Fenway Hits 100: Not Long Ago, Fenway Park Was Close To Being Torn Down

BOSTON (CBS) – There are countless traditions and memories as Fenway Park turns 100.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Mary Blake has more in Part 2 of her series, Fenway Hits 100:

The milestone is especially worth noting given the fact that the park came perilously close to being torn down.

In the late 1990’s, then-Red Sox CEO John Harrington’s widely quoted opinion was that it would be easier to fix the leaning Tower of Pisa than Fenway.

In May of 1999, he announced plans for a new ballpark across the street. They were plans that Boston Mayor Tom Menino had signed onto.

Listen: “Fenway Hits 100” Series

Menino has since had a change of heart.

“It would have been a great mistake, thinking about that. It wouldn’t be the same thing in our city if we’d had a new ballpark,” said Menino.

Over the past century, Fenway park has seen ebb and flow.

“The 20’s, half of the 30’s, a good chunk of the 50’s and early 1960’s were dreary years,” said Richard Johnson, Curator of the Boston Sports Museum.

Eight time All-Star third baseman Frank Malzone was a bright spot during some of the lean times. He spoke with WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Jonny Miller.

“I became a Red Sox real quick, as soon as I got to the big leagues I wanted to play, and I stayed there for a long time,” said Malzone, who played for Boston from 1955 to 1965. “We never got a chance to win.”

To help fill the seats in the 1960’s, Sox fan Richard Cardinal Cushing hosted nun’s days at the park. Sister Florence Kahler with the Sisters of St. Joseph remembers them well.

“Being at the park was just wonderful. We all sat together and it was a special area up front, usually on the first base line. They just treated us royally,” said Sister Kahler.

The biggest resurgence at Fenway began after 1967. Jim Lonborg, on the mound, won 22 games for the Red Sox that incredible year.

“It was tremendous to be part of that team in ’67. So many great things happened. There were so many heroes. Whether it was Carl Yastrzemski having game after game of great production, whether it was Tony Conigliaro, Ken Herrelson, Joe Foy or George Scott, all the funny things that can happen in a baseball season happened for us that summer,” recollected Lonborg.

Lonborg, who grew up in California, has made Boston his home. He is now a dentist on the South Shore, and visits Fenway these days as a spectator.

“I just absolutely love what the new ownership has done with Fenway,” said Lonborg.

Fenway historian Richard Johnson credits the new owners with the current heyday at the park.

Mary Blake’s “Fenway Hits 100” series will be airing all week on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

More from Mary Blake
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