Let’s see if you pay attention. I begin with the essential question which is this; what do the Bulldogs, Shamrocks, Redskins, Bears, Yanks and Patriots have in common? Now before you go off all willy nilly and start thinking this or that, pause, look about and then answer. Very good….Outstanding deductive reasoning will bring you to the correct answer. That’s right, they are all football teams. But more than that they are all professional football teams and even more than that, they are all professional football teams which called Fenway Park their home!
Fenway Park’s initial foray into pro football came in 1926. It was the first incarnation of the American Football League which was started by Red Grange, (he of galloping ghost fame). The Boston Bulldogs did not last a season, going 2-4 in six games before disbanding. Their plan was to split home games between Fenway and Braves Field. They played one game at Fenway Park, a 13-0 loss to, the New York Yankees in October, does that seem serendipitous? The Pottsville Maroons (an NFL team) relocated to Boston and played their 1929 season as the Bulldogs, however, their home was Braves Field, not Fenway.
The Boston Redskins of the NFL arrived for their 1933 season. Founded as the Boston Braves in 1932, they played their home games at Braves Field. The move to Fenway brought a name change and the Boston Redskins, under Native American coach “Lone Star” Dietz, called Fenway Park home. The Redskins played in Boston through the 1936 season. Finishing that season as the Eastern Division Champs, they drew only 4,000 fans to Fenway on the next to last game of the season. Owner Preston Marshall was so infuriated at this lack of support, he surrendered home field advantage for the NFL Championship game and played the Packers in New York’s Polo Grounds. They lost 21-6 and Marshall packed up the team for Washington DC where they have thrived for nearly eight decades.
Boston Redskins running back Cliff Battles ran for 215 yards in a 21-10 win over the New York Giants at Fenway Park, October 8, 1933. He was the first NFL player to rush for 200 yards in a game. Battles played for $175.00 per game.
The departure of the Redskins brought another stab at an AFL team. The Boston Shamrocks who played the 1936 season at Braves Field moved into Fenway Park for 1937. They lasted but one season going 2-5, both wins coming at Fenway. The football team left, but the Shamrock remained, becoming the symbol for the Boston Celtics, the most successful franchise in NBA history. Out with the Shamrocks, in with the Bears, with yet another AFL attempt to corner the Boston market. They lasted a year at Fenway before they also folded.
Despite four failed attempts at pro football in only 14 years, the NFL was not ready to give up on Boston as a home for one of its franchises. The Boston Yanks arrived in 1944. Called the Yanks because team owner Ted Collins was hoping for a Yankee Stadium home, he settled for Fenway Park where his team played for five seasons. Never enjoying a winning season, the Yanks became a casualty and were disbanded following the 1948 season.
It would be 15 years before pro football would return to Fenway Park with yet another incarnation of the American Football League. The brand new Boston Patriots, owned by Billy Sullivan, played their first two seasons at Boston University’s Nickerson Field (the old Braves Field). In 1963 they moved their home to Fenway Park, where they played until the end of the 1968 season. They won one AFL East title (1963) and in their six seasons of calling Fenway home, they played 39 games there, winning 17 of them. They left Fenway for Alumni Field (Boston College) and Harvard Stadium before settling in Foxboro Massachusetts in 1971 becoming the New England Patriots. Today they thrive as one of the NFL’s most successful franchises of the new millennium.
Fenway Park has not seen a football game of any type since the Boston Patriots defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 33-14 on December 1, 1968. Will Fenway ever again see the pigskin bantered about her lawn? I think that for her one hundredth birthday she should host another football game. For my money, make it a high school game.
And so it was, pro football throughout Fenway Park history, 1926-1968