Category Archives: Fenway Park

Red Sox fans ecstatic they’ll no longer have to sneak contraband veggies into Fenway Park

Fenway Farms photo

Photograph from @FreshNewEngland

Season ticket-holder Edith Coakley knows the feeling all too well. The nervous anticipation, ticket in hand, as she nears a turnstile to enter Boston’s baseball cathedral, Fenway Park on many a warm summer’s day.

It should be a feeling of excitement and euphoria. Instead, all she can do is fret anxiously as the gate attendant goes through her canvas carryall. Don’t find the eggplant, please. For the love of God, take away my carrots, but stay away from the eggplant. 

“I find the ballpark food options to be a bit too predictable,” Coakley explains. “So I’ve been bringing in my own vegetables for years. Fresh cherry tomatoes that you can pop in your mouth instead of stale Cracker Jacks or peanuts. Trust me, on a hot summer’s day, munching down crispy cucumber dices is so much more refreshing than eating some $5 frankfurter that’s been soaking in lukewarm toilet water for the past four hours.”

Her wisdom may be far from conventional, but the organization has finally caught on. The ballpark vegetable craze is no longer mere fad, limited to the over-industrious, enterprising health-nut minority.

Earlier this week, the team announced that this season will serve as the inaugural year for “Fenway Farms,” an on-site vegetable garden that will grow all the family favorite herbs and vegetables: green beans, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, pea shoots, parsley, oregano, cilantro, mint and countless other edibles.

Fenway Farms rendering

Homegrown products from Fenway Farms will be sold at concession stands and used as ingredients in food offerings. The team will also donate some beans and leaves to local needy school children.

For most fans such as Coakley, this is welcome news.

“No more weird glances when I pull a big-ass squash out of the front of my half-unbuttoned Nomar Garciparra jersey!” she rejoices.

As Loraine Smith from Seekonk put it, “Raw vegetables chock full of vitamins and a revamped Sox lineup chock full of raw power. What more can we ask for as Boston fans?”

John Hammond from Wellesley: “Some people are saying kale is just having its moment right now. That it’s a fad. That it’s a fluke or whatever. Well guess what, people said the same thing about David Ortiz in 2003.”

head of lettuce

One club official also confirmed to Fenway Pastoral that there is serious charity auction potential with Fenway Farms. “We have some stuff up our sleeves. For example, fans may enjoy our plan to sell to the highest bidder all heads of lettuce resembling Mark Bellhorn. These will become instant collector’s items and a portion of the sale proceeds will go to the Jimmy Fund.”

Fenway Farms is a worthy endeavor indeed. However, as with everything good in life there are drawbacks. As part of the team’s plan to enter the lucrative farmer’s market industry, it confirmed it will be forced to crack down on fans that continue to insist on bringing outside veggies  into the park on gameday.

“We cannot have unauthorized contraband cauliflower and cukes floating around the bleachers,” said one club official. “It will compromise our business model and I think fans will hopefully understand and accept that.”

Unfortunately, with Opening Day looming on Monday, some fans are planning to fight back.

“These damn big government liberal hippies want to control my every move. This is Agricultural Big Brother gone mad,” said Pete James of Hanson. “I have a right to choose where I acquire and consume my veggies. This is un-American and wrong. So long as this is still the U.S. of A., I plan on chopping my own broccoli fresh in the comfort of my grandstand seat. I’d just like to see them come try to stop me.”

Ray Holtz from Framingham: “This is your garden variety capitalistic get-rich quick scheme. Entice a captive audience with delicious vegetables and make them pay an exorbitant mark-up. Seen it a thousand times. John Henry is just lining his pockets with the money he prints and you just know he’s keeping his pretty fancy boy self trim and his bowels regular with all that free kale.”

Photo Gallery: Bruce Springsteen at Fenway Park

Because sometimes Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band manage to set up shop in center field and play a couple of three-and-a-half-hour shows. And for a brief moment, any Red Sox fan lucky enough to attend one of the shows is reminded that things maybe aren’t all that bad.

Somehow a diamond empty of any players has become one of the more welcome sights after all that has transpired during 2012.

A tribute to Johnny Pesky during ‘My City of Ruins.’

Light rain falls during an emotional coda to ‘Backstreets.’

The lights are on for the finale and not one person asked for the score of the Red Sox – Orioles game. A perfect night.

