Just got back from an awesome week of fishing, drinking, hiking, drinking, sight-seeing and drinking in New England. We even got a chance to catch a Red Sox game in “America’s Favorite Ballpark” (at least according to the public address announcer), Fenway Park. This was actually my second trip to the “Paahk” as I almost witnessed history on Labor Day weekend, 2001 when the Yankees’ Mike Mussina was one strike away from a perfect game only to have the Sox’ Carl “I-Don’t-Believe-in-Dinosaurs” Everett dump a weak single into left field. Even Sox fans were booing after that.
I guess their brash little pre-game “America’s Favorite Ballpark” tag line irked me a bit this time because I ended up spending a lot of the game comparing the stadium to the majors’ only other remaining, near century-old stadium, Wrigley Field. So I compiled this scorecard comparing specific categories to determine, once and for all, which stadium should really be considered America’s favorite:
This is a subject near and dear to my heart so it’s got to be first on the list. I was only able to find Miller Lite on tap at Fenway and they were charging a whopping $7.25 apiece! While Bud products aren’t a much higher class of swill, at least you can find both Bud Light and Heavy on tap at Wrigley and they’re a mere $6.25. On top of that—and this one baffles me—we didn’t see a single beer vendor patrolling the stands the entire game. Is the drinking problem that bad in Boston that you can’t enjoy the luxury of having someone bring you a beer in your seat? Pathetic.
Getting to our seats down the first base line in section 6 behind Pesky’s Pole, I was shocked to find what must be the original tiny wooden seats, beaten up and in desperate need of a paint job or replacement. Anyone much over six feet tall would find it impossible to fit their legs in the narrow space to the prior row. Another strike against Fenway’s seats is they face directly across the field instead of angling in towards home plate as they do in Wrigley. From our perspective, it was as if the Green Monster was the main attraction instead of the play on the field since our seats faced it directly. Oh yeah, no cup holders either. We ended up moving up to the standing room only section behind us by the second inning to relieve the claustrophobia and had a much more enjoyable time.
Iconic Outfield Wall
There’s no argument that Fenway’s Green Monster is an indelible icon of the game, but it’s really pretty ridiculous when you think about it. The “Monstaah” is aptly-named as it’s not all that attractive and is really just the result of a poor location choice for a ballpark as left field had to be dramatically shortened because of Lansdowne St. running right thru where the rest of the outfield and bleachers should be. The wall has also led to a obvious home field advantage that the Sox inexplicably couldn’t find a way to take advantage of for 86 years. Meanwhile, Wrigley’s brick and ivy outfield wall is as captivating and iconic as any structure in sports. The infamous basket is a bit of any eyesore but it hardly detracts from what could be described as baseball’s Garden of Eden.
Outside the Park
Both ballparks are conveniently (or inconveniently, depending on your perspective) located in neighborhoods so the surroundings are an integral part of the experience. We got there about an hour-and-a-half before the game to sample the local scene and were greeted with a massive throng of people trying to get into the few mega-bars adjacent to Fenway like Cask’n Flagon, Boston Beer Works, and Game On. The lines went down the block so we had to look around a bit to find a smaller place that wasn’t overflowing. Copperfield’s finally fit the bill featuring videos of old Bruins’ fights, no windows and shakey taps—pretty much everything you’d expect out of a Boston pub. Overall, it’s simply not as easy to get a beer around Fenway as it is at Wrigley. There has to be at least three times the number of bars on the two blocks on Clark between Addison and Newport than there are in all of Fenwayland (or whatever the hell they call it). The sheer number, variety and proximity of Wrigleyville bars vastly outclasses Fenway.
This is one area the Cubs could learn something from the BoSox. They’ve figured out a way to integrate a highly useful video screen into their old-school center field scoreboard in an aesthetically pleasing way. It’s high time the Rickets figure out a way to add a jumbotron so we can see replays and get more instant stats. We have the technology—let’s get this done.
Both parks feature dark, cramped and dingy concourses that often make heading to the restroom or concession stand a battle for survival. While I think Wrigley’s is the lesser of two evils, I can’t give either a ringing endorsement.
While Wrigley’s infamous troughs are hardly a selling point, they are fairly efficient and usually get you in an out of the men’s room in a reasonable amount of time despite being ridiculously overcrowded. However, splashback is always an inherent and disturbing danger. The restroom I saw at Fenway had standard urinals. While it was pretty small I didn’t have to wait in line at all, but that could be because I timed my visits to coincide with Red Sox at-bats because I really didn’t give a shit (no pun intended).
The hot dog I had at Fenway was actually pretty good. I’ve never been impressed with Wrigley’s food so I’ll give this one to Boston.
While Fenway is certainly unique with it’s long history, odd shape and Green Monster, when it comes down to it, it’s really a dump and in desperate need of some major renovations. Wrigley has some issues, but not nearly to the same level. It’s beauty still easily makes it a cathedral of baseball and America’s Favorite Ballpark.
The Decision: Wrigley, unanimously