Some people choose spending their vacations at a lake place. Others pick travel, wherever that might be.
Others are fortunate enough to afford both.
From as early as I can remember, travel it’s been. Early memories include the pain of falling off an old steam locomotive near the Golden Spike location in Utah at age 5, breaking my arm, but there was also the fun of Disneyland to ease the pain.
Car trips to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Bryce and Zion, Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks all firmly planted the travel bug that has grown expensive wings as an adult.
The view during warm-ups from seats along the first-base line, Section 13 to be exact, at Fenway Park. Seeing Major League Baseball’s oldest stadium goes hand in hand with the rest of history that can be found in Boston. Photo by: Paul Delaney
From natural wonders and childhood dreams, now to national sporting treasures, luckily, my to-do list is not a large one, like those who long to see every professional baseball park in America. My “See ‘em before they’re gone or seriously altered” list is now really nearly finished, outside of maybe a trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Just last week came one more “must” with a visit to Fenway Park in Boston during its 100th season. Or I guess if I were trying to speak as if a Bostonian or New Englander, “Fenway Paahk.”
We can all hope to look so good at 100 with so few sags or wrinkles, and so many people paying attention to us.
Most memorable before last Thursday was Notre Dame Stadium, the original 59,075-seater opened in 1930. The visit in October 1992 was to make a lifelong dream come true for my stepfather to see where his beloved Fighting Irish battled on Saturdays.
I’ll never forget the tears that rolled down his cheeks when he just had to sneak a peek at the field from a lower tunnel. It was also the day Hollywood film crews were on hand to shoot B-roll stuff for the movie “Rudy.” We must have been left on the cutting room floor.
Chicago’s Wrigley Field was also once on the list but was checked off during a 1994 cross-country family car trip that had a certain Chevy Chase-ish “Vacation” movie feel to it when the family Truckster took a wrong turn near the city’s dreaded South Side.
Day baseball is what Wrigley’s all about. But the best story that day was from my brother-in-law. He once tried to hire a young mining engineer who lived in those apartments with a Wrigley view along Waveland Avenue. The applicant refused to move so the handsome offer at the sand mine 90 miles away in Ottawa, Ill. was off the table.
But this is about Boston, the center of so much of America’s history in its own right. A mere teen at 100 in terms of the rest of the city’s amazing history, Fenway is right at home tucked into a big city clock bounded by Yawkey Way, Van Ness and Lansdowne Streets, touched in the front by Brookline Avenue.
In earshot when there is no one in Fenway -- or the pre-game streets are not alive with vendors and restaurants schlepping souvenirs, sausages and suds -- is the ever-busy Massachusetts Turnpike, or as we call it, Interstate 90. It’s a mere 2,791 miles and 45 hours from the Argonne exit by car according to Google Maps.
But travel by air and a ticket on the MBTA – the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority or the “T” as locals refer to it – is much easier and affords one more time to explore an amazing city.
Deciding to walk with my wife, Melanie, to Fenway, let us sample dynamite food at Sola’s Irish Pub and get a dynamic view of Boston nearly 60 floors up in the John Hancock Tower. We snapped a quick photo of the crew at Fire Station 9 and experienced the sights, sounds and smells of the densely populated Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood.
The game proved irrelevant despite Boston starting on a much debated and maligned four-game losing streak upon my arrival in town. Remember, it’s only the beginning of August and the Red Sox are just four games back of a wild card berth from where they won that historic jinx-breaking 2004 World Series title.
With no real dog in the fight a week ago as the Red Sox took on Minnesota – eventually losing 5-0 – I couldn’t help but feel a bit for Boston manager Bobby Valentine, under the microscope for his underperforming team. Last time I was in a ballpark with Valentine was over 40-plus years ago at Spokane Indians Stadium when he was a Dodger farmhand.
Fenway manages to be able to fund the team’s fourth-ranked $146.3 million payroll with its 37,000 seats and no luxury boxes. Beers for $8, sausages for $7 and endless souvenir offerings must go a long way in making up the difference.
The famous Old North Church of Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride fame might already have the corner and a lock on the luxury box idea anyway. They sold private enclosed pews to congregation members for upwards to $200 per year as early as its opening in December 1723. Owners furnished them however they wished and warded off the cold with foot warmers fueled with a hot brick.
There have been plans floated over the years to raze this venerable structure and rebuild a “replica” or something similar. However, after a 10-year, $285 million renovation completed in 2011 the team was told Fenway still has 40–50 years of life remaining.
Take that as a cue to forget about the lake and make time to see Fenway, no matter how you get there.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.