29 The Red Seat
Section 42, row 37, seat 21 — the Red Seat.
Patrons thinking about sitting in the bleachers at Fenway often hope that this special seat might just be theirs for the day. Sox owner Haywood Sullivan had the seat painted red in 1984 after the Red Sox remeasured Ted Williams’s famed blast of June 9, 1946; it was originally estimated at 450 feet but was actually measured at 502 feet. It’s the longest home run in Red Sox history. If you ever get a chance to sit there, you won’t believe how far away it is from home plate. When you consider some of the hard-hit balls that are crushed and don’t even come close to this distance, you realize that this ball was struck with incredible authority on the sweetest part of the bat at the optimum spot on the ball.
The Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy interviewed Williams on this topic many years later; describing the pitch from Detroit’s Fred Hutchinson, Williams said, “He threw me a change-up and I saw it coming. I picked it up fast and I just whaled it.” Boy, did he ever. It was a windy day, and the ball went over right fielder Pat Mullin’s head and just kept on going, landing atop spectator Joseph A. Boucher’s head in the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader. Boucher was wearing a straw hat, and the ball put a hole right through the top of it.
Boucher was a construction engineer from Albany, New York, and he took in Sox games every time he was in town. He rented an apartment on Commonwealth Avenue and worked at Park Square during the week. Globe baseball writer Harold Kaese spoke to Boucher after the hit. “How far must one sit to be safe in this park?” asked Boucher. “They say it bounced a dozen rows higher, but after it hit my head. I was no longer interested. I couldn’t see the ball. Nobody could. The sun was right in our eyes. All we could do was duck. I’m glad I didn’t stand up.” Boucher was given medical attention at the ballpark, but he was okay, returning to his seat to watch the rest of the doubleheader.
“I just got the right trajectory,” said Williams. “Jeez, it just kept going and going. In distance, it’s probably as long as I ever hit one.” So many of the modern sluggers have looked at the Red Seat and marveled, sometimes in disbelief. “No way, man,” said David Ortiz, shaking his head. “How can anyone hit a ball that far?” Supposedly Ortiz hit one 502 feet at the Tokyo Dome in Japan during an All-Star Game, but he’s never done it in the States. Manny Ramirez hit one over the light tower at Fenway that the public relations staff estimated at 501 feet, because there is no accurate measure of a ball hit over the Green Monster.