Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Almost Heaven


It's the season. That apple tang is in the air, the sun is sliding lower, the chains are jingling under the school buses. I feel that salt-peanut jones coming on and I close my eyes and drift to heaven: Fenway Park. Hot dogs. The Green Monster. The huge pillar between the seat I paid for and home plate, and the crick in my neck.

Fenway Park opened in 1912. It set the standard. This is how you build a ball park: hire a drunk to lay the line for the outfield. Throw in random shit for obstacles, like some twentieth-century version of Angry Birds. You're not going for perfection here; you've got a squashed pentagon of a city block to fill in, next to a swamp. The outfield is shaped like a hound's-tooth check, with a dipsy-do in right field lurching into a sort of fang in right-center, and over on the left you've erected a massive wall to keep people from catching a game for free from Landsdowne Street. But don't stop there. Check your roster for assets and liabilities and then screw around with the dimensions of the field until you wring some home runs out of it.

Duffy's Cliff
Forget square: this field didn't even used to be flat. There was a ten-foot terrace in left field up against the wall. That was to make up the difference between the field and street level. Fans were welcome to sit there and the fielders had to run uphill to make plays without trompling any of them. A guy named Duffy was graceful enough at it that they called it Duffy's Cliff, but Bob "Fatty" Fothergill tripped on it and would be rolling still if he hadn't flattened the shortstop and fetched up near second.

The wall wasn't called the Green Monster then. Everything was in black and white, as you can see from the photos, and besides it was covered with ads. There's a red seat in the stands marking the longest ball ever hit in Fenway. Ted Williams was robbed. That ball would have gone even farther if the guy in the seat hadn't gotten his noggin in its way.

In 1975 I lived in Boston but watched the World Series on television, Red Sox vs. the Cincinnati Reds.
But you could hear the roar of the crowd through every window in town. We were all hooked up to the same nervous system. The next year, because our suffering was not pure enough, we were threatened with modernity in the form of a fancy-pants electronic scoreboard. We picketed. Our dog had a sandwich board that read "if I could reach it, I'd piss on it." He was a very charismatic dog, and the board is still old-school.

There are a couple hundred reasons baseball is cooler than every other game, and one of them is the screwiness of the ball parks. We don't need no stinkin' yard lines, or meter lines either. This ain't soccer, and we don't play in a box. Our fields are laid out with the precision of a man shrugging himself some room in a beanbag chair.  The idiosyncrasies appeal to Americans. We like to be different in ways that don't necessarily make sense. It's why we don't have the metric system or universal health care. Would Robert Frost ever have had kilometers to go before he sleeps? No.

I'm on board with most of it, too. Single-payer health care can't come soon enough, but don't nobody touch Fenway Park.

My apologies to anyone who tripped over this post last Sunday when they weren't ready for it. It went off prematurely--that's what can happen when you're really excited. I have cleaned everything up and we should be good to go now.

48 comments:

  1. Wow, what good fortune! A bonus Murrmurrs this week. Thanks! No pictures, though.
    Never having been to a major league baseball game, I can't comment on the fields. I did go to some of your games in the 70's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My games were exactly like watching the majors. Did you know I used to be able to run to first base in under twenty seconds?

      Delete
  2. Yes, this one is better. LOVE the picture of Murrphy at the top!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Watching a game at Fenway is on my bucket list. Also Wrigley.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Try to avoid the posts. (Not the blog posts.)

      Delete
  4. Well, I never knew most of this...but I am a quick learner. Still find baseball too slow on an afternoon when I can be doing other things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do too, until October, when everything changes.

      Delete
  5. as a New Englander, I truly loved this. Sent a copy to my son as well. Your beard is wonderful. My niece, who is now living in Kanas, has been knotting her hair under her chin. We're giving her a lot of credit for the status of the Sox right now, particularly because she posted her bearded photo on Facebook.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please thank your niece for me! And a grateful Nation.

      Delete
  6. About 1946 we saw a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, and it was the most boring sports thing I have ever gone to. Took forEVER for the game to get over. Please don't hate me. I still love to hear the Red Sox in a World Series, but I won't watch it.
    Ruth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing is, watching baseball, even that one game, slows down everything, including the aging process. Everything's internally recalibrated and you will reap the benefits into your glorious nineties.

      Delete
  7. "Everything was in black and white, as you can see from the photos..."

    Love that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to go where the evidence leads me.

      Delete
  8. As a Minneapolitan who has joyously lived through TWO Twins Champeenship victories, I clench my Homer Hankie between my teeth and applaud this post.

    Vigorously.

    Pearl

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wait. Is it really "Minneapolitan?" I never knew that. That's cool. Is it also St. Paulitician?

      Delete
    2. Ahem. We are St. Paulites and proud of it. Sort of. I love your post about Fenway. I love old-timey baseball at any time of year, and I'd love to take in a game at Fenway some day. Hope it doesn't give way to a fancy-schmancy new stadium any time soon.

      Delete
    3. I've always said y'all were very paulite.

      Delete
  9. I love the asymmetry of baseball!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sweetie, my chest isn't even in that picture. It's sort of below, and to the left.

      Delete
  10. Have yet to see a game at Fenway, but I took the tour on one of my many trips to Beantown and love the history of the place. And now, I'm loving the beards, too. Go Sox!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was a little appalled at first but obviously I've been won over.

      Delete
  11. Sending this to Hodge. Love it. Esp. the cat hair and vaseline beard. You are too sexy for your beard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yay! She just sent me a live photo from Fenway!

      Delete
  12. Uhhh...beard...I think you got your hormone pills switched with your husbands.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hormones? We don't need no stinkin' hormones. Once they head down the pike, we're done with 'em.

      Delete
  13. 2nd inning, 3-0 sox........ That big green wall is getting a workout :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Baseball is indeed a terrific game ... too bad about the ugly beards and baggy pajama pants ... All that's missing in those really closeup tv shots is a cheek lump of chewing tobacco and more spitting.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I like the pajama pants. I wear them in solidarity. Pretty much all year. And I've seen that close-up already.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This is the most interesting thing I've ever read about baseball. Usually I click away as soon as I realise the topic is sport, but you made it easy for me to stay.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to hear it, because there's one more in the pipeline.

      Delete
  17. Interesting, isn't it, that baseball for all its wackiness is the only sport that makes total sense?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Make the ball go as far away from you as you can and try to run home before it gets back to you. Yeah!

      Delete
  18. Kilometers before I sleep: doesn't sound right does it? Thank goodness we are not English. Besides, good fences make good neighbors.
    the Ol'Buzzard

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love baseball. It's the perfect way to spend an afternoon when it's too hot to move... Stretch out on the couch watch for a while, if it's action packed, watch some more. Otherwise, nap. When they sing Take MEEEEE out to the ball game, wake up and watch the end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've got the right plan. I sure wish we didn't have to wake up to God Bless America now, but it's starting to look like a fixture. That guy who sang it last night looked like he was going to give himself a concussion saluting.

      Delete
    2. James Taylor tonight, shaking it up with America the Beautiful, which is actually a good song. Yay!

      Delete
  20. Rabid Sox fans in this house here in western MA. Loved this post so much I'm going to send a link to it to everyone I know with a pulse.
    (Did you know that baseball is the only sport where the ball does not make the score?)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Our first date was at Fenway Park. We've been married 33 years and still going strong! We had champagne when they won the World Series in 2004. Love your blogs Murr, and this one was a treat, as usual.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dave's and my first date was at a baseball game here in Portland. Triple-A. The Mavericks. The Beavers came later and Luis Tiant pitched!

      Delete