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Hitting the Century Park

100 years ago to date, the Harvard baseball team faced the Red Sox in Fenway Park's first-ever contest

The 1912 Boston Red Sox pose in front of their dugout at Fenway Park. Top row (left to right): Quirk (trainer), Speaker, Joe Wood's sister Zoe, Wood, Cady, Thomas, O'Brien, Bradley, Lewis. Middle row: Hooper, Carrigan, Yerkes, Henriksen, Engle, Nunamaker, Hall, Gardner, Collins, Stahl. Front row: Wagner, Bedient, mascot, Pape, Krug.
The 1912 Boston Red Sox pose in front of their dugout at Fenway Park. Top row (left to right): Quirk (trainer), Speaker, Joe Wood's sister Zoe, Wood, Cady, Thomas, O'Brien, Bradley, Lewis. Middle row: Hooper, Carrigan, Yerkes, Henriksen, Engle, Nunamaker, Hall, Gardner, Collins, Stahl. Front row: Wagner, Bedient, mascot, Pape, Krug.
By Scott A. Sherman, Crimson Staff Writer

Amidst freezing temperatures and snow quite irregular for an early spring afternoon, the Harvard baseball team packed into an electric street car in Harvard Square at 1:45 p.m. and headed to the opening day they had been preparing for all winter.

But the Crimson’s first game of 1912 was unlike any the country had seen before.

Coming off a 17-6 season under manager Frank J. Sexton, Harvard was going downtown, to the corner of Jersey and Landsdowne Streets. There, it would be playing the third installation of its annual matchup with the Boston Red Sox in the Sox’s brand new home, Fenway Park.

At approximately 3:30, amidst the snow, the wind, and the gray skies, Crimson third baseman Dana Joseph Paine Wingate, class of 1914, stepped up to the plate against Boston’s Casey Hageman as 3,000 passionate fans of America’s pastime looked on in anticipation.

Hageman wound, aimed, and fired, and on April 9, 1912—100 years ago to date—the first-ever baseball game at Fenway Park was underway.


Most in attendance at Fenway that chilly day had paid a nickel to arrive by streetcar, as there was no subway service to nearby Kenmore Square and few felt like walking thanks to the dreary weather.

Though there were certainly more people in the streets around the stadium than there were on a normal afternoon, it was truly only the diehards who had come out to see the Red Sox play an exhibition against the Harvard nine.  For almost everybody that lived in the area knew somebody who had worked on the construction of the new park, which until recent days had been easy to approach and get a good look at.

“A lot of people had already seen it, particularly the people in the neighborhoods around the stadium,” says historian Glenn Stout, the author of “Fenway 1912: The Birth of a Ballpark, A Championship Season, and Fenway’s Remarkable First Year.” “There was probably more interest from the people coming over from Cambridge and Harvard.”

Local Bostonians, most wearing homburg hats and heavy coats, lined up at the new ticket office at the north end of Jersey Street and waited patiently despite the strong winds. Many people from Cambridge already had tickets to the contest; the weekend before the game, The Harvard Crimson had informed readers that they could be purchased for 75 cents at both the Harvard athletic office and at Leavitt & Pierce in Harvard Square. According to the article, boxes—if completed on time—could be purchased for between $1.35 and $1.50.

Once tickets had been obtained and spectators began to enter the stadium, fans who had purchased grandstand seats saw the words—“FENWAY PARK”—that make up the same red-letters-on-concrete sign visible to fans walking down Yawkey Way today. Those arriving for the contest on that overcast April afternoon only needed to hand their tickets to an usher, as the 18 brand new turnstiles the park was purported to feature would not be installed for another week.

As they stepped into the stadium, attendees came across high, cavernous walls and roof made of concrete (older stadiums, made of wood, tended to burn) situated above a dirt floor that would often become muddy on rainy days until the organization covered it in concrete two years later.

If they continued walking, fans would have been surprised to see that the new stadium contained two toilet rooms—a large one to accommodate gentlemen and a smaller one for women. They would have then followed the signs to the ramps that led to the grandstand, and as they reached the top, attendees would have gotten their first glimpse of the vast playing field.


As Wingate dug in against Hageman, he probably did not realize the magnanimity of the moment, nor the significance his name would one day hold as the first batter in the history of Fenway Park.

Indeed, the emotion most encompassing the sophomore from Winchester, Mass. was likely that of intimidation. Four years earlier, Hageman, the 25-year-old right-hander he was now facing, had thrown a pitch that had drilled Charlie “Cupid” Pinkey of the Dayton Veterans behind the left ear and subsequently killed him.

