FENWAY PARK – A TOUCH OF GREEN
Fenway Park - it’s as American as applepie and, well, baseball. The “lyrical little bandbox of a ballpark,” as local writer John Updike described it, is a national treasure, one of the few remaining ballparks to survive a century of wear and tear, heart ache and exultation.
Fenway has a distinctive Irish tint over the past century too. Here are some Irish connections to this green masterpiece.
BUILDERS AND GROUNDSKEEPERS
• Charles E. Logue, from Derry, Northern Ireland, was the contractor selected to build Fenway Park, breaking ground on September 25, 1911. James E. McLaughlin, born in Nova Scotia to Irish immigrant parents, was the architect.
• Groundskeeper Jerome Kelley took the infield sod from the old Huntington Ave ball park at the end of the 1911 season and placed the diamond in Fenway so it would be ready for opening day.
OPENING DAY, 1912
• On April 20, 1912, the Boston Red Sox played the New York Highlanders, later named the Yankees. 24,000 people attended. The game to extra innings and the Sox won 7-6.
• Mayor John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, grandfather of John F. Kennedy, threw out the first ball to start the game, and a contingent of Royal Rooters fans, led by Michael “Nuf Ced” McGreevey, boisterously cheered the team on.
• Thomas “Bucky” O’Brien was the starting pitcher. Tommy Connolly was the umpire behind the plate. Legendary baseball writer Tim Murnane covered the story for the Globe.
• On June 29, 1919, Eamon deValera, President of the fledgling Irish Republic, addressed 60,000 people at Fenway, calling for an end to British rule in Ireland. Massachusetts Governor David I. Walsh introduced Dev.
• On May 28, 1922, Irish patriots Countess Constance Markievicz and Kathleen Barry spoke before 6,000 people.
• On June 11, 1934, 40,000 faithful turned out for an open-air mass in celebration of William Cardinal O’Connell’s Golden Jubilee. The Cavan All-Stars Football Team attended.
IRISH HURLING AND FOOTBALL
• On September 4, 1916, the Galway Men’s Association enjoyed a day of hurling matches and track and field events.
• The Kerry Gaelic Football team played a Boston team at Fenway on May 30, 1927.
• On June 6, 1937, the Mayo All-Ireland Football Champions beat a Massachusetts team 17 to 8. Lt. Governor John Kelly threw in the ball to start the game.
• On November 7, 1954 Cork’s All Ireland Hurling Team beat a Boston team 37 to 28, then a week later Mayo’s Gaelic Football team beat a local team 13 to 6. Globe reporter John Ahearn described hurling as a “combination of field hockey, lacrosse and mayhem.”
BOXING AND WRESTING
• On June 26, 1928, Irish Billy Murphy lost a close match against Portuguese champion Al Mello before 12,000 boxing fans.
• On June 12, 1932, Eddie “Kid” Sullivan, “the perpetual motion machine from Walpole,” fought Tony Acquaro of Lynn.
• On July 29, 1937, two heavyweights, Al McCoy and Jack McCarthy battled before 10,000 people.
• Danno O’Mahoney from Cork wrestled Jimmy the Greek Londos on June 2, 1935 before 30,000 people. O’Mahoney prevailed, then met his match on July 20, 1937, losing to fellow Irishman Steve Casey.
• Mayor James Michael Curley took Irish rebel Dan Breen to a Red Sox - Braves game on September 23, 1931.
• Television personality Ed Sullivan was master of ceremonies at Mayor John Hynes’ Charity Field Day on June 23, 1958.
• Robert Kennedy attended a Memorial Game on April 17, 1964 in honor of his brother, President John F. Kennedy.
• Many Irish-Americans have sung the National Anthem at Fenway including police officers Dan Clark and Pauline Wells, and Irish-born tenor Ronan Tynan.
• The Dropkick Murphys have performed at Fenway numerous times, singing Tessie and Shippin Up to Boston.
Happy 100th Birthday Fenway Park!
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by Michael P. Quinlin