In the first week of 1934, Fenway Park's ambitious reconstruction suffered a dramatic setback when a five-hour fire burnt down parts of the newly-constructed left-field grandstand and center-field bleachers. Owner Tom Yawkey persevered and employed union labor to have a dramatically-upgraded Fenway Park ready for Opening Day 1934. With several new players, the Red Sox also improved and finished with their first non-losing season since the team's World Series championship in 1918. In the fall, the Boston Redskins had a successful Fenway Park season too, winning four of seven games at home during a busy autumn of football for the ballpark.

The Red Sox

Record: 76-76, 4th in American League
Manager: Stanley R. (Bucky) Harris
Attendance: 610,640

In the first full year of Yawkey ownership, the Red Sox reconstructed their roster and their ballpark. Having undergone a dramatic makeover during the offseason, the remodeled Fenway Park was unveiled to the general public in the annual exhibition game between the Red Sox and Braves on April 14, 1934, before officially opening three days later.

In 1934, Fenway Park was also home to many new players and a new manager, Bucky Harris. Among just the pitching staff, General Manager Eddie Collins had recently added Lefty Grove, Wes Ferrell, Rube Walberg, Fritz Ostermueller, and Herb Pennock, who returned to the Red Sox after 11 years with the Yankees. The new arms helped the team reach .500 for the first time since 1918.

Unfortunately, Grove was diagnosed with a sore arm before the season began and though Connie Mack offered to take him back, the Red Sox elected to keep him. Grove was 8-8 in 1934, but bounced back to win 20 games in 1935. Ferrell led the team in victories in 1934 with a 14-5 record and 3.63 ERA, despite not pitching until May 30.

Roy Johnson and Billy Werber were the stars on offense. Johnson drove in 119 runs and batted .320, while Werber hit .321 with 11 home runs. The Red Sox also posted their first positive run differential since 1919, scoring 820 and allowing 775.

Yawkey was pleased with the results of his second season but he wasn't done yet. Before October was over, he acquired Washington player/manager Joe Cronin for $225,000 and shortstop Lyn Lary. By the end of 1934, Yawkey's total expenditure on the Red Sox (including Fenway Park renovations) already totaled around $3,000,000 and his investments generated enthusiasm with attendance leaping from 268,715 in 1933 to 610,640 in 1934, including a packed house for Babe Ruth's final game at Fenway Park on August 12, 1934.


The Red Sox and Braves City Series Games

In the first half of the 20th Century, the Red Sox and Braves (who were briefly renamed the Boston Bees in the late 1930s) frequently played exhibition games against each other in what was dubbed the "City Series". These games were always played in early to mid-April as a way to kick off the baseball season in Boston. Over the years, the games also saw the debut of certain Fenway Park legends, including Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, and Joe Cronin. While the Red Sox and Braves/Bees franchise played pretty evenly at Fenway Park in the earliest years of the series, the Red Sox dominated the late 1940s and the first few years of the 1950s, going unbeaten in their last 11 Fenway Park games against their Boston counterparts, before the Braves moved to Milwaukee following the 1952 season.

City Series Games at Fenway Park
April 9, 1926Red Sox 6, Braves 1
April 8, 1927Red Sox 13, Braves 2
April 9, 1927Braves 6, Red Sox 5
April 12, 1930Braves 4, Red Sox 3 (11 Innings)
April 11, 1931Red Sox 7, Braves 3
April 9, 1932Braves 2, Red Sox 1
April 8, 1933Red Sox 7, Braves 0
April 14, 1934Red Sox 8, Braves 2 (Fenway Park's first game after its 1933-34 reconstruction)
April 14, 1935Braves 3, Red Sox (Joe Cronin's Fenway Park debut)
April 12, 1936Bees 8, Red Sox 4
April 18, 1937Red Sox 10, Bees 8 (Bobby Doerr's Fenway Park debut)
April 16, 1938Bees 6, Red Sox 2
April 16, 1939Red Sox 1, Bees 0 (Ted Williams' Fenway Park debut)
April 14, 1940Bees 7, Red Sox 3
April 13, 1941Braves 10, Red Sox 3
April 12, 1942Braves 7, Red Sox 5
April 18, 1943Red Sox 5, Braves 3
April 19, 1943Braves 6, Red Sox 1 (10 innings)
April 15, 1944Red Sox 3, Braves 2
April 15, 1945Red Sox 6, Braves 5
April 12, 1946Red Sox 11, Braves 5
April 13, 1946Braves 7, Red Sox 3
April 14, 1946Red Sox 19, Braves 6
April 13, 1947Braves 7, Red Sox 7 (16 innings) (Tie)
April 17, 1948Red Sox 2, Braves 1
April 18, 1948Red Sox 2, Braves 1
April 16, 1949Red Sox 5, Braves 2
April 17, 1949Red Sox 4, Braves 3
April 18, 1949Red Sox 6, Braves 2
April 16, 1950Red Sox 3, Braves 1
April 15, 1951Red Sox 6, Braves 3
April 12, 1952Red Sox 12, Braves 7
April 13, 1952Red Sox 2, Braves 1

Renovations

Just five days into the 1934 calendar year, a raging inferno interrupted Tom Yawkey's ambitious offseason renovation of Fenway Park. Though steel and concrete stands had been added throughout the ballpark during the winter months of 1933, wooden forms remaining underneath the bleachers provided the kindling for a ferocious, five-hour blaze that quickly spread to surrounding buildings. When the flames were extinguished, the new seating areas down the left-field line and in the center-field bleachers had been destroyed. Though only a portion of the damage was covered by insurance, an undaunted Yawkey redoubled the team's construction efforts, pledging to have the park ready by Opening Day. With a greatly-augmented workforce, the club quickly re-started construction and completed the massive reconstruction on time.