Report: Red Sox popularity plummeting so severely, only a few hipsters projected to care by 2014

Grumblings over the relevance of the Boston Red Sox continue to grow louder and louder this season. Attendance at Fenway Park has been steady but demand for tickets is extremely light compared to the salad days of the mid-to-late aughts. The conclusion of the Boston Celtics’ playoff run and the return of star players such as Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford have so far done surprisingly little to allay the trend over the last six weeks.

The Red Sox could shock the world in a year or two. But will anyone still be paying attention?

The downturn even amidst the team’s modest success since the end of April suggests that baseball is no longer a mainstream spectator sport in New England.

It ain’t 2009 anymore. And, in fact, most experts agree: the situation will get worse.

By 2014, the Boston Red Sox fan base is projected to consist solely of hipsters.

That’s right: After half a century of stupidly high levels of popularity and rabid fan enthusiasm on a nearly worldwide level, the Boston Red Sox are no longer worth following, says pretty much everybody.

Soon, even the least astute losers of society are likely to catch on.

Pioneering stringers for cutting-edge news outlets such as the Boston Globe newspaper are already reporting on the trend.

For example, in an article entitled the “Ups, downs of fandom” from Wednesday’s Globe, a local restaurateur (or two, maybe!) were quoted as surprised by how little rush patrons seem to be to get to the ballpark in time for the opening pitch. It would seem the team’s last few lingering fans would rather finish their buffalo wings than waste their hard-earned dough on team ‘merch’ like player jerseys.

Says one analyst, “Within the next 12 to 18 months, the only people following the team will be society’s outliers, the people who do things different for the sake of being different.”

Major League Baseball has already taken note of the potential impact that a shift in the Red Sox fan base may have. For one, merchandising prospects for a team supported by hipsters are grim, to say the least.

“Penetrating the second- and third-hand thrift store marketplace with official Red Sox licensed products could be challenging. Then again, we’ve pulled off the seemingly impossible in the past by convincing approximately seven fans to purchase John Lackey game replica jerseys,” says one Sox spokeman.

Just to be safe, the organization has already hiked up prices for “throwback” jerseys and customized jersey tees for players that played in the late-1990s and early 2000s, when most of today’s hipsters were at peak impressionability.

“Wearing a John Wasdin or Carl Everett jersey makes a certain anti-everything type of statement that hipsters really dig,” said one team marketing guru. “It just kind of speaks for itself. These people will turn conventional fandom on its head.”

Meanwhile, the team is in negotiations with the MBTA to increase the frequency of game-day bus routes to Kenmore Square from enclaves such as Lower Allston, Davis Square and Central Square.

Once this niche fanbase is transported en masse to the areas around Fenway Park, enticing them to actually purchase tickets will prove the least of the team’s worries.

“It’s simple, really – the outfield concessions pavillion will be transformed into a farmer’s market and the center field bleachers will be gutted and turned into a stage on which musical acts will perform while either wearing funny hats or sporting unconventional facial hair — or both at the same time depending on what’s, you know, cool at any given time. We can also act very swiftly to any bumps in market demand for ear studs with the BoSox logo or sudden changes in the ideals for cut and fit of a licensed Red Sox T-shirt.”

Boasted another team marketing exec, “We’re so ahead of the curve on this one. I can’t wait to brag to the jerks who join this department in the next five years how fricken awesome it felt to be in on the ground floor for this. It’s going to be so epic.”

Red Sox brass close to moving ‘Sweet Caroline’ up in the order

USA Today photo.

The Boston Red Sox do not always prevail, but fans at Fenway Park always go home winners at the end of games thanks to the club’s iconic tradition of playing Neil Diamond’s classic ‘Sweet Caroline’ just before the bottom of the eighth inning.

Unfortunately, Red Sox batters and pitchers rank as some of the slowest in the league in terms of Pace, a fancy stat measuring how many seconds pitchers and hitters take to do stuff in between pitches. More often than not, the hallmark singalong moment seems to come at obscenely late hours of the night.

In response to prodding from a growing number of fans – including parents with young children, people diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, NASCAR fans and psychopaths who actually respect Neil Diamond as an artist – the organization has begun researching the impact of moving the playing of ‘Sweet Caroline’ from the middle of the eighth inning to the end of the fifth inning.

“Per regulations of Major League Baseball, all games become official after the fifth inning is completed,” reasons one high-ranking member in the front office. “We’ve heard some of our fans have children that are having trouble concentrating in class the following day because they were at a Red Sox game that ran late the night before. We’ve also heard from many people who hold in bodily waste during games due to irrational fears about utilizing our restrooms facilities. Respecting all these various weirdos as much as we do as an organization, we believe this may be the solution to make everyone happy.”

