Boston Red Sox
It’s not that the Boston nine haven’t enjoyed considerable glory since, but the last day of the 2011 season was a tough one to swallow.
On September 28 of that year, Oriole Park at Camden Yards showcased the climax of an epic Red Sox collapse. It was a season when the Sox were expected to run away with the AL East, steamroll through the playoffs and win their third World Series in eight years. When the dust cleared in Baltimore, a 7-20 September crumbling saw the team missing October and letting go of a manager who ranks among the biggest titans in Boston sports history.
Game 162 in 2011 may have been a delight for baseball fans just about everywhere else in the country, but it was momentously awful for Boston fans, most of whom had endured enough frowning from the Baseball Gods for one lifetime.
But if the last few paragraphs were tough for you to read, maybe you can take some comfort in the Baltimore faithful having something to cheer about, in what continues to be a nightmarish era for them.
The revolutionary home of baseball in Baltimore is currently…and probably will be for at least another three to four years…the oldest in major league baseball to have never hosted a World Series. This is, for forty-something and older Orioles fans, something impossible to have conceived in the days of Palmer, Robinson, Murray, the young Ripken, and master button-pusher Earl Weaver.
The younger Orioles fan base…true loyalists who cannot fathom the concept of their team being competitive every season…has understandable antipathy for Red Sox fans that often take over their ballpark, especially in lean years. That’s to say nothing of their exasperation at having to pay more for tickets for games against the Sox and Yankees.
So pull for the Red Sox like a good traveling fan. But at least let the locals know how great their ballpark is. They don’t have much else these days.
Following a 115-loss season and a full commitment to a long overdue rebuild, the Birds aren’t likely to fill up Oriole Park very often in 2019. Not even for Red Sox games.
So now is the time to take advantage and visit a beautiful ballpark where you could experience some reverse sticker shock after years of attending games at Fenway. Even to see the Sox in a venue where you’ll be surrounded by your fellow Sox loving brethren, Camden Yards is a far less expensive outing…tickets for even the best seats will probably cost about a third of equivalent seats in Boston, great parking spots can be had for a double sawbuck or less, and even the food…well, okay, the food is still priced at a ballpark level. But you’ll have money left over for it after you park.
If you’re planning a weekend game in the summer months, it’s probably best to get your pasteboards in advance…not because they’re likely to sell out, but because you’ll have more choices. There will likely be a third party markup for weekend games, and the Orioles website allows you to actually pick individual seats. But during the week, try the box office at the north end of the B&O warehouse…you should still have plenty of seats to choose from, and you’ll save a chunk of change in online fees.
Camden is one of those ballparks where fans say there aren’t any bad seats, which is true, but that doesn’t mean some aren’t better than others. If you’re splurging for those cushioned premium lower seats (and you should), the visitors’ dugout is on the third base side. As is the straight ahead view of the impressive warehouse, Oriole Park’s signature feature.
But while the lower concourse features great Baltimore-friendly eats like crab cakes, you’ll also be as far as possible from Eutaw Street. So if you go this route, show up early and get your Eutaw stroll in to see the plates commemorating home runs that landed there, including two from David Ortiz. It’s an essential in any Camden visit…along with your handshake and pit beef from Boog. Or your Rain Delay IPA at Dempsey’s, if you remember the former O’s catcher’s rain delay antics at Fenway.
If your budget is limited, upper level seats at Oriole Park work just fine. They’re closer to the field than in most ballparks, and are cheap even by baseball standards. (Bonus tip: the Orioles offer two free kids’ tickets with every adult ticket purchase.) You’ll have an outstanding panoramic view of both the field and the warehouse blending in with the Baltimore skyline, and the upper concourse features a fine view of the brick structure of downtown Baltimore in every direction, including M&T Bank Stadium (Ravens) across the street.
The Eutaw Street bleachers in center field…especially now that they’ve added a sit down bar there…are a popular spot for visiting fans too. But should you catch an Orioles home run ball, don’t throw it back. That happened in a game in 2011. I’m not saying the Baseball Gods punished the Sox for that behavior, but I’m not saying they didn’t either.
With Baltimore being 400 miles from Boston, you’ll probably be spending at least one night in town. There are plenty of upscale hotels in downtown Baltimore, including the impressive Hilton across the street from the Yard. Just know that unless you’re staying at the Hilton or another hotel just a few footsteps away, you might not be comfortable walking to the ballpark, especially at night.
This is probably of no nevermind, since you have a plethora of parking options for Orioles games, from Orioles’ lots east of the ballpark to surrounding garages downtown. None of the lots and garages in Baltimore are gouging in price the way you’re used to at Fenway, but you will likely find a better deal near M&T Bank Stadium, especially if you don’t mind walking a bit. Parking east of the ballpark also makes for a much easier in and out.
If you’re not staying downtown, you also have the inexpensive and convenient Light Rail option…park for free along the route, and take the streetcar right to the entrance of the ballpark. It’s not just a good deal cheaper, it spares you the considerable headache of driving in downtown Baltimore, where red light duration can be measured in eons and could even cost you an inning of baseball. You can also take the Light Rail directly from Penn Station, should you be using Amtrak.
Fenway Park features lobster poutine, lobster rolls, and lobster melts. Oriole Park has crab cakes, crab kettle chips, and crab waffle fries. Not a big adjustment for Massachusetts natives.
Yes, people rave about Boog’s BBQ here and rightly so. Just know that Boog’s amazing pit beef and turkey sandwiches aren’t your only option. In the lower level concourse, you can find a baseball-sized crab cake (the Orioles tried about 50 recipes before hitting on the right one for it), kettle chips with crab meat piled on, or crab dip waffle fries that are worth grabbing a fork and sitting down to eat. And pile on some Old Bay at the condiment stands.
It’s all great for a taste of Maryland, but don’t forget about the eats and libations outside the ballpark too, especially across Washington Boulevard from the Left Field Gate. The pre-game watering hole tandem of Pickles Pub, Slider’s and the Bullpen all offer dogs, sausages, burgers, and yes, crab cake sandwiches at prices much cheaper than inside. You can wrap this stuff and bring it in, incidentally. And like inside the ballpark, there will be enough Red Sox fans at the pre-game party that have your back. (Not that O’s fans will give you any trouble.)
Speaking of libations…the establishments across the street continue to offer a brew that the Orioles amazingly do not sell inside the ballpark…National Bohemian, affectionately known as Natty Boh. How vital is the one-eyed Natty Boh logo to the Baltimore baseball experience? When this team was consistently good (yes, they really were once), it was the brand sold at Memorial Stadium…because the owner of the team happened to be the owner of National Bohemian.
You’d think the Orioles would respect that. Maybe someday. But for now get your Natty Boh on across the street and salute the…wait for it…“once proud Orioles franchise”.
One of the multitude of features the designers of Camden Yards got right was its location…in the heart of downtown Baltimore, just steps away from the beautiful Inner Harbor. Out of town visitors can enjoy a ballgame, a delightful pre- or post-game meal, and visit the top tourist attraction in the city in one day.
If you haven’t yet crossed a Red Sox game at Oriole Park off your bucket list, 2019 is the year to do it.
A Name You Should Know
On the website “This Great Game: The Online Book of Baseball History”, former commissioner Bud Selig is quoted as saying that Baltimore’s revolutionary ballpark “may be one of the two or three most powerful events in baseball history. It changed everything. It really did. I’m not sure people grasp the significance of it.”
Selig is probably correct. Yet it’s doubtful that it would have been the case without the prominence of the B&O Warehouse, however impressive a new ballpark otherwise might have been. The Warehouse gave Camden Yards a striking, standout visual element that was comparable to Fenway’s Green Monster. It made a great venue into a phenomenal one.
Yet the man arguably most responsible for its preservation never received any official credit.
Eric Moss was an architecture student at Syracuse University who spent a year developing a model for Baltimore’s ballpark that included the long, bulky, old brick structure…his design even featured the Warehouse as part of the playing field, suggesting that the Orioles would have to budget for window repairs.
His design was seen by one of the firms competing for the Oriole Park contract, Ayers Saint Gross. The firm actually brought Moss and his design to Baltimore. At the time, the warehouse was set to be demolished, an idea that had the backing of even the Orioles. Moss’s design showed how the building could not only be preserved, but also be an integral component of the ballpark itself.
Moss’s idea to build the ballpark around the warehouse survived…but Ayers Saint Gross lost the contract bid to HOK Sport, who ultimately designed not just Camden Yards, but dozens more sports venues in the wake of Camden’s success.
Eric Moss’s name is not on any of the official design documents. But he landed a nice career out of it. He is still today an architect at Ayers Saint Gross.
