Today in baseball history: brand new ballparks (and what Babe Ruth did to them)
Today in 1912, the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Highlanders (renamed the Yankees in 1921) 7-6 in 11 innings in the first baseball game played at Fenway Park. It is the oldest ballpark in the Major Leagues. The famous “Green Monster,” the 37-ft wall in left field, was a new addition in 1934. Prior to that, the field sloped up ten feet to a 25-ft wall. The incline was named “Duffy’s Cliff,” after Boston’s star left fielder that mastered fielding balls on the incline. Babe Ruth (a former Red Sox pitcher) hit the first home run over the new left field wall in 1934, which had been replaced after a fire destroyed the left field bleachers in 1926.
Also on April 20, 1912, the Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Naps 6-5 in 11 innings in the first game at Navin Field – later named Tiger Stadium, until the park closed in 1999. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson scored the very first run at the park, and Ty Cobb would steal home (his first of a still-standing record of eight that year). Ruth would model his swing after the hard-hitting left hander, calling Jackson “the percectest.” Grounds crews kept the dirt area in front of home plate wet in order to slow down Cobb’s bunts and foul opposing fielders trying to throw him out. Babe Ruth is believed to have hit the longest home run in baseball history (575 ft) on July 18, 1921 at Navin Field, and Lou Gehrig benched himself, ending his streak of 2,130 consecutive games on May 2, 1939 at Navin.
On April 20, 1916, the Chicago Cubs beat the Cincinnati Reds 7-6, also in 11 innings, in their new stadium, Weeghman Park. In 1927, Weeghman would be renamed Wrigley Field. While not home to many World Series championships, Wrigley was the site of one of the most famous moments in baseball history: In Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, Babe Ruth is said to have pointed towards center field before taking the next pitch deep into the seats. The famous ivy and scoreboard didn’t make their appearace until 1937. Wrigley Field is home to stubborn holdouts: the Chicago Cubs hold the record for a major professional sports team without a championship (108 years) and were the last team to install night lights in 1988 – 49 years after the Chicago White Sox began playing under the lights.