Fenway Park's inaugural year was exceptional on many levels. After extensive construction in the early months of 1912, Fenway Park hosted its first game on April 9, an exhibition between the Red Sox and Harvard College. Eleven days later, the Red Sox played their first official game at Fenway Park against the New York Highlanders. The club went on to win 105 regular season games, the American League Pennant and a thrilling World Series. During the season, while the Red Sox were on the road, a few amateur baseball games were held at the park and the construction of left-field and right-field bleachers was completed in time for the World Series. In late 1912, Fenway Park hosted the National High School Football Championship Game, concluding an eventful first year in the park's history.

The Red Sox

Record: 105-47, 1st in American League
Manager: J. Garland (Jake) Stahl
Attendance: 597,096
Postseason: Won World Series

The Red Sox opened the 1912 season with new ownership and a new ballpark. General Charles H. Taylor and his son John I. Taylor had sold controlling interest in the team to James McAleer in September 1911, but the Taylor family stayed on as overseers of construction on the club's new ballpark. After a feverish winter of work, Fenway Park, the new home of the Boston Red Sox, was ready for an April 9 exhibition against Harvard College, a 2-0 contest the Sox won amidst snow flurries. Opening Day of the regular season was scheduled for April 18, 1912 and not only did that day get rained out, but both Patriots Day games on the following day did as well - and the newspaper headlines focused mainly on the sinking of the steamship Titanic, which had sunk on April 15.

When the Sox finally took the field for the first official game on April 20, 1912, some 27,000 fans saw the Red Sox prevail in a 7-6, extra-innings victory over the New York Highlanders (renamed the Yankees in 1913). Boston Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, a prominent member of the Royal Rooters fan club and grandfather of future President John F. Kennedy, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

One of James McAleer's first moves had been to entice back first baseman Jake Stahl, who had not played in 1911, making him the manager and giving him a small ownership share. Under Stahl's leadership, the Red Sox secured a hold on first place by June 15 that they never surrendered.

The 1912 Red Sox pitching staff was led by 22-year-old Smoky Joe Wood, who went 34-5 (including 35 complete games) with a 1.91 ERA. Wood's start on September 6, 1912 against Walter Johnson was considered the game of the year, with Wood prevailing 1-0 for his record-tying 16th consecutive victory before a packed Fenway Park. Wood was joined on the staff by two other 20-game winners, Buck O'Brien and Hugh Bedient, as well as the steady Charley Hall and Ray Collins.

With a .383 batting average, 90 RBIs, and a league-leading 10 home runs and 53 doubles, center fielder Tris Speaker was the 1912 American League winner of the Chalmers Award (the equivalent of the Most Valuable Player, presented by the eponymous motor car company). Speaker played a spectacular center field and had three lengthy hitting streaks during the 1912 season.

The Red Sox finished the season with a 105-47 record, which is still the best winning percentage in team history. The team also compiled the largest run differential in franchise history, scoring 799 runs while only allowing 544. Boston in particular dominated New York, with the Sox winning 19 of the season series' 21 contests, and finishing 55 games ahead of the Highlanders, the largest gap ever between the two teams.

The Red Sox went on to face the robust New York Giants in the 1912 World Series. Boston jumped out to a 3-1 series lead, but dropped the next two to force a winner-take-all finale at Fenway. The Sox trailed 2-1 in the final game heading into the bottom of the 10th inning, but Giants center fielder Fred Snodgrass' dropped fly ball gave the Sox life and set the stage for Larry Gardner's game-winning sacrifice fly, clinching Boston's first World Series title in Fenway Park.


Fenway's First Home Run

When Fenway Park first opened, the most prominent feature that greeted fans was the exceptionally tall left-field wall. At a time when home runs were few and far between, almost no one believed that a hitter could ever send a ball above and beyond the towering structure.

Yet on April 26, 1912, an unlikely figure etched his name in Fenway Park lore with an historic shot to left field. Boston backup first baseman Hugh Bradley, a Central Massachusetts native with only one previous round-tripper in his big league career, hit Fenway Park's first home run against the Philadelphia Athletics during the team's fifth home game in their new park.

The shot was Bradley's lone home run of the season, and the final one of his career. After the 1912 season, Bradley went on to play two seasons in the Federal League before bouncing around the minor leagues for several years and then retiring. But Bradley's home run on April 26, 1912 lives on in baseball history as the first of many home runs hit at Fenway Park.


The 1912 World Series

The 1912 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Giants began at the Polo Grounds, with 300 of Boston's Royal Rooters taking the train to Gotham for Game One. The Boston contingent included a 30-piece brass band and most of the group wore bright red sweaters with matching hatbands and carried pennants proclaiming "Red Sox World's Champs." Boston Mayor and prominent Royal Rooter John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald led the group in the singing of "Tessie," a song that the Rooters used in Boston's first World Series played against Pittsburgh in 1903. The cheering worked and Boston won Game One, 4-3.

