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Fenway Park’s most memorable moments contest bios

04.16.12 at 6:17 pm ET
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WEEI is having a contest to determine the Red Sox‘ most memorable moment in the 100-year history of Fenway Park. Click here to become part of our bracket-style competition.

Below we’ve compiled detailed information about each of the 16 moments that WEEI’s editors and writers selected for the voting. The bios are organized by seeding and then presented in chronological order.

1 SEEDS

Oct. 16, 1912 – The Red Sox christened the brand-new Fenway Park the right way. A talented club that featured Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, Duffy Lewis and Smoky Joe Wood, the Red Sox won the pennant with a 105-47 record. The World Series that season against the New York Giants, however, was a battle. Thanks to a tie in Game 2, the series lasted eight games.

Wood took the mound in Game 8 at Fenway Park against one of the best pitchers of the era in Christy Mathewson. Both pitchers held the opposing lineup to just one run through the first nine innings, but in the top of the 10th, Giants first baseman Fred Merkle knocked in the go-ahead run on a single to center field. That left the Red Sox in a 2-1 hole entering the bottom of the 10th. If the Red Sox could not score, the Series was over.

Speaker came up to bat with one out and runners on the corners, and he delivered with a single to right field that tied the game. Mathewson loaded the bases by intentionally walking Duffy Lewis, but with just one out, that decision proved fatal. Third baseman Larry Gardner won it for the Red Sox with a sacrifice fly, and Fenway Park celebrated its first season as the home of the World Series champions.

Oct. 1, 1967 – For much of the 1960s, the Red Sox flat-out stunk. In 1966, the Sox finished second-to-last in the AL for the second year in a row. But in 1967, the Red Sox put together the Impossible Dream season.

Boston started the season well and held that pace throughout the year. On Sept. 1, the Red Sox were in first place in the American League, a half-game ahead of the Twins. September turned out to be a dogfight, as the Twins, Tigers and White Sox battled with the Red Sox for the pennant. By the final weekend, the Twins held a one-game lead over the Red Sox and Tigers. Boston faced the Twins in its final two games, and the Red Sox needed a sweep for a chance at winning the pennant.

The Red Sox won the first game, 6-4, and were trailing 2-0 in the second game until a five-run sixth helped the Red Sox to a 5-3 win. Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski went 4-for-4 with a game-tying two-run single, and Cy Young winner Jim Lonborg pitched a complete game before being mobbed by his teammates and fans.

Despite the win, the pennant was not won. The Red Sox and their fans, who had been invisible before the season but grew with every passing game in 1967, had to wait out the second-game of a doubleheader between the Tigers and Angels in order to determine the pennant winner. The Tigers ended up losing, 8-5, and the Red Sox celebrated in the clubhouse of Fenway Park.

Although the Sox eventually lost to the Cardinals in seven games in the World Series, the 1967 team revived the franchise.

Oct. 21, 1975 – One of the most iconic images from a game at Fenway Park is that of Carlton Fisk drifting down the first-base line with his arms waving the ball fair. Fisk at the time was playing in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. The Red Sox were down three games to two to the Reds and needed a win to force a Game 7. Earlier in the game, Boston engineered a three-run rally in the eighth inning to tie the game at 6, a tie that would last until the bottom of the 12th.

That’s when Fisk stepped up to bat against Pat Darcy. The first pitch Fisk faced was a ball. The second pitch was about knee-high, and Fisk swung, pulling the ball down the line. Fisk’€™s entire body mirrored the emotion of every Red Sox fan in the ballpark. Red Sox Nation, Fisk included, was seized with just one thought: Stay fair.

When the ball did stay fair, ringing off the foul pole before dropping back into the park, Fisk and Fenway exploded. Fisk jumped up and down like a gleeful child on his way to first base and the Fenway stands burst into instant pandemonium. At the time, it was a moment that meant hope was still alive for the Red Sox in the hunt for their first World Series title in 57 years, but as the years went by, it stood as a moment when all of Fenway Park was one, experiencing pure jubilation and ecstasy together in the bandbox of a park on Yawkey Way.