While some members of the club were hesitant at first, the initiative’s proponents appealed to humanity’s basic core in arguing the cause.

Watch closely. While the image above may appear to be a still-shot of Daniel Bard, it is actually a real-time GIF animation of his pre-pitch routine.

“We sat a few people down in lounge chairs, strapped their limbs in place and wire-pronged open their eyelids a la Clockwork Orange. Then we made them watch Daniel Bard pitch with multiple runners on base,” explained one source. “Everyone quickly came around and once all the vomit and diarrhea was cleaned up, the idea of shifting ‘Sweet Caroline’ to the fifth inning seemed pretty inconsequential.”

(The technique was so effective, in fact, that MLB recently announced that Bard’s go-to pickoff “trick” move will be called a balk by all umpires – not just some! – beginning in 2013.)

It seems to be a unanimous belief internally that fans will submit to witnessing actual baseball during the first five innings if they know a sweet, sweet reward is just around the corner.

“But making people watch this ballclub for eight innings? I can’t believe we haven’t been under assault from all those hippie letter-writing organizations like Amnesty International…” said another club official. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that many fans would rather be waterboarded than watch Vicente Padilla pitch.”

Fans interviewed by Fenway Pastoral during the most recent homestand seemed to agree, although some have their reservations.

“I understand where the team is coming from, but I’m a big beer drinker and I can’t sing along with a fifth-inning buzz,” said Irene from Sudbury.

For those worried about a decrease in team concession sales, one club financial officer says there is no reason to fret.

“Yes, studies have shown most of our soft-serve ice cream is served between the sixth and eighth innings to people passing the time waiting for ‘Sweet Caroline’ by indulging in one of our famous helmet sundaes – the Red Sox logo is printed on a plastic helmet and it makes a great souvenir.”

But, the source went on, “We have sold the presentation rights of the fifth inning to John Hancock for a significant sum of money that will make up for the difference. So it will now be John Hancock presents The Fenway Fifth Inning Festivities Starring Sweet Caroline. I know, I know…it’s brief but catchy right?”

Even Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has fervently applauded the team’s diligence in researching such a landmark decision. “As a diehard Red Sox follower, I can understand the fans’ desire to be able to witness the halftime ceremonies in full. Baseball is not just about socking that ol’ pigskin over the Green Mammoth, but also about the pageantry. The ‘Sweet Caroline’ singalong is an integral part of that perfect evening watching Dusty Peters and company play in that jolly old sandbox, as Henry David Upton famously put it.”

Time to wrap a bow around this near perfect offseason, John Henry

That’s great work, John Henry. Bravo. Speedy and Gonzalez in Sox uniforms. This has been like Christmas in December.

Your boy Theo has truly come into his own. He resisted the urge to get in a bidding war with the Yankees for Mark Teixeira two years ago, thus opening the door for the Adrian Gonzalez deal and the Carl Crawford signing. The planned improvements to Fenway Park for 2011 look solid and even Jason Varitek’s one-year deal is difficult to argue against given the existing depth at the position.

Yup, all around, this offseason is about as close to perfect as rational fans could possibly expect of their baseball team. There are only a handful of opportunities for further improvement, John.

Grease Mayor Menino’s palms: Look, this is embarrassing. Boston is a world-class city of culture, renowned artists, top-notch hospitals, esteemed universities and restaurants owned by Nick Varano. There is no good reason why fans in the “budget” grandstand, loge and bleacher sections shouldn’t have the option of purchasing beer without leaving their seat. People like to drink beer. People like to act rowdy and fight. Both are going to happen regardless of how inconvenient the organization makes it for middle class people to purchase alcohol. Business owners with a fraction of your wealth manipulate the city ordinance system all the time obtaining licenses to get their loyal patrons drunk. We’ll even set up the breakfast on Beacon Hill and buy the unmarked security envelope for you if you’d like. How about a nice brunch somewhere near the park? You can bring home the sliced cantaloupe and surprise Linda. She’ll love it.