On Wednesday, October 9, 1912, Fenway Park hosted Game Two, the first World Series game at the new park. The contest ended in a 6-6 tie when the game was called after 11 innings due to darkness. At the time, it was only the second World Series game to end in a tie, the first being Game One of the 1907 Series.

On October 10, 1912, before Game Three at Fenway Park, Tris Speaker was given a Chalmers Roadster for winning the season's MVP award and he took the car for a spin before the game. After Boston dropped Game Three to the Giants, the series alternated between the two cities. The Red Sox won the next two games, giving them a 3-1 series lead, but, facing elimination, the Giants won Game Six at home to force a return to Boston.

Up three games to two (not counting the tie), the Royal Rooters marched into Fenway Park on October 15 hoping to witness the clinching victory at home. Led by their band, the Rooters marched to Fenway only to find that their accustomed seats had been sold to others. The game was held up while police restrained the Rooters, who were stirred into a near riot. The Giants beat the Red Sox 11-4 in Game Seven, setting up a series-deciding, winner-take-all finale the next day.

Capping what is considered by many to be the greatest World Series ever played, Game Eight was held at Fenway Park but, due to a boycott staged by the still-furious Rooters, it was witnessed by only 17,000 fans. The pitching was superb, pitting the Giants' already legendary Christy Mathewson (whose 23-12 record in 1912 represented his 10th consecutive 20-plus win season) against 22-year-old rookie Hugh Bedient, who was 20-9 with a 2.92 ERA in 1912. Both pitchers were outstanding but the Giants led 1-0 when the Red Sox came to bat in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and two on, pinch-hitter extraordinaire Olaf Henriksen stepped in for Bedient and doubled in the game-tying run.

Smoky Joe Wood took over for Bedient and shut the Giants down in the eighth and ninth. But the Red Sox failed to generate any offense, and the game entered extra innings. With one out in the top of the 10th, New York's Red Murray hit a double and then scored on teammate Fred Merkle's single. Now leading 2-1, Mathewson started the bottom of the 10th by inducing pinch-hitter Clyde Engle to lift a routine fly ball to center field, but New York's Fred Snodgrass dropped the ball, and Engle wound up on second base.

The play went down in baseball lore as the "$30,000 muff," as that amount was the difference between the collective winners' and losers' shares. Harry Hooper promptly smacked a ball to Snodgrass, who made a truly great catch - but Engle tagged up and took third. After Steve Yerkes walked, Tris Speaker hit a foul pop-up but it fell between Merkle and Meyers. Given new life, Speaker singled, tying the score, and Yerkes took third. Mathewson intentionally walked Duffy Lewis to put a force at every base, but Larry Gardner hit a long sacrifice fly to deep right field and Yerkes ran home to give the Red Sox the World Series victory.

The Giants had out-hit the Red Sox (.270 to .220) and outscored the Red Sox by six runs. Their pitching was much better overall (an earned run average of 1.59 to Boston's 2.92) but timing was everything, as it often is, and the Red Sox came out on top. After the series, thousands upon thousands of delirious Red Sox fans lined the celebration route from Fenway Park to Faneuil Hall, where Mayor Fitzgerald welcomed the 1912 World Champions.

Renovations

Just three months after the start of construction in late September 1911, the new home of the Boston Red Sox was quickly taking shape. Former Owner John I. Taylor had sold controlling interest in the club to James McAleer shortly before construction commenced but Taylor remained heavily involved as the overseer of construction. Under Taylor's leadership, building efforts proceeded at a breakneck pace: the foundations for the facility were already in place by the start of the New Year and the roof had also been framed.

The asymmetrical piece of land that the Taylors had bought in early 1911, combined with the family's wish to utilize the entire parcel, resulted in a ballpark with unique field dimensions. Because all games in the early twentieth century were played during the day, the orientation of the sun to the playing field was a crucial factor. To keep the solar glare out of batters' eyes in the late afternoon hours, home plate was placed in the southwest area of the plot, with the third base line pointing northward.

The new ballpark was ready to hold baseball crowds by the start of the 1912 regular season, but certain areas remained incomplete and the initial plan to build a second deck was abandoned due to the hastened timetable for construction. When it opened, the single-decked grandstand seating areas, both around the infield and down the right-field line, were made of steel and concrete. There were wooden bleacher sections in center field, but other areas didn't have any seating. There were no seats down the left-field line, while the right-field bleachers had also not been built (in fact, there was a large parking lot beyond right field that was used throughout the 1912 season).

The new ballpark had a towering left-field fence and a steep incline in front of the wall that took on the nickname, "Duffy's Cliff," in honor of Red Sox Hall of Famer Duffy Lewis, the starting left fielder for the 1912 team who adeptly handled this tricky part of the field's layout.

