Enjoy the Red Sox-Yankees series, but set aside time to explore these Boston baseball landmarks

A view of Fenway Park in Boston from atop the Green Monster.    Photo by Bob Riel.

This weekend is going to ignite the passions of baseball fans in the Northeast, as it marks the 2009 opening act in the ardent rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees. But while games are scheduled for the next three days at Fenway Park, baseball aficionados who live in Boston or who are visiting the city can take delight in more than just the Sox-Yankees rivalry if they know where to look.

There is a treasure trove of baseball history lurking within a few miles of Fenway Park, and if you set aside just a few hours you'll be able to turn game day into your own personal tour of Boston's baseball landmarks. Among other things, you can stand on the site of the first World Series in 1903 and even see where the Braves played during the decades they called Boston home.

The Huntington Avenue Grounds

Start your tour on the campus of Northeastern University, a mile or so southeast of Fenway Park, at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Forsyth Street. When Boston fielded a team in the new American League at the turn of the 20th century, a ballpark was constructed at what is now Northeastern University. Four games in baseball’s first World Series in 1903 were played at the Huntington Avenue Grounds. In that Series, Boston defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Today, in a small park behind Northeastern’s Cabot Physical Education Center, there is a statue of baseball legend Cy Young at the spot where the pitcher’s mound was located. Young’s statue peers down at a plaque shaped like home plate, 60 feet away. You can stand in the grass and imagine Young on the mound during the 1903 World Series, or perhaps during the 1904 perfect game that he pitched there.

South End baseball

Although there are no historical markers beyond the Cy Young statue, this whole area of town near Northeastern used to be a hotbed of Boston baseball. You can get an idea of how close everything was by walking a few minutes south from the statue, over the pedestrian bridge that leads to Columbus Avenue, the Ruggles subway station, and the Carter Playground. Boston’s first professional baseball park was located between Columbus Avenue and Tremont Street just southeast of the playground.

The South End Grounds, which opened in 1871, was the home of the Boston Nationals. The team later became known as the Boston Braves and several decades later moved to Milwaukee and then to Atlanta. For some years, though, one could conceivably have seen the equivalent of a Josh Beckett versus C.C. Sabathia duel in one park, while Johan Santana faced off against Tim Lincecum just a few minutes walk down the street. In addition, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one could pop on over to 940 Columbus Avenue after a game to the 3rd Base Saloon, which was a popular gathering place for local fans. The pub was owned by Michael “Nuff Ced” McGreevey, a leader of the Royal Rooters, who were fanatical followers of Boston baseball.

Braves Field

To continue the tour, make your way to Boston University, about a mile west of Fenway Park. There, just off Commonwealth Avenue on Harry Agannis Way, you'll find Nickerson Field. When the Braves left the South End in 1915, they moved to this location. Although it doesn’t look quite like a baseball stadium anymore, this was once Braves Field and was the team's home through 1952. The 1936 All-Star game was played here, as was the 1948 World Series. Interestingly, a National Football League franchise called the Boston Braves also competed here in 1932. That team later moved its home games to Fenway Park and then in 1937 to Washington, D.C., when it changed its name to the Washington Redskins.

Fenway Park

The crown jewel of this little tour, of course, is Fenway Park. Few ballfields around the country can match the mystique of Fenway among baseball fans. Today, adults and children alike are annually transfixed by their Fenway experience. They sit in the shadow of the Boston skyline, the Citgo sign in nearby Kenmore Square, and Fenway's famed Green Monster in left field, and they revel in the timeless ritual of baseball.

The park opened April 20, 1912, when the Red Sox defeated the New York Highlanders (now the Yankees). Contemporary fans watch games on the same field used by generations of ballplayers, including such legends as Babe Ruth and Ted Williams (there is a statue of Williams outside Gate B). The Red Sox have played in 10 World Series since Fenway was constructed, and the park has played host to three All-Star games.

In addition to watching a ballgame, you can add to your Fenway experience by taking a one-hour behind the scenes tour of the park. Visitors can see the press box and the Hall of Fame Club, visit the top of the Green Monster, and learn about the park’s history. It’s the perfect way to end a tour of local baseball landmarks.

So whether you're attending a Yankees game this weekend or have tickets for another contest later in the season, enhance your Red Sox experience by taking a little time to explore the history of baseball in Boston.

If you liked this story, you might also enjoy:

- Best places to experience Opening Day in Major League Baseball

- Boston Marathon is one of many Patriots' Day activities in Massachusetts

, North American Travel Examiner

Bob Riel is a travel writer, freelance journalist, and author of the book "Two Laps Around the World." He has visited six continents and enjoys gathering news, tips and features about North America's many travel destinations. Learn more at bobriel.com, follow him on Twitter, or contact him at...

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