Fenway Park and John Updike

John Updike

April 11 is opening day at Fenway Park. The Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles at 2:05 pm.

These lines opened a The New Yorker essay about Ted Williams when he was at the end of his career. John Updike was in the prime of his career, writing solidly from the little boy in his heart.

The baseball fan in me is a little boy too. On opening day I think of Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Caesar Tovar, Rod Carew, and other Minnesota Twins who played when I was a kid. They kept me company on the radio as I fell asleep, and I saw them once a year on our annual pilgrimages to the stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota.

I hope that my own boys have good memories of Fenway, but my adult eyes see a different world there.

Every year the owners of the Boston Red Sox add more seats to Updike’s lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. The average ticket price in Boston is well over $50, highest in Major League Baseball.

The average annual salary of a major league baseball player is $4, 400,000. The average annual salary of teacher in Massachusetts is $62,000. It’s hard to think of  ball players as heroes anymore.

I can still sit back and imagine a different world, especially when I think of my boys when they were young at Fenway, and how much fun we had.

Updike’s writing from an even earlier era seems quaint–lyric little band box–as if the owners could do no better:

Fenway Park, in Boston, is a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark. Everything is painted green and seems in curiously sharp focus, like the inside of an old-fashioned peeping-type Easter egg. It was built in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934, and offers, as do most Boston artifacts, a compromise between Man’s Euclidean determinations and Nature’s beguiling irregularities. Its right field is one of the deepest in the American League, while its left field is the shortest; the high left-field wall, three hundred and fifteen feet from home plate along the foul line, virtually thrusts its surface at right-handed hitters.  The New Yorker October 22, 1960

Ted Williams, circa 1955.

Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox


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