When explaining his reason for choosing the new park's name, Taylor casually and rhetorically asked, "because [the park's] in the Fenway, isn't it?" The fact that the appellation provided free publicity for the Taylor family's Fenway Realty Company didn't hurt either.

Fenway Park hosted its first game on April 9, 1912, an exhibition the Red Sox won 2-0 over Harvard University. The park's first official, regular season game was played on April 20, 1912, a contest between the Red Sox and New York Highlanders that drew a crowd of 27,000 fans. On May 17, the formal dedication of Fenway Park took place.

The Red Sox celebrated their first season in the park by winning 105 games, still their highest total in club history, and earned a World Series berth against the National League Champion New York Giants. In preparation for the series, Fenway Park underwent further renovations in September to accommodate the larger crowds expected for the match-up and by the start of Fenway Park's first World Series, the left field and right field bleachers had been built, along with temporary seating in front of the left-field wall and in the outfield.


September 1912 Construction

With baseball fervor peaking as the 1912 regular season came to a close, capacity crowds were expected for the World Series tilt between the Red Sox and the Giants. Boston hadn't been to the Series since 1903, and anticipation for the club's battle with John McGraw's mighty New York club resounded throughout the city.

While the Red Sox were on an early to mid-September road trip through the Midwest, over 10,000 seats were added to handle the expected crowds. In left and right field, bleacher sections were completed and held approximately 4,500 fans each. In addition, temporary seating, which accommodated over 1,000 spectators during the 1912 World Series, was added on Duffy's Cliff in front of the left-field wall and additional seats were built in front of the grandstand beyond each dugout. For the first time, Fenway Park was fully enclosed.

When the team returned home from its road trip on September 23, the sheer number of fans greeting the players confirmed the wisdom of the construction efforts. An estimated 220,000 people lined a route that the team traveled from South Station to the Boston Common, where Mayor Fitzgerald presented each player with a key to the city.

Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park

In Fenway Park's inaugural year, the ballpark also hosted amateur baseball games featuring local teams. The first such game ended in a tie when a team from the Christian Science Monitor newspaper played the Somerville Independents for 12 innings on July 27. A week later, the two teams played a do-over of the tie game with the Monitor team emerging victorious. On August 8, the Monitor squad played at Fenway Park again, this time against the Boston Transcript in a newspaper league game, and two days later, the Winthrop Knights of Columbus defeated the Lynn Elks club in seven innings. These four games in the middle of Fenway's first summer were the first of many amateur baseball games in Fenway Park's history.

1912 Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park
July 27Christian Science Monitor 8, Somerville Independents 8
(12 Innings) (Tie)
August 3Christian Science Monitor 4, Somerville Independents 1
August 8Christian Science Monitor 2, Boston Transcript 1
August 10Winthrop Knights of Columbus 3, Lynn Elks 1 (7 Innings)

More Than a Ballpark ™

The 1912 World Series wasn't the only championship decided at Fenway Park in its inaugural year. On November 30, 1912, Oak Park High School of Illinois faced off against local Everett High School in the National High School Football Championship Game. Boston Latin High School and Boston English High School also played a late-November football game in 1912 and the Boston Lodge of Elks held a field day in August that included an appearance by famous athlete Jim Thorpe.

1912 Non-Baseball Events At Fenway Park
August 10Boston Lodge of Elks Field Day
November 28Boston Latin 7, Boston English 6 (Football)
November 30Oak Park High School (IL) 32, Everett High School (MA) 12 (Football)


Oak Park High School (IL) Defeats Everett High School (MA)

On November 30, 1912, Oak Park High School (IL), led by future Hall of Fame coach Robert Zuppke, defeated Everett High School by a score of 32-14 in the National High School Football Championship Game. A crowd of over 10,000 filled the bleachers and was described in the following excerpt from the game account from the Boston Evening Record:

"The Oak Park squad came onto the field amid a momentary hush and then the Everett cohorts gave a lusty yell for the westerners that seemed to put added life into the practice, and they charged up and down the gridiron with speed, their husky backs keeping well together in interference.

The Everett players watched their antagonists with a great deal of attention, each man giving his opponent for the afternoon a sizing up.

When the Everett boys went out for their practice the entire crowd rose and gave a cheer that would have done credit to the Harvard cheering section." (Boston Evening Record, December 1, 1912)

Just prior to the game, fans spilled from the bleachers onto the field and had to be restrained by mounted police summoned by Boston Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald.

Despite the heroics of Everett's captain Charlie Brickley, Coach Cleo O'Donnell's Everett team couldn't match the razzle and dazzle style employed by Oak Park. At times the Illinois team made as many as six laterals before charging forward in an attack that wowed fans and sportswriters alike.

Oak Park's victory represented their third title in the first three years of the competition and was also Zuppke's last game at Oak Park prior to taking over the football program at the University of Illinois. At Illinois, Zuppke led his squad to four national titles.

The 1912 World Series at Fenway Park. (Credit: Boston Red Sox)