The hurler had been so mortified that he had taken the following season off, and after two years in the minor leagues in Denver, he was fighting to make the Red Sox squad.

“The papers said he was the $5,000 prospect,” says Red Sox Vice President Emeritus and Team Historian Dick Bresciani, referring to the seemingly extravagant price Boston had paid to purchase Hageman from the minors.

The Harvard roster was still wide-open as well; as The Crimson reported that day, “The make-up of the team is still unsettled, and in all probability nearly everyone will be given a try-out this afternoon.”

Though Wingate was a good bet to make the team, the third baseman was nonetheless overmatched by Hageman, who threw a first pitch ball before striking Wingate out on a series of fastballs.

Hageman then retired Crimson shortstop Dowd Desha and left fielder Richard Babson with ease to finish off a 1-2-3 opening inning.


Even though it was the park’s first game and the Red Sox had touted the appearance of “Old Timers”—a collection of Boston ballplayers from the 1860s onward—the public had shown very little interest in the contest.

“It’s important for anyone looking at [the opening of] Fenway 100 years ago to realize it was nowhere near as big a deal as it would be today,” Stout says. “Any anticipation was probably tempered somewhat by the fact that everybody was just trying to stay warm.”

Yet had anything close to a capacity crowd turned out, thousands of fans would have had nowhere to sit.

Indeed, the park was still very much a work in progress, with the construction shacks having only been removed a few weeks before. Much of the outfield was covered in footprints from the men who had worked tirelessly over the previous week to finish the bleachers and erect a fence to enclose the park.

As the game began, crews of workers continued bolting seats into the grandstand, working from the lowest rows up. Only a few thousand seats were then in place, while thousands of others were stacked beneath the stands, protected from the weather. They would not be installed for another few days.

In the concrete boxes down below, separated from each other by pipe railings, workers carried stacks of folding chairs up the ramps from below the stands and arranged them in neat rows. Fixed seats were never intended for the boxes.

Grass was sparse thanks to the weather, and outside the infield, bare ground dominated. In front of the fielders was an immense grandstand, 510 feet long from end to end. A mesh net that stretched from its roof was intended to protect fans from foul balls, but it did not yet cover the box seats.

On each side of the infield was a 40-foot-long concrete dugout, with the visiting Crimson along the third-base side. The dugouts contained a bench for the players to sit on, a set of concrete stairs leading to the field, and a pipe rail fence to prevent fielders from falling in while pursuing pop-ups. There was barely enough room for everyone to fit.

Simply put, according to Stout, “The park really wasn’t ready.”


On the mound for the Crimson was junior Sam Felton, class of 1913. The stocky son of a railroad magnate shed the heavy, full-length fur coat he was known to wear and toed the rubber. Better known as Harvard’s star kicker on the gridiron, Felton would be facing a Red Sox lineup that included most of its regulars, including the famed “Golden Outfield” of Duffy Lewis and future Hall of Famers Harry Hooper and Tris Speaker.

Though Felton would later be offered—and decline—a $15,000 contract by the Philadelphia Athletics, the hurler did not have his best stuff amidst the snow and struggled to find the plate.

“They were playing on a field that really, with the exception of the infield grass, was probably mostly mud, and was very slick,” Stout says. “It was a game that was pretty rough around the edges.”

Felton hung in against the major leaguers, getting Hooper to fly out to deep left to begin the home first. After Steve Yerkes singled to right for Fenway’s first hit, Felton got out of a bases-loaded jam to keep the game scoreless after one.

But after the Crimson again went down in order in the top of the second, the Red Sox broke through as Felton struggled with his control. Following walks to Marty Krug and Pinch Thomas—who advanced to second and third on an errant pickoff attempt in which, according to The Crimson, “No member of the University team [was] on hand to take the throw”—Hageman helped himself with a single to right, knocking in Krug for the park’s first run.

Felton got out of the inning with no further damage after Hooper flew out, Yerkes struck out, and Speaker was forced out at second following a walk.


With the poor ticket sales and even worse weather, the few seats in the stadium were sufficient for the 3000-person crowd, which consisted of many folks dressed in wool coats fit for the mid-30s temperatures.

“They had hoped to make a killing that day, and I think they probably hoped they’d get 10 or 12 thousand people,” Stout says. “But the weather was really poor, and that just didn’t happen.”

Indeed, there was not much about the afternoon that made it fit for baseball, and that limited the Red Sox’s interest in playing at all. The team had arrived in Back Bay Station the previous day after spending all night traveling by train from Cincinnati. Upon returning, many had stayed at Put’s on Huntington Avenue, despite the fact that the hotel was much closer to their old stadium—the Huntington Avenue Grounds—than their new one. Others had secured accommodations at the Copley Square Hotel, about twenty minutes by foot from Fenway.