Stay away from Liverpool for a little while: It’s not that Sox fans are jealous. But you should give those Reds fans some time to cool off. They seem pretty pissed. Apparently, they already had their grape smugglers in a twist last week over the sum of money given to Crawford and Gonzalez. Just wait until they hear about Bobby Jenks…

Establish a “Mustaches Only” facial hair ordinance: Kevin Youkilis. Tim Wakefield. Adrian Gonzalez. Dustin Pedroia. Jed Lowrie. None of these guys wouldn’t look hilarious in a mustache. And if nothing else, it beats Josh Beckett and Jenks sporting matching flavor savers.

Re-sign Manny for right-hand outfield depth: You do want television ratings to be better in 2011 than 2010, no? Ramirez isn’t going anywhere for big money this year and he’s likely to be available at a relative discount sometime before spring training. Seriously, signing Manny actually makes enough sense that if can’t be dismissed outright. We’d be willing to bet Epstein has broached the subject with you already. The lineup is lefty-heavy and the outfield needs a right-handed bat. Darnell McDonald will understand; Gerry Callahan won’t. But really, nine out of 10 scouts are bearish on Danny Woodhead’s chances of improving his outside-zone swing rates and becoming the next Bo Jackson.

Fix the bullet holes and busted concrete on the lower concourse: Chuckie and Don Draper both have wicked bad aim.

Double burgers at the Fenway Grill will only set fans back $10.50 next season.

Out Of Rightfield: Some Season Ticketholders Feeling Betrayed By 2011 Renovation Plans

As a season ticket-holder of box seats in the right-field corner,  Thomas Morrissey has not actually seen a pitch reach home plate during a game at Fenway Park in 12 years. Not that he could have ever cared any less.

Since 1999, Morrissey has made the long trek from his home in North Attleboro to Friendly Fenway for every home game. From the slightly elevated vantage point offered by his two seats in the right-field loge box just in front of grandstand Section 5, Morrissey proudly boasted to friends about his unrivaled view of the spacious patch of grassy real estate dutifully manned in recent years by the likes of Trot Nixon, J.D. Drew and Eric Hinske.

And, while beauty can sometimes be exclusive to the eye of the beholder, absolutely no one had a better view of the visiting team’s bullpen catcher.

“You can see the catchers giving practice signs to the pitchers and trying out new mitts, breaking them in,” Morrissey gushes. “Double-barreled action is the best. Just a barrage of 80 mile-per-hour warm-up pitches. Pop, pop, pop, pop. Back and forth. Sometimes in perfect unison.”

The glory days for Morrissey appear to have come to an abrupt, ever-so-cruel end. As recent photos on the Boston Globe website confirm, the Red Sox have torn up the lower seating bowl housing the right-field boxes and plan to re-pour the cement footing later this year before replacing the north-facing seats with chairs that will presumably* be angled to the west (i.e. oriented toward home plate).

*Fenway Pastoral is not currently owned by the same corporation as the Boston Red Sox and, thus, team officials declined (rudely) to provide final blueprints of the construction plan.

Adding insult to injury, the organization also has plans to install several high-definition video screens above the outfield bleachers.

“A lot of good that does me now that my seats will be facing home plate,” Morrissey bemoans. “What am I going to do? I have abnormally long femur bones to begin with and I’ll have to shift my entire body way off kilter just to see the video replays out in center. Ridiculous.”

Morrissey is holding out hope that he may be given an “obstructed view” discount on his seats now that he has to cock his head 30 degrees just to glimpse the visitor’s bullpen or centerfield scoreboard. But his level of optimism can be best described as hovering near a post-2003 ALCS level rather than some boyish Summer of ’67 “Impossible Dream.”

“All they ever show on television is the pitcher throwing to the catcher,” he reasons. “If I wanted to watch that for three-plus hours, I’d stay home. They shouldn’t be messing with local landmarks like this.”

While swiveling one’s neck in either direction as needed may sound like a perfectly reasonable compromise, 30-year season ticketholder Gretta Lebowicz advises against that technique.

“Back in the ‘80s, when I first got my right-field box seats, I was in and out of more chiropractors’ offices than Wade Boggs was in and out of hookers and KFC drive-thrus,” she estimates. “Your spine can only take so much. After a while, you realize you gotta pick one sightline and go with it.”

It’s been over 25 years since Nancy Cone saw a home run at the point of contact. Yet she, too, echoed the opinions of Lebowicz and Morrissey.

“They are just maiming history. Tom Yawkey and that guy Duffy, who they named the cliff after, would be rolling around in their graves if they could see it. Hopefully, the owners come to their senses and maintain the historic seating angles. Mayor Menino can’t let them get away with this.”

