Prior to the 2008 season, the Red Sox expanded the State Street Pavilion Level. The improvements created the Coca-Cola Corner and replaced the temporary suites installed for the 1999 All-Star Game with updated versions. Thanks in part to Dustin Pedroia's 2008 MVP season, the Red Sox made the playoffs for the fifth time in sixth years but fell to the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS. Fenway Park hosted a string of different events in 2008, including the first naturalization ceremony in the ballpark's history and a concert by Neil Diamond, whose song "Sweet Caroline" is played during the 8th inning of every Red Sox home game.

The Red Sox

Record: 95-67, 2nd in American League East (Wild Card)
Manager: Terry J. Francona
Attendance: 3,048,248
Postseason: Won American League Division Series

The 2008 Red Sox season started in Japan, where the team played Oakland twice then flew back to the states to play an exhibition against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the LA Coliseum. Daisuke Matsuzaka started both the season opener in Tokyo and the Fenway Park home opener, which he won by a 5-0 margin on his way to an 18-3 season.

On May 19, Jon Lester threw a no-hitter against Kansas City at Fenway Park, the second in two years by a Red Sox pitcher after Clay Buchholz accomplished the feat in 2007. Jason Varitek, who also caught Buchholz, became the only catcher in baseball history to catch four no-hitters.

The Red Sox stayed at the top of the division for most of the year but the early months weren't without controversy. After a turbulent first half that included confrontations in the clubhouse and dugout, Manny Ramirez was sent to the Dodgers in a trade deadline deal that brought Jason Bay to Boston from the Pirates.

A year after being named the AL Rookie of the Year, Dustin Pedroia won the AL MVP with a .326 batting average, while Kevin Youkilis, the team leader in home runs (29) and RBIs (115), placed third in the voting.

Boston and Tampa Bay vied for the AL East throughout the summer but the Rays pulled ahead in the season's final few weeks. Boston won the Wild Card and for the third time in four years, the Red Sox bounced the Angels in the ALDS and set up an ALCS tilt with Tampa.

It seemed like a reprise of the 2007 ALCS as the Red Sox fell behind 3-1 in the series before winning Games Five and Six. But in Game Seven, Rays' starter Matt Garza surrendered just one run and young lefty David Price closed the door on a 3-1 Tampa victory. The Red Sox came close but the chance to play in consecutive World Series for the first time since 1915 and 1916 was not meant to be.

Renovations

In 2008, the club repaired and waterproofed the concrete seating bowl in the bleachers and replaced all of the bleacher seats. At the same time, the area under the bleachers that was previously used as a batting cage was gutted and remodeled as a restaurant and bar, which opened in 2008 as The Bleacher Bar featuring a window into Fenway Park.

In addition to replacing the bleacher seats, the team continued work on the State Street Pavilion Level by adding more than 800 seats, which increased Fenway Park's seating capacity to 37,400. Most of the new seats were installed on the third-base side of the pavilion level, 412 of which were unveiled as the family-friendly Coca-Cola Corner. The seating area featured a new Coca-Cola sign, which was inspired by the historic sign that used to exist off Storrow Drive in Brighton, MA, and the three 25-foot high Coke bottles that had hung on the left-field light tower since 1997 were taken down. At the top of the pavilion level, eight new private suites, available on a single-game basis, replaced the six that were housed in the temporary boxes built for the 1999 All-Star Game and 12 more privates suites on the EMC Level below were renovated in the same fashion as the 26 that were redone the year before.

To improve circulation, a new staircase was built from the concourse near Gate A to the top of the grandstand behind third base and a new elevator was installed in left-field area to serve all levels of the ballpark. In addition, four new LED scoreboards were installed on the EMC Level façade in right and left-field to provide more detailed game information and on September 28, 2008, the façade of the right field roof got its own addition when Johnny Pesky's #6 was officially retired.

Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park

After the University of Massachusetts won the 2008 Baseball Beanpot at Fenway Park in April, the third annual Futures at Fenway took place On August 9. That day, Red Sox affiliates Lowell and Pawtucket both won and with their victories, Red Sox minor league teams improved to 6-0 in Futures at Fenway games.

2008 Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park
April 15University of Massachusetts 4, Boston College 3 (Beanpot Championship)*
April 16Northeastern 7, Harvard 6 (10 innings) (Beanpot Consolation)*
August 9Futures at Fenway: Lowell Spinners 4, Hudson Valley Renegades 3 (12 Innings) August 9 Futures at Fenway: Pawtucket Red Sox 5, Charlotte Knights 2

*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.

More Than a Ballpark™

Three recent traditions kicked off Fenway Park's non-baseball events calendar in 2008, with walks on Mother's Day and Father's Day, as well as the Red Sox Foundation's Picnic in the Park on June 22. In late August, Fenway Park hosted a concert by Neil Diamond, whose song "Sweet Caroline" has become a sing-along tradition at the ballpark during the 8th inning of every Red Sox home game. The following month, Fenway Park held its first naturalization ceremony and more than 3,000 new citizens were sworn in.

2008 Non-Baseball Events At Fenway Park
May 11Mother's Day Walk
June 3Comcast Latino Family Festival
June 15Father's Day Walk
June 22Picnic in the Park
August 23Neil Diamond Concert
September 17Naturalization Ceremony
December 13Christmas at Fenway

Fenway Park In 2008 (Credit: Boston Red Sox)