Bullpens friendlier at Fenway
When former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey decided to build the bullpen in right field at Fenway Park in 1940, it wasn't as a security measure for his relief pitchers.
Ted Williams hit so many fly balls to deep right during his rookie season that were caught, Yawkey decided to shorten the distance by 27 feet by adding a bullpen. Sportswriters of that era christened it Williamsburg.
It didn't provide immediate dividends; Williams's home run total dropped from 31 to 23 his second season.
Before the Red Sox constructed the bullpens, relievers warmed up on the sidelines, as they do today at Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., where two nights ago, rookie Frank Francisco got into a shouting match with a fan, leading to a nasty confrontation in which Francisco hurled a folding chair into the crowd, hitting a 41-year-old woman and breaking her nose. Francisco was charged with aggravated battery and was released on $15,000 bail.
Don't expect that to happen at Fenway.
There are no folding chairs in the visitor's bullpen, but it is snug to the right-field grandstand and Alan Embree was quoted in yesterday's Globe as saying he was scared to death there as a rookie member of the Indians' relief corps during the 1995 playoffs.
Outside of last year's playoff game with the Yankees, when Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia scuffled with a Red Sox employee, it has been quiet in the bullpens -- unless the Yankees are in town.
It was uneventful last night with Tampa Bay as the opponent. None of the fans rode Devil Rays starter Dewon Brazelton while he warmed up before the game. When his catcher, Toby Hall, entered the bullpen, he threw a cap to one of the youngsters in the stands.
Most of those who congregated before the game near the bullpen were fathers and young sons with cameras.
The spectators are on top of the bullpen, just a few feet from the pitcher's mounds. A 2-foot concrete wall, topped with iron grating, rings the back of the bullpen.
In the last few years, a second level of iron grating was added to give the bullpens more protection.
"There's a barrier there for a reason and as long as both sides respect that, I think we are all better off," added Devil Rays reliever Travis Harper, who also said that warming up in Oakland is difficult.
"You feel like the fans are particularly close to you and I'm sure it's something they are going to reevaluate, especially after this situation."
In Boston's bullpen, "The fans are pretty vocal and loud at times" Harper said. "They are behind the Red Sox. It's a lively experience here. But it's easy to get ready to pitch here. It's fun in that respect. Yeah, they are going to get on you some. But it's in good fun."
But it isn't that way all the time. Most Sundays through Wednesdays, all is quiet, though it often gets rowdy Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and whenever the Yankees are in town. In fact, a meeting is scheduled today between Fenway security officials, Boston Police, and Major League Baseball in preparation for the Yankees series, scheduled for Sept. 25-27.As for last night's game, fans engaged in repartee with the Devil Rays relievers.
Danny Savastano and friends Jamal Veras and Rene Dumont, all of Salem, N.H., tried to convince John Halama to trade them a baseball for some of their french fries.
"He said if we caught a home run ball, he'd take some fries," said Savastano, whose father, Dan, added that the Devil Ray relievers were good-natured.
"But some other fans yelled at us. They said we shouldn't be talking to the enemy," added Dumont.
Nevertheless, there is plenty of security monitoring the situation in the bleachers and the right-field grandstand, and if fans become unruly, they are asked to quiet down. If they don't, they are escorted out of the ballpark.
But that doesn't stop them from shouting epithets as relievers warm up.
"Obviously when you come into an atmosphere like you have here in Boston, in New York, or any playoff-bound team, the fans are really into it," said Harper. "Every once in a while you get fans who get carried away. But you know what, it's fun to play in that atmosphere. It's unfortunate at times that some situations happen."
Harper said he's never experienced an ugly situation as in Oakland, "But fans come to games and are going to heckle. As long as they stay on their side of the stands, I think I can always turn away and laugh at them."
Danys Baez, the Devil Rays closer, said problems arise when the game moves into the late innings. "Especially on the road. You've got to be focused on what you have to do. You don't worry about fans. But after the seventh inning, some of them have had a lot to drink and they have things to say that can distract you. But you got to focus on your game."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.