The following afternoon, the squad headed to Park Riding School on Ipswich Street to pick up their uniforms, as the Fenway clubhouses were still unfinished. The players were dressed in their home whites, with the words “Red Sox” emblazoned across their chests in red, and they wore white woolen caps and white socks with a wide red stripe that surrounded their calves and gave them their nickname. From the school, they walked to the park in uniform, though they were in no rush to get to the stadium and so remained in their makeshift clubhouse playing cards and stuffing tobacco until the last possible moment.

The Crimson players, likewise, were in no hurry to head over from campus, where they had dressed. Though Harvard was excited to play on a big league field, the occasion marked the first time all year that the team would even have the chance to play on a real field at all. Most of the Crimson’s practices to that point had taken place indoors, and the team had yet to play a game outside.

“Previous to this,” The Crimson reported on April 6, “the battery men had been working in the cage since the mid-year period; fielding candidates except ‘H’ men since the first of March, and the ‘H’ men since March 18.”

Upon arriving at the stadium, the players who had passed those tryouts and made the team began to warm up, many wearing heavy wool sweaters to fight the cold. Those in the crowd—which, according to the Boston Globe’s Mel Webb, consisted of a “lust-lunged following” from Harvard—were also able to literally warm up thanks to the free coffee, heated by large urns, that was being distributed below the stands.


Hageman, a 5’10”, 186-pound hurler, was in mid-season form following Spring Training in Arkansas. The righty continued to mow down the Crimson as the game wore on, holding Harvard hitless through four.

“He was throwing fastballs by the Harvard players,” Stout says.

But Felton held his own against the Red Sox hitters, keeping his team down just a run as the game moved to the fifth.

“The Boston men were not able to hit Felton very hard,” Webb wrote the next day. “While he was always at odds with the plate and had the short end of the corner decisions that were made by Umpire Jack Stafford, Felton had [a] deceptive change of pace.”

In the fifth, Harvard got its first hit when captain and second baseman Robert Potter, class of 1912, struck a well-placed single through the hole between short and third. But Hageman picked off Potter after he had stolen second and got out of the inning unscathed. The pitcher then added another RBI hit following a Larry Gardner single and a Krug walk in the bottom of the inning to give his team a 2-0 lead.

The Crimson nearly got on the board in the top of the sixth, but after walking and taking second and third on passed balls, centerfielder Richard Bowditch Wigglesworth, class of 1912, was gunned down at the plate trying to score on a double steal.

By that time, the snow was falling more heavily, and a cold wind had begun to blow in from the northwest.


Above the grandstand directly behind home plate was a wooden press box that contained accommodations fit for up to 16 telegraph operators. Inside sat writers from the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Boston Journal, and the Boston Post. Beside them was a keyboard that would be used to operate the new electric scoreboard in left field that—like so much else on that opening day—had yet to be fully installed and would not be utilized until April 20.

Past first base sat an open-alley pavilion about 10-to-15 feet wide where another 1000 or so fans crammed together in the lower section of the wooden bleachers. The area was tilted towards the field so its most distant corner created the start of the outfield wall that down the line was only 300 feet away.

From the pavilion’s front end, a bare wooden fence of eight-foot-tall vertical planks angled back and met the centerfield bleachers more than 400 feet from home plate. The bleachers, rectangular in shape, contained over 40 rows of seats and extended almost as far back as Lansdowne Street, which ran behind them. There were no advertisements hanging anywhere, a fact that would change by the end of the season.

A large flagpole just a few feet from the back fence towered over the bleachers. In dead center field sat an open area in the shape of a triangle, and at its peak the park was at its deepest, 488 feet from home plate.

“Though it was the dead-ball era, a ball could roll a long way under the right conditions,” Bresciani says.

From there ran the left-field fence—at that time neither green nor a monster—which sat above an embankment of earth that few paid much attention to because nobody thought someone would be able to hit the ball far enough for the mound to come into play. The 12-foot hill, later nicknamed “Duffy’s Cliff” after the Red Sox left fielder, was used for structural purposes; since Fenway Park was built higher on the Lansdowne Street side, the left field side of the park had to be raised in order to make it level with the remainder of the stadium. But with the wall set to be built atop the rise still unfinished, those standing on the roof of the Boston Garage Company behind the park could see into the stadium without buying a ticket.