Get off our lawn: Sox owners again engaging in world’s oldest profession

Tickets were still available less than 24 hours before Wednesday night’s soccer match at Fenway Park between two European soccer clubs you have never heard of before.

It is encouraging to see demand stagnate—even just a little bit—for such a contrived event.

Understand: this isn’t about the presence of a sport other than baseball being played at Fenway Park. (There’s probably been, like, other sporting events hosted at Fenway over the last 100 years or so…Someone oughta make a list.)

But the excessive whoring out of Fenway over the last five years speaks to a new sort of organizational arrogance that John Henry and Co. has established in the Back Bay. Even Scott Brown can see that the current ownership group routinely engages in thinly veiled prostitution of what should be treated as a sacred asset.

Thanks to the immense success, high revenues and national interest generated by their baseball team, these owners assume people should be willing to pay to witness just about anything that takes place on the hallowed Fenway grounds.

Piggybacking on the popularity of the 2010 World Cup, Wednesday night’s soccer match was aimed at striking before the sport’s popularity goes into hibernation for another four years. The only problem is that this particular pairing of two minor league soccer clubs would be like the Portland Sea Dogs taking batting practice in Wembley Stadium. It is an insult to fan intelligence disguised as something other than a recycled idea.

This isn’t a new trend by any means. Lately, the owners have been overplaying their hand when it comes to extracurricular entertainment. Fenway has gone from hosting hall-of-fame acts like Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and the Rolling Stones to shows from the likes of Phish and Jimmy Buffet. At least there’s the local angle for next month’s Aerosmith / J. Geils Band bill.

Sure, all the aforementioned bands are washed up. But at least the first two carried some small semblance of Beatles in Shea Stadium cache. It’s just embarrassing when the outfield gets chewed up because the organization books some overrated act that peaked in the mid-1990s (Dave Matthews Band). In 2025, are we going to be watching commercials advertising “classic rock sensation” Kings of Leon: Live at Fenway Park?

Fine, it’s just a soccer match. The Red Sox owners certainly deserve every bit of praise they have received for all their renovations and updates that creatively keep a landmark alive and profitable, to boot.

Some of these extracurricular events at Fenway are a necessary evil in order to stay profitable. We should all tolerate the various “initiatives” that transform portions of Yawkey Way and its surroundings into a cross between a country fair and a de facto amusement park absent the Ferris Wheel (for now…). After all, Boston’s provincial vice-grip on the past will never come cheap.

One can’t help but wonder, though: How many blatant money-grabs are too many blatant money-grabs?

Even after his father reached ill health, Ted Williams’ son exploited his father’s legacy, imploring him to make appearance after appearance at various events, insisting he sign autographs for significant fees. It was a sickening revelation to many that was brought to light after the fact because his son’s selfishness before and after his father’s death was excessive enough that Ted’s well-being was undoubtedly jeopardized.

This space isn’t accusing the Henry ownership group of anything that perverse yet. After all, John Henry bagged a trophy wife all his own last summer. Some point soon, maybe he’ll be compelled to stop cultivating another.

Analyzing the 2010 Sox Pax

John Henry and every other red-blooded market capitalist will tell you that purchasing commodities in bulk well in advance of their expected maturity in value is the perfect way to maximize riches in a down economy. Along that vein, Fenway Pastoral is here to analyze the latest ten-fecta of Sox Pax ticket packages, which go on sale this Saturday, December 12 online, over the phone and at the team’s Christmas at Fenway Event.

(The organization cautions that refunds will not be issued if Marco Scutaro winds up as the Red Sox’ marquee offseason acquisition.)

Sox Pack 1 is an “Opening Day” collection that guarantees a ticket to Boston’s very first game of the season, which is against the New York Yankees. Fans cannot go wrong with this selection for their Sox Pack purchase, despite the inclusion of clunker games against the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. Meanwhile, the May 12 game against the Blue Jays scheduled for 1:35 p.m. will have a certain slap-in-the-face feeling for those who already played hooky or skipped work six weeks earlier to see Opening Day. The Bottom Line: You’re going to Opening Day against the hated Yankees, which means you can toss verbal barbs at CC Sabathia or Roy Halladay from the grandstand.

