Things are beginning to turn homeward bound towards number one on my major league stadium ratings. Very exciting time because, as those who have been following know, my top criteria for stadium beauty is how well I played there. I am so ready to talk about my game winning hits, great plays, and team successes. However, I am sorry to disappoint again, especially me, but success in my seventh rated stadium was elusive. However, there was an almost home run, which was but was not, (should have been playing horseshoes) and a historic catch of mine.

Venerable Fenway Park Boston

Being from Chicago, but never having had the opportunity to play in Wrigley field, it was an honor to play in Fenway Park, Boston.  Fenway Park had the look and feel between the lines, as when it opened, not that I was there to see it then, but that is what they say about it and I am a believer. Just to be able to say I played in a place that is often called “venerable” is so cool – that alone makes me feel honored.

However, it is easy to give this place a high ranking, because of the storied tradition, not to mention the excitement of playing baseball in a stadium that existed before the great world war – the first one, that is. Yes even the Babe played there for the home town team, when he still was a pitcher, too, and we all know the rest of that story.

As a major league ballplayer, the tradition of a place was not something I thought about much before going to a major league stadium – but, as with some, Yankee Stadium comes to mind, the sense of tradition was unavoidable and palpable in Fenway Park.

First, from a young age I had read and heard about a player always described as “The Greatest hitter that ever lived,” Ted Williams. Anyone with more than one nickname –The Kid, and The Splendid Splinter, The Teddy Ballgame – OK I added to that a bit – had to be the greatest. For me to be able to say that I played on the same field as Ted Williams, was, and still is, unimaginable.

Second, what baseball fan alive back then, or even now, does not have Carlton Fisk’s – waving the home run fair in Fenway – etched in their minds. To one-day play in the shadow of that green monster he was waving to is only rivaled by one day being teammates with the legendary catcher, on a different Sox team.

With that as a backdrop, I have a direct connection to that Red Sox tradition with another legend. You may recall the clue for this stadium was #8, easy answer for that, who else but Carl Yastrzemski – try spelling that correctly without looking it up , or better yet, try saying his name quickly five times in a row. For that reason I suppose, on the final weekend of his career, fans were not saying his name quickly, but chanting it – Carllllllll  Yastrzemskiii, Carlllllll Yastrzemskiii – so cool. The chant would break out at any time and often, over the course of the weekend. To see such admiration for a player was memorable and inspirational, as was hearing his speech before his last game.

Yes, I was there and my connection to Yaz and Fenway Park?  – I, Jack Perconte, caught the last ball he ever hit in a major league game – there is your next trivia question that you will no doubt stump everyone with, as they will answer neither quickly, or by chanting my name. “The Catch” was not a “dazzling” play, actually a routine pop up that most little leaguers would have caught – but still the second most memorable defensive play of my major league career. The first most memorable is yet to come in a future stadium ranking – stay tuned.

As for my Fenway Park Homerun

As written about way back in my worst rated stadium of yesteryear – Cleveland Municipal – my play with the Indians was very forgetful, even though I cannot seem to do that. I sometimes wonder if it may have all turned around if this Fenway Park play had turned out differently. The correct call may have boosted my confidence enough to turn that season around and it would have placed Fenway Park much higher on my list of major league stadiums.

Struggling along as I often did with my time as a Cleveland Indian, I hit a shot down the right field line one game. The ball veered ever so to the right of the foul pole. The next day, another great Red Sox player, Dwight Evans, approaches me in batting practice to tell me he felt the ball knick the pole, and was the reason the ball veered right at the last moment, appearing to be foul. I guess that is why it is called the Pesky pole, but it was a home run, as the great Dwight Evans had no reason to tell me if not true.

To this day, I have had some questions I would like answered. Where was instant replay for home runs back in that day – and for the integrity of the game, I believe major league baseball should go back and review all the close calls over the years, to set the records straight. I assume they won’t do that, but  I am adding one more to my prodigious home run total, anyway.

And another question – where is the integrity in sport?  The right thing to do, as I am always preaching to kids about sportsmanship, would have been for Dwight to go argue with the umpire that the ball was actually fair, and a home run – what a humorous site that would have been. 

I ain’t afraid of no  Fenway Park monster – may be just a little bit

I could not hit in Fenway and I blame the green monster in left. My offensive game revolved around flipping balls in front of outfielders, especially to left field. With the short left field green monster, the outfielder played shallow, right where the flip was supposed to happen. Intimidated by that and not strong enough to hit it off the wall, my offensive output in Fenway was paltry. No worries, I know some better days are ahead with my top stadiums coming up soon.

Of course, along with the mentioned greats, there were other fabulous Red Sox players that I was honored to share their field with – The Eck, The Billy Buck, The Hendu, The Hit Man, The Fredster, The Riceman Hitteth, The Wade Machine, The Oil Can, The Tony Airman, The Rocket, The Spike, to name a few; Red Sox nation knows who they are.

For a clue to my next rated stadium, #6 on my list, “The Heat is On” and there were no Marlins back then.

Upon reflection, I am beginning to wonder why this next stadium is rated number six – a trade with a previous rated stadium may be in the works.

To see all previous stadium reviews click here

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