(Excerpt from Remembering Fenway Park available in stores, on-line and autographed direct from the author)
DOM DIMAGGIO: The first time I walked into Fenway Park was a day in April 1940. It was before the season; there was ice on the field. Coming from California, it was a bit of a shock to me. I was wondering how we were going to start on time.
At the start of the new decade, Fenway Park featured new bullpens in place in right field in front of the bleachers. The distance to the right-center wall was cut from 405 feet to just over 380 feet. Bullpens had been moved from the foul lines to the front of the stands in center, creating the center-field triangle.
BOBBY DOERR: Ted Williams was one of the first hitters to go to light bats. In 1941, he had a batch of 32-ouncers brought to Fenway.
Some told him “Ted, you can’t get good wood with 32 ounce bats.”
Ted’s comeback was, “What good is wood if you can’t handle it?”
He wanted control of the bat to where he could hit the ball on the fat part. With a heavier bat he felt he couldn’t even though he was as quick and strong as anybody. But he still went from a 34 or 35 ounce bat to a 32 once bat.
We became close friends. We were around the same age; we both liked to go to movies and fish and talk fishing.. But the thing Ted especially liked was to talk baseball.
SAM MELE: I was going to New York University. My coach Bill McCarthy used to drive me up to Fenway Park to work out for the Red Sox scout Mahoney. One day, I get in the batting cage. Pitching to me was Herb Pennock who had been one of the great pitchers in history.
After a few warm-up pitches, he says "Are you ready now?"
I say, "Yeah." Now he throws a screwball, a change up and boy I had a tough time.
They tell me to take five swings. I took four and I did not swing at the fifth pitch.
"Why did you take that pitch?" a voice behind the cage says.
"Well, it was kind of low," I said.
"It was, but it was over the plate," the voice says.
The voice belonged to Ted Williams. He called me over and started talking to me about hitting. "You move your feet too far away from the plate,” he said. “You got to be able to cover the whole plate when you're batting." I never forgot that.
Throughout that 1941 season, the talk all over Boston was about Ted Williams who would be the last batter to hit .400.
"Number 9 did that"
"That's where Number 9 hit one"
“He got another hit today, Number 9.”
MONSIGNOR THOMAS J. DALY: In 1941, I was age 14 and started as Stile boy. I got paid $1.50 a day. About the second inning or third, inning you were free for the rest of the time and you could watch the ballgame. And if there was a doubleheader then you had a good day for yourself. Not too many people tried to sneak through into Fenway. There was, however, a note on the bulletin board that I still remember. “Sir, last week I sneaked into the ballgame and I’m sending money to pay for the ticket that I didn’t buy.” The writer was anonymous, of course.
There was no local TV, and radio was WAAB with Jim Britt and Tom Hussey. All games were in the daylight and lots of children were on hand. Prices of admission for the grandstands were $1.10, bleachers 55 cents, a reserved seat in the grandstand $1.40 and tickets for the box seats were $3.60. It was a pretty quiet environment. The only music was at the beginning of the ballgame when everybody stood for the national anthem. There was just the manual scoreboard.
BOO FERRIS: After my sophomore year at Mississippi State University, the Red Sox got me placed in the Northern League in Vermont. That was in ’41. My manager there was Bill Barrett, a former major-leaguer and a Red Sox scout. We had an open day. He took me and two players from the University of Oklahoma to our first big league ballgame.
Bill Barrett says, ”They’re playing the Cleveland Indians. I’ll take you in and you can meet the great Red Sox players.”
We drove down in Mr. Barrett’s car. When we first saw Fenway Park, we were all pretty bug-eyed, I’ll tell you that. We were just on cloud nine you might say—three southern boys. Bill Barrett told us that Lefty Grove was going for his 300th career win that day, July the 25th.
We walked in the clubhouse and Johnny Orlando the clubhouse guy told us to be quiet. We learned that Lefty Grove who was on the downside of his great career was in the trainer’s room. He always took a little nap before the ballgame.
And Orlando said, “He better not be disturbed or he’ll tear up the clubhouse.”
So we had to tiptoe by the training room and my gosh we got to meet Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Charlie Wagner and Joe Cronin, the manager of course.
We shook hands with Red Sox players. Bill Barrett, he knew them all. I didn’t think to ask for autographs. getting an autograph wasn’t a big thing back in those days. But I still have the program. It cost five cents.
I had a dream that maybe someday I might be back. We sat in box seats behind the dugout and had royal treatment. The ballpark was so compact with seats right down close to the field. The Wall was out there but it wasn’t painted green then. Some called it the Iron Monster.
Manager Joe Cronin had told Grove before the game: “Pop, this is a nine inning game. I’m not coming out to get you. Grove was behind 6-4 in the seventh inning, tied in the eighth at 6-6. Then Jimmie Foxx hit a three-run homer. Grove had given up 12 hits but he had his 300th and final win.
‘BOO’ FERRIS: He struggled but he made it. An unforgettable day, for sure, for three southern boys. That was my introduction to Fenway. We drove back home and the next day we were playing baseball.
DOM DIMAGGIO: The atmosphere heightened a great deal when the Red Sox and Yankees played. I felt that and enjoyed it.
In 1941, when my brother Joe had the hitting streak going, Ted would be talking to the guy in the scoreboard and the guy would keep him posted when Joe got a hit. You couldn’t do that at any other park.
There were times at Fenway when Joe would be coming in from centerfield and I would be coming out. I said very little to him on those occasions. What the hell was I going to do, stop in centerfield and have a conversation?
JOHNNY PESKY: Manager Joe Cronin let me play. That was how it all started in 1942. . We played the old Boston Braves, an exhibition City Series, one game at Fenway and one at Braves Field.
The first time I saw Fenway Park it was dark and dreary. I was mainly concerned about playing as well as I could and keeping warm. I made four errors in the exhibition game and felt just terrible about it. I thought Cronin was going to send me down to either Scranton or Louisville. But he didn't say anything to me.
Opening Day, Tuesday April 14th, at Fenway. I was 22 years old. I came up the runway, up the three steps and looked out from the dugout. It was an old park even then. But it was very well kept, clean and nice. And right in the middle of the city. I thought it was beautiful.
We lived on Bay State road just across from Kenmore Square and could walk across to the ballpark. I batted leadoff ahead of Dom and Ted.
(The Red Sox lineup that April 14, 1942 at Fenway)
6 Johnny Pesky SS
7 Dom DiMaggio CF
9 Ted Williams LF
3 Jimmie Foxx 1B
5 Jim Tabor 3B
12 Pete Fox RF
26 Skeeter Newsome 2B
11 Johnny Peacock C
28 Dick Newsome P
REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: http://harveyfrommersports.com/remembering_fenway/
"For Red Sox fans, this gem of a book about a jewel of a ballpark is
enough--well, almost enough- to banish from all thoughts of Bucky Dent and other disappointments. --George F. Will
"Harvey Frommer has produced a book worthy of its sacred subject. Remembering Fenway Park is unforgettable." -Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe