History within cramped walls
Road team's clubhouse at Fenway a memorable experience
BOSTON -- If you pace off the room after the game, working your way past Kenny Lofton as he pulls on his jeans in a tight corner space, it comes to about 22 feet wide by 68 feet long. In the center is a large, tan L-shaped sofa facing a TV, in addition to a pair of lockers and a large table. Lockers are so skinny that you almost expect them to be stuffed with high school students' textbooks.
It is home for now to the Indians, in an American League Championship Series between the teams that tied for the best record in Major League Baseball in 2007. In 1912, it was home to Christy Mathewson and the New York Giants. It's the same squeeze play. Fenway Park's visitors clubhouse is the smallest dressing room in the AL, maybe a few square feet bigger than the visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field.
"It's small, all right," Travis Hafner said, calling it a night after a 10-3 loss to the Red Sox on Friday in Game 1. "But you know what to expect."
The Indians knew what to expect. They were last here for the postseason in 1999, when they came for Games 3 and 4 in the AL Division Series that they lost in five. And based on that experience, they are improvising.
One by one, Bart Swain, the Tribe's director of media relations, brought key personnel out of the little green-painted box and past the players' wives and up against a brick wall with a red ALCS banner behind it. Even the pitching coach came out to meet with media after the game. It was just easier than even trying to deal with the [cramped] space.
"You've got to adjust. It's Boston," Swain said. "We didn't do this in '99 when we were here. But things have changed. TV cameras have expanded. You have MLB.com since then. There are more cable entities, and we're traveling with a few more people."
Would he have brought Albert Belle out this way back then?
"Albert," he said with a grin, "would have been showered and gone."
Fenway opened in 1912. It is one of the few cathedrals left. Wrigley's visitors clubhouse is a can of sardines, and that was especially the case just last weekend when the D-backs swept the National League Division Series there and popped bubbly. Yankee Stadium, same thing on Monday when the Indians celebrated in that little visitors' clubhouse. Nothing is more intimate in baseball then being around one of these road teams when they come to a place like this, when they pack in the press.
The Indians play in modern Jacobs Field, where the clubhouses, even the one for the road team, are comparatively plush. Yet, Swain said that ironically the situation here could be even more spacious in some ways.
"Our clubhouse will become real small," he said. "I don't have a concourse like that."
Just think of some of the history that has happened in the little Fenway visitors' clubhouse.
The Yankees and their massive media following crammed in there for the 2003 and 2004 ALCS, and in the second of those series, the Bronx Bombers faced the steamy glare of lights and questions about a gradually eroding series lead.
In the 1975 World Series, Game 6 seemed like it would go on forever until Carlton Fisk sent everyone home happy. The members of that Big Red Machine had to stay behind in this little room and answer questions about it, telling reporters of the day that they would go out and get them in Game 7. (The answers rarely change.)
Stan Musial dressed here for the last time on Oct. 11, 1946. His Cardinals had just lost Game 5 of the World Series to the Red Sox, putting Boston up, 3-2. They headed for the train station and a long ride home to St. Louis, where the Redbirds won the last two for the World Series championship.
That 1912 season that it opened, the Sox won more games (105) than in any regular season. And when they clinched it in Game 8 of that World Series, Mathewson, that game's losing pitcher for the Giants, dressed here.
So much history.
So little space.
"What matters," Hafner said, "is that you're in a Major League clubhouse."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.