One Year To The Day
Every baseball fan remembers what happened at Camden Yards on September 6, 1995. Cal Ripken Jr. took the field for the 2,131st consecutive time, and single-handedly restored a country’s love for a sport that had been badly damaged by its participants’ greed. As the ballpark’s history goes, it’s not likely that anything short of an Orioles World Series victory could top the moment.
One year to the day later, longtime Orioles star Eddie Murray made September 6 extra special for Orioles fans, launching a home run into the center field seats following a rain delay that caused the early exit of several thousand fans. This wasn’t just any home run, by the way…it was number 500 of Murray’s storied career. He would finish with 504.
Murray and Ripken were arguably the two key members of the last Orioles team to reach the top of the baseball mountain. Both of them were relatively young stars in 1983, the year the Orioles took the crown against the Phillies. The two teammates and friends battled for the MVP all season, with Ripken taking the honors and Murray finishing a very strong second. (Carlton Fisk finished a distant third.) Neither would play for a World Series winner again in their careers.
Ripken credited Murray as one of the reasons he played in every single game for over 16 years. It was Murray, he said, that stressed to a young Ripken the importance of always being ready to play.
Today both players have statues and retired numbers 8 and 33 at Camden Yards, immortalizing their careers with the Birds…and the seat where Murray’s 500th home run landed is now painted orange to commemorate the occasion.
The Peanut Church
As stated in this article, you can bring food and non-alcoholic drinks into Camden Yards. This lenient policy of the Orioles has been a great boon to nearby people of faith.
The Old Otterbein United Methodist Church, located near Conway Street adjacent to the ballpark, discovered in the early days of the new ballpark that Orioles fans would be happy to pay a dollar for a bag of peanuts rather than quadruple that price inside.
They’ve been selling peanuts to fans heading to Orioles games since the ballpark opened in 1992…and they’ve used the proceeds from peanuts and water sales to restore an organ, replace the roof, fix crumbling brick walls and repair the electrical and HVAC systems.
According to the church’s website, “The best sales are always when the ‘Yanks’ and ‘Red Sox’ are in town.” So when you buy peanuts from the Old Otterbein, you’re not only saving money on everyone’s favorite ballpark snack, you’re helping a local house of worship maintain their home.
So there are some Baltimore natives that always will be happy to see you, even if you’re wearing Red Sox gear.
Here it is, Red Sox fans and Fenway visitors: your complete guide to the Fenway Park food menu!
The culinary highlights at Fenway Park aren’t as fancy schmancy as at most ballparks, but it’s greatly improved from years past. Honestly though, their food guide doesn’t offer up much info about it.
Someone needed to step up and address this, and I’m just the guy for the job.
I’ve talked about Fenway Park food elsewhere, including about lobster stuff, the Fenway Frank, and the outside sausages, but this is your complete, all-inclusive, full Monty, whole shebang… (GET ON WITH IT!).
Here’s your table of contents in case you want to skip anything. (But don’t, there’s great photos!)
The Fenway Park Food Main Street
A Big Concourse With A Big Food Court
A Night Out At The Sam Deck
Behold The Fenway Frank + Monster Dogs
In Massachusetts, We Eat Lobstah.
Burgers + Other Sandwiches
Do Red Sox Fans Eat Pizza?
Healthy, Kosher, and Gluten-Free Fenway Eats
Fenway Park Desserts
Bring Your Own Grub
Lansdowne Sausages – A Baseball Tradition
Some Fenway Park Food Tightwad Tips
The Fenway Park Food Main Street
Jersey Street, formerly Yawkey Way, is a street that runs east of Fenway; the Red Sox close it off on game days so that fans can enjoy an experience similar to Eutaw Street in Baltimore.
It’s definitely where you want to enter the ballpark to try the better Fenway Park grub, such as…
El Tiante serves up Cuban sandwiches (ham, pork, pickles, cheese and mustard) and the possible excitement of meeting Luis Tiant, the star pitcher from the 1970s Sox teams. Tiant is sometimes there to sign autographs, but I’ve not yet seen him, so I wouldn’t buy a Red Sox ticket just for that.
If you don’t want to wait in line here, you can get a Cuban in the Big Concourse. El Tiante also carries Italian and spicy sausages. I’ve seen Al Fresco sweet apple chicken sausages and jerk chicken sandwiches on the menu too.
The Fish Shack is the spot for fried seafood appetizers, like clams calamari (with jalapenos), fish and chips with a side of tartar sauce that Homer Simpson would approve of, and a fish sandwich (flounder I believe). They have surf and turf kabobs here, clam chowdah, and an impressive and expensive lobster roll that you can order hot or cold. (More about the Lobster Roll in a bit.)
Yankee Lobster (!) is the purveyor of the seafood items; I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to have anything “Yankee” at Fenway Park. But anyway, with their addition comes rotating items on the menu, so you could see things like lobster mac and cheese here as well. If you want seafood at a Red Sox game, check out the Fish Shack first.
Taste of Boston is a pretty cool idea. Each month of the season, two local favorites from Boston set up shop here. Taste of Boston has featured Mei Mei (bacon fried rice and cheesy nachos), Roxy’s Grilled Cheese (Green Muenster Melts) and Jake’s Boss BBQ (ribs and pulled pork sandwiches).
If you’re visiting Boston for a game at Fenway and want to try something popular and local, definitely check out Taste of Boston. Sometimes they will feature something related to the visiting team; in one of my recent visits the Blue Jays were in town, and the Blue Frog Bakery was there with Canadian bacon sandwiches.
Maria’s Greek Kitchen You may have heard of Maria Menounos; she’s the incredibly beautiful actress/professional wrestler/Sirius radio star. Her Greek Kitchen at Fenway is a place not just for gyros and chicken and beef kebabs in a cup, but also healthier stuff like hummus plates with veggies and Greek lettuce wraps. All with Menounos’ mother’s recipes, which I presume is a good thing.
Menounos wanted the emphasis of her offerings to be healthy foods; all of the offerings here are made with organic ingredients and free range meats. Not a bad idea in a place where one might have to squeeze into a 15-inch wide seat.
The Big Concourse – The Fenway Park Food Court
The Big Concourse is a picnic area in right field large enough to feature picnic tables, with umbrellas even.
There aren’t many unique names for stands in the Big Concourse (unless you consider “Chicken Tenders & Fries” to be unique, which I guess it is). For the most part the stands in the Big Concourse are self-explanatory; Burgers & Fries and Sausages stands sell what they say they sell. Most all stands here sell Fenway Franks and Monster Dogs.
That aside, if you’re looking for the more unusual Fenway Park food items, like the lobster poutine, the Big Concourse is where to find them.
Two of the newer sandwiches are sold at a stand tucked underneath the roof–a Portobello mushroom sandwich with crispy fried onions, and a breakfast burger with a fried egg and mozzarella cheese. There is also a carving station with made-to-order sandwiches, like a “Turkey Gobbler”: sliced turkey with cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy.
The aptly named Nachos stands make very impressive plates of nachos…they pile on chicken, beef, cheese, salsa and sour cream. Best to get a fork and napkins for this one. You can also get a taco salad or a burrito on the Big Concourse.
There are Corn & Co. stands here with varying flavors of gourmet popcorn. You can get souvenir refillable popcorn, but unless you really, really love popcorn or are sharing with hungry kids, I doubt you’ll be refilling that large thing more than once.
Oh, and Cheetos popcorn is now at Fenway Park. True.
The Big Concourse even has vending machines with sandwiches and snacks so people don’t have to wait in line. No microwaves, so I’m presuming the machines are keeping stuff warm somehow.
A Night Out At The Sam Deck
The Sam Deck is the revamped tavern in the Right Field Roof Deck and was formerly the Budweiser Brew House, before the Red Sox improved their tastes and made Samuel Adams the beer of choice.
This was once just a bar with better drink selection, but the Red Sox have turned it into a restaurant with a nice view and a high end menu.
Food choices include lobster rolls, nachos with rib chili and homemade salsa, chorizo croquettes, battered cod fish tacos, and truffle parmesan fries; in other words, fancy stuff that you won’t find anywhere else in the park. There’s also craft brews, since that’s a big thing in baseball now.
I’ll talk more about the Fenway eateries like the Sam Deck, Game On!, and the Bleacher Bar in a future post, but for now you know that if you’re sitting in the upper right field seats, you can visit the Sam Deck for good eats.
Behold The Fenway Frank + Monster Dogs
Honestly, the Fenway Frank deserves its own post. Here’s my ode to it.
But just for basics…the Fenway Frank is still the go-to food item at Fenway. It’s made by Kayem Foods, who spiced up the Fenway Frank with more garlic and smoke when they took it over in 2009.
The inimitable Fenway Frank is served in a white bread bun for that mushy texture, which is unusual for a ballpark dog but shouldn’t be. If you’re too hungry for just one, there are Monster Dogs sold in several places, including on Jersey Street. They are indeed Monster-sized at ten inches long.
