The 2003 season began with the much-anticipated debut of seats atop the Green Monster and the addition of Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar, Mike Timlin and David Ortiz. The Red Sox rode a potent offense to the ALCS but the team fell in excruciating fashion to the Yankees in the series' seventh game. Throughout 2003, the team also opened Fenway Park to fans in new ways, including a walk around the warning track on Mother's Day, a "Picnic In The Park" to support the Red Sox Foundation in June, two sold out Bruce Springsteen concerts (the first at the ballpark since the early 1970s) and the first annual Christmas at Fenway event in December.
Record: 95-67, 2nd in American League East (Wild Card)
Manager: William G. Little
Postseason: Won American League Division Series
In his first winter as the club's general manager, Theo Epstein acquired third baseman Bill Mueller (who went on to win the 2003 batting title), second baseman Todd Walker, first baseman Kevin Millar, pitchers Mike Timlin and Bronson Arroyo and a power hitter from Minnesota named David Ortiz.
With the team playing well early, a sold-out ballpark on May 15 watched Pedro Martinez beat Texas, 12-3. The capacity crowd began a streak of sell-outs at Fenway Park that became a Major League Baseball record on September 8, 2008 when the club reached 456 consecutive regular season sellouts.
Although the offense was robust, Boston had the second worst ERA in the majors through early June. In an effort to stabilize the staff, the team hired Dave Wallace as the team's full-time pitching coach on June 9.
Even with problems on the mound, the 2003 Red Sox could hit for power. The team hit a franchise-record 238 homers during the season along with an MLB-record .491 slugging percentage. Emblematic of this potency was a 25-8 victory over Florida on June 27, in which the Red Sox scored 14 runs in the bottom of the first inning and set a MLB record by crossing the plate 10 times before the first out of the game was recorded.
Boston won the Wild Card and rallied from a 2-0 deficit against Oakland in the ALDS. They Red Sox faced the Yankees in a dramatic American League Championship Series. The meeting with the Yankees was a raucous affair (including a brawl-filled Game Three) and the teams split the first six games. The Red Sox led Game Seven 5-2 in the eighth inning but the Yankees tied the game with a rally off Pedro Martinez at Yankee Stadium. In the 11th Inning, New York's Aaron Boone sent the Red Sox home with a walk-off home run to left field.
Disappointed with the season's conclusion, the Red Sox soon began a busy offseason. Grady Little was replaced as manager with Terry Francona and Epstein persuaded Arizona's Curt Schilling to waive his no-trade clause and accept a trade to Boston. The team also added reliever Keith Foulke and tried to acquire Alex Rodriguez from the Texas Rangers. However, after the Red Sox reached an agreement with both the Rangers and Rodriguez, the Players' Association refused to approve the slugger's re-structured contract. Adding fuel to Boston's rivalry with New York, the Yankees traded for the reigning AL MVP in February 2004.
In 2003, 269 barstool seats were added atop Fenway Parks fabled left-field wall. Fans had first heard of the idea the previous year, when the teams Vice President/Planning and Development Janet Marie Smith mentioned the possibility of seats atop the iconic wall. Unveiled on Opening Day, April 12, 2003, the Green Monster Seats instantly became some of the most coveted tickets in baseball. Boston Magazine would later dub the seats as the best seats in Boston and in 2008, the seats topped a list of the 10 best seats in baseball compiled by USA Today, which combined nominations from readers and votes from their staff.
Along with the new Green Monster Seats, permanent advertisements were featured above the left-field wall, similar to the temporary signs that were installed in 2002. On the actual wall, National League scores were added to the left-field scoreboard for the first time since the wall was rebuilt in 1975, and advertisements were placed on the wall itself for the first time since 1946.
In addition to adding the Green Monster Seats, the team also expanded the Dugout Seats beyond each dugout towards the outfield and built 87 Home Plate Seats by moving the backstop closer to home plate. Despite these additions, the capacity of the ballpark remained the same because the club converted standing room into new ticketed seats.
After proving successful during a one-month trial the previous September, the Yawkey Way Concourse officially opened at the start of the 2003 season. In August 2003, after a gradual soft opening, the opposite side of the ballpark received a major upgrade in concourse space when a new Big Concourse was officially unveiled. Fans found 25,000 more square feet of space in this expanded area beneath the bleachers and right-field grandstand and enjoyed new menu options from new concessions stands with their own kitchens. Along with new, larger restrooms (including the largest womens room in the Major Leagues), the width of the concourse doubled from 30 feet to 60 feet and usable space between Gate B and Gate C tripled, complete with picnic tables and other family friendly amenities.
While Fenway Park underwent many permanent improvements in 2003, the ballpark was also temporarily transformed into a concert venue when Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band played two sold-out shows on September 6 and 7, 2003. They were the first major concerts at Fenway Park since the Newport/New England Jazz Festival in 1973 but every year since the Boss two historic shows in 2003, Fenway Park has hosted a major concert.
Boston College's offense tallied 21 runs in two games at Fenway Park in 2003, en route to capturing the Baseball Beanpot.
|2003 Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park|
|April 23||Harvard 8, University of Massachusetts 7 (Beanpot Semi-Finals)*|
|April 23||Boston College 13, Northeastern 7 (Beanpot Semi-Finals)*|
|April 24||Boston College 8, Harvard 6 (Beanpot Championship)*|
|April 24||Northeastern 6, University of Massachusetts 1 (Beanpot Consolation)*|
*Starting in 1990, Fenway Park has hosted the annual Baseball Beanpot, baseball's version of the longstanding Boston hockey tradition. Originally, the competition featured the same schools that battle for Hockey Beanpot: Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern University and Harvard University. However, when BU dropped their baseball program after the 1995 season, the University of Massachusetts took their place. The Baseball Beanpot has been held at Fenway Park every year since its inception except for in 2004 and 2010, when the tournament was played at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton, MA.
In the second year under the ownership of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox opened Fenway Park to fans in many new ways. In May, the team paid tribute to the mothers of Red Sox Nation by offering mothers and their families a chance to walk on the field's warning track. Mother's Day events have been held by the club ever since. The following month, the first "Picnic in the Park" was hosted by the Red Sox Foundation, the team's official charity that was created by the club's new ownership in 2002.
In the first week of September, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band played two sold-out Fenway Park shows, the first concerts at the ballpark in 30 years. The performances by the Boss were the first in a string of concerts that have been held at Fenway Park every year since.
A few days after Springsteen's performance, the American Red Cross, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Red Sox hosted the first blood drive at Fenway Park in remembrance of the lives that were lost during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The drive has become a regular tradition at the ballpark and several thousand donors take part each year.
Also of note in 2003 was the creation of the club's Fenway Enterprises department, which opened Fenway Park for event space for the first time in the park's history. Over the last several years, Fenway Enterprises has helped to dramatically increase the number of events (both public and private) that the ballpark holds, including birthdays, weddings, charity efforts and an assortment of other events.
In 2003, the club also began to offer year- round tours of Fenway Park for the first time and in December, the club held their inaugural Christmas at Fenway. The event welcomed Red Sox fans to Fenway Park in the middle of winter and offered them the first opportunity to purchase tickets for the upcoming season. At the event, the team's recent acquisition, Curt Schilling, also made his first public appearance on behalf of the club.
|2003 Non-Baseball Events At Fenway Park|
|May 11||Mother's Day Walk|
|June 15||Father's Day Catch|
|June 29||Red Sox Foundation's Picnic in the Park|
|Sept. 6-7||Bruce Springsteen Concerts|
|September 11||Inaugural Fenway Park Red Cross Blood Drive|
|Dec. 13-14||Christmas at Fenway|