The Promise of Opening Day

As we contemplate the promise of better days to come on what would have been the opening week-end of the 2020 Red Sox season, let’s look back to an opening day held in the midst of the Great Depression.

This Red Sox program from April 17, 1934, not only celebrates the home opener but also the re-birth of Fenway Park and the team itself. For only a year earlier, 33-year-old Thomas Austin Yawkey purchased a last-place team which had lost a franchise single-season record of 111 games. He soon opened his checkbook with the mission of both molding a contender and undertaking a massive overhaul of Fenway Park.

The park renovation would end up being the second-most costly construction project undertaken in Boston during the thirties, trailing only the raising of the Mystic Tobin Bridge. It was a project that saw workers toting wheelbarrows of cement during the Redskins and college football games played that autumn. And, following two fires, legions of union laborers worked triple shifts, even bunking down in a two-story house built at the center of the infield, in order to ready the park for a team that would feature future Hall of Famers Rick Ferrell, Lefty Grove, and Herb Pennock.

That season, the Red Sox would finish the 1934 campaign with a record of 76-76, a whopping 33-game improvement over the season prior to new ownership. Attendance also saw a commensurate leap from 182, 150 in 1932 to 610, 640 in 1934.

Lyrics from the song that defined the spirit of a nation mired in hard times are the perfect coda to this footnote from baseball’s past as well as a harbinger for our next opening day.

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again
Altogether shout it now
There’s no one
Who can doubt it now
So let’s tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again

About the Curator’s Corner

Richard Johnson’s “Curator’s Corner” is  where you will find videos featuring Richard and Sports Museum Executive Director, Rusty Sullivan, discussing Boston sports history, as well as blog posts written by Richard himself.

While perusing the contents of one of the many banker’s boxes that contained our first archival acquisitions, I came upon a photograph of then Boston Mayor Kevin White presenting a Revere Bowl to Jackman at a ceremony honoring Boston’s greatest athletes as part of Boston’s 350th anniversary celebration in 1970.
Boston Red Sox first baseman Mo Vaughn swinging a bat
1998. Once again we find that today's Red Sox home opener coincides with that other Holy Day of Good Friday. Such was also the case in 1998 on a day that headlines proclaimed that beer sales would be prohibited on grounds of the solemnity of the religious holiday. Pretty sure that was a Fenway first.
The father of the Boit daughters (Edward Darley Boit) pictured in Sargent’s famous painting that hangs in the center of the MFA's American Wing was a member of the famed Oneida football team, America’s first ever squad.