You can get Fenway Franks in local supermarkets, of course.
In Massachusetts, We Eat Lobstah.
Fenway Park lobster-based sandwiches and fries also deserve their own post with tasty photos, but here’s a quick summary of killer Fenway lobster stuffs…
The Lobster Roll – this is a fan favorite at Fenway, and with good reason. A hunk of New England lobster on that same toasted white bread roll used to house the Fenway Frank.
Lobster Poutine Stak – Steak fries with lobster bisque instead of gravy, cheese curds, lobster meat and chives. For The Win ranked this one #8 in the craziest ballpark snacks of 2017. (You can get fries with clam chowder too.)
Lobster Melt – A grilled cheese with steamed Yankee (SMH) lobster, muenster cheese and tomato. Epic even at ballpark prices. (See an Aramark-approved photo of it here!)
The Lobster BLT (or LBLT if you will) – A well-constructed BLT on a toasted roll with fresh lobster meat added. And yes, there’s sufficient “B” in this sandwich.
Fenway Burgers, BBQ, + Deli Sandwiches
Tasty Burger is a chain of burger joints in the area, and they are the Official Burger of the Red Sox. To celebrate they’ve added several stands in the ballpark.
Tasty Burger has cheeseburgers and jalapeno burgers, and a rotating fan favorite from their burger menu (a Brockington Burger in my last visit). Tasty Burger also has tater tots with cheese and/or chili, and milkshakes in chocolate, vanilla, or “Green Monstah Mint”.
There is a Tasty Burger on the corner of Jersey and Boylston just a block from the ballpark. The burgers there are cheaper and you have a much bigger selection. Just throwing that one out there.
On occasion Taste of Boston will feature a local BBQ joint, but there’s a Fenway Smokehouse in the Big Concourse with your standard ballpark pulled pork and BBQ beef sandwiches. You can get some unusual drinks there to go with them, like raspberry lime rickeys. The Smokehouse has a BBQ sandwich with bacon that looks pretty darn appetizing, and that’s just the floor model.
Oh, and check out the King’s Hawaiian pulled pork sandwich.
Savenor’s is the provider of beef for sandwiches that aren’t made at Tasty Burger (which includes the “B” in the LBLT), like steak tips sandwiches…something like a Philly cheesesteak, but with thicker slabs of meat. Or try an Italian beef sandwich if you can find one (look around Jersey Street or the Big Concourse).
Savenor’s is known for “using the whole animal for prime cuts”, and was voted Best of Boston by Boston Magazine. So they’re safe.
Finally, for deli sandwiches, check out the Fenway Farms Deli on the third base side and in the Big Concourse…build yourself a hand carved sandwich with Boar’s Head meats. Choose from hot pastrami, beef or turkey. Wraps and salads can be had here too as you can see.
There’s quite an impressive selection of condiments here: honey mustard, horseradish, savory remoulade, and deli mustard to name a few. The Fenway Farm items are actually grown on the roof of Fenway (they don’t, however, pass on the shipping savings to fans), and many of the ingredients in the sandwiches come from the farm, which is as fresh as it gets.
The name of this joint changes from time to time, so it might have a different moniker when you go, but the location has been the same.
Do Red Sox Fans Eat Pizza?
Believe it or not, yes. Pizza stands are just about everywhere in Fenway, serving Regina’s, the Official Pizza of the Boston Red Sox, or New England for that matter. They call themselves “Boston’s Best Pizza since 1926” (hopefully this pictured one hasn’t been sitting that long); there’s now a location at 1330 Boylston Street if you’d like to try it before or after the game.
Regina’s is more than adequate by ballpark pizza standards. It costs the same whether you have pepperoni on it or eat it plain, so take advantage of this rare loophole and put pepperoni on it. Only the specialty pizza with several other toppings costs slightly more.
You can get a whole pie for a reasonable price (for a ballpark, anyway), but since it takes a while, you can order that first, get your Sam Adams and come back for it.
Healthy, Kosher, and Gluten-Free Fenway Eats
The Red Sox did a nice thing for celiacs and put a Gluten Free stand near the Gate D entrance. They have a Fenway Frank on a gluten-free roll, brownies and cookies, and the healthy stuff that’s never in danger of being contaminated: fruit cups, nuts, sushi, hummus, etc. My wife is allergic, so now I have something to sell to her for another trip.
The pizza stands also feature a “gluten-friendly” pizza, which I’m not sure is completely safe for allergic folks given that wording. You can ask, I forgot to.
At the salad bar in the Big Concourse, you can customize your own healthy salad, with items from the Fenway garden. The salad bar is another spot for deli sandwiches, with Buffalo chicken, turkey or roast beef.
There are stands in the Big Concourse and the Third Base Deck dedicated to vegetarian and healthy choices, like wraps, Panini sandwiches, veggie dogs and burgers, hummus and Caesar or fruit salads. The veggie burgers and dogs don’t look all that appetizing under heat lamps, but I’m guessing they’ll give you a fresh one.
Fenway doesn’t have a large Kosher selection…there’s a kosher hot dog vending machine in the Big Concourse, and as of this writing I believe it’s the only way to get a kosher dog here. Feel free to correct me on that…
Fenway Park Food – For Sweet Teeth
As of this writing, the Fenway Park dessert menu includes a “banana splitter”, with vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream between banana ends with hot fudge and sprinkles. The Red Sox have also added Jane Dough’s edible cookie dough, with soft serve ice cream and other toppings.
You can also get: Crackerjacks, cotton candy, fried dough, Hood ice cream, kettle corn, milk shakes and slushies. Try not to have them all at once. Most of them are available on all of the concourses; the ones that aren’t are usually in the Big Concourse.
They’re easy to find; for ice cream for example, look for a stand called “Ice Cream”. If you like Dippin’ Dots, there are “Ittibitz” available, which are the same thing.
There was a “build your own sundae” stand in the center field corner of the Big Concourse last I checked–soft ice cream in a souvenir helmet with your choice of Oreos, bananas, cherries, sprinkles, etc. Oreos complete ice cream, IMHO, so it’s worth a look.
Bring Your Own Food Into Fenway – Yes, You Can!
If you look at the prohibited items list at Fenway here, you’ll see there’s no restrictions against bringing in a soft-sided bag smaller than 16*16*8, so long as you don’t have alcohol or potential projectiles in it. I’ve done this in almost every trip I’ve made to Fenway and have never had a problem.
This gives you every option to bring in just about any kind of cuisine, even the numerous sausage vendors surrounding the ballpark (more about them in a second). There is every type of takeout joint you can think of a short walk away, from Chipotle to the aforementioned Tasty Burger to the new Wahlburgers, if you want to grab a couple of less expensive sandwiches or burritos or whatever to take in.
If you’re parking near the Pru Center, there’s plenty of options in their Food Court, and there’s now a Timeout Market near the Fenway T station with tons of selections. Both of these are a bit of a walk to the ballpark though, so plan ahead on keeping the stuff warm.
Should you have forgotten to buy your peanuts from a less expensive vendor (or the nearby Shaw’s market), you have two choices: buy them from the roasted peanuts kiosk on Jersey Street, or order them from a peanut vendor in the stands and have them fired at you with uncanny accuracy, which is sometimes worth the price.
Remember to be wary of just how big a bag you bring. Make sure it can easily fit under your seat, especially if you’re sitting in the Grandstand. I speak from experience.
Stop paying ballpark prices for your Red Sox gear and souvenirs!
Lansdowne Street Sausages – A Boston Baseball Tradition
Few things are more quintessential Fenway Park food than the purveyors of outside sausages…you see and smell them as soon as you arrive from the Kenmore station.
The Sausage Guy and The Sausage Connection are two of my favorites and I gave them a separate post…but here’s a bit about some of the others:
Sausage King is probably the first visible stand on Lansdowne coming from the T; it has a red sign with a pig’s face on top. Sausage King has dogs, sausages, chicken teriyaki and steak tips; they serve them with an optional wicked red hot sauce that is close to Louisiana style.
The Original Che-Chi’s has the same sausages, dogs and chicken and steak as the rest; they’re further down Lansdowne a bit, and they’re another stand with a red sign. Che-Chi’s has a secret hot sauce, which is more of a smoky BBQ style sauce. They can be a mite cheaper than the rest, if you’re thrifty.
The Best Sausage Co. has a stand on the corner of Jersey and Lansdowne. The stand sells sausages and other sandwiches—they’re the only ones I saw with a Cajun chicken sandwich. Look for the blue stand…the vendors here seem to be having a better time than most hawkers; maybe it’s a requirement being on Jersey Street.
