Fenway for free
A sneak peek into how teens find the cheapest way to see Sox
Josh Earle,16, of Roslindale sneaks into the Red Sox game at Fenway Park by going under the fence on Van Ness St. and into Fenway through RemDawgs on Yawkey Way. Behind him is Sean Driscoll,16, of Hyde Park. (Globe Staff Photo / Stan Grossfeld)
There was a little blood spilled sneaking into Fenway Park to see the great Pedro Martínez pitch against his old pals last month.
``It was worth it," says Josh Earle, a 16-year-old from Roslindale, dabbing his T-shirt on the minor cut he suffered on his palm while belly sliding under a chain link fence that separates RemDawg's hot dog stand and Fenway Park from the Free World. ``I had to get in to support him. I was one of those kids that painted his face red and held up `K' cards in the bleachers and screamed for Pedro."
Earle and his buddy, Sean Driscoll, 16, of Hyde Park, arrive at Fenway Park at 1 p.m. for a 7:05 game against the Mets. They know the game is sold out; the Sox' last 263 home games have been sold out. ``I've been coming to Fenway since I was born," says Earle. ``I don't have a job. The demand is so high for tickets I can't afford it."
But Red Sox Nation knows no borders. Eventually they stake out the corner of Van Ness Street and Yawkey Way. Johnny Pesky stops by and Earle borrows a blue-tipped pen and has Pesky sign his T-shirt up by his neck.
``I hope you don't bite," the Red Sox legend says.
After 5 p.m. Yawkey Way, the main entrance to Fenway, is closed to traffic and pedestrians are asked to leave. Fenway security does a sweep to make sure no one is hiding in the Souvenir Shop or the concessions, including RemDawg's, which line Yawkey Way. Then, after turnstiles and fences are in place, Yawkey Way reopens to ticket-holders only. It becomes, in effect, part of Fenway Park.
On Van Ness Street, Boston police conduct their roll call right in front of RemDawg's perimeter fence, which has an 11-inch gap at the bottom.
By 6 p.m., Earle and Driscoll are eyeing the Iron Curtain. They can smell the grilled hot dogs and the sausages, the peppers and the onions from the Promised Land. They watch the pretty girls sitting at the picnic tables. But they also see several Boston police officers on the outside and the white-shirted Fenway security on the inside, all of whom are aware of the weak link in security.
They pace like expectant fathers.
``The waiting is the hardest part," Driscoll said later. ``You're eager and you feel all this pressure."
But these guys are veterans -- they sneaked in earlier this year under the fence. ``Besides," says Earle. ``This is a big game. Pedro vs. Beckett."
``We also sneak into the Garden," says Driscoll. ``We wait until the guy at the premium seating turns his back."
They pretend to make cellphone calls on their Sox logo phone, so police think they are hooking up with friends with tickets. But mostly they watch every movement. For them, it's a little like Dave Roberts staring at Yankees closer Mariano Rivera from the dugout before looking to steal in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series.
``I'm telling myself, don't be scared. Be cool," says Earle.
There are other kids cruising around with the same idea. They give each other territorial stares. A big group draws more attention.
``Kids sneak in all the time," says Edward Polanco, who works at RemDawg's. ``Night games are the easiest. You'd be surprised to see what people would do to see a Red Sox game."
With the seemingly constant rain in New England in May and June, ``It's easy to see who's been rolling under the fence," Polanco says. ``When it rains a little, you can see them. They have a line on their backs."
The crew at RemDawg's never rats out the kids. ``It's really expensive as hell for tickets," says Polanco. ``If they catch you, they just escort you out."
``I've been told that but usually they have security here," he says. ``I don't like it."
Even if the kids then buy a foot-long RemDawg? ``No, I just don't think it's right. But it's a security issue."
Kids have been sneaking into Red Sox games since before the team started playing at Fenway Park in 1912. There's a famous picture in the press box of Fenway Park of fans being hoisted up into the Huntington Grounds, Fenway's predecessor, during the 1903 World Series. Souvenir Shop owner Arthur D'Angelo used to squeeze between the turnstiles in the 1930s.
Dick Bresciani, Red Sox historian and vice president/publications and archives, remembers others. ``There used to be this guy they called `The Wanderer.' We never knew how he got in," he said. ``They say he never had a ticket. He was here for most games from the '60s to the '80s. Well-dressed, he never sat. People would go to find him, they couldn't find him."
