Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

15 Swinging Facts About Fenway Park

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Boston's Fenway Park has been around officially since April 20, 1912, making it the oldest ballpark still standing in Major League Baseball. A lot of historical events—some of which are curious—have gone down over the last several decades at 4 Yawkey Way. Here are some facts about the home of the Green Monster, the Citgo Sign, and a Williamsburg you probably have never heard about.

1. IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE FIRST CORPORATELY NAMED STADIUM.

When Red Sox owner John I. Taylor, who also owned the new ballpark (which cost $650,000 to build), was asked why he chose Fenway Park for a name, he said, "Well, it's in the Fenway, isn't it?" Taylor wasn't wrong, but historians note that his family held "considerable stock" in the Fenway Realty Company at the time.

2. ITS OFFICIAL DEBUT WAS DELAYED MULTIPLE TIMES.

The first official baseball game at Fenway took place on April 9, 1912, when the Sox beat Harvard University 2-0. The first regular season game between two professional teams was scheduled for April 18, 1912, but was rained out. April 19 was a new day, but the same weather. So April 20, 1912 became known as the Fenway Park opener, a Red Sox victory over the New York Highlanders (they became the New York Yankees the following season), 7-6 in 11 innings. Most people didn't pay attention because of the unfolding tragedy of the Titanic sinking. The formal dedication ceremony for the ballpark was thus delayed until May 17, 1912.

3. ELEPHANTS TOOK OVER IN 1914.

The city zoo purchased three circus elephants named Mollie, Waddy, and Tony. Fenway Park held their coming out party, which was attended by 60,000 kids and their parents and included clowns, acrobats, a marching band, and a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator in safari gear. Two months later, the real Theodore Roosevelt showed up for the Progressive Field Day at Fenway Park; but Roosevelt had been advised by his doctors not to give open air speeches, so after a quick meet and greet at Fenway, they went to nearby Boston Arena (now Matthews Arena) for the speech.

4. SUNDAY GAMES WERE BANNED UNTIL 1932.

Even though Massachusetts voters decided in 1928 to allow sports on the Lord's Day between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., it was still illegal to play a professional game on Sundays within 1000 feet of a church, which Fenway was. As a result, the Red Sox played the first Boston Sunday game ever on April 28, 1929—at Braves Field, home of the then other professional Boston baseball team, the Boston Braves. Eventually, the church rule was lifted, so the Red Sox got to play a Sunday game at Fenway for the first time on July 3, 1932. The Yankees beat the hell out of them that day by a score of 13-2.

5. THE PARK ALMOST BURNED DOWN.

A fire on May 8, 1926 burned the bleachers along the left-field foul line down so severely that Fenway Park’s owners decided against replacing them. On January 5, 1934, a five-alarm, four-hour blaze almost completely destroyed the already-underway construction of new features to Fenway. Part of the estimated $220,000 worth of loss in the fire was the destruction of the 25-foot wall made of wood in left field. It was replaced with a 37-foot wall made of tin over wooden railroad ties. In 1947 it was painted green. In 1976, it was replaced with hard plastic.

6. A FAMILIAR FACE HIT THE FIRST HOME RUN HIT BY AN OPPOSING PLAYER OVER THE NEW LEFT FIELD WALL IN 1934.

The feat was accomplished by a former Red Sox player named Babe Ruth.

7. THERE IS MORSE CODE ON THE GREEN MONSTER.

The lines on the side of the scoreboard are the initials of Thomas A. Yawkey and Jean R. Yawkey, who owned the Red Sox from 1933 to 1992 (and whose trust would own the team until 2002).

8. THE BULLPENS WERE IN FAIR TERRITORY UNTIL 1940.

In 1940, the bullpens were moved to right field, behind a fence that was moved in 23 feet closer to home plate, helping lefty Ted Williams hit more home runs at home. It was known as "Williamsburg."