Fenway’s Best & Original I’ve read that this is “Artie’s” famous stand, but you won’t find Artie’s name anywhere. This one is near Gate D on the other end of Jersey Street, so it’s a bit further from the T station. They offer up “Bianco’s World Famous BBQ” (not famous enough for me to have heard of it, but just saying) and it gets nice reviews from Yelpers.
There’s a lot more sausage stands than I’ve covered here, and you can find cheaper ones if you look hard enough, but these are the prominent vendors on Lansdowne Street.
Some Fenway Park Food Tightwad Tips
I love that you’ve stuck with me this long about the culinary specialties in America’s oldest ballpark, so here’s a few helpful tips to save money on food at Fenway (in addition to bringing in your own peanuts and other grub, which hopefully I’ve covered sufficiently):
$ – You can sign up to be a designated driver at a booth in the lower concourse, and get a coupon for a free soda. They’ll put a strap on you though, so no fooling.
$ – The Red Sox have kids meals, where the little fan can get a grilled cheese or PB&J, a snack like animal crackers and a Capri Sun. All for just a fin as of this writing. Tasty Burger has their own kids meal as well.
$ – Baseball loves MasterCard…using it to buy things can sometimes get sometimes score you a small bonus, like a free souvenir bucket for your popcorn.
$ – If you buy a souvenir soda cup, you get free refills for the rest of the game. It’s a lotta lotta sugar, but at least you’re getting your money’s worth.
There you have it fans, a long overdue, completely complete guide to the Fenway Park food menu. If you enjoyed it, please support my sponsors!
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Cheap Red Sox tickets? Really? Yes. Believe it or not, you can find them. Especially with all the tips I’ll be sharing with you in this complete and helpful guide. Knowing these things has saved me a bunch of money on Sox tix…and have money left over for a Fenway Frank.
If you want some help choosing a great seat at Fenway Park, check out my posts here and here. And read this to learn what makes Fenway Park great. But wherever you sit, read on to find out how to get the best deal.
Believe me, it really helps to know ALL of your options, but here’s the table of contents for you, in case you want to skip some bits (but don’t):
My Best Tip For Cheap Red Sox Tickets
Buying From The Red Sox Website
StubHub, SeatGeek, ACE and Other Third Parties
Choose The Right Game AND Opponent
The Red Sox Box Office and Game Day Tickets
Red Sox Nation and Kid Nation (Get a FREE Red Sox ticket!)
Cheap Red Sox Tickets in The Scalp-Free Zone
The Red Sox Community
Red Sox Ticket Scalpers
Finding Cheap Red Sox Tickets on Craigslist
To Sum All This Up…
If You Want Cheap Red Sox Tickets, Do This Now
Anytime you’re planning to go to a game, it’s always a smart idea to subscribe to a team’s ticket alert newsletter, and the Red Sox ticket alert is no exception.
It’s not so much that the Red Sox offer a lot of ticket deals, although there are some. But in many cases buying Red Sox tickets at face value is the cheapest way to get them, and the newsletter will help you with that…you’ll know about pre-sales, Sox Pax, Christmas at Fenway events, group tickets, fan clubs, military and student discounts and much more. Students get standing room dirt cheap at most games, for example.
The e-mail newsletter is especially useful if you want to see a game against the Yankees. You can jump on pre-sales and get tickets at face, which is usually as cheap as you’ll find, especially for weekend contests. The newsletter will also alert you to Green Monster ticket sales well ahead of time, and it’s probably the easiest way to get your hands on those too.
It doesn’t happen often, but on occasion, the Red Sox waive ticket buying fees, and that’s a considerable amount of savings. That also saves you the time and boredom of waiting in line for Game Day tickets (more on that in a bit). The newsletter will let you know about this too.
So be sure to subscribe!
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Buying Tickets On The Red Sox Website
The Sox have a nifty 3-D seating map on their website, featuring a scale picture of Fenway with clickable sections, panoramic views and prices from each section…but just so you know, they don’t reveal obstructed views.
Remember there are fees for buying on the website, and they’re ridiculous. For high demand games you might be better off using the box office if you can, even on game day…for low demand games you’ll probably find a better deal with a third party.
The Sox website is best for when you don’t live close and want a high demand game. Typically the cheap Red Sox tickets sell out fast, so the Sox make lower demand games available first, such as April and May weekdays. Again, get on any pre-sales you can for Yankees games or July or August weekend games. Remember, subscribe to the Red Sox newsletter first.
You can now enter Fenway by scanning the tickets on your phone, if you have MLB’s Ballpark app (and you should). If you don’t like your seats…and at Fenway, that’s a distinct possibility…you can upgrade them through the app if something is available.
Cheap Red Sox Tickets From 3rd Parties – StubHub, SeatGeek, Ace, Etc…
Regular readers of mine know I’m a big fan of SeatGeek; I’ve found some crazy deals there. In 2019 I paid $26 with fees for two tickets that would have cost $87 through the Red Sox. Good seats too…Right Field Box, just a few rows from the field. To see the defending champions!
Full disclosure, this was a weekday May game against Oakland. I’m not claiming you’ll always find cheap Red Sox tickets on SeatGeek or with another third party. But always check, especially for low demand games, because you may find a steal like I did.
Here’s a key tip: being MLB’s official ticket reseller, StubHub usually has the biggest selection of third party tickets, and you may find a deal there. But in some cases, you may find the very same or similar seats offered through another third party. This was the case in the game I just described…and SeatGeek offered me a slightly better price.
As far as Ace Ticket…they’re well known in Boston, and are actually pretty good as ticket resellers go. One great advantage of Ace is their prime location, in the path from the Kenmore station to Fenway. You can pick up tickets that you’ve ordered there at no extra charge. ACE makes a point that they don’t add a StubHub fee, which isn’t chump change. If you’re there on game day, you might be able to haggle closer to gametime.
Your best bet with third parties, usually, is to get tickets at the last minute (up to two hours before game time, last I checked). But I wouldn’t always count on this. If the game is really important for you to attend, keep checking for a deal you can live with starting about a week out.
Finally, if you have the luxury of comparing third party sites, be sure to go to the checkout screen on each one and see the full price you’ll be paying…the difference in fees can be significant.
You may need the Ballpark app on your smartphone to scan your tickets, so be sure you have that.
Use The Red Sox Schedule: Choose The Right Game AND Opponent
If you only care about visiting Fenway Park, and you’re visiting Boston on a budget, picking the right contest makes a world of difference in your ticket price. Obviously, you shouldn’t pick a game against the Yankees on a July weekend.
Like most teams, the Red Sox offer dynamic pricing. Opening Day, all Yankees games, and Saturday games in June and July are the most expensive. Second to that are weekend games in June, July and August; then weekends in April, May and September, etc. In the bottom tier are “Sox Saver” games: weeknights in April, May and September. If you can handle the weather, you can often find a great deal. For afternoon games the weather might not be bad at all.
But again, check third parties on these too. If the Sox are having a disappointing season, you could find some steals in September.
Your choice of opponent makes a difference too. If, say, the Orioles are good (OK, I’ll wait till you’re done LYAO at that one), it can drive up demand for Orioles games at Fenway. The Mets and Phillies can also draw sizable crowds, regardless of their fortunes.
Save for the Angels and East Coast hero Mike Trout, West Coast opponents usually draw the smallest crowds and offer the cheapest tickets.
But hey, you might be reading this because you want to find cheap Red Sox tickets for Yankees games, right? Even if “cheap” in this case is relative. And Ballpark E-Guides never backs down from a challenge!
To see the Yankees at Fenway (or the Cubs, when they visit), you’ll save a lot by planning ahead.
If I lived in Boston, I would visit the box office the day tickets go on sale, and get tickets at face price with no fees. If you live elsewhere, visit the Red Sox website that day, and get your tickets at face value with the fee…which will still be cheaper than the third party markup in almost every case. You can also try the game day ticket option (more on that shortly), but you may be waiting in line for a very long time.
Or plan ahead even further back in time, and get Sox Pax tickets in December…maybe show up for Christmas at Fenway. Sox Pax include a Yankees game and one or more low demand games. Good if you can do the other games…or give the tickets as Christmas presents…but I wouldn’t do this one if you plan to resell the low value games, since you probably won’t get what you paid for them.
As always, pay attention to your newsletter…
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The Red Sox Box Office and Game Day Tickets
As I’ve said, for cheap Red Sox tickets for Yankees and other high demand games, if you or someone else can go to the box office for you on the on-sale date, do it…there are no fees at the box office.
At the box office you can actually talk to a person about what seats are available, including seats in front of each other, which isn’t something you can yet find on the Sox website. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for ticket specials, especially for military members.
Then there’s that popular game day tickets option that savvy Sox fans use.
The Red Sox make a handful of tickets available a few hours before each game. These are usually tickets that the visiting team or someone else can’t use—a player may have brought his wife and can’t sit her next to his Boston girlfriend, for example.
