04/02/12 10:00 AM ET
Big birthdays in Boston, New York, LA, Houston
Fenway turns 100, while Dodger Stadium, Mets and Astros turn 50
By Quinn Roberts / MLB.com
In Boston, the Red Sox will soon celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the opening on Fenway Park. In Los Angeles, the Dodgers will honor Dodger Stadium and its 50th year. In Houston and New York, the Astros and Mets will celebrate their 50th birthdays.
Each will celebrate their histories in their own way.
"With so many milestones this season, it is especially great for baseball. We need to have places to share the history of the game," said former Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills, the National League Most Valuable Player in 1962, Dodger Stadium's first season. "We need to remember the names and organizations that have been around so long."
Two years older than Wrigley Field in Chicago, Fenway remarkably will become the first Major League ballpark to reach 100 years of operation, and everyone within the organization, along with the team's fans, are ready for a party that will last long past the dog days of summer.
The Harvard University baseball team will visit the ballpark on April 9 to commemorate the first-ever baseball game played there, between the Sox and the Ivy Leaguers on that same date in 1912.
Then, on April 19, Boston will hold an open house on the eve of the anniversary of Fenway's first big league game. Fans will be able to tour the stadium for free, view artifacts and memorabilia and visit normally restricted areas to soak in the rich characteristics of the park.
"We are celebrating Fenway Park in a major way this year, because it deserves to be celebrated in a major way," Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino said. "This is a ballpark that is more than a ballpark. It has been a home of Red Sox baseball for 100 years, but it has also been a place that has been connected to the fans, to the city, to the region, to the community. There is a pride that people have in Fenway Park, there is a connection they feel to Fenway Park."
Boston's biggest celebration of the season will take place on the afternoon of April 20, when the Red Sox face the Yankees, the same matchup as in Fenway's first big league game. Exactly 100 years later, the Red Sox will present a pregame ceremony with numerous players, managers and coaches who have contributed to the team's rich history.
"It has been a community forum, even more than a ballpark," Lucchino said. "We're here to celebrate that diversity. We are trying to transform Fenway Park into a living museum."
That connection is also felt on the West Coast, where Californians' pride in Dodger Stadium is deeply rooted in the history of the team and the city of Los Angeles.
"It is a monument in Los Angeles, up there with the likes of Fenway and Wrigley Field," Wills said. "I hope they never tear it down."
Fans can join the team on May 19 for "Dodger Stadium's 50th Anniversary FanFest," which will feature autograph sessions with current and former Dodgers players, a Q&A with players and coaches and loads of games and activities before the team plays the Cardinals.
The Dodgers also created an official illustrated history coffee-table book entitled "Dodgers: From Coast to Coast -- The Official Visual History of the Dodgers." Showcasing the organization's rich and storied past, the book will be released on April 10, when the Dodgers play the Pirates in the team's home opener.
Rolling out many collectible items to celebrate the milestone, the most anticipated may be the bobblehead series of Dodger Stadium greats. With a total of 10 bobbleheads offered during the season, fans can collect those of players and managers from every decade, including Kirk Gibson, Steve Garvey and Sandy Koufax.
"That first season, the stadium was packed every night. And that included movie stars like Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant and Doris Day," Wills said.
"The stadium really was state of the art at the time it opened and I was proud to play there. I always looked forward to coming to the ballpark. I'm amazed that it has been 50 years since the stadium opened. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago."
The Mets' plans for their 50th anniversary have been under way since the middle of last season.
"We only have one opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mets the right way," said Dave Howard, vice president of business operations. "It gives us the chance to show our appreciation to the fans and what the Mets mean to New York."
One of the highlights will be the revival of Banner Day, which will take place five times during the season -- the first on May 27 against the Padres. A tradition that began in 1963, the club's second season at the Polo Grounds, and continued at Shea Stadium through 1996, Banner Day will allow fans to create homemade banners of their favorite memories and moments in franchise history.
When the Mets take the field this season, they will wear uniforms similar to ones from their inaugural season. Players will wear traditional orange-and-blue hats with pinstriped home uniforms and gray road jerseys, along with two alternate uniforms. The black drop-shadow will be removed from all letters and numbers.
Along with such uniform changes, the team will sport a new logo with the franchise's traditional cityscape emblem. The logo will be on the left sleeve of jerseys and hats, with a gold 50th-anniversary banner superimposed over the New York City skyline.
"The Mets returned National League baseball to New York after the Giants and Dodgers left," Howard said. "It is an important milestone for our organization and a great opportunity to showcase current and former teams and players because this celebration is their legacy, too."
In the heart of Texas, the Astros are ready to show how much the club has grown and evolved during its 50-year history, with both simple and grand celebrations planned throughout the season.
Before the gates open for the Astros' Opening Day contest against the Rockies on April 6, Houston's 11th Annual Street Festival with take place, with live music by local bands and loads of games, food and drinks to begin the 50th-anniversary celebration. Leading up to the contest, Astros icons Jeff Bagwell, Jose Cruz, Larry Dierker and Jimmy Wynn will be on the field during pregame ceremonies to participate in the club's celebration.
During every Friday home game, a total of 13 games, the Astros will wear a different retro uniforms each month to represent each era of their history. From Colt .45s jerseys in April to 1970s rainbow jerseys in June, every home game will bring an extra zip of color and flair to the field.
"Even though the Astros started off as an expansion team, the team has a rich history," said Dierker, a former Astros player and manager and now community outreach executive for the team. "The Astrodome really put the team on the map and it carried over to Minute Maid Park. The Astros are such a valuable franchise to baseball, especially as the city of Houston continues to grow."
And with these four important anniversaries all occurring this season, it shows a whole new generation of fans the history of a sport that is deeply rooted in history and tradition.
"This is what makes baseball so unique and special," Howard said. "Its history and longevity is unrivaled."
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.