9. TED WILLIAMS SHOT PIGEONS THERE.

In May of 1957 Williams reportedly shot 30 to 40 pigeons from "Williamsburg," to the consternation of construction workers on duty during a Red Sox off-day. Apparently, shooting pigeons at Fenway was a tradition started by Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove. Even after the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals talked to Williams, Fenway's pigeons still weren't safe; during a 1974 game, Detroit Tiger Willie Horton hit a foul ball at Fenway that killed a low-flying pigeon.

10. WILLIAMS HIT THE LONGEST HOME RUN AT FENWAY EVER. IT LANDED ON SOMEONE'S HEAD.

Williams' home run on June 9, 1946 off the Tigers' Fred Hutchinson went 502 feet, landing in Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21. It hit a 56-year-old, straw hat-wearing construction worker named Joseph A. Boucher right in the head. "I didn't even get the ball," Boucher said later. "They say it bounced a dozen rows higher, but after it hit my head I was no longer interested. I couldn't see the ball. Nobody could. The sun was right in our eyes. All we could do was duck. I'm glad I didn't stand up."

11. IT WAS THE SITE OF THE LAST SPEECH OF FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT'S 1944 ELECTION CAMPAIGN.

Before 40,000 supporters and a nationwide radio audience, Roosevelt delivered his final campaign speech on November 4, 1944, three days before getting elected as POTUS for the fourth time. He was seated in an open automobile. Sinatra sang the national anthem, and Orson Welles was one of the warm-up acts.

12. THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS WON A GAME THERE.

In addition to hosting high school football, college football, professional football, soccer, professional hockey, boxing, and professional wrestling, the Harlem Globetrotters defeated the George Mikan United States All-Stars on July 29, 1954 by the score of 61-41, on a basketball court placed in the Fenway infield. The biggest cheer from the 13,344-person crowd, according to The Boston Globe, came when Goose Tatum punched the ball over the third base dugout into the grandstand.

13. THE CITGO SIGN HAS HAD A TUMULTUOUS HISTORY.

The 60' x 60' sign over 660 Beacon Street has been around since 1940, when it was a green and white Cities Service sign. In 1965, the company changed its brand to CITGO. Its lights were shut off during the oil crisis of 1973. After 1974, the electricity was only turned on from 8 p.m. to midnight. The Massachusetts energy office asked the owners to turn it off "as a symbol of the state's effort to reduce energy waste" in 1979, and they acquiesced for four years.

Thanks to a last-minute intervention by the Boston Landmarks Commission, the sign was saved and re-lit on August 10, 1983. During the 2004 season—which ended with the Red Sox's first championship since 1918—workers replaced the original neon lighting with 8000 feet of LEDs. In 2008, the sign caught fire, causing $5000 in damage. In 2010, the sign had to be renovated because the LED lights installed just six years earlier were no longer being produced. It was re-lit during a Red Sox game on September 17, 2010, during the seventh inning stretch.

Earlier this year, new concern for the sign's future arose when Boston University announced it was going to be selling several of the buildings in Kenmore Square, including the one on which the sign hangs. This has led to a push to finally designate the sign as a landmark to protect it for generations.

14. YOU CAN GET MARRIED THERE, BUT BEN AFFLECK MIGHT RUIN IT.

While The Knot calls the price range to tie the knot at the ballpark "affordable," some claim it can cost up to $25,000. One wedding took place during the filming of The Town (2010), which shot at the ballpark for 13 days. "So we were shooting with automatic weapons there and we fired off a full mag and, we didn’t know it, but there were some people getting married," Affleck recalled. "People were screaming! They thought they were under attack! I don’t know if we ruined a wedding or if it will end up a great story."

15. IT HAS HAD HISTORICALLY LOW AND HIGH ATTENDANCE.

On September 29, 1965, only 409 fans were in the building to watch the Red Sox face the California Angels. Winning can change things. All 820 games from May 15, 2003 through April 8, 2013 were sellouts (which broke the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers' record of 814 for most consecutive sellouts by a professional sports franchise).

