Friday marks the 100th anniversary of the first baseball game played at Fenway Park. The Boston Red Sox christened their new stadium on April 20, 1912 in a game against the New York Yankees. Those two teams will commemorate that first Fenway Park game by playing on Friday in throwback uniforms evocative of the time. The game will start at 3:00 in the afternoon, just like that first game 100 years ago.
The Red Sox won the World Series in their inaugural season in Fenway Park, beating the New York Giants four games to three. But the Red Sox failed to makes the playoffs in any significant anniversary year. They missed the playoffs in the years of the 25th, 50th and 75th anniversaries, recording a winning record only in the 25th anniversary year. That year (1937) they went 80-72 but finished fifth out of eight American League teams. They also missed the playoffs in the years of the 20th, 40th, 60th and 80th anniversaries. In all but one of those seasons, they had a losing record. Only in the 60th anniversary year of Fenway Park did the Red Sox have a winning record, going 85-70 in 1972 and finishing second in the American League East.
The Red Sox did not play a home game on the 25th or 50th anniversary of the first baseball game at Fenway Park. In 1937, Boston opened the season on April 20th in Philadelphia in a game against the A’s. The first home game that season was on April 24, when the Red Sox hosted the Yankees. The game featured six players, one manager, and one player-manager subsequently inducted in the Hall of Fame. The Yankees Hall of Famers were manager Joe McCarthy, first baseman Lou Gehrig, catcher Bill Dickey and second baseman Tony Lazzeri. The Red Sox Hall of Famers were player-manager Joe Cronin, a shortstop, second baseman Bobby Doerr, catcher Rick Ferrell, and pitcher Lefty Grove. But on this day, Lefty Grove lasted only six innings and left the game with the score tied at three. It was decided in the tenth when the Yankees scored two runs off Fritz Ostermueller and the Red Sox could muster only one run off Johnny Murphy in the bottom of the inning.
In 1962, the Red Sox hosted the Detroit Tigers on April 19 and April 21, but not on April 20. That was Good Friday so I’m guessing that Boston — a heavily Catholic city — put off the 50th anniversary celebration one day. On April 21, the Red Sox hosted several still-living members of the 1912 World Series Championship team, including Harry Hooper, Duffy Lewis and Smokey Joe Wood. They also beat the Tigers that day behind eight strong innings from pitcher Don Schwall and four-run third inning fueled by a run-scoring double off the Green Monster by Carl Yastrzemski. Boston’s manager in 1962 was Pinky Higgins, who played on the 1937 team. Yaz was the only Red Sox player that day who was subsequently inducted in the Hall of Fame. Like the Red Sox, the Tigers featured only one eventual Hall of Famers that day: right fielder Al Kaline.
For the 75th anniversary of Fenway Park, the Sox hosted the Kansas City Royals on April 20, 1987. Royals ace Brett Saberhagen faced off against Sox pitcher Bruce Hurst. The Sox, of course, had played in the World Series just the year before, losing in seven games to the New York Mets after the infamous “ball through Buckner’s legs” play in Game Six. But 1987 was not a good year for the Sox, as they finished fifth in the American League East with a record of 78-84. Even on the 75th anniversary of Fenway Park, Boston was lackluster. They scored first off Saberhagen when Don Baylor knocked a single to left field, driving in Wade Boggs. But the Royals struck back, taking a 4-to-1 lead in the third off home runs by Frank White and Larry Owen. Kansas City added six more runs, beating the Sox that day 10-to-2.
On Friday afternoon, in their vintage 1912 uniforms, the Red Sox will send Clay Buchholz to the mound. The Yankees will counter with Ivan Nova. The forecast is for sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s with light winds. Perfect weather for a 100th anniversary party.