BOSTON -- The turnout was immense, even greater than expected with more than 53,000 folks strolling through, and for good reason.
Fenway Park belonged to the public on Thursday, with every corner open for pictures and exploration during the Red Sox's open house, a part of the team's celebration of the ballpark's 100th birthday on Friday.
"Great time cruising around, checking out all the sites, all the great things at Fenway Park, we really enjoyed it," said Dennis Martens of Dedham, Mass., whose son Kyle got manager Bobby Valentine's autograph, among others. "Big Sox fans, we were just here on Tuesday night."
Fans were allowed on the field, in the press box, the club levels -- even the Green Monster's rarely seen side was available, as people poked their heads into the scoreboard and saw just how much space there is in the beloved wall. Fenway will turn 100 on Friday, when the Red Sox and Yankees play at 3:05 p.m. ET. A blowout ceremony is planned pregame, but for those who couldn't get tickets for Friday, the Red Sox wanted to provide a way for all to share in on Fenway's birthday. The open house was free.
"The open house has been more well received than we ever dreamed it would be," Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino said. "We're really pleased and proud that so many people would come from so far, walk around the ballpark, get around, get a feel of the place. The spirits are high, the kids are plentiful, the sun is shining and the music's loud, so all is good. ... Tomorrow's Christmas, today is Christmas Eve."
Wally the Green Monster was walking around, and so, too, was a uniformed ballplayer on stilts. Many former and current Red Sox came out to sign autographs, including Scott Atchison, Dick Drago, Sam Horn, former manager Joe Morgan, Dustin Pedroia, Luis Tiant and Rick Wise.
"It's great, it's been great," former Sox pitcher Don Aase said after his signing session. "Just an honor to be invited back."