Oct. 17, 2004 – Before Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, Red Sox Nation was glum. The team was in a 0-3 hole to the Yankees that was capped off with a 19-8 loss in Game 3. It seemed certain that for the second consecutive year, the Yankees would eliminate the Red Sox in the ALCS, and for the 86th consecutive year, the Red Sox would not win the World Series.

By the ninth inning of Game 4, the Yankees held on to a 4-3 lead. Closer Mariano Rivera was on the mound, and he was scheduled to face the bottom three batters of the Red Sox lineup. The fans at Fenway mustered as much energy as they could to cheer for the team until the last light at Fenway went out. Kevin Millar rewarded them with a leadoff walk, and the magic began.

Dave Roberts pinch ran for Millar. The entire ballpark knew he was attempting to steal second base, but the trick was pulling off the steal that a pitcher knew was coming. Rivera nearly picked Roberts off on his first attempt. The second attempt came on Rivera’€™s first actual pitch. The throw was there, and Roberts slid, barely eluding Derek Jeter‘€™s sweeping tag. Safe.

Two pitches later, Bill Mueller sent a grounder up the middle, driving in Roberts. The game was tied. The Red Sox were still alive.

The score remained tied until the bottom of the 12th. Manny Ramirez led off the inning with a single to left field. David Ortiz, who was batting .500 in the series before Game 4, stepped up to bat. He worked his way into a 2-1 count before taking his chances on a belt-high pitch. Ortiz drove it deep to right field and into the bullpen, causing the Fenway crowd to explode with joy and relief as the Red Sox lived to see another game. At the very least, they would not bow out of the postseason due to a sweep at the hands of the Yankees.

The Sox, of course, went on to win the next three games and then sweep the World Series against the Cardinals.

2 SEEDS

Sept. 11, 1918 – With the country embroiled in World War I, the government ordered Major League Baseball to end its regular season by Labor Day, meaning for the first and only time in history, the World Series was played entirely in September. The Red Sox, who at the time were four-time World Series champions and the most dominant postseason team in baseball, had played the 1915 and 1916 World Series games at Braves Field in order to accommodate larger crowds. In 1918, however, the Red Sox returned to Fenway Park, and their success continued in the Fens.

The Babe Ruth-led Red Sox entered Game 6 of the World Series with a 3-2 series lead, and they sent submariner Carl Mays to the mound with a chance to clinch the series. Mays had already pitched the Red Sox to a 2-1 win in Game 3, and he repeated the task in Game 6, limiting the Cubs to just one run while the Red Sox scored two runs on an error in the second inning, giving Boston the 2-1 win in Game 6 and their fifth World Series title. Their Series win would be their last for the next 86 years.

Oct. 2, 1978 – Before there was 2011, there was 1978. The Red Sox infamously blew a 14-game late-July lead to cause the season to come down to a one-game playoff for the postseason between the Red Sox and Yankees. The game was played at Fenway Park, and while it will not go down as one of the happiest endings for Red Sox fans, it was quite a game.

The Red Sox had a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning when the Yankees’€™ No. 9 hitter, one Bucky Dent, golfed a Mike Torrez pitch out of the park for a three-run home run, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead. New York added some insurance with an RBI double from Thurman Munson and a solo home run from Reggie Jackson to hold a commanding 5-2 advantage midway through the eighth inning, but the Red Sox would not go down without a fight.

The Red Sox scored twice in the bottom of the eighth to narrow the score to 5-4, and that score remained until the bottom of the ninth inning. With two outs and runners on the corners, the Yankees’€™ Goose Gossage faced 39-year-old Carl Yastrzemski. It was power vs. power, and Gossage was the victor. He forced Yaz to pop up to end the game and the season. 1978 was remembered for Bucky Dent and the continued Red Sox trend of falling just short of success, but there also was the crazy back-and-forth game that day filled with drama and suspense possible only in games that determine whether a team will live to play another day.

April 29, 1986 – This late-April game in 1986 was not expected to be a classic. Boston’€™s attention at the time was on Larry Bird and the Celtics, who were playing at the Garden that night in Game 2 of the second round of the playoffs. Roger Clemens was not yet a star. At 23 years old, he had struggled through his first two major league seasons, going a combined 16-9, and entered the season coming off of shoulder surgery. It was a cold night in Boston, and a meager 13,414 fans made the trip to Fenway for the game.