Another tall fence met the grandstand on the third-base side, leaving a wide expanse of space between the foul line and the seats. Some suggested the area would make an ideal place for pitchers to warm up, but such “bullpens” were not commonplace at the time.

Lastly, above a scaffolding that hung from the top of the wall near the left-field line, two anonymous workmen sat and took in the contest, becoming the first two spectators to watch a game from roughly the same viewpoint as those who sit above the Green Monster today.


By the seventh inning, the impatient crowd—which, according to the Boston Herald, “rattled around like a squadron of lima beans in a number eight hat”—had begun to lose interest amidst the weather that grew colder as darkness came.

It had become increasingly difficult for players to see the ball, and after Hageman collected his ninth strikeout to end top of the inning, the Red Sox had decided they had had enough as well. Manager and first baseman Jake Stahl brought Stafford over to the dugout and to everyone’s relief, the game was called. With a final score of Red Sox 2, Harvard 0, it had lasted just one hour and 38 minutes.

Felton finished with 10 walks but only allowed four hits while stranding 13 baserunners, helping him limit the Red Sox damage. As The Crimson remarked the next day, “It was an extraordinary game in this respect, for rarely does a pitcher hold his opponents to two runs when giving passes at the rate of two an inning.... Had it not been for his wildness [Felton] would have pitched very credible ball.”

Though Harvard managed just one hit, The Crimson reported that defensively, “Harvard played a fairly clean game in the field, Felton’s error of judgement in throwing to second when there was no one on the bag, and a muff of a high fly by Wigglesworth, being the only misplays.”

The Globe added that “On the whole...the college players did very well in the field, although they were shy with the hickory. Potter, Clarke, and Wingate made one double play that set the professionals thinking, while out in center field Wigglesworth picked out two hard balls as they came swooping along through the snowflakes.”

On the whole, as Webb admitted on April 10, the game “did not amount to a great deal.” But many raved about the new ballpark, with Herman Nickerson of the Boston Journal saying that “When it is finished, it will be the best in either major league circuit.”

The Red Sox left by train for New York the following day and played their first contest of the season at Hilltop Field against the New York Highlanders—who would become the Yankees the following year—on April 11. The two teams played the first official game at Fenway, a 1-0 Boston win, nine days later.

The season would be a tremendous success for the Red Sox, who finished 105-47 in the regular season and then topped the New York Giants, 4-3, to win the 1912 World Series in a thrilling eight games (game two ended in a tie).

Hageman would only appear in two contests, in which he compiled an ERA of 27.00. He played just one more season after that one.

“He didn’t really have much of a career,” Bresciani says. “He never really lived up to what they hoped he would.”

But Speaker won the AL MVP behind a .383 batting average, 90 RBI, and 52 steals while starter Smoky Joe Wood led the league with 34 wins.

Things wouldn’t go as smoothly for Harvard, which finished 12-10-1. But the Crimson would continue improving in the years to come and would go 22-3-1—including its first win over the Red Sox—four years later.


Today, the Harvard baseball team is set to return to Fenway Park and take batting practice where its predecessors were defeated amidst the snow 100 years earlier.

“All the guys are really excited about it,” junior Robert Wineski says. “It’s not every day that you get to have batting practice in a major league ballpark.”

“It’s really an honor to be able to do something like this,” senior Brent Suter adds. “To represent Harvard’s program while out there will be quite special—there’s not a better ballpark in the country than Fenway.”

In the century following its initial game, the stadium has undergone a number of transformations.  The corner of the right field pavilion that edged onto the field became today’s section six, the wide space along the third-base foul line evolved into today’s sections 28-33, and the left-field wall would not be painted green for another 35 years.

“If someone from today were to be magically transported onto the pitcher’s mound in Fenway Park [in 1912], I don’t think they would recognize the place,” Stout says.

But despite those changes, the awe the initial spectators felt upon entering Fenway—now the oldest Major League stadium still in use—was the same as the wonder felt by the millions of people who attend a game there during a season today.

“It’s great that it’s been able to last 100 years because of the significance—what it means to fans and players who can still come in and think about Babe Ruth and Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski,” Bresciani says.

Though names like Felton, Wingate, and Wigglesworth don’t hold the same weight in baseball lore, the Harvard trio did do one thing those Hall of Famers never did—christen the ballpark that would become a national landmark.

“Our tours are so successful throughout the year with people all over the country and even foreign lands,” Bresciani says. “Fenway has gotten to be an icon around the country.”

And though the park’s first game was to the players more a burden than a blessing, the Boston Globe put it best the following day: “But it was an opening, and that was something.”

Staff writer Scott A. Sherman can be reached at

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