So a few hours before each game, a line of folks forms at Gate E on Lansdowne Street to buy any extras the Sox have lying around.
I’ve talked to a few Sox fans about this; they say it’s generally best for one person, since you can only buy one per person and must immediately enter the ballpark after buying them. Lots of folks claim to have gotten very good seats for face value this way.
The Sox allow the line to start forming five hours before game time, but people do line up sooner than that for big games. Fans camping out before playoff games is common.
I can’t guarantee that you’ll get into the park this way, but no one has yet told me they were turned away. As long as you don’t arrive an hour before a Yankees game you should be fine. Keep in mind that you’re looking at a total of maybe 11 hours at the ballpark should you choose this option. I don’t mind that myself; just saying.
The best part? You may land a great seat at face price. With no online fees. Face value with no fees = relatively cheap Red Sox tickets.
Join The Nation – A FREE Red Sox Ticket!
Red Sox Nation is the team fan club, and gives fans chances to score the hard-to-get seats like Monster seats at face price or lower. There are several levels of membership, some of which cost a nice chunk of change, but even the lesser ones still might offer you cheap Red Sox tickets for decent contests.
Nation membership also includes discounts on gear and nearby restaurants, so it should pay for itself fairly easily. The Red Sox even offer a kids’ membership that includes a free ticket (!), and they may have a free ticket-included membership for adults by the time you read this.
If you plan on going to a few Red Sox games in a season and want something resembling cheap Red Sox tickets, have a look at Nation membership. Could be well worth it for you. Again, check your newsletter and grab a membership when it’s available; these sell out too.
Don’t pay ballpark prices for your Red Sox gear and souvenirs!
Cheap Red Sox Tickets – In The “Scalp-Free Zone”
A little known option to Fenway newbies is the scalp-free zone set up by the Red Sox, which is currently at Gate C on Lansdowne Street, although the location does get moved on occasion. Here fans with extra tickets are permitted to sell them at face price or less; a Red Sox official will monitor the transaction and escort you into the park so that you don’t try re-selling the seats.
There aren’t many tickets sold here—the Sox estimate it to be about 30-50 a game—but it’s definitely worth a shot before you try a scalper. It’s also a nice legal place where you can get rid of your own extras if you have them.
The Red Sox deliberately keep this option low-key, because they don’t want it to attract too many buyers. That’s why you need this blog my friend.
Help Your Fellow Bostonian
Just putting this one out there.
In happier times, the Red Sox don’t offer a lot of discounts or deals on tickets. But they do have contests and events you can participate in, like Christmas at Fenway or the Picnic in The Park, that could get you entered in drawings for tickets. They’re usually in the Community or Fans sections of the Red Sox website, so it’s worth the trouble to have a look.
If you’re a conscious student and will work for baseball, there are universities that work with the Sox to keep the ballpark clean and the trash sorted out in recycling. You get entry into the park (standing room), a T-shirt and a food voucher, and you can see a game just for doing some cleanup between innings. Save the planet and see a Red Sox game for free. Win-win!
Check out the Fenway Park Green Team program here.
Red Sox Ticket Scalpers
There are always plenty of scalpers at Fenway, even though scalping is illegal in Massachusetts. Like with brokers, you could be paying well above face value for tickets depending on demand—you might as well use SeatGeek.
If you try this, bring a seating chart to get an idea of where your seats are, and check the ticket for the correct date and opponent, and that there isn’t an “OV” stamped on the ticket. OV means Obstructed View…you don’t want that.
Ticket prices plummet after the game starts, but that’s no fun unless you’re late to begin with. Brokers generally line up near the Kenmore MBTA station, and in the path from there to the ballpark. You can haggle, but these guys are tough, so you may be dealing with a few of them if you walk away. If you’re lucky, you may find someone with extras, especially for a rainout makeup game. Hold up the number of fingers to show how many you need.
My buddy Andrew Van Cleve has forgotten more about how to scalp tickets than I’ll ever know; he is an absolute genius at haggling and has some great stories about his scores. If you want to read some great tips, check out his blog on the subject.
Finding Cheap Red Sox Tickets on Craigslist
I’m sure there are fans that can tell you stories about the deal they scored on Craigslist for any baseball tickets, and I’m sure probably 98% of those cases are legit. But you don’t want to be in that 2%.
I talk more about buying baseball tickets on Craigslist here, but basically the same rules apply that you would use buying from a scalper: meet with the seller in person in a public place, check the tickets for smudged ink, scissor marks or other anomalies, and bring someone with you for the transaction. Get as much information about the person as you can, and especially find out if they are season ticket holders if possible.
Trust your gut…just as with a scalper, if something doesn’t seem right, walk away.
To Sum This All Up…
…for cheap Red Sox tickets, plan ahead as much as possible. Subscribe to the Red Sox ticket alerts, and pay attention to their e-mails, choose the lowest value contest you can, and compare prices with SeatGeek and other third parties. You can score great deals on Red Sox tickets, but it takes a little work.
Hopefully what you’ve read helps…take advantage of all your ticket buying avenues! Bookmark this and review it next time you’ve got a Red Sox game at Fenway in mind.
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Stadium Journey published the much-anticipated debate between me and Joe Mock – and our locking horns over which of America’s two oldest ballparks is a better place to see a ballgame. I thought we put it together well. Hope you enjoy the read. (Click here to see the PDF from the magazine; click here to visit the excellent Stadium Journey website.)
BALLPARK VERSUS BALLPARK
Fenway or Wrigley – Which is the best?
Joe Mock (www.BaseballParks.com) and Kurt Smith (www.BallparkEGuides.com) are webmasters for two of the most popular ballpark-themed websites on the net…and both are foremost authorities on what makes Wrigley Field and Fenway Park special. But which ballpark takes the top spot in the battle of the two classics?
The two disagree on the answer, with Joe preferring Wrigley and Kurt siding with Fenway. Let the debate begin!
Each Ballpark’s Place In History
JOE: When you have two parks that date back over a century, that’s a LOT of history. Wrigley, though, wins in this category, but not by a lot.
Simply standing within the Friendly Confines fills you with a sense of history that can’t be matched by any other facility – of any sport. One reason for this is because of the way the park looks. The stately stands. The bleachers. The ivy. Just everything.
In 2014, I got to cover the 100th birthday of Wrigley for USA Today, and the way the Cubs put on the event showcased that history. While wearing throwback uniforms, they played as the Chicago Whales of the 1914 Federal League. You had no trouble envisioning the Whales playing in that ballpark. And to give the proceedings an extra air of century-long authenticity, the home team blew a lead and lost the game.
From the legendary called shot by Babe Ruth to the tragedy of Steve Bartman to the mind-blowing prowess of Jake Arrieta, Wrigley is history.
KURT: I agree with Joe that both Fenway and Wrigley can’t help but feature history as the backbone of their greatness…Babe Ruth (supposedly) called his shot at Wrigley and pitched at Fenway…but I disagree on the key point Joe makes about the ballparks’ look, at least now.
The Red Sox and Cubs have both recently renovated their classic ball yards, but the Red Sox enhanced the historic aspects of their ballpark, while the Cubs disrupted it. The Red Sox placed seats atop of the Green Monster and closed off Yawkey Way during games to create a great pre-game atmosphere, and the new video boards in Fenway actually look like the hand-operated classic in left field and blend in very nicely.
By contrast, the Cubs placed a huge, high-definition video board in left field that is anything but historic…and many fans agree looks completely out of place. In doing so the Cubs not only blocked the view from the Waveland Avenue rooftops, but also made the hand operated out-of-town scoreboard in center field look completely unnecessary. The rooftops and scoreboard, to these eyes anyway, were as iconic as the ivy. Maybe they had to install the video board, but it’s impossible for me to believe it couldn’t have been done better.
Before both parks were renovated, I might have given the history nod to Wrigley, but the Red Sox seemed to have much more of an eye for the ballpark’s history in their renovations.
JOE: While I like the street fair atmosphere of Yawkey Way before a Sox game, you have to admit that it’s somewhat contrived. A street that is normally open to traffic is shut down for a few hours when there’s a baseball game. That’s the opposite of being “organic.”
Wrigleyville, though, is Wrigleyville 365 days a year. From the bars across the street (I mean, everyone knows the Cubby Bear, right?) to the Addison station of the red line of the L train to the neighborhood businesses and tenements that come right up to the ballpark’s footprint, nothing compares.
And does Fenway have anything like the rooftops across Sheffield and Waveland? Hardly.
No, just mentioning the “corner of Clark and Addison” evokes images of the one-of-a-kind neighborhood that surrounds Wrigley.
KURT: Again, Joe is right about Wrigleyville and the entire neighborhood being part of a Cubs game celebration…but unfortunately, the Cubs are disrupting that too, with their plans for a high end “plaza”.