Eearly on, Clemens set a tone that showed it would be a special night. He struck out the side in the first inning, then struck out two more batters in the second. By the end of the sixth inning, Clemens had 14 strikeouts and was well on his way to the major league record of 19 strikeouts in a game. The Celtics were keeping track of Clemens’€™ strikeouts on the message boards at the Garden. Local college students started hanging red K’s on the right field wall at Fenway, and they were quickly running out of room. The fans were going crazy with each called strike and every swing-and-miss.

By the start of the ninth inning, Clemens had 18 strikeouts. He needed one more to tie the record and two more to break it. Clemens tied the record when he struck out future Sox teammate Spike Owen on a high pitch to start the ninth. Fenway rose to its feet when he closed on the record by working the second hitter, Phil Bradley, to a 2-2 count. Clemens placed his next pitch perfectly on the inside corner, and Bradley was called out looking. The college students hung the 20th K above all the others in right field as 23-year-old Roger Clemens became the first pitcher in baseball history to strike out 20 batters in one game.

July 13, 1999 — Ted Williams may be one of the greatest hitters to ever call Fenway Park home, so when the All-Star Game came to Fenway in 1999, there was no better choice than Williams to throw out the honorary first pitch. Baseball’€™s All-Century Team was honored before the game, and Williams was introduced to the crowd last. At 80 years old, the frailer version of the Splendid Splinter rode in a golf cart to the pitcher’s mound. Williams doffed his cap to the crowd in a way he had never done as a player, and the fans roared, bringing tears first to Williams’€™ eyes, and then to the fans in the stands.

When Williams reached the mound, the crowd of current All-Stars spontaneously surrounded Williams. The players started shaking his hand and speaking briefly to him, but the whole event started to delay the regular proceedings, so officials and even the PA announcer asked the players to go back to their dugouts. None obeyed. Each player stayed until he had his time with Williams, unwilling to let the spontaneous moment come to an end. Once Williams, with some assistance, threw out the first pitch (with Carlton Fisk as his catcher), a more current Red Sox star took over.

Pedro Martinez was the starting pitcher for the American League that day, and he honored the hometown crowd by striking out five of the six batters he faced. The game’s MVP whiffed Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell in one of the greatest pitching performances in the 70 years of the All-Star Game.

3 SEEDS

April 16, 1945 — Tom Yawkey, the longtime owner of the Red Sox, was not known as a pioneer in race relations. When Fenway Park played host to a tryout for African-American players, it was the result of lobbying from African-American sportswriter Wendell Smith and Boston city councilman Isadore Muchnik, who refused to grant the Red Sox a permit to play that Sunday unless the team allowed the Negro League players a tryout. At the time, state Blue Laws banned baseball on Sundays without a permit.

Smith selected the players: Negro League stars Marvin Williams and Sam Jethroe as well as former UCLA running back Jackie Robinson. Red Sox coach Hugh Duffy, manager Joe Cronin, general manager Eddie Collins and Yawkey reportedly supervised the tryout, which last about an hour and a half. After the tryout, Duffy called the players ‘€œpretty good ballplayers,’€ but as the days passed, it became obvious that the Red Sox would not sign any of the players.

The event is one many point to when criticizing the Red Sox organization at the time and Yawkey as racist. While Robinson went on to break the color barrier in baseball two years later in 1947, the Red Sox were the last team in baseball to sign an African-American, as it was not until 1959 when Pumpsie Green became the first black ballplayer to play for the Red Sox.

Oct. 4, 1948 – The 1948 regular season ended with Indians and Red Sox locked in a tie for first place, so for the first time in baseball history, a one-game playoff would determine the American League champion. Fenway Park was chosen as the locale for the event by a coin flip, but unfortunately, Red Sox manager Joe McCarthy could not choose his starting pitcher the same way. McCarthy had a tough choice. He could go with the young Mel Parnell, who had beaten the Indians three times that season but was inexperienced, or he could send out 36-year-old Denny Galehouse, who was a proven big-game pitcher but had gone 1-4 against the Indians that year.