Bresciani said fans sometimes show false documentation. ``There have been some interesting forgeries," he acknowledged. ``One guy in New Hampshire forged a press pass, and it cost him his job."
But some people have gotten away with it.
``A friend of mine made a fake Aramark vendor ID for the World Series," said Tom Shapiro, a longtime Sox fan from Cranston, R.I. ``He went to every game. Never got caught."
In the 1970s, fans risked life and limb to climb billboards in center field to watch Luis Tiant -- ``El Tiante" -- pitch in big games. But some bowling fans knew an easier way in.
``When we came here in 2002, some people educated us to the existence of some quirkier entrances," said Charles Steinberg, Red Sox executive vice president/public affairs. ``One was through the boiler room of the old Fenway bowling alley in the basement, which connected into the concourse. And although we've taken a keen interest in it, Fenway is not yet foolproof."
As one Boston police officer who refused to give his name put it, ``You're dealing with hordes and hordes of people. You can't watch every one of them."
Another officer was more sympathetic. ``When I was a kid, I used to climb over the fence and drop into the bleachers early. But then you'd be stuck in there. You couldn't get out."
Inside the fence, a Fenway security guard assigned to RemDawg's watches two locations: The Van Ness fence and on the other side of RemDawg's, a plastic banner of The Wall. Behind the banner, someone has wire-clipped the fence.
Fans walk through the VIP parking lot and climb onto concrete blocks and into RemDawg's, sometimes under the cover of barbecue smoke. On another evening one teenager slowly emerged from behind the banner as if he owned the joint.
Earle and Driscoll have already rejected the site.
``We've tried that spot," says Driscoll. ``It doesn't work for us. It's tight."
One Fenway security guard who says they were instructed not to speak to the media says watching the two locations, jammed with fans, is difficult. And she says it's not just kids. ``You'd be surprised," she says. ``It's all ages."
The over-21 crowd sometimes tries to sneak in by entering Who's on First, a bar on Brookline Avenue, then heading down an alley, around a movable fence, and on to Yawkey Way. Fenway security also has someone stationed there.
On the street the stress level is up.
Scalpers are asking $150 for a $20 bleacher ticket.
The Sox deliberately hold some game-day seats to discourage scalpers. They are sold on Lansdowne Street and hundreds of fans wait hours in line. But that doesn't help Earle, who slept overnight in the street to buy Opening Day tickets this year. ``I have a Red Sox wallet," he says, smiling, ``but I only have $8 in it."
Steinberg defended the team's ticket prices. ``The least expensive seats when we came here were $18, we brought them down to $12. We're mindful to keep the low end low, while ever stretching the high end to help bring modern amenities to the ballpark and meet payrolls. We're determined not to price out our fans."
At 6:30 p.m., there's a playoff atmosphere in the air.
But there are also police all over the place. Driscoll and Earle look scared.
Just when things look bad at the border, the master of horror arrives. A car pulls up and double-parks briefly on Van Ness Street. Author Stephen King gets out. People ask him for autographs. The officer's view is blocked.
But Driscoll and Earle hesitate. The car drives off -- it looks as if the kids will strike out.
But their luck soon changes. There's a commotion by the turnstiles on Yawkey, drawing some police. And the Fenway security guard at RemDawg's has to answer nature's call.
The double steal takes less than five seconds. Earle does a belly flop onto the asphalt and pulls himself through. Driscoll immediately follows. They run through RemDawg's and blend into the Yawkey Way crowd, meeting at El Tiante's.
``I got blood on my T-shirt. It scraped when I hit the ground," says Earle. ``I'm OK but I didn't want to get blood on my Pesky autograph. Wow. That was like a military operation."
They congratulate each other. ``We're 2 for 2 this year," says Earle. ``We snuck in for Baltimore to see [Kevin] Millar. Then we snuck into second-row field boxes."
Driscoll gets a little giddy. ``See all these people. I look at them; there's $45, $90, $300 [seats] each one of them. It's too overpriced. It's more expensive than it needs to be. This makes me feel good."
Driscoll and Earle get some nachos and sodas and choose two great box seats. Pedro's already warming up, Manny and Ortiz are sprinting in the outfield. Back in the parking lot, Boston police report they caught seven youths sneaking up the concrete blocks.
Back at RemDawg's, a Fenway security guard is asked how things are along the Iron Curtain.
``Nobody got by me," he says, smiling. ``I'm 4 for 4."