Fenway has one very special surroundings element that Wrigley doesn’t…sausages. Lansdowne Street alone has almost a dozen purveyors of pregame sausages, dogs, chicken teriyaki or steak tip sandwiches…each one unique and many with their own brand of hot sauce.
Fenway also is right there with Wrigley in your choices of pre- or post-game party…play ping-pong at Game On, have a Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale at Boston Beer Works, or get some very cheap eats at the Baseball Tavern. Or even watch the game for free from the Bleacher Bar for a few innings. There’s something for everyone.
And while Yawkey Way may be contrived to be similar to Eutaw Street in Baltimore, it’s not a bad idea…I wouldn’t mind the Cubs turning Sheffield Avenue into part of Wrigley during games.
KURT: The Green Monster says it all…this ballpark is not only built on one city block, but that block is shaped such that if we put a normal fence in left field, bloops just barely out of the infield could become home runs.
The big wall in left field is the centerpiece of a design so asymmetrical that a team would be accused of ridiculous contrivance of dimensions if they tried it today. Fenway Park almost looks stretched sideways looking at it from overhead.
I’ll never argue that Wrigley has a million unique things about it, but its dimensions aren’t one of them. It was built on one city block too, but the block is square and as such the dimensions don’t give a hitter an advantage on either side of home plate.
Only in Boston could a ballpark be shaped like Fenway…it makes the ballpark one of the more architectural wonders in a city with quite a few of them.
JOE: Kurt, it’s interesting that you bring up both Fenway’s shape and its dimensions, because I believe both are drawbacks.
Regarding the shape of Fenway’s footprint, I would term it “misshapen” more than “stretched sideways.” Like a lot of parks built during the concrete-and-steel era in the first couple of decades of the 20th Century, Fenway’s design evolved over time (but was always limited by the non-square parcel of land).
But this evolution has created a truly undesirable arrangement of seating in Fenway, where a ridiculously large percentage of seats are beyond right center field and, worse, in the right-field corner beyond the foul pole. If you’ve tried to watch a game from a seat in that corner, you’ll know what I mean.
Wrigley, though, evolved in an orderly way that the original architect, Zachary Taylor Davis, could’ve easily envisioned. Hence you have a true upper deck with fantastic views of the field – even from its farthest reaches – and outfield seating that makes sense.
Regarding the dimensions of the two fields, I would again apply the word “misshapen” to Fenway. With foul poles that are 302 feet away in right and, we assume (since the Red Sox discourage anyone from actually measuring it), 310 feet in left, and the silly “triangle” near center, it makes for bizarre dimensions. While I like some originality in outfield dimensions (like the two “wells” in Wrigley’s outfield), the number of oddities in Boston outfield are far too numerous.
KURT: When the Red Sox expanded the ballpark, so to speak, into Yawkey Way (now Jersey Street), they created a wonderful pre-game atmosphere for kids of all ages. The old-time band playing, Big League Brian on his stilts, carts selling roasted peanuts and Luis Tiant selling Cuban sandwiches…that’s baseball at its best.
Red Sox and Cubs fans both deserve props for their dedication, and both teams’ fans are raucous and show up in large numbers. But while I’m not knocking anyone’s reason to come to a ballgame, there are fans at Wrigley that are there more for the party than to cheer the Cubs. It’s not just me saying that…I’ve read that a lot. Red Sox fans are rarely accused of this. Everyone in the ballpark lives to hear “Dirty Water” blaring on the PA after a Red Sox victory.
Not to harp on the renovation point again, but the Cubs also did some damage to the gameday atmosphere with the video board and strong arming of businesses like street guys selling programs. The Bucket Bangers, for example, are essential Wrigley…I don’t know if the Cubs were responsible, but I didn’t see or hear them in my last visit. And I missed them.
JOE: While I concede that the Cubs’ current owners made a number of changes based on business decisions rather than aesthetics, it’s still a blast attending a Cubs game. Without the need for the contrived closed-off-street of Yawkey Way, the area around Wrigley is truly alive before and after games.
And there’s something endearing about fans who for generations have come to the Friendly Confines more for the park and the experience than to root for the perpetually losing team. And you can’t say it’s not an “experience” to go to a Cubs home game, win or lose. The front office makes sure of that. The entire season of Wrigley’s 100th Birthday in 2014 was a testament to that.
KURT: Both Wrigley and Fenway are relatively simple in their concessions, at least compared to places like Nationals Park (shawarma) and Progressive Field (Froot loop dogs). When it comes to the basic ballpark food…the basic hot dog…Wrigley doesn’t have the uniqueness of the Fenway Frank. Mushy white bread buns are part of baseball.
Actually, one could argue that there’s a better variety at Wrigley, and there is, at least inside both ballparks. Wrigley does have Gilbert’s sausages and Hot Doug’s dogs, and Giordano’s deep dish pizza is better than Papa Gino’s. But when you add the outside sausage vendors, Fenway has a definite edge…the Inner Beauty hot sauce at the Sausage Connection and the plain sausage and peppers from the Sausage Guy are without peer even inside of Fenway.
Plus Fenway has lobster rolls, so Wrigley featuring Italian beef doesn’t weigh in favor of Wrigley as much…
JOE: I’ve always felt the concessions at Fenway were fine, but never in the top ten in the Majors. If you insist, Kurt, on including food sold outside of the ballpark, that does elevate Fenway’s food ranking, but not by much.
I agree that the Giordano’s pizza at Wrigley is better than what’s in Boston, but I think the difference isn’t slight. I think it’s huge. Giordano’s is that good.
The sausages and franks at Wrigley speak for themselves, and far outpace anything of the sort at Fenway. New this year are variations on chicken sausage by Gilbert’s.
And since you’re including food found outside Fenway, I’ll do the same with Wrigley. In the Wrigleyville area, you’ll find perhaps the best corned beef sandwich anywhere at DMK Burger Bar, and next door at the Fish Bar there’ a zesty po-boy that includes both shrimp and crawfish, and a wonderful lobster roll (!). And at Giordano’s sit-down eatery, you can experience their entire array of scrumptious pizzas of varying crust thicknesses, and a savory chicken parm.
JOE: In 2013, USA TODAY asked me to write an article about each MLB park. They then ran one article per week in their Sports Weekly publication, doing a countdown from number 30 to 1. My top park was Wrigley. I supported that ranking by pointing out the wonderful gameday environment there and the stupendous sense of history.
There’s no doubt that both Fenway and Wrigley are national treasures, and are among America’s most beloved parks – probably the top two on that list. Wrigley, though, edges out Fenway, especially when you consider architecture, surroundings and concessions.
KURT: In the pre-renovation years of both ballparks, I had actually preferred Wrigley to Fenway, largely because there were a lot of pitfalls to mar the experience at Fenway…small concourse space, parking difficulties, and lots of not so great seats. Now that I have researched both ballparks thoroughly, I’ve come to realize that the challenges of Fenway are what makes it great…it’s not a ballpark for amateurs, and it brings out the best in fans.
Wrigley is still a fantastic, iconic venue and as Joe says, a Cubs game is still a blast. It’s just going to take some time for me to get used to the gigantic video boards…and the loss of the rooftops and many of the nearby vendors. There is a stark contrast to how both teams handled their renovations, and it what makes Fenway superior these days, in my totally humble opinion.
Enjoy this article? Check out more about ballparks from Joe and Kurt!
Joe Mock is the writer and photographer for BaseballParks.com, which dates back to the dawn of the Web in 1997. He also writes regularly for USA TODAY Sports. Kurt Smith is the owner and author of Ballpark E-Guides, the highly acclaimed (even by Joe Mock!) detailed fan’s guides to 15 major league ballparks, including Wrigley and Fenway. He is also a staff writer for JerseyMan and BostonMan Magazines.
It was a great privilege to contribute this piece about one of my favorite ballparks to the debut issue of BostonMan Magazine, which was released in the fall of 2018. You can read the article on BostonMan’s website, or click here to see the PDF from the magazine.
It wasn’t easy to conceive an angle about Fenway that would be new to Boston sports fans, but every Red Sox fan that read it loved it, which made me very happy. I hope you enjoy it.
“The Hard Is What Makes It Great.”
The venerable home of the Red Sox has survived not only a relentless ballpark boom, but a new wave of disregard even for relatively new venues. There’s a reason for it that few people outside of Boston understand.
By the time you read this, there may be another World Series about to take place in the ballpark that has sat in Beantown for over a century. The Red Sox have, after all, shown a palpable disregard for supposed curses in the last decade and a half.
When you think about it, it’s no small miracle that Fenway Park is still standing. Lately, you don’t even have to think about it all that much. As ballpark architecture changes at a dizzying rate, Fenway insistently puts its foot down, asserting its unassailable right to continue hosting the world’s greatest game. It remains the immovable object that triumphs over the irresistible force.
