The 1940 Boston Red Sox (Credit: National Baseball Hall of Fame Library, Cooperstown, NY)
Ted Williams had already established himself as a premier player by 1940 but the lefty received some extra help when bullpens were installed in front of Fenway Park's bleachers. The addition moved the right-field fence in some 20 feet, fitting the slugger's swing perfectly, and the area soon took on the name "Williamsburg." Adjusting to the smaller field, Boston College's football team played their home games at Fenway Park in 1940 on their way to an undefeated season and a victory in the Sugar Bowl.
Having already delivered an outstanding first couple of seasons at the big league level, Ted Williams' 1941 season was even better. This .406 average in 1941 was the last time a major league player has hit over .400 for a season and when Williams passed away in 2002, the Red Sox renamed Fenway Park's 600 Club to the .406 Club in honor of the slugger and his historic 1941 season.
The United States entered World War II at the end of 1941 but President Roosevelt wanted baseball to continue in order to keep up national morale. In addition to the Red Sox, who finished the season with a 53-24 home record, several other baseball games were played at the ballpark in 1942 as well, including a Negro League contest in early September. Later in the month, the Chicago Bears came to Fenway Park to play a team of Army All-Stars in a charity football game to benefit the war effort.
The 1943 Red Sox lost several players to military service in World War II and the team's record dropped well below the .500 mark. Among the departed players was the team's star, Ted Williams, though he did appear at the ballpark in 1943 as a member of Babe Ruth's Service All-Stars. During the season, a succession of four Negro League games were played at Fenway Park and a week-long circus took place at the park in late August.
In 1944, World War II continued and the Red Sox roster remained depleted due to players serving overseas. In the fall, the Boston Yanks went 1-3 at Fenway Park in their first year as members of the NFL and on November 4, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to Fenway Park and gave the final campaign speech of his career, just three days before being reelected for his fourth term in the White House.
In 1945, the Red Sox struggled in their third consecutive losing season. Unfortunately, the Red Sox missed a chance to improve their team when they gave Jackie Robinson and two other African-American players an April 1945 tryout at Fenway Park but decided not to pursue the opportunity any further. Robinson would courageously break Major League Baseball's color barrier two years later. With World War II nearing an end, Fenway Park hosted a "Here's Your Infantry" show on Independence Day to help sell war bonds.
With Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Dom DiMaggio back together and the rest of the team's talented nucleus back together, 1946 was a banner season for the Red Sox. Leading his team to 104 wins and the American League pennant, Williams earned MVP honors and even hit two home runs in the first All-Star game played at Fenway Park. However Williams suffered a poorly-timed elbow injury in an exhibition game shortly before the start of the 1946 World Series and the club fell to the underdog St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic.
In the first week of 1947, workers began to install seven light towers at Fenway Park that allowed the Red Sox to play night baseball at the ballpark for the first time in history. The left-field wall also underwent a dramatic change for the 1947 season when advertisements were removed from the wall and it was painted green to match the rest of the ballpark. Since then, the wall has taken on the name, the "Green Monster," and has become a defining feature of Fenway Park. On the field, the Red Sox followed their pennant-winning season of 1946 with an underwhelming third-place finish.
On October 4, 1948 Fenway Park hosted the first playoff game in American League history when the Red Sox faced off against the Indians to decide the pennant. Led by new manager Joe McCarthy, the 1948 Red Sox won 96 games in the regular season but lost to Cleveland in the one-game playoff. Boston University's football team and the Boston Yanks also shared the Fenway Park field in 1948, the last year the Yanks called the ballpark their home.
The temporary wooden press boxes that were constructed on the grandstand roof in 1946 were replaced with permanent steel press ones for the 1949 Red Sox season, which ended in heartbreak for the second consecutive year. In the fall, Boston University's football team competed at the ballpark regularly and when BU played Maryland on November 12, 1949, Vin Scully, the legendary Dodgers broadcaster, made his professional debut when he provided the game's play-by-play for CBS Radio.