Fabulous Fenway: America's Legendary Ballpark
Videotape produced and co-written by Lorie Conway
Written and narrated by Mike Barnicle
Tribute Films, 2000
Mike Barnicle, the writer and narrator, was the Boston Globe's most popular columnist for many years, until he ran afoul of the Globe's distinctions between fact and fiction. He remains a regular on Chronicle, a local TV program. At the newspaper, Barnicle was famous for his once-a-year all-out bashing of the Red Sox, pulling out every villainous metaphor and scurrilous analogy he could think of to castigate The Olde Towne Team. On television, Mike saw baseball in much softer focus, sitting in the empty grandstand evoking memories of games with Dad in the early Fifties, of Dom DiMaggio's grace and Teddy Ballgame's grandeur. It is the TV Barnicle that we get here.
Fabulous Fenway tells the story of Fenway Park or more accurately it tells the story of the Boston Red Sox, centered around Fenway Park but including things that happened before Fenway or away from Fenway. Back in the 1980's there was a similar video called Forever Fenway which was more ambitious, and probably more expensive, than this one. There's lots of footage interspersed with talking heads, in the usual manner of modern documentaries.
Perhaps the most repetitive "talking head" is a sausage vendor named George Greenidge. He gets a little tongue-tied after awhile trying to re-describe the magic that is Fenway. It's like really way far out super magic man. I heard the walls talking to me. The famous peanut man is also interviewed, and another sausage man, who tells a funny story. Fans on Yawkey Way are interviewed, including Lib Dooley, the faithful season ticket holder for 50-plus years (she passed away recently). There's also an interview with the son of the man who was sitting in the "red bleacher seat" when Ted Williams hit a home run there, breaking the man's straw hat. [It wasn't that actual seat by the way, since the bleachers were wooden benches when the home run was hit.]
Media types are interviewed, including Curt Gowdy, Ken Coleman, the dyspeptic Dan Shaughnessy, and a golfing Kevin Costner. Arthur D'Angelo of Twins Souvenir Shop is as much a part of Fenway as anyone, and he tells how years ago they sold souvenirs with no licensing agreement, and no one cared. Players include Carl Yastrzemski, Bill Lee, Bob Stanley, and Billy Rogell, who tells a good story of how the Red Sox were so bad in the 1920's that they called up young Billy from Class D ball. He is now the oldest living ex-Red Sox.
There is unfortunately way too much Bucky Dent in this film. First of all, Bucky was a Yankee why do we want to watch him? Second, his famous home run has been blown out of proportion; people forget that Reggie Jackson's homer off Bob Stanley was much more decisive. Third, why do we want to look at Dent's schlocky Florida Fenway re-creation? He calls it a tribute, but its really an exploitation. Bucky Dent is like that woman from Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire, someone who was famous for 15 minutes and is going to spend the rest of their life exploiting it. Bucky, get a life.
There's some good historical film clips, such as Boston Patriots playing at Fenway, and FDR speaking there. A section on Boston Herald photographer Leslie Jones is well-done and should have been longer. Back in the day, the photogs used to stand on the field, in foul territory, with their Speed Graphics. That's how they got those great shots of players sliding into home, without a telephoto lens.
Disclaimer: Several years ago (when Dana Kiecker was a Red Sox), we the Buffalo Head Society in association with Trinity Productions produced a video about the Red Sox and Fenway Park. In our humble opinion, our video was better, more profane, grittier, with the real taste of Fenway Park. Unfortunately the video was never released to the public, due to licensing issues.
Now that that's out of the way...
Norman thought that this video was amateurish, with no beginning and no end, and no purpose. He thought it was schlock.
I did not think it was schlock. Schlock is a Yiddish word meaning of low quality or value, and I thought it had some value.
It is definitely not schmaltz. Schmaltz is Bob Costas remembering the first time his father took him to Yankee Stadium and he saw Mickey Mantle and he thought Mickey was looking right at him and he still carries Mickey's baseball card in his wallet and breaks down and cries whenever he looks at it. This film thank God does not contain much of that stuff, probably because Mike Barnicle may get nostalgic after a few beers but he doesn't get weepy.
This video does not contain much that is new, or new to us, anyway. But I do not think it was aimed at us, the hardened Fenway veterans. It's not a historical document; it's a lightweight documentary, a nice gift for a visitor to Boston, or a birthday gift for Dad.
Review by David Nevard and Norman Neu
© 2000 Buffalo Head Society
The Bison Den Library of Book Reviews