Over the last three decades, as municipalities and teams realized there were billions to be made in corporate suites, some romantic and profoundly historic temples of baseball met with the wrecking ball. Most distressingly, even Tiger Stadium, old Yankee Stadium and Comiskey Park were unceremoniously felled by baseball economics. It’s hard to imagine it now, but there indeed was a time when Fenway was in the crosshairs too…and the idea of replacing it had plenty of support.
In recent years, the discarding of venues considered shiny by Fenway standards makes it even more remarkable that the ballpark continues to defy its demolition. Teams are now departing from delightful and appealing baseball homes that most fans remember opening. Turner Field in Atlanta lasted just 20 seasons as the home of the Braves, magnificent Globe Life Park in Arlington will be replaced in 2020 after just 26 seasons, and the Diamondbacks have begun the process of exiting Chase Field in Phoenix, another ballpark just 20 seasons old.
Think about that. The Metrodome outlived these outstanding ballparks.
The sports venue boom, one could easily argue, is now completely out of control. For absurd reasons, at least the publicly stated ones, teams are tossing aside perfectly nice baseball settings. The Braves actually cited “traffic” as a problem with Turner Field, as if it’s somehow possible to smoothly shoehorn 20,000 cars into any parking lot on earth in the space of a couple of hours. (Spoiler alert: the traffic at SunTrust Park is far worse. At least Turner Field had a viable public transit option.)
It’s not all that difficult anymore to conceive that Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the venue that started all of this, could itself be threatened with extinction in the not too distant future. As perfect for baseball as Camden is, the Orioles can’t even give away tickets these days…and they’re literally doing just that.
The stunning ballpark creations that arose in response to the phenomenal success of the architectural wonder in Baltimore have been warmly received by spectators. This is especially true in places like Philadelphia, where fans sat in a concrete donut designed for football for 33 seasons. Citizens Bank Park is, by any fathomable measure, a superior venue to Veterans Stadium.
Many of the new ballparks were designed with the charm, or more correctly, the “old time features” of places like Fenway, like neighborhood-necessitated dimensions and distinctive visual landmarks…but without the small seats, grossly insufficient leg room (did people really top out at five-foot-four in 1912?), obstructed views, and fuming in 3 MPH traffic to find exorbitantly priced parking.
With all due respect to Camden Yards, which truly was executed flawlessly, the modern amenities babble is exactly where all of the new venues miss the point.
The home of the Red Sox was never meant to be a place where millennials gather for craft beer tasting, or where patrons sample gourmet sushi from an executive chef, or where fans loudly cheer a mascot race. It’s not that Fenway doesn’t have extras geared to folks that are less than fanatical about baseball. It does. But they’re not emphasized here. There is nowhere near the outreach to “casual fans” at Fenway like there is in nearly every other ballpark in America.
Fenway Park is difficult. It’s the most challenging ballpark in baseball, both to get into and to get to. Most games sell out and require fans to pay an overinflated secondary market rate, seek out skilled haggler scalpers or wait in a long line on game day. Parking is scarce and costly, with cars even placed on top of one another in smaller garages. Trains leading to Kenmore station are stuffed well beyond capacity with sweaty fans.
Choosing the wrong seat at Fenway can lead to the annoying experience of a support pole blocking a portion of the field from view. A fan’s only alternative, at least at that price, is a distant outfield seat in the glaring sun. Oh, and those Grandstand seats? Flimsy wooden chairs, just 15 inches wide, with an inch wide armrest to share with your neighbor. You must be kidding.
For all of the reverence for Fenway Park from baseball fans everywhere, no one would tolerate a newer facility with so many ridiculous flaws. Yet that grand old girl in Boston with the huge green wall in left field remains at the top of so many fans’ bucket list destinations. A ballpark that, on fan experience alone, is utterly inferior to nearly every other venue in professional baseball is filled to capacity every night.
Not even the strikingly beautiful structures in Pittsburgh and San Francisco could ever hope to achieve that. It’s a charm that a less dedicated baseball fan, accustomed to cushioned seats and easy parking, would consider a detriment.
In A League Of Their Own, Tom Hanks has the perfect response to Geena Davis finally succumbing to how difficult the game of baseball is: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
This place isn’t for amateurs. Fenway Park is literally designed to weed out the casual fan. If you don’t love Red Sox baseball enough to endure that cramped, stiff seat with no view of right field, you don’t have to go. Not to worry. Someone will take your place…and that someone is exactly the kind of fan baseball needs more of anyway.
Why else on earth would fans tolerate extortionately priced tickets and parking, uncomfortable seats with blocked views, and far too many outfield seats in 2018? Why do Red Sox fans not only put up with all of this, but even sing collectively and enthusiastically about how good times never seemed so good?
Because Red Sox fans get baseball.
They get the incomparable thrill of investing their heart in a baseball team, and seeing a game winning hit bounce off of that green wall.
Maybe that simplifies it too much. Try this.
See if you can find someone who was there to witness Ted Williams’ 502-foot smash that landed in a seat now painted red to commemorate the occasion. Actually, that might be difficult, given that it happened in 1946. Maybe you’d have better luck finding someone who was in the ballpark when Carlton Fisk’s home run ball clanged off of the foul pole. That was only in 1975.
Still having trouble? Then try finding someone who was present when Big Papi’s game winner cleared the fence in the 12th, after journeyman first baseman Kevin Millar had duly warned everyone against allowing a Red Sox victory that night. That shouldn’t be impossible.
Found someone? Great. Ask them how much they paid for their ticket, or where they parked, or what the entertainment was between innings.
Chances are good the answers won’t be high on the list of what they remember most about the experience.
Baseball’s history is a long, ongoing, and endlessly gripping page turner full of otherworldly moments. Nowhere is this more true than in Boston, from the devastating heartbreaks of an 86-year hex to the beyond spectacular glory of 2004. As Big Papi’s hit sailed over the fence and the Sox escaped the jaws of elimination, setting in motion the greatest comeback in sports history, no one in a partially obstructed seat that night would have traded the inconvenience to have missed it.
The Sox fans that overcame the considerable challenges to be inside Fenway Park on those fateful historic days considered it unquestionably worth the aggravation. Just as they continue to do by the millions every summer.
All the obstructions, expensive parking, crowded trains, and no great need for any ballgame sustenance other than a hot dog on mushy white bread. It all makes the point that no retractable roof, amenity-laden facility for baseball could ever make. For all of its flaws, because of its flaws, Fenway Park is absolutely everything a ballpark should be.
An eternal reminder that baseball, Red Sox baseball, is worth it.
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You CAN Avoid (Or At Least Minimize) The Obstructed View
Just because the support poles and their obstructed views keep out less dedicated fans doesn’t mean you have to endure them. There is actually a website called “Precise Seating” dedicated to providing the lowdown on every single seat in Fenway Park. It’s a fantastic resource for Sox fans.
With Precise Seating, you can put in all the information about a seat…section, row, and seat number…and the website will give the seat a 1-10 rating based on various factors: the view, distance from home plate and from the field, even shelter from rain. If there is an obstruction, the site will tell you what percentage of the field is blocked and whether you’ll be unable to see any of the bases or pitcher’s mound.
For example, say you’re looking at Grandstand Section 15, Row 5, Seat 1. Precise Seating will show you the obstruction, and how you won’t be able to see first or second base. They feature an actual photo from the seat, and being five rows from the pole it’s not too terribly bad, but if you have other choices you may want to look for another spot.
Precise Seating is a valuable tool, especially when searching around low numbered rows in the Grandstand. But if you don’t have access to it…say, when you’re patronizing a scalper…just remember a few things:
Low rows in the Grandstand are the biggest risk, since the support pole is usually along the first or second row. If you’re going to try it, go for a seat number between 5-12, where you could not only be safe but you may land a great seat for the price. If you’re in a higher row, in most cases the obstruction isn’t too bad if you’re between seats 5-10.
Also, keep in mind that there are support poles in the high rows too, usually in Row 18 or 19. If you go for a seat this high, again, avoid low or high numbered seats. You won’t be able to see scoreboard this high up, incidentally, but there are TVs showing replays of the action.
One last thing: there are no support poles blocking views in Sections 19 and 21, on either side of home plate. Check those first!
The Lansdowne Street Sausages
Part of the classic charm of Fenway Park is the sausage hawkers that surround the place…fans can get a decent sized tube of meat on a submarine roll for a few bucks less than what it would cost inside the park. You are indeed allowed to wrap them up and bring them into the game, if you can find some way to keep them warm while waiting in line.
