Construction On Fenway Park's Left-Field Wall In 1933 (Credit: The Brearley Collection)
The first year of the 1930s brought more of the same at Fenway Park; the Red Sox continued to lose and finished in last place in the American League for the seventh straight year, the annual war memorial was held at the park, amateur baseball was interspersed with the Red Sox season and football dominated the Fenway Park calendar in the fall.
The Red Sox ended the 1931 season in sixth place in the American League, finishing out of last place for the first time since a seventh place finish in 1924. Despite this slight improvement, the Great Depression had fully set in and attendance at Red Sox games fell significantly in 1931.
Over sixty non-baseball events were held at Fenway Park in 1932, including football, lacrosse, soccer, boxing and some very interesting wrestling matches. Despite a mid-season managerial change, the Red Sox had another poor season and Fenway Park attendance averaged a paltry few thousand per game in 1932.
In 1933, Tom Yawkey purchased the Red Sox and brought with him the much needed capital to turn the ballclub around. Though the team's record in 1933 didn't show it, Yawkey and his general manager, Eddie Collins, immediately began to reshape the team and by the end of December 1933, there were no Red Sox players left from the 1931 Opening Day roster. Following the Red Sox season, the Boston Redskins began playing their home football games at Fenway Park and Yawkey began a massive reconstruction of the ballpark, which dramatically upgraded Fenway Park for the start of the 1934 season.
In the first week of 1934, Fenway Park's ambitious reconstruction suffered a dramatic setback when a five-hour fire burnt down parts of the newly-constructed left-field grandstand and center-field bleachers. Owner Tom Yawkey persevered and employed union labor to have a dramatically-upgraded Fenway Park ready for Opening Day 1934. With several new players, the Red Sox also improved and finished with their first non-losing season since the team's World Series championship in 1918. In the fall, the Boston Redskins had a successful Fenway Park season too, winning four of seven games at home during a busy autumn of football for the ballpark.
With Owner Tom Yawkey's spending temporarily halted, the 1935 Red Sox finished with their first winning record in 17 years. Despite the stronger performance of the team, Fenway Park attendance paradoxically dropped off a bit from the previous year, though the ballpark did attract a crowd of nearly 48,000 fans for a late September doubleheader against the Yankees. Fenway also hosted a bevy of non-Red Sox events, including wrestling and Boston Redskins home football games.
Though the first few years of the Yawkey era brought significant on-field improvement, the Red Sox took a step backwards in 1936 and the club fell below .500 for the first time in three years. However the seeds of future success were planted in 1936 when the club signed two youngsters named Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr. Before the season, a net was hung above the left-field wall to protect people and property on adjacent Lansdowne Street and in the fall, the Redskins enjoyed a successful final season in Boston.
After the letdown of the previous year, the Red Sox rode a strong offense to an 80-72 record in 1937. Although the Red Sox record wasn't good enough to qualify for the postseason, Fenway Park was busy in other ways during the fall. The Boston Redskins had left town but Boston College, Boston University, Holy Cross and the AFL's Boston Shamrocks all played home football games at Fenway Park in 1937.
Thanks in large part to Jimmie Foxx's season for the ages, the Red Sox finished 27 games above .500 in 1938 but still fell short of their first pennant since 1918. In the fall, the Boston Shamrocks played a few games at Fenway Park but soon went out of business. Local collegiate teams fared better and Boston College's football team went 4-1 at the Fenway Park in 1938.
Ted Williams burst onto the Fenway Park scene and immediately made an impact in 1939, setting several MLB and Red Sox rookie records. While the team finished second again, the future certainly looked bright with Williams' arrival and more talent was on the way. The ballpark also welcomed an Old-Timers' Game in honor of baseball's centennial, while Boston College's football team went 5-1 in their Fenway Park home games.