McCarthy chose to go with Galehouse. According to The Boston Globe’€™s recap of the game, McCarthy did not have much of a choice. Mel Parnell, Globe writer Jack Barry wrote, ‘€œwas suffering from an ulcerated tooth and trouble with his left flapper.’€

Meanwhile, the Indians sent out 27-year-old rookie Gene Bearden, who was pitching on one day of rest after pitching a complete-game shutout against the Tigers. A crowd of 33,957 Red Sox fans came out for the game on a chilly October day, and they did not leave happy. Bearden outdueled Galehouse to the tune of an 8-3 Cleveland win that ended the Red Sox’€™ season and prevented the possibility of an all-Boston World Series between the Red Sox and the Braves. The game would be the final postseason game at Fenway Park until 1967.

Oct. 3, 1990 – On the final day of the regular season, the Red Sox were guarding a one-game lead over the Blue Jays for the American League East title and had the chance to control their own destiny with a win against the White Sox. A packed crowd of 33,637 filled Fenway Park, finishing off a club record for single-season attendance with a total of 2,528,986.

The Red Sox scored three runs in the second inning but were shut out for the rest of the game and had to rely on pitching and strong fielding. There was no moment more important than the top of the ninth inning. The crowd was in a frenzy, as the scoreboard showed the Orioles were holding their own against the Blue Jays and the Fenway Faithful could sense the postseason just around the corner.

But the White Sox did not go down easily. With two outs in the ninth and Jeff Reardon on the mound for Boston, the White Sox attempted to rally from a 3-1 deficit. Sammy Sosa singled to center field and then advanced to second when Scott Fletcher was hit by a pitch.

Ozzie Guillen came up to bat with the tying run on base, and when he pounded a fly ball to deep right field, it looked like Guillen had delivered. But Tom Brunansky made a spectacular play, diving into the corner of right field to make the catch. The Red Sox fans hanging over the corner of the short wall there said it all as they exploded in cheers. The Red Sox were American League East champions.

July 24, 2004 – It’€™s a given that a Red Sox-Yankees game will be filled with emotion, but it is still rare for players in the 2000s era of the rivalry to outwardly show their dislike of each other. On a late July day at Fenway Park, however, Jason Varitek and the Red Sox proved the rivalry was alive and well.

The Red Sox were already out for revenge following an 8-7 loss to the Yankees the day before thanks to an Alex Rodriguez RBI single in the ninth inning, but Rodriguez and the Yankees gave the Red Sox more to be angry about in the third inning. With two outs and the Yankees leading, 3-0, Bronson Arroyo hit Rodriguez with a pitch. Rodriguez took exception to the plunking and made a gesture toward the mound, but Varitek was not having any of that. When Rodriguez challenged Varitek, the catcher bit, shoving his mitt in Rodriguez’€™s face and inciting a bench-clearing brawl.

Both Varitek and Rodriguez were ejected from the game, but the rest of the game continued to provide excitement. When the Yankees took a 9-4 lead by virtue of a six-run sixth inning, the Red Sox responded with a four-run bottom of the sixth that tightened the score to 9-8. By the ninth inning, the Yankees held a 10-8 lead and sent closer Mariano Rivera to the mound to finish off the Sox.

But Boston refused to lose. Nomar Garciaparra started the rally with a double to left field, and Kevin Millar drove him in with an RBI single to shorten the New York lead to 10-9. Bill Mueller stepped up to the plate representing the winning run, and he came through, hitting a walk-off home run to give the Red Sox the 11-10 win. The game was later cited as the turning point for the Red Sox season, as Boston entered the game 9½ games behind the Yankees in the standings but went on to top the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and win the World Series.

4 SEEDS

July 9, 1946 – Fenway Park has played host to three All-Star Games, the first of which was in 1946. Fenway was originally supposed to host the 1945 All-Star Game, but it was canceled that season due to war restrictions. As a result, the 1946 version was celebrated zealously, as it marked the end of the years of wartime trials and a return to normal life.

Four Red Sox players — Dom DiMaggio, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams – were in the starting lineup, but the coveted matchup of the game was between Williams and Rip Sewell, a pitcher for the Pirates who was famous for his slow, high-arching offering called the “eephus pitch.”

