Musings: The Green Monster

By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author

THE GREEN MONSTER

It wasn’t always known as The Green Monster, you know.
In fact, for the first thirty-five years it wasn’t even green. No one knew what the color of
Fenway Park’s left field wall was. It was totally covered in advertisements, everything
from shaving cream to cab companies to Old Demon Rum. It wasn’t until 1947 that
owner Tom Yawkey had the ads exorcised and the wall painted what was referred to as
“Dartmouth green” that it was given its present color. Even then it wasn’t The Green
Monster.
As late as the nineteen sixties if the term “monster” was used around the ballpark it
referred to Dick “The Monster” Radatz, the huge (six foot six inches and listed as two
hundred thirty pounds but must have been at least fifty more) relief pitcher who
intimidated opposing hitters with his size and blazing fastball. His size and strength made
him seem absolutely indestructible, so Red Sox management of the day proceeded to
destroy him. In the four years between 1962 and 1965 he was used for an average of 134
innings a year (the average closer today averages 70 to 80 innings annually). It wasn’t
uncommon to see Radatz come into a game in the fourth or fifth inning, close it out, and
be called upon again the next day. Even the Monster couldn’t keep going at that rate and
he was traded away in 1966, his fastball long gone.
Green Monster in those days was usually used to describe a long, challenging golf course.
But gradually the term took hold as the name of choice for what we old timers still refer
to as The Wall. And a pretty good name it is, too, because it has certainly caused its share
of nightmares.
A hundred five years ago, when people got their first look at it, they thought it was an
imposing structure but nobody thought it possible to hit a ball over it (it was the dead ball
era, remember). Very few even thought anyone would ever hit a ball against it. But in the
first inning of just the fifth regular season game of the 1912 season backup first baseman
Hugh Bradley lashed a drive against it for a double, the first time it had ever been hit.
Fans in the stands were still talking about it when, in the seventh, Bradley came up again
and actually hit a game wining home run over the wall and out onto Landsdown Street.

What!? He hit the ball OVER the wall! The impossible had happened, and only five
games into its existence (well, six, if you count an exhibition game against Harvard). I am
sure that Bradley, a Holy Cross alum, never forgot that home run, especially since it’s
that last one he ever hit in the big leagues. He had a lifetime total of just two.
Once the wall was breached by Bradley’s blow others would follow and, with the arrival
of the live ball era in 1920, they came early and often. The deluge has never stopped
although The Green Monster has probably taken away as many homers as it’s given up.
Many a screaming line drive, labeled for four hundred feet or more, has banged off the
top of the wall resulting in just a loud single. And countless lazy fly balls, routine outs in
virtually any other ballpark, have just made it over the top for home runs (Hello, Bucky
Dent). The Green Monster and its idiosyncrasies have been the cause of great joy and
great heartbreak (for God’s sake, Bucky, I already said hello once).
It’s undergone changes over the years. It began as a plain wooden fence atop a ten foot
embankment in 1912, was rebuilt into its present dimensions in 1934, with a sheet of tin
covering the wood (resulting in a loud “Clang” when it was hit), then rebuilt again with a
hard plastic replacing the tin covered wood. A net was added in 1936 to protect
neighboring businesses. The net was replaced by the Green Monster seats in 2003.
Through it all The Green Monster or The Wall (take your pick) has been an object of
fascination and fear by fans and players alike for more than a century, and that’s not
about to change.

SHE’S A GRAND OLD WALL

She’s a grand old wall, thirty-seven feet tall,
With a scoreboard that functions by hand.
She’s got seats of top looming over shortstop
And a view that the best in the land.
She’s a great landmark, dominating the park,
The most famous in all baseball.
The Great Green Monster of Fenway Park,
There’s none like her, that grand old wall.
She a grand old wall and she never will fall
Although walloped by many line drives.
She gives up home runs, two base hits by the tons,
She also gives pitchers the hives.
For she seems so near she instills them with fear.
If they should give up a fly ball
And it’s hit real high, kiss it goodbye,
Cause it’s over that grand old wall.

Note: If you like songs by George M. Cohan, you can sing this to the tune of “She’s a
Grand Old Flag.”