Few ballparks are as revered as Boston's Fenway Park. From the rustic view to the majestic Green Monster, it has truly captured America's heart. but the Red Sox didn't always call it "home". For their first decade of existence, they resided in Huntington Avenue Grounds. What was Huntington Avenue Grounds? What was it like playing there? Let's find out.
A Brief History
The Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds was first planned in February of 1901 for the recently-born Boston Americans of the American League. Breaking ground just a month later, it took the construction crews just two months to complete the ballpark. When it opened for business on May 8, 1901, the people of Boston were quickly drawn to the new structure. The grandstand was made with expanded metal and rough-cast concrete, material rarely used for ballparks in that era. However, the bleachers were made of wood which was much more common in that era.
Sandwiched between Huntington and Rogers Avenues, the quaint ballpark featured four entrances, with two per street. It was on the Huntington side where things got interesting. There was an access point near the left-field corner that led to a walkway that featured an awkward angle that limited the distance of left field. As a result, left field was just 350 feet. Strangely enough, right field was even shorter, measuring at just 280 feet when it first opened. Center field measured at 530 feet but after the ballpark expanded in 1908, it measured at 635 feet. Similarly, right field expanded to 320 feet that same year.
But apart from unique measurements, Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds hosted its share of memorable moments in the National Pastime. It hosted the first World Series in 1903, in which the Americans beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in eight exhilarating games. Just a year later, the ballpark bore witness to the first perfect game in American League history when Cy Young summoned his 37-year-old arm for another moment of glory, beating the Philadelphia Athletics 3-0 on May 5, 1904.
Yes, the ballpark had its moments in the sun, but by the 1910s, it was beginning to look archaic. Surely, the slope in front of the left field fence that used to seat overflow crowds didn't make the park look any more appealing, nor did the groundskeeper's toolshed in deep center field. Balls were ruled in play when they landed there and ballplayers from all over the American League could only mutter and grovel deafening complaints as they foraged around the various rakes, shovels and fertilizer that encumbered their quest in finding a little white, mushy ball that defined their livelihood.
The now-named Red Sox moved to the recently built Fenway Park in 1912 and the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds soon became rubble. But it was never forgotten as the Red Sox transplanted some of its grass to Fenway Park, that way a part of Huntington could live on forever. Nowadays, the old Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds is home to the Cabot Center, an indoor athletic venue that is a part of Northeastern University. To this day, there is a statue of Cy Young in the concourse, winding up to fire one of his legendary pitches with home plate just in front of him, the footprint of the old Boston Americans having never left what was once their beloved home.