. 877/REDSOX-9 tickets, 617/226-6666 tours; www.redsox.com).
Where to Stay: Doubletree Guest Suites, 400 Soldiers Field Rd. (tel. 800/222-TREE or 617/783-0090; www.doubletree.com). The MidTown Hotel, 220 Huntingdon Ave. (tel. 800/343-1177 or 617/262-1000).