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Sports in Boston: tradition is the biggest winner

By Ross AtkinSports writer of The Christian Science Monitor / April 1, 1980

Other cities might challenge Boston's claim to being the best sports town in the country. Bostonians, however, can be tenacious arguers, whether the subject is politics or the value of a sacrifice bunt, so debating the point is never easy.

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The city unquestionably has a lot going for it sportswise, including:

* Three top-flight pro teams -- the baseball Red Sox, basketball Celtics, and hockey Bruins.

* The boston Marathon, one of the world's most revered footraces.

* The Longwood Cricket Club, a venerable old tennis club that hosts the US Pro Championships and has produced many of the sport's movers and shakers.

* A hefty number of sports heroes, both active and retired, ranging from Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Bill Russell, and bobby Orr to US Olympic hockey captain Mike Eruzione and goalie Jim Craig.

Most important of all, though, are the natives -- the ones who jam Fenway Park and the Boston Garden, line the river banks for the Head of the Charles Regatta, tune in to the rush-hour sports talk shows, or drift off to sleep listening to late-night radio sports roundups.

Unlike the fans in some cities, Bostonians tend to be purists, preferring and appreciating sports in an unembellished state.

Consequently, Boston's pro teams have never had to resort to wacky promotions , outlandish uniforms, hysterical mascots, or any other similar gimmicks designed to attract and hold the masses.

Bostonians like their sports laced with history and tradition rather than infused with show biz. Thus it is that staid Fenway Park is the town's most cherished athletic sanctuary.

Fenway is, in a sense, baseball's answer to the Old North Church. The park's only glaring concession to the changing times is a computerized scoreboard above the center-field bleachers. Otherwise, the cozy brick stadium, the smallest in the majors with only 33,500 seats, is a living reminder of an earlier era. The field is a beautifully manicured pasture of real grass, a roof overhangs the grandstand (constructed in 1912 and rebuilt in 1934), and a manually operated scoreboard, with huge metal numbers, is still used in left field.

This is also where the "Green Monster," one of baseball's most famous landmarks, lurks. The Monster is the towering wall that rises up a mere 315 feet from home plate at its closest point. Thirty-seven feet tall and running between left and center field, the fence gives the park a special character that's missing in today's modern symmetrical stadiums.

Though inflation has pushed ticket prices up, attending a Red Sox game is still one of the most affordable entertainment buys in town. Two dollars will get you into the outfield bleachers, where the crowd behavior ranges from animated to raucous.Those interested in a closer vantage point should be prepared to plunk down $4.75 for the better reserved grandstand seat.

A word to the wise, though: good seats -- especially those for games against contending teams -- go quickly. the Red Sox have a large following throughout New England, which is certainly part of the reason they drew a club record 2,353 ,106 spectators last season, sixth best in the majors. The club's penchant for chasing pennants (though seldom winning them) also contributes to the ticket demand.