By Dr. Harvey Frommer
(Excerpt from Remembering Fenway
Park: An Oral and Narrative History
of the Home of the Red Sox - - now available direct from the author)
The joy and passion and full houses and the glow of a
Red Sox world championship is fading fast. The hundreds of games of
solid straight sellouts also belong to memory. Carping critics, media
mavens, surly fans all are part of a strange mix. Things get worse, but
one day they will get better.
A flashback to Fenway Park of the 1960s shows what it
was like when things were really bad around Red Sox from Boston. There
are still those around who recall that time, some with mixed emotions.
SAM MELE: I came into Fenway a lot when I managed
Minnesota from 1961 to 1967. My home was still in Quincy, Mass. So I
slept in my own bed. It was funny. I was managing against the team that
In 1965, we beat Boston 17 out of 18 times, 8 out of
the 9 at Fenway. It actually hurt me, to beat them. I felt sorry because
in my heart I was a Red Sox fan. I had played for them, I had scouted
for them. Tom Yawkey would come in my office. And we would talk a lot.
Oh yeah, geez, he had me in his will.
The losing, the miserable attendance, the doom and
gloom that pervaded Fenway was on parade big time on the 16th of
September. The tiniest crowd of the season made its way into Fenway Park
- - just 1,247 paid and 1,123 in on passes. Dave Morehead opposed Luis
Tiant of the Cleveland Indians.
Fenway was a ghost town of a ball park in 1965 when
the team drew but 652,201, an average of 8,052 a game . The worst came
late in the season. On September 28th against California only 461 showed
to watch the sad Sox. The next day was even worse against the same team
just 409 in the house. Finishing 9th in the ten-team American League,
the Sox lost 100 games and won 62. The nadir had been breached.
Managers kept coming and going. Top prospects somehow
never made it for one reason or another. Billy Herman was in place as
the 1966 season started.
Early on Dave Morehead, just 24, regarded as a
brilliant future star, suffered an injury to his arm and was never the
same. Posting a 1-2 record in a dozen appearances, he symbolized the Red
Sox of that era - promise but pathos.
In 1966, the Sox lost 90 games and finished ninth.
Attendance at Fenway Park was 811,172, an average attendance per game of
10, 095. It was pitiful.
JIM LONBORG: The 1967 season started off as a typical
Red Sox season. There were 8,324 fans on a cold and dreary April 12th,
Opening Day. We beat the White Sox 5-4. Petrocelli hit a three-run
homer. And I got the win.
The next day there were only 3,607 at the ballpark.
And then we went on a road trip. We came back having won 10 straight
games. And when our plane landed there were thousands of fans waiting at
the airport. That moment was the start of the great relationship between
the fans and the players.
BOB SULLIVAN: I went to Dartmouth, and we used to road
trip down to Fenway and get standing room without any trouble. It was
eight dollars for grandstand seats. But so many seats were empty. You
would flip an usher a quarter and you could move down into the seats.
Then it changed. What happened was '67.
# # #
You can reach
Harvey Frommer at:
About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,
Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath,
The Sporting News, among other publications.
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Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz Frommer are the authors of
five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth
College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage
in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
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