Since most fans arrive at the ballpark from the Kenmore T station, the sausage vendors on Lansdowne Street are the most popular, being the first to emerge into view. They look similar, but there are differences between them. Here are a few fan favorites and what makes them special:
The Sausage Guy – Near the entrance to Cask ’N Flagon tavern is a small blue kiosk run by a gentleman named David Littlefield. The Sausage Guy’s website (yes, he has one) lists some of his stats: two frostbitten fingers from serving in the cold, a torn rotator cuff and three cortisone shots to his left elbow.
The Sausage Guy serves up good-sized sweet Italian sausage sandwiches with onions and peppers. It’s a pretty decent value and you can order the sausage on the website.
The Sausage Connection – The Sausage Connection is the yellow stand located near the Game Day ticket sales line. Not only do they serve up a mean sandwich of sausage, peppers and onions, they offer chicken teriyaki and steak tip sandwiches too.
What makes the Sausage Connection special in a sea of similar looking sausage vendors is their hot sauces, including the popular “Inner Beauty”, a tasty mustard-style sauce that will truly test your ability to handle the heat.
The Original Che-Chi’s – Che-Chi’s is the red stand further down on Lansdowne, and they have similar offerings like sausages, dogs and chicken. Che-Chi’s has their own secret hot sauce, which is a smoky BBQ-style sauce.
Che-Chi’s is also a tad more affordable than the rest; the sandwiches are a buck or two cheaper and they have soda specials.
Remember, you can bring them inside…
Alternate Transit Routes
Whether one drives to Fenway Park or uses the T, neither is a particularly pleasant method of transit. Driving to Fenway Park involves lengthy delays and hefty parking charges, but standing in a packed train car isn’t always the most fun ride either.
If you want to try something out of the ordinary, the excellent Fenway Park E-Guide offers some methods of transportation that you might not have considered and their merits:
Commuter Rail – On the Framingham/Worcester Line, Yawkey Station is just 500 feet from the ballpark, near Boston Beer Works. Parking lots this close often cost $50 and up. The ride is far less crowded, the seats are more plentiful and more comfortable, and the MBTA usually runs extra trains on game days.
The best part about this option is that you can book your parking at 100 Clarendon Street through the red Sox website very affordably, hop on the Commuter Rail from nearby Back Bay station, and go one inexpensive stop to the ballpark. Even with two or three people in the car, it’s still far cheaper than Fenway lot prices with just as much walking, and exiting from the garage is a snap afterwards.
Take The “E” Train – Most fans follow the advice on signs at stations that include transfers to the Green Line, the subway line that carries fans to Fenway: use any train except the “E”, which veers in another direction before stopping at Kenmore station.
This leaves the E trains far less crowded, and it’s not a total wash in getting to the ballpark: the Prudential and Symphony stations are maybe a 15-minute walk from Fenway. Many fans park at the Prudential garage to save a few dollars; using the E will spare you the Fenway crowds on the other trains.
And if you’re not up for that walk, you can hire someone to cycle you there in a rickshaw:
Boston Pedicab – The Boston Pedicab rickshaws can often be found around Fenway before and after games. You can find them all around downtown Boston too, especially at the Pru Center where people use them to ride to Sox games. They’re cyclists that pedal you to your destination for free; they subsist entirely on tips. Be generous. It’s a great way to avoid the traffic while enjoying a fine view of the city.
If you can’t find one, you can call Boston Pedicabs and they’ll send one out for you.
So you’ve got a Red Sox fan in your life, and you’re thinking about something that would make a super gift? As a ballpark guy, let me give you my best advice in gifts for Red Sox fans: give them something for their next game at Fenway.
Tickets obviously make a great gift, so here’s an excellent primer on how to find deals on Red Sox tickets for your loved one. But the Sox fan needs other equipment when visiting their favorite place on earth.
Stop paying ballpark prices for your Red Sox gear and souvenirs!
Full disclosure: Ballpark E-Guides is an Amazon affiliate, so if you use these links to make a purchase, this website earns a commission at no extra cost to you. So you’re not just buying a super gift for a Red Sox fan, you’re helping baseball fans everywhere!
So thanks. Now then, Red Sox fans know about sitting in a chilly ballpark…
Gifts For Red Sox Fans, Part 1: Staying Warm at Fenway
Bundle up kids…Fenway Park can be a very cold place, especially in April…and October! So be sure that you look into some of these accessories as possible gifts:
These footie slippers would look great on a lady Sox fan, and they’ll keep her feet comfortable and toasty on a cold game day.
There’s nothing like a knit cap to show your allegiance on a chilly evening at Fenway, and this particular edition is not only the nicest looking but also comes at the best price.
Amazon has a nice selection of hoodies and sweatshirts here…
(This one is my favorite, in case you’re thinking of getting one for me.)
And this sweater would be nice for the lady Sox fan in your life.
Scarves are underrated as necessary April/October baseball fan apparel at Fenway, and I think this decorated scarf makes a fantastic looking gift.
And a nice pair of gloves would go great with the scarf. (Are you starting to enjoy the image of your favorite Sox fan decked out like this?) This pair is Amazon’s choice and the price is great.
Finally, if you can manage to bring this fleece blanket into the ballpark on an April evening, you’ll be very glad.
Gifts For Red Sox Fans, Part 2: Essential Game Day Apparel
You’ll need a cap at a Red Sox game of course, and they’re much cheaper on Amazon than they’ll be at the ballpark (and that may even include the outside vendors). Here is their selection, including a cool green St. Patty’s Day cap.
As far as caps go, I prefer the red cap to the dark blue one, and this is likely a better deal than you’ll find inside the ballpark.
As I’ve stated on the Cubs fan gift post, there’s a much better selection of jerseys in the MLBShop.com store (maybe I should become an affiliate), but if you can find something on Amazon, it will probably be cheaper.
And what goes better with Red Sox earrings than a decorated bow? This one is surprisingly affordable…and you’re working it now, buddy.
You can find some really cool tees here (I even checked the free shipping box for you)…
But this one is amazing looking, and I say this as someone who’s not a big tie-dye or Grateful Dead fan.
Then there’s the Citgo logo tee, the reason for which is obvious to any Fenway dweller.
And of course, your tiny young new Red Sox fan needs to show his colors early.
As far as fandom and showing allegiance, do you want to be one of those really weird fans that stands out even in a Red Sox-apparel adorned crowd? Then this suit is for you…go for it! (I’m not sure I would give it as a gift though.)
Gifts For Red Sox Fans, Part 3: Necessary Fenway Accessories
If the Red Sox fan in your life is going to Fenway and is planning to sit in the bleachers, listen up…they are going to need sunglasses! Take it from this Fenway Park expert…
Here’s a very cool pair of Red Sox branded sun frames for those bright bleacher afternoons.
Other essential Fenway visitor items include cooler bags, because as you may know, you can bring your own food and non-alcoholic drinks into Fenway. (Read more about that here.)
Seriously, share this knowledge when you hand the Red Sox fan in your life their Red Sox cooler bag.
You can easily fit your sandwich from the Sausage Connection into this thing…
And this cooler bag will just as easily store your sodas and bottled waters (and it’s cheaper).
Obstructed views aren’t the only problem with Fenway’s Grandstand seats. They’re also small and hard to sit on. A Red Sox seat cushion makes a great gift for anyone who likes the Grandstand seating.
If you’re out in the bleachers, or in the Green Monster seats, you’ll want to be prepared if the rains come. Check out this ultra-cool umbrella.
If you’re paying the considerable price for a beer at Fenway, keep it cold. This.
Gifts For Red Sox Fans, Part 4: Car Décor, Books, and the Best Yankee Hater Gift of All
If the Red Sox fan in your life is driving to the game, at least help him or her decorate the car accordingly, with championship accessories…here’s a particularly nice license plate holder, and here’s a car flag…two excellent and affordable stocking stuffers!
OK, maybe it’s not Fenway necessary gear, but while your lucky gift recipient is waiting for the baseball season, they will need some Red Sox reading material.
I confess to not having read all of these, but they are recommended in posts that I’ve read…
This is a best seller from the very popular Jerry Remy, currently a Red Sox broadcaster. I would check somehow and make sure your Red Sox fan doesn’t have it…you can’t go wrong with a Jerry Remy book for a Sox fan.
Stewart O’Nan is a terrific writer, and I don’t need to tell you who Stephen King is. They decided to chronicle an entire season of Red Sox baseball together. In 2004. Again, check and make sure your fan doesn’t already own this one…
Here’s another subject that’s always a winner with Red Sox fans.
Finally, I had to include this book just for the title. It’s almost worth the price for a Red Sox fan just to have it on display in your home.
And while I don’t know if you can buy it anymore, what Red Sox fan wouldn’t want to use this?
There you go my friend…some fantastic and useful gifts for Red Sox fans, especially for their next trip to see the Sox at baseball’s most historic and storied ballpark.
Speaking of, be sure to get the Red Sox fan in your life to check out some great Fenway Park tips…have them start here!