Sox Pack 2, “Patriots Day,” also guarantees an early April ticket for a Yankees game as well as a ducat for the coveted Marathon Monday matchup against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Fenway Pastoral took a glance at the schedule and projects David Price to be on the mound for the D-Rays that day. Payback for the 2008 postseason will never feel so sweet as it will 10 beers deep at 11:30 in the morning. Meanwhile, fans wearing old Alex Gonzalez No. 10 Boston jerseys to the Toronto game must remember to X-out the former Red Sox shortstop’s last name after his defection to the Canadian enemies up north. (Bob Ryan has already filed his column telling fans whether they should or shouldn’t boo A-Gonz in his return to Fenway.)

Pack 3 is the TGIF “Thank Goodness It’s Friday” set. Twenty years ago, this package would not have sold very well due to stiff competition from ABC’s enormously popular TGIF television sitcom lineup that included classics such as Full House, Family Matters and Perfect Strangers. Tivo, DVR and Hulu have rendered appointment viewing an artifact of the 20th Century that no one will be able to seriously acknowledge in 50 years without snickering. In short, ABC’s TGIF phenomenon will make about as much sense as Derek Jeter’s Gold Gloves.

Who do the Red Sox think they’re kidding with their “Saturday Special” and “Sunday Special” Sox Packs (#s 4 and 5)? All game times are listed as TBA and both include two September games. Fans purchasing either of these packs will need to clear their schedules for two full weekend days that are more than nine months away. All Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond jokes aside, solidified weekend schedules are a must when constructing large signs with clever four-word combinations for the NESN or ESPN acronyms. Making last-minute signs using a Sharpie and the flimsy cardboard from a Busch Light 30-pack just doesn’t have the same effect.

The selling points for the “Yankee Pack” and “Pinstripe Pack” (#s 6 and 7) center on the possibility that the final regular season games of the year, three home games against the Yankees, will serve as de facto playoff games. It could happen, but it’s just as likely that several of the games wind up with someone like Jeremy Hermida hitting cleanup.

On the flip side, the September 8 matchup against the Devil Rays is likely to have strong playoff implications. Meanwhile, Pack No. 7’s September 20 game against Baltimore could be one of those playoff spot clinchers, which can be especially fun for those fans interested in witnessing (or joining) drunken revelry in person.

The No. 8 “Yaz Pack” also features a Yankees game during the final weekend of the season. The bonus here is a complimentary 12-month prescription to the birth control pill that shares a nickname with the immortal No. 8. This ticket package is solid, especially so for sexually active female fans between the ages of 15 and 50. These types of cross-promotions would never have been offered on John Harrington or Tom Yawkey’s watch.

Sox Pack #9 is a “Splendid Splinter” collection featuring three important AL East divisional dust-ups as well as a ticket to see the perennially underrated Minnesota Twins. Sure, AL MVP Joe Mauer is likely to remain one of the best players in the league next season, but this Sox Pack does seem to lack a certain punch. Fenway Pastoral gets the feeling these are the types of games in which ownership will heroically give up John Henry’s dugout seats to some charitable foundation rather than waste Ben Affleck’s time. But seriously, these Packs make great stocking stuffers.

In trying economic times, deals such as the No. 10 “Extra Inning” Pack really cannot be trumped. The organization has pinpointed four games throughout the 2010 season that will go into extra innings, giving fans added value at no additional price. In 2009, the club was 4-6 overall (1-2 at home) in extra innings affairs. If sample sizes are your cup of tea, Boston was 1-0 in extra innings games played against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park in 2009.

MLB umps: ‘Of course opposing pitchers are squeezed at Fenway’

BOSTON–Some call it the most conclusive evidence yet that Whitey Bulger is still very much alive. Others blame it on a power-hungry mayor who wields far too much pull in the inner workings of the city, including the fortunes of the Hub’s professional baseball team.

Whatever the causes, the data is irrefutable: Umpires are simply afraid to call a third strike on a Red Sox batter in late inning situations at Fenway Park. In a city that cares so deeply about their beloved local nine, umpires take a substantial risk in calling strikes during late-game situations.

The latest evidence came in Wednesday night’s dramatic 9-8 comeback victory in which Nick Green appeared to take a game-ending third strike from Brian Fuentes. The pitch was called ball four and Green’s walk drew in the game-tying run, much to the chagrin of Mike Scioscia, a former player so bland in personality during his playing days that the writers for The Simpsons didn’t even bother naming the mysterious ailment that kept him from playing for the Springfield Isotopes in a 1992 episode. After the game, the Angels manager and several players intimated that umpires’ non-calls on Red Sox hitters is a chronic issue.

