| 9.1°C Belfast

Why Fenway Park remains, more than 100 years on, the icon that an Ulsterman built

 

Close

Ballpark figure: Boston’s famed Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, was built by Ulsterman Charles Logue

Ballpark figure: Boston’s famed Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, was built by Ulsterman Charles Logue

Getty Images

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

Getty Images

Ballpark figure: Boston’s famed Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, was built by Ulsterman Charles Logue

Of all the stadiums currently shuttered by the coronavirus, few have such a central place in the sporting psyche of the USA as Fenway Park.

 

Home of the storied Boston Red Sox, it has come to be known as 'America's most beloved ballpark'.

Baseball has lost its grip on the nation in recent times, no longer the national pastime in anything but name.

Despite this, perhaps even because of it, the quirky diamond not far from where Paul Revere took his midnight ride has maintained its standing, now considered as much of a landmark as it is a sports stadium.

While modernisation has brought the wrecking ball to many of the venues from the era when the game ruled supreme, Fenway remains, and remains much the same as it did when it opened on this date in 1912.

There have, of course, been concessions to modernity, whether it be the extra seats squeezed in or what has to be considered one of the world's most over-priced beers, but for the most part it looks what it is - an 108-year-old anomaly.

Whether it's the 'Green Monster' - the giant wall the height of a telephone pole that sits just 310 feet from home plate and has been credited with making or breaking many a player's summer evening - or the fact that a good number of the seats don't even properly face where most of the action occurs, there is no other stadium like it.

It would, with all its oddities and angles, naturally never be built this way today.

That it was, though, as much as more than a century's worth of history, is what sets it apart. And all built by an Ulsterman.

Charles Logue was born in Londonderry in 1858, emigrating to the States at the age of 23.

He'd never return to Ireland but made quite the mark on his new hometown.

Falling in with Boston's new mayor John 'Honey Fitz' Fitzgerald - the great-grandfather of future President JFK - Logue founded his construction company in 1890 and was charged with building swathes of the city including Boston College and churches for the Catholic Archdiocese.

His most famous creation, though, will always be Fenway Park where a century later his picture still hung in the office of the then CEO.

As much as anything by Lanyon or Lynn, it can lay claim to be this part of the world's most famous construction project.

With the Red Sox owners of the time hoping to sell up and knowing a new stadium would increase the value, work began in September of 1911 and continued through the often harsh New England winter, allowing for the grand opening on April 20 of 1912.

With the New York Highlanders in town - the team that would go on to to become the Red Sox's hated rivals, the New York Yankees - the win to christen the new park would have been front-page news in the city's many papers if not for another Northern Ireland construction: the Titanic had sunk only days prior.

Logue would die of a heart attack on a job in 1919 but, as a father of 13, Logue Construction Company remained a family business until closing in 1972.

When the 100th anniversary of that first game was celebrated in 2012, his descendants were among the sell-out crowd.

With Boston seeing its latest snowfall for almost 30 years over the weekend, it's unlikely there would have been much a celebration of this latest birthday, regardless.

But when baseball resumes after the current shutdown, the old patch of grass between Jersey and Van Ness streets that once moved the Pulitzer Prize winner John Updike to write about the "lyric little bandbox" will once again welcome somewhere in the region of three million visitors a season.

They'll see many of the same sights the Derry native envisaged as he built it, looking out on the ground where Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and David Ortiz once roamed, where the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and Tom Petty played, where Kevin Costner heard 'if you build it they will come' in Field Of Dreams, where 40,000 crammed in to listen to Eamon de Valera in 1919, where in 2013 the Sox won their first title on home soil in 95 years only months after the Boston Marathon bomb...

After all that, and all these years, it remains very much the park that Logue built.

Belfast Telegraph