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1912 fenway park grand opening day first pitched ball in first american
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When I was seven years old, my father took me to Fenway Park for the first time, and as I grew up I knew that as a building it was on the level of Mount Olympus, the Pyramid at Giza, the nation's Capitol, the Czar's Winter Palace, and the Louvre - except, of course, that it was better than all those inconsequential places. - A. Bartlett Giammati, Baseball Commissioner   Since its Grand Opening in 1912, Fenway Park has become the mecca of baseball park lore. The oldest ballpark in the major leagues, every sellout game plays host to Red Sox fans as well as fans of Ghosts of Baseball Past and Present who adore the beauty of its asymmetrical lines, its quirky nooks and crannies, its intimate Sunday picnic atmosphere and its never ending stream of drama. Fenway has hosted some of the most theatrical and exciting, as well as excruciating, and now ultimately glorious moments in baseball history, not to mention a stage to sport's greatest rivalry. Open the Landsdowne gate and enjoy the flood of so many bittersweet stories that the park has to tell, from the highs of the 1915, 1916 and 1918 World Series Championships starring a young left-handed pitcher and slugger, Babe Ruth; the heartbreak of the 1946 World Series, when a split second hesitation by Johnny Pesky allowed Enos Slaughter to score in Game 7 of the World Series; Bob Gibson’s Game 7 victory over Jim Longborg to pierce the Impossible Dream; the image of Carlton Fisk willing his fly ball into a sixth game, 11-inning walk-off homer; the promise of the 1986 World Series with two wins; more and more heartbreak in the only two one-game playoffs, both losses to the Yankee in 1949 and 1978 (Bucky Bleeping Dent’s homer off of Mike Torrez); and, best of all, the stage to one of the greatest comebacks ever, Games 4 and 5 of 2004 ALCS, which will forever force long suffering and now grateful Red Sox fans chills to keep pinching themselves that it is indeed true, that they beat the Yankees after being down 3-0 and down to their last out in Game 4 against the game's premier reliever, Mariano Rivera. Sit in the bleachers, listen carefully and you just might hear the echoes of some of baseball’s greatest players and seasons: Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Jimmy Collins, Duffy Lewis, Tris Speaker, Harry Hooper, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams (last player to hit .400, in 1941), Jimmie Foxx, Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski (last player to win the Triple Crown, 1967), Nomar Garciaparra, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling, just to name a few. Fenway Park is actually the second home for the Sox. In 1901, the Boston Pilgrims became one of the charter members of the fledgling American League. The Pilgrims played ball at the Huntington Avenue Grounds, now a part of Northeastern University's campus. \n\nBoston Globe owner General Charles Henry Taylor, a Civil War veteran, bought the team for his son John I. Taylor in 1904. In 1907, owner Taylor changed the club's name from the Pilgrims to the Red Sox. In 1910, tired of the leasing arrangement for the Huntington Avenue Grounds, Taylor made a big announcement: he would build a new ballpark for his Red Sox. Taylor dubbed the new ballpark Fenway Park because of its location in the Fenway section of Boston, home to marshes, or "fens".  As the first two games at Fenway Park were rained out,  the new 35,000 seat ballpark opened its major league career on April 20, 1912 just five days after the sinking of the Titanic. On Grand Opening Day, future grandfather of President John F. Kennedy, Boston Mayor John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, one of the many thousands in attendance,  threw out the first ball in the park that was built at a cost of $350,000 and that would come to be known as "Boston's Sistine Chapel." This offered ball, as noted by Tom Connolly, in his writing, was the "First Ball Pitched - Grand Opening Day, Fenway Park, April 20, 1912".  As an umpire to the grand openings of Fenway, Shibe, Comiskey and Yankee Stadium, as well as numerous Opening Day Games, Connolly enjoyed marking the landmarks with balls as souvenirs, such as the Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge and General John Pershing, as well as the first Sunday game ever played in Washington, DC. Connolly has also written  "Batteries - O’Brien – Pat Caldwell, Numaker and Sterret”, “Umpires TH Connolly & Bob Hart” , and “Attendance, 25,000”” on various panels. On another panel Connolly penned the final score, "Boston 7, New York 6, 11= Innings” . Years before the most famous rivalry in sport began, the Red Sox opened the season playing the second division New York Highlanders, often known as the Yanks. Sox pitcher Buck O'Brien was knocked out of the box, but saved by a Tris Speaker RBI in the bottom of the 11th inning. The Boston Herald noted in its report of the game that the overflow crowd featured "1000 fans that were standing in center field. The ground rules robbed Speaker, Stahl, Hall and Yerkes of home runs."   Opening Day turned out to be a portent of the season's fortunes for both Boston and New York. The Red Sox took the American League pennant in 1912 with a 105-47 record, good for a winning percentage of .691, and went on to beat the New York Giants in the World Series, the Sox’s second title. The Highlanders, suffering their 6th straight loss, went 50-102 (.329), finishing in last place, a whopping 55 games behind the Red Sox. Fenway continued to enjoy the good fortune of three titles in the teens. However, when Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth in 1919, both the Red Sox and Fenway deteriorated rapidly. Frazee sold the team to Bob Quinn in 1924 and the team spent the Roaring 20's drowning in the cellar while the Yanks, fortified with 11 former Red Sox players, were drinking champagne, winning their first three championships. When Tom Yawkey bought the Red Sox and Fenway in 1934 and the left field bleachers and 25-foot wall were partially destroyed by fire, he spent more than $1 million to restore it, adding the now most famous wall in sport, the “Green Monster”, which got its nickname in 1947 when it received its first coat of green paint. Ubiquitous at 37 feet tall, with a manually operated scoreboard that displays the line score and scores of other American League games, it regularly turns line drive homers into hard singles and lazy pop flies into roundtrippers, testing the handball skills of every leftfielder it meets. Today the park resounds with the unbridled joy of some of the greatest moments in the history of Fenway, the fourth and fifth games of the 2004 ALCS. Who can forget when Dave Roberts, with two outs in the ninth inning and facing a sweep by the Yankees, stole second base and scored on Bill Mueller's single? Or, when hero David Ortiz slammed his walk-off homerun in the eleventh inning of Game 4, followed the next night his bloop single in the fourteenth inning of Game 5? And, on Opening Day this year, the green of Fenway and red of fans' jerseys created one giant Christmas colored scene for all of those parishioners in Red Sox Nation, a joyous unwrapping of the 2004 World Series Championship banner and the presentation of the rings.   In the end, Bill "Spaceman" Lee, no stranger to the park's sense of magic and mayhem, has said it best. "Fenway Park is a shrine.  People go there to worship."
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Property From The Tom Connolly Collection


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