The essence of Fenway is its intimacy, a coziness that encourages, even demands, intensity. Fans become family; nicknames flourish.

From the first decade's Grey Eagle, Smoky Joe and the Babe to mid-century's Little Professor, the Moose from Moosup and the Splendid Splinter himself, choral chants have echoed off its walls: Rooster, Boomer, Steamer and Spaceman; Oil Can and Eck, Looie and Dewey, Pudge and Yaz; Petey, Big Papi and Yoook.

Bill Veeck, the visionary owner of the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Browns, explained Fenway Park's uniqueness this way: "Other places have spectators; Fenway has 35,000 participants."

In the past century, teams have tried other ideas, from domes to donuts. Indoor baseball in the uncozy domes of the 1960s, '70s and '80s soon crumbled into obsolescence in Houston, Seattle and Minneapolis. A concrete donut, the "all-purpose stadium," stood at many an offramp until sponsors discovered that fans preferred ballparks, not stadiums.

Nathan Cobb of The Boston Globe coined the term "Red Sox Nation" in 1986, but Mayor John F. Fitzgerald had such a vision when he greeted the team at Faneuil Hall after the Red Sox won the 1912 World Series. "Your fame is not Boston's alone," he said on October 17. "In every part of the United States you are heroes and this same tumultuous greeting would be extended to you from Maine to California."

- Marty Nolan

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Fenway Park 100
4 Yawkey Way
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Fans at Fenway Park on April 24, 2009 (Credit: Brian Canaday/Boston Red Sox)