One former and one current Major League umpire are confirming the Late-Inning Fenway Factor bias, a phenomenon unrivaled at other ballparks around the league.

“Do you want the lingering members of the Irish and Italian mob coming after you?” asked a former MLB umpire speaking on condition of anonymity. “Boston’s drug and gambling rackets dried up years ago…All these guys do now is watch baseball and complain about the umpiring. They know us all by name…I guarantee it. Down in New York, the mobsters have better things to do, but not up here…”

Others explain the phenomenon as a symptom of Mayor Thomas Menino’s unchecked power over the city’s operations, a key rallying cry of mayoral hopefuls Sam Yoon and Michael Flaherty.

“What if I want to paint the shutters on my house in West Roxbury? You think Mayor Menino’s gonna back the BRA zoning to do that if I’m the reason the Sox lost?” reasoned a current American League umpire who worked a series at Fenway earlier this summer.

The retired umpire concurred. “Menino’s only but a few miles away and ready to sic his cronies on us any minute. Whitey worries me the most, though. What if he’s watching in Thailand or Fiji or the North Pole or wherever he is and decides to come back and exact some justice on one of us for a bad call? It’s not worth it.”

“If it’s close, you call it a ball…everyone knows that,” said the active AL ump.

Pitch f/x data analyses indicate that, indeed, called strikes at Fenway Park are rare when Red Sox players are batting in the seventh inning or later. Analysts suggest that high-walk-rate players such as J.D. Drew and Kevin Youkilis would have on-base percentages about 50 points below their current levels were it not for the Late-Inning Fenway Factor.

“My guess is that the umpire last night knew darn well that pitch to Green was strike three,” said the retired umpire. “And that guy at first wasn’t going to ring him up on that check swing, either. I know for a fact that guy has a grandson in the Boston school system. Menino would ship that kid out to some charter school in Roxbury so quick his head would spin.”

Verbal abuse from the fans was also cited as an explanation for the Late-Inning Fenway Factor bias.

“Some of the things these people yell about me and – god rest her soul, about my late mother – are just awful,” said the active umpire. “And those Boston accents they have…they just make everything come out so hurtful. Fans in other cities like St. Louis are just too classy to yell things like you hear in Boston. If I call a strike on a Cardinals player, the fans applaud my honesty.”

Sox owner John Henry feeling duped after learning of Paul McCartney’s past drug use

BOSTON–Red Sox owner John Henry is boycotting tonight’s Paul McCartney concert at Fenway Park after learning for the first time that the former Beatle used performance-enhancing drugs during the 1960s and 1970s.

The owner was spotted burning several vintage LPs, including limited editions of the Beatles’ renowned White Album, in a large trash barrel on the Budweiser roof deck. According to a club official, Henry has also forbidden all Beatles and Wings songs from being played during future Red Sox games.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the club employee who “broke” the news to Henry reported that the owner is “devastated over this. I feel really bad that I told him about it…I thought everyone knew…”

In various interviews over the last 30-plus years, McCartney has admitted to using marijuana, cocaine and LSD–all of which are widely believed to provide musicians with a certain level of creative inspiration otherwise inaccessible to sober artists.

While McCartney has presumably curbed his PED use over the last couple of decades, Henry similarly destroyed more recent albums such as 1997’s Flaming Pie and 2007’s Memory Almost Full out of fear that residual effects from his past drug use lingered during the creation of his more recent cuts.

In addition, James Taylor, a long-time Red Sox fan and legendary songwriter, has been banned from Fenway Park because McCartney played bass on Taylor’s 1968 hit single “Carolina on My Mind.” Henry was overheard saying he can “only assume James Taylor was using drugs at the time as well,” according to the club official.

Responding to a query, the front office’s crack public relations staff issued the following statement:

“John Henry and the Boston Red Sox have no comment on Paul McCartney’s apparent use of PEDs. We will only confirm that Mr. James Taylor has been asked to remove several acoustic guitars he had been storing in the owner’s suite.”

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Peter Gammons has been notified he is no longer welcome in the Fenway Park press box. A guitar player in his spare time, Gammons has been known to quote Beatles songs in his baseball columns and on his ESPN blog.

Club insiders told Fenway Pastoral that Henry planned to skip Thursday night’s concert as well in order to complete formal petitions to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences requesting the immediate revocation of the many Grammys and Oscars awarded to McCartney throughout the years.