Sure, there' the Freedom Trail and all that tedious history, even modern day Harvard and MIT, but in October with the World Series, all that matters to Bostonians is one item - baseball!
I'm ensconced in the
Commonwealth Hotel's Baseball Suite, an incomparable paradise of memorabilia, surrounded by rare collectibles of iconic players and local artistic depictions of nearby
Separated by a set of French doors, the lavish furnishings feature a sleeping area and living room with masculine, vintage-style furniture, evocative of the 1930-40s when the game flourished. Reddish-hued hardwood floors, tan Oriental area rugs, a leather steamer-trunk, custom-designed toffee-coloured leather wingback chairs and antique brass floor lamps create an indulgent atmosphere.
On the coffee table, a grey pine box offers myriad treats: two Baby Ruth chocolate bars, a Cracker Jack Box, two TOPPS Heritage 2010 baseball card packs with pink slabs of bubble gum inside, retro glass bottles of Coca-Cola Classic, a signed copy of Bill Chuck's Walkoffs, Last Licks, and Final Outs: Baseball's Grand (and Not-So-Grand) Finales and a wooden pen shaped like a baseball bat.
There's a 50-inch plasma TV and a DVD library of more than 40 classic baseball films from
The Pride of the Yankees (1942 with Gary Cooper and Babe Ruth) and
The Natural (1984 with Robert Redford, Robert Duvall and Glenn Close to
Bull Durham (1988 with Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins and
Major League (1989 with Tom Berenger and Charlie Sheen).
Attractive shadowboxes reveal prized memorabilia and framed original photography and artwork, including a
1967 World Series program (Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park) and a collection of vintage trading cards.
The dramatic photographs are remarkable: Fenway glistening at night, a minimalist iridescent base sitting astride a chalk-white foul line, a gleaming white baseball with lower half darkened as in some spectacular lunar phase, Brooklyn Dodgers'
Jackie Robinson sliding home, feet lost in a cloud of dirt, helmet flying from his head, and
Ted Williams majestically swinging his imposing bat.
Autographed pristine white leather baseballs with contrasting red stitches, one by
Tony Conigliaro, another by
Carlton Fisk (11/200) tempt me: dare I steal one? The cherished, valuable cards are not so easily removed, each frame anchored securely to the wall, the prized
Babe Ruth card cleverly exposed on both sides. Others feature
Johnny Pesky and
Above the gargantuan four-poster bed, sits three framed panels: Ball, Strike and Out, a veritable bedtime scoreboard, and there's an existential painting of a Boston Red Sox baseball cap hanging from a hook. Another wonderful canvas depicts a Fenway vendor.
Designed by hotel interior designer and architect E. Kevin Schopfer of Ahearn/Schopfer Associates, the nightly rate is $755, the career home run record set by Hank Aaron in the 1970s. It could be steeper - if modelled upon other baseball records:
Rickey Henderson's stolen bases (1,270),
Roger Clemens' strikeouts (4,167),
Early Wynn's bases on balls (1,775) or
Ty Cobb's hits (4189).
As the elegant cornerstone of Boston's historic Kenmore Square, the independent, luxury boutique hotel, features 148 guest rooms. Since opening in 2003, it has garnered accolades including Best New Business Hotel in the World by Forbes magazine (2003), Top 10 Four-Star Hotels in the US by Expedia.com (2005) and TripAdvisor.com's Travelers' Choice Award for Best Luxury in Boston (2005).
From downtown's 52nd floor of the
Prudential Building's Sky Walk, I enjoyed a 360-degree view of Boston. I observed planes land at
Logan, a helicopter hug Fenway' s skyline,
Mary Baker-Eddy's impressive
Christian Science Church and
I. M. Pie's ubiquitous architecture, including
MIT's Green Building, the
John F. Kennedy Library and
Hancock Tower. Later at
Quincy Market behind
Faneuil Hall, I shopped for Red Sox memorabilia - socks, t-shirts, sweaters and caps.
To complete my baseball captivation, I made a pilgrimage to
Fenway Park on Yawkey Way where the Sox soon celebrate their 100th anniversary this April. Tours priced at $12 are purchased inside the Team Store gift shop directly across from the park, last 50 minutes and proceed on the hour. The outbound
Riverside Green Subway Line drops one a few blocks away from the stadium. Simply follow the little Fenway signs on the light poles.
Our guide Ron, in his 20s, a die-haaaard Sox fan, related informative anecdotes about the park and team, Yankee jokes beginning immediately. His accent added atmosphere to our visit to the famed "Monsta," the Club Level, and the classic bleachers where we sat in "the oldest seats in baseball."
From the State Street Pavilion, we ambled outside and inside to see the plaques of famous Sox players, the press box and some corporate rooms. Fenway utilizes one of the last hand-operated scoreboards in the Major Leagues inside the left-field Green Monster's 11.3 meters (37-foot) high wall. Green and red lights signal balls, strikes, and outs. In Morse code down the side of the scoreboard are the initials of Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey, who owned the Sox from 1933-93. We were not allowed into the locker rooms or on to the field.
It's the oldest active ballpark in baseball, opening its doors in 1912, and a surprising aspect is the small size of the actual playing field - 302 feet down the right field line and 325 down the left.
Ron described the
infamous trade of Babe Ruth to the Yankees that "ruined" baseball here for almost a century, and he pointed out the single seat in the right field bleachers painted red amidst the sea of green to mark the exact spot where the longest measurable home run inside Fenway landed. Ted Williams clobbered it on June 9, 1946 off Detroit's Fred Hutchinson. Taped at 502 feet and authenticated by a newspaper story, the ball crashed through the straw hat of the man dozing in the storied seat - Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21. Now, that's Red Sox lore that I can remember!
Look For The Red Seat Under The Ford Sign
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.
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