Monday, September 19, 2011

Discussions: Of Papi and Pesky

When it comes to professional baseball stadiums, perhaps no arena is as cherished and as quirky as Boston's Fenway Park.

With a total capacity of 39,067 fans, Fenway Park is the smallest in baseball. Opened on April 20, 1912, Fenway is also MLB's oldest active stadium, and along with Chicago's Wrigley Field, is one of only two jewel box ballparks at the professional level.

Nestled in the heart of Boston's Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood, the park Red Sox fans call home contains some of MLB's oddest features. From the Green Monster to "The Triangle" in deep center field, Fenway Park is a hitter's delight and an outfielder's nightmare. Journalist and baseball fan George Will once wrote, "Fenway Park probably adds 5 to 7 points onto batting averages."

Though as tough as Fenway may be for outfielders, it is just as difficult for umpires. Officiating in any sport is all about getting in position to make the call, and in referee lingo, this means getting the proper angle with which to see the play.

Unfortunately, Monday provided further officiating woes, courtesy of that freakish Fenway Park.

With one on and two out in the bottom of the 5th inning of Monday's Orioles-Red Sox game, Red Sox slugger David Ortiz ripped a first pitch fastball from Orioles hurler Jeremy Guthrie into that pesky right field corner. First base umpire Mike Estabrook positioned himself atop the foul line in shallow right field, saw a ball hit a wall, and decisively ruled the play foul.

After a brief visit from Red Sox Manager Terry Francona, Estabrook consulted with fellow umpires Mike Winters, Mark Wegner, and Mike Everitt, before deciding to uphold the original call of foul ball. To ensure the call would remain controversial, Ortiz would strike out to end the inning, leaving a runner on third base.

Right or wrong, Estabrook's call in right field was complicated by two uniquely Fenway features.

First, the angle formed between the right field foul line, where Estabrook was standing, and the right field wall extended into fair territory is in excess of 145 degrees. Compared to most stadiums, whose corresponding angles measure in the 105-115 degree range, Fenway's pesky right field corner is clearly not an umpire's best friend. By contrast, Boston's Green Monster angle in left field is approximately 90 degrees.

Fenway's Pesky RF Foul Line Wall. Note the
 incongruity of the three vertical yellow lines.
Further complicating matters, the nexus point of the right field foul line and the wall do not coincide with the point in which the wall starts its curve towards deep right field, though they are tantalizingly close.

Second, Fenway's right field corner features a curiously placed advertisement banner along the aforementioned 145-degree wall.

To accommodate the full length of this banner, it appears the designers at Fenway actually moved the vertical yellow foul line about one foot to the right. In other words, it appears the vertical yellow foul line in right field was placed completely in foul territory so that a small fraction of the advertisement banner is also positioned in foul territory.

Furthermore, there are three separate vertical yellow lines in Fenway's right field.

The first is a yellow line drawn directly onto the base of the concrete wall. The second is a yellow line painted onto the padding which covers the upper three quarters of the wall. The third is the right field foul pole itself, Pesky's Pole, aptly named for Red Sox hero Johnny Pesky.

Interestingly enough, a comparison of the positioning of these three vertical yellow lines in right field shows that none of these lines appear to share any vertical space with one another, making for a very difficult call.

Replays appear to indicate the ball hit some part of the advertisement banner in right field, which according to the placement of the padding's vertical yellow foul line, is completely in fair territory.

For MLB, these questions might provoke yet another rules change as a result of a stadium quirk. For the Red Sox, however, it's just another example of that old addage:

Fenway giveth, and Fenway taketh away.

This Article Also Featured on Bleacher Report: Boston Red Sox

PS: Estabrook had borrowed Chris Guccione's base jersey prior to this game. Guccione sat out game one of the Orioles-Red Sox double header and returned to work the plate during game two.


Scott said...

I'm not totally convinced on the replay...but looks like a nightmare to call either way.

Anonymous said...

I thought tropicana field had a capacity of around 36000 for regular season games, smaller than fenway

Gil "R.O." said...

The Trop has a seating capacity which is less than Fenway's (as does Oakland's Coliseum), but has a total capacity of over 42K. Total capacity includes standing room only, tarp-covered seats not included in seating capacity #s, etc. I'm not sure the Rays have elected to use their entire 42K, just as the Dodgers don't generally use their 57K because of an ordinance with the city that limits them to 56,000 on the dot.

Anonymous said...