Williams, who had not played in an All-Star Game since 1942 due to his military service, got the best of Sewell in the 1946 Midsummer Classic. In addition to going 4-for-4 with a walk and five RBIs in the game, Williams hit the first-ever home run off Sewell’€™s eephus pitch. Williams set All-Star Game records that day for runs (4), RBIs (5) and career RBIs (9) and tied records for hits (4) and home runs (2). The American League won that day, 12-0.

Sept. 28, 1960 — Ted Williams had one of the most storied careers in Red Sox history, and his 21-year tenure with the team came to an end on Sept. 28, 1960, with three games remaining in the regular season. A crowd of 10,454 fans (including author John Updike) made it out to Fenway Park that day to see Williams, who chose not to play the final three games of the season against the Yankees in New York in order to end his career in Boston.

The 42-year-old Williams hit .316 in his final season, and he batted third in his final game. Fans were eager to see one more hit from Williams, but they had to wait. The Splendid Splinter walked in his first at-bat and flew out in his second and third plate appearances. But in the bottom of the eighth with the Red Sox trailing, 4-2, Williams came to the plate and gave the crowd part of what it wanted: a home run that landed in the Red Sox bullpen.

The at-bat was Williams’€™ last, and the aware crowd pleaded for Williams to tip his cap, but Williams never tipped his cap to the fans in his career. He was not about to change that tendency in his final at-bat. As Updike memorialized in his account of the game, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu,” ‘€œThe papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.’€

Eventually, Williams would tip his cap, albeit 39 years later when Williams was an 80-year-old guest at the 1999 All-Star Game. But for that day, Ted Williams was Ted Williams, both in production and in manner.

Sept. 12, 1979 – Throughout its 100 years, Fenway Park has seen many milestones, but it is always a privilege to see a Red Sox favorite reach a coveted milestone in the friendly confines of 4 Yawkey Way. Longtime Red Sox hero Carl Yastrzemski collected his 3,000th hit in style, as he reached the milestone in a game at Fenway against the Yankees.

The Red Sox were beating up on the Yankees that day and were leading, 8-2, in the bottom of the eighth when Yaz connected for his 3,000th hit, a two-out ground-ball single to right field. The hit was three days coming, and Yaz went 0-for-13 over that time before finally collecting No. 3000.

The game was stopped as streamers poured out of the stands, ‘€œ3000′€ flashed on the message board and a microphone was brought out for a brief ceremony. Yaz spoke, thanking everyone he could think of, and the PA announcer informed the crowd of 34,337 that Yaz was the first American League player to amass both 3,000 hits and 400 home runs.

Yaz received a final ovation from the crowd before the game resumed. He was pulled in favor of Jim Dwyer, as Yaz was suffering from Achilles tendon inflammation in the final weeks of the season, and the Red Sox went on to win the game, 9-2. But for the brief moment following Yaz’€™s hit, Fenway had come together as one to celebrate one of its favorite sons.

May 15, 1998 — Lou Merloni has always been a New England boy. He grew up in Framingham and went to college at Providence College. He played Cape Cod League Baseball and was the league’€™s batting champion in 1992. When the Red Sox drafted Merloni in 1993, he neared the completion of any Boston boy’€™s dream of playing for the Red Sox.

It took Merloni a few years to climb the minor league ranks and battle through injuries, but in May of 1998, he finally made it to the Red Sox. Merloni’€™s debut came in Kansas City on May 10, and he went 1-for-7 in his first seven at-bats before finally getting the chance to play at Fenway Park.

Merloni’€™s Fenway debut came on his parents’€™ 33rd wedding anniversary, and he provided his family a limo ride to the park in honor of the day. The family had to wait until the third inning to see Merloni, who was batting eighth, step up to the plate, but it was worth the wait. He hit a three-run home run off Jose Rosado, becoming the first Red Sox player to homer in his inaugural Fenway at-bat since Tony Conigliaro in 1964.

The rest of Merloni’€™s night also went well, as he recorded a double in the sixth inning and walked to go 2-for-2 on the night, helping the Sox to a 5-2 victory.

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