When Fenway Park opened to the general public in April 1934, it contained over 7,000 new seats and had a dramatically-altered look. In place of the 10-foot embankment known as Duffy's Cliff and the 25-foot high fence above it, the new left-field wall stood 37-feet high and featured the first electronically-operated scoreboard in baseball. The grandstand was extended down the left-field line, replacing the space once occupied by the wooden bleachers that had burnt down in 1926.

Yawkey also renovated the right-field seating area, creating a pavilion with bench seating. He also added new seats near the field, moving home plate forward in the process. The renovations to the park reduced home run distances to all fields (from 320 feet to 312 in left; 468 feet to 420 in center; and 358 feet to 334 in right) and the distance to the backstop was shortened from 68 feet to 60. The ballpark also received a "Dartmouth Green" paint job throughout, taking on the characteristic color that it is known for today.

On April 17, 1934, an Opening Day crowd of nearly 33,000 packed into the reconstructed Fenway Park. Yawkey had spent over a million Depression-era dollars to transform Fenway Park and he was widely praised in Boston because his work had been performed by union labor. Fenway Park's reconstruction was the second largest contracting project after the Mystic-Tobin Bridge in Depression-era Boston.

Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park

On June 30, 1934, the All-Boston Interscholastic team beat its All-Springfield counterpart in a 5-4, 10-inning battle at Fenway Park. The following month, a field day drew 11,000 young people who competed in fungo hitting, throwing and base running competitions.

1934 Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park
June 30All-Boston Interscholastic Team 5, All-Springfield Interscholastic Team 4 (10 Innings)
July 5Youth Field Day

More Than a Ballpark™

On June 11, 1934, a golden jubilee celebrating Cardinal William O'Connell's career brought 40,000 patrons to Fenway Park. In July, a wrestling match between Ed Don George and Jimmy Londos had a starting time of 11 PM, one of the latest scheduled starts of any event in Fenway Park's history.

1934 Non-Baseball Events At Fenway Park
May 20War Memorial Service*
June 11Golden Jubilee Celebrating Cardinal William O'Connell's Career
July 18Wrestlers Ed Don George and Jimmy Londos Wrestle to a Draw
October 2Jamaica Plain High 13, Mechanical Arts 0 (Football)
October 3Boston English 13, South Boston High 0 (Football)
October 3High School of Commerce 7, Brighton High 6 (Football)
October 4Roxbury Memorial 0, South Boston High 0 (Football)
October 4Boston College High 0, Dorchester High 0 (Football)
October 7New York Giants 16, Boston Redskins 13 (Football)
October 10Brighton High 6, Roxbury Memorial High 0 (Football)
October 10South Boston High 22, Charlestown High 0 (Football)
October 11Jamaica Plain High 6, High School of Commerce 0 (Football)
October 11Boston College High 0, Boston Latin 0 (Football)
October 12Dorchester High 7, Mechanical Arts 6 (Football)
October 14Boston Redskins 39, Pittsburgh Pirates 0 (Football)
October 16South Boston High 7, Roxbury Memorial 6 (Football)
October 16Jamaica Plain High 14, Charlestown High 0 (Football)
October 17Boston Latin 6, Mechanical Arts 0 (Football)
October 18East Boston High 19, Brighton High 6 (Football)
October 21Boston Redskins 6, Philadelphia Eagles 0 (Football)
October 24Hyde Park High 12, South Boston High 0 (Football)
October 25Brighton High 7, Boston Trade 0 (Football)
October 25East Boston High 13, Charlestown 0 (Football)
October 26Boston English 19, Boston College High 0 (Football)
October 26High School of Commerce 6, Mechanical Arts 0 (Football)
October 28Boston Redskins 9, Chicago Cardinals 0 (Football)
October 30East Boston High 6, Jamaica Plain High 0 (Football)
October 31South Boston High 6, Brighton High 0 (Football)
November 1High School of Commerce 19, Boston College High 6 (Football)
November 2Boston English 19, Dorchester High 0 (Football)
November 4Green Bay Packers 10, Boston Redskins 0 (Football)
November 5South Boston High 19, Mechanical Arts 2 (Football)
November 7Boston Latin 7, High School of Commerce 6 (Football)
November 8Hyde Park High 19, Brighton High 7 (Football)
November 9Boston Trade 19, Charlestown High 0 (Football)
November 11Chicago Bears 21, Boston Redskins 0 (Football)
November 13Boston English 9, Mechanical Arts 0 (Football)
November 14Boston Latin 19, Dorchester High 0 (Football)
November 14Brighton High 18, Charlestown 0 (Football)
November 15High School of Commerce 19, Boston Trade 0 (Football)
November 16Hyde Park High 6, East Boston High 0 (Football)
November 20Jamaica Plain High 0, Brighton High 0 (Football)
November 21Boston Latin 24, Boston Trade 6 (Football)
November 22Boston English 15, High School of Commerce 6 (Football)
November 23Charlestown High 7, Roxbury Memorial 6 (Football)
November 26Jamaica Plan High 6, Hyde Park High 0 (Football)
November 27East Boston High 6, South Boston High 0 (Football)
November 27Boston Trade 0, Mechanical Arts 0 (Football)
November 28Boston College High 6, Roxbury Memorial 0 (Football)
November 29Boston Latin 13, Boston English 12 (Football)
December 2Boston Redskins 13, Brooklyn Dodgers 3 (Football)

*Started in the 1910s, a late May memorial service coinciding with the Memorial Day weekend was often held at Fenway Park through the mid-20th Century.

Opening Day Preparations In 1934 (Credit: The Brearley Collection)