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General Mills
10 Winning Facts about Wheaties
General Mills
General Mills

Famous for its vivid orange boxes featuring star athletes and its classic "breakfast of champions" tagline, Wheaties might be the only cereal that's better known for its packaging than its taste. The whole wheat cereal has been around since the 1920s, becoming an icon not just of the breakfast aisle, but the sports and advertising worlds, too. Here are 10 winning facts about it.

1. IT WAS INVENTED BY ACCIDENT.

The Washburn Crosby Company wasn't initially in the cereal business. At the time, the Minnesota-based company—which became General Mills in 1928—primarily sold flour. But in 1921, the story goes, a dietitian in Minneapolis spilled bran gruel on a hot stove. The bran hardened into crispy, delicious flakes, and a new cereal was born. In 1924, the Washburn Crosby Company began selling a version of the flakes as a boxed cereal it called Washburn's Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flakes. A year later, after a company-wide contest, the company changed the name to Wheaties.

2. ITS JINGLE FEATURED A SINGING UNDERTAKER AND A COURT BAILIFF.

Wheaties sales were slow at first, but the Washburn Crosby Company already had a built-in advertising platform: It owned the Minneapolis radio station WCCO. Starting on December 24, 1926, the station began airing a jingle for the cereal sung by a barbershop quartet called the Wheaties Quartet. The foursome sang "Have You Tried Wheaties" live over the radio every week, earning $15 (about $200 today) per performance. In addition to their weekly singing gig, the men of the Wheaties Quartet all also had day jobs: One was an undertaker, one was a court bailiff, one worked in the grain industry, and one worked in printing. The ad campaign eventually went national, helping boost Wheaties sales across the country and becoming an advertising legend.

3. WHEATIES HAS BEEN TIED TO SPORTS SINCE ALMOST THE BEGINNING.

Carl Lewis signs a Wheaties box with his image on it for a young boy.
Track and field Olympic medalist Carl Lewis
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Wheaties has aligned itself with the sports world since its early days. In 1927, Wheaties bought ad space at Minneapolis's Nicollet Park, home to a minor league baseball team called the Millers, and in 1933, the cereal brand started sponsoring the team's game-day radio broadcasts on WCCO. Eventually, Wheaties baseball broadcasts expanded to 95 different radio stations, covering teams all over the country and further cementing its association with the sport. Since then, generations of endorsements from athletes of all stripes have helped sell consumers on the idea that eating Wheaties can make them strong and successful just like their favorite players. The branding association has been so successful that appearing on a Wheaties box has itself become a symbol of athletic achievement.

4. WHEATIES HELPED KICK-START RONALD REAGAN'S ACTING CAREER.

In the 1930s, a young sports broadcaster named Ronald Reagan was working at a radio station in Des Moines, Iowa, narrating Wheaties-sponsored Chicago Cubs and White Sox games. As part of this job, Reagan went to California to visit the Cubs' spring training camp in 1937. While he was there, he also did a screen test at Warner Bros. The studio ended up offering him a seven-year contract, and later that year, he appeared in his first starring role as a radio commentator in Love Is On The Air.

5. ATHLETES' PHOTOS DIDN'T ALWAYS APPEAR ON THE FRONT OF BOXES.

Three Wheaties boxes featuring Michael Phelps
Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Although a Wheaties box wouldn't seem complete without an athlete's photo on it today, the cereal didn't always feature athletes front and center. In the early years, the boxes had photos of athletes like baseball legend Lou Gehrig (the first celebrity to be featured, in 1934) on the back or side panels of boxes. Athletes didn't start to appear on the front of the box until 1958, when the cereal featured Olympic pole vaulter Bob Richards.