I think he got it wrong. Not too easy to call something like that on a wall that is so close to being parallel to the foul line.

On a side note, did Estabrook and Guccione both wear #68 for the night game?

Big Marc said...

Tough call. I'd like to hear an explanation about how there can be 3 different vertical yellow lines, pole, and the 2 different on the wall. Seems to me this is something that the crew chief could fix prior to the game, or lobby the MLB office to make the Soxs make the wall conform better.
Eastbrook obviously did not see the ball hit the wall. I would assume, and maybe somebody who knows better than me, he was more focused on the pole, and wasn't tracking the ball. With the pole that close, and the ball hit where it was, I can see Eastbrook thinking the ball would be over the wall, and lost sight of it when it came up short. The reverse has happened to me, I thought the ball would land in the park, so I was focused on the line, and then bing the damm thing hits the pole, so I never saw it come down and had to go for help. I would agree with Scott, I cannot tell where it actually hit, and on the 1st view of it, to me it looked like it 1st hit the dirt. I was like wow? How do you miss that? Nightmare is a good description.

Anonymous said...

From directly on the foul line looking out at right field, the pole and the two lines all line up. It is when viewed from other angles that they look askew.

Anonymous said...

I thought it looked fair, but it's really close. I wouldn't have been able to tell from 200 feet away.

Next, MLB needs to make the Red Sox to ensure that the foul line is continious and in the same place. It used to be continious (I took a photo of it in 2004 before there was advertisint there), but they seemed to move it on the wall to add the extra advertising.

Nate said...

The ball hits the top of the wall just inches foul then bounces back to the ad banner. Good call by Estabrook.

Anonymous said...

@901, shouldn't the lines look lined up no matter what angle you look at it from? I mean, with the picture shown, a ball that hits that triangular basket on top of the wall is a foul ball, yet if it's a foot lower, it's a fair ball. That makes absolutely no sense.

Anonymous said...

@8:33pm: Estabrook went back to the 83 for th nightcap and Guccione worked HP with his 68.

Anonymous said...

The problem is you're showing a photo that doesn't look straight down the line, so of course the lines look askew.

I can assure you they all line up, as they represent the plane of fair territory, extended straight up.

See ""

and ""

Anonymous said...

No, the lines would not line up from all angles since the wall sticks out further than the concrete base and the foul pole. The picture makes it look way worse than it is due to the angle of the wall.

Think of it this way: a row of telephone poles which are installed perfectly straight don't look perfectly straight unless looked on at exactly the proper angle. I'd love to see a shot of the yellow from right down the foul line.

Tough call. I have no idea if he got it right, or not.

Anonymous said...

the lines don't line up because the wall isn't one solid piece, one part of the wall is farther right than the other, but if you look down the foul line, they are in the same plane that direction. I don't understand how a corner with a such a quick bounce is allowed to have ads right next to the foul marker, it would be hard to see normally, but the ad makes it almost impossible

Anonymous said...

i believe adam lind had a similar shot this year, that cleared the fence over the yellow line on the wall but was called foul??

Anonymous said...

@lines lining up from the view at 1st base, that would be great if the ball took that exact trajectory toward the wall, but we know it doesn't. Most RF bound hits are hooking towards the right. In other words, the ball will strike that wall from an angle in fair right field, an angle which is represented nicely by the picture shown above.

Either way, who puts an ad that close to the line? That's just asking for trouble. And doesn't MLB has some sort of rules about white paint on ads, because the white of the ball might get lost in the white of the ad? It just seems absurd to have an ad with a white border next to that yellow line.

Anonymous said...

Get on your game guys....the Sox hitting coach got run by Estabrook after Ortiz popped out!!

Gil "R.O." said...

Because the Official Box Score, Orioles at Red Sox Gm-1, 9/19/11, makes no mention of ejection, we have no official ejection; the UEFL will not report an ejection for this game.

See UEFL Rule 7.b., which reads, in part, "Only ejections documented in the specific contest's box score shall be deemed official ejections."

Big Marc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

As of this post, I don't see anything about an ejection in the box. Am I missing something?

Jared said...

Where is @1143 getting this info from? I can't find ANY news sources, etc. that talk about this. The broadcasters didn't even mention it during the game.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Dave Magadan was never ejected. He was yelling at the umps in the middle of the inning but was not ejected.

Anonymous said...

It looks like he got it right, you can see the ball change ever so slightly after hitting the wall just to the right of the yellow line. Good call

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