6. THE FIRST WOMAN ON A WHEATIES BOX WAS A PILOT.

Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Former Track and Field Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersey stands with a poster of her new Wheaties box after it was unveiled in 2004.
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images

Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton became the first woman to appear on the front of a Wheaties box in 1984, but women did appear elsewhere on the box in the brand's early years. The first was pioneering aviator and stunt pilot Elinor Smith. Smith, whose picture graced the back of the box in 1934, set numerous world aviation records for endurance and altitude in the 1920s and 1930s.

7. IT USED TO HAVE A MASCOT.

Though we now associate Wheaties with athletes rather than an animal mascot, the cereal did have the latter during the 1950s. In an attempt to appeal to children, Wheaties adopted a puppet lion named Champy (short for "Champion") as the brand's mascot. Champy and his puppet friends sang about the benefits of Wheaties in commercials that ran during The Mickey Mouse Club, and kids could order their own Champy hand puppets for 50 cents (less than $5 today) if they mailed in Wheaties box tops.

8. MICHAEL JORDAN IS THE WHEATIES KING.

Of all the athletes who have graced the cover of a Wheaties box, basketball superstar Michael Jordan takes the cake for most appearances. He's been featured on the box 18 times, both alone and with the Chicago Bulls. He also served as a spokesperson for the cereal, appearing in numerous Wheaties commercials in the '80s and '90s.

9. FANS ONCE GOT THE CHANCE TO PICK A WHEATIES STAR.

MMA star Anthony Pettis on the front of a Wheaties box.
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The public hasn't often gotten a chance to weigh in on who will appear on the Wheaties box. But in 2014, Wheaties customers got to decide for the first time which athlete would be featured nationally. Called the Wheaties NEXT Challenge, the contest allowed people to vote for the next Wheaties Champion by logging their workouts on an app platform called MapMyFitness. Every workout of 30 minutes or more counted as one vote. Participants could choose between Paralympic sprinter Blake Leeper, motocross rider Ryan Dungey, mixed-martial-artist Anthony Pettis, lacrosse player Rob Pannell, or soccer player Christen Press. Pettis won, becoming the first MMA fighter to appear on the box in early 2015.

10. THERE WERE SEVERAL SPINOFFS THAT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

Three different Wheaties boxes featuring Tiger Woods sitting together on a table
Tiger Woods's Wheaties covers, 1998
Getty Images

Faced with declining sales, Wheaties introduced several spinoff cereals during the 1990s and early 2000s, including Honey Frosted Wheaties, Crispy Wheaties 'n Raisins, and Wheaties Energy Crunch. None of them sold very well, and they were all discontinued after a few years. The brand kept trying to expand its offerings, though. In 2009, General Mills introduced Wheaties Fuel, a version of the cereal it claimed was more tailored to men's dietary needs. Wheaties Fuel had more vitamin E and—unlike the original—no folic acid, which is commonly associated with women's prenatal supplements. Men didn't love Wheaties Fuel, though, and it was eventually discontinued too. Now, only the original "breakfast of champions" remains.

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TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
The Sandlot Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX
TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

Few films from the 1990s have grown in stature over the years like The Sandlot. Though it gained respectable reviews and box office receipts when it was released in April 1993, the movie's standing in pop culture has since ballooned into cult classic territory, and you can still find merchandise and even clothing lines dedicated to it today.

Now you can revisit the adventures of Smalls, Ham, Squints, and The Beast on the big screen when Fathom Events and Twentieth Century Fox, in association with Island World, bring The Sandlot back to theaters for its 25th anniversary. The event will be held in 400 theaters across the U.S. on July 22 at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., and Tuesday, July 24 at 2:00 p.m and 7:00 p.m. (all times local).

Each screening will come complete with a preview of a new documentary detailing the making of the movie, so if you wanted to know even more about how this coming-of-age baseball classic came to be, now’s your chance.

For more information about ticket availability in your area, head to the Fathom Events website. And if you want to dive into some more trivia about the movie—including the fact that it was filmed in only 42 days—we’ve got you covered.

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