Ted Williams had already established himself as a premier player by 1940 but the lefty received some extra help when bullpens were installed in front of Fenway Park's bleachers. The addition moved the right-field fence in some 20 feet, fitting the slugger's swing perfectly, and the area soon took on the name "Williamsburg." Adjusting to the smaller field, Boston College's football team played their home games at Fenway Park in 1940 on their way to an undefeated season and a victory in the Sugar Bowl.
Record: 82-72, 4th in American League
Manager: Joseph E. Cronin
In 1940, attendance at Fenway Park soared to 716,234, the first time in franchise history that the Red Sox drew more than 700,000 fans. However, while attendance leapt by nearly 150,000, the team took a step back, winning seven fewer games than the year before and finishing fourth in the league, eight games behind the pennant-winning Tigers.
The 1940 Red Sox could still hit and had four players who drove in 100 or more runs (Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Joe Cronin, and Bobby Doerr). In addition, a new center fielder named Dom DiMaggio began his tremendous career in 1940 and batted over .300 while scoring 81 runs. Another addition in Fenway Park's outfield in 1940 was the newly constructed bullpens, which were built in front of the bleachers. Though Williams hit fewer home runs in 1940 than in his terrific rookie season the year before, the new field dimensions, which brought in the right-field fence some 20 feet, fit his swing so well that the bullpens soon took on the name, "Williamsburg."
In 1940, Foxx led the club in home runs with 36, though his batting average dipped below .300 to .297. The team also found power in Cronin, Williams, Doerr and Jim Tabor, who each hit over 20 home runs.
Unsurprisingly, given their offensive production, it was the pitching that let the team down. Jack Wilson and Joe Heving led the team with 12 wins each but only started 23 games combined. The problem wasn't that any of the regular pitchers were particularly awful but rather that no one truly excelled. The team ERA in 1940 was 4.89 and when Ted Williams threw two innings of relief in the first game of a double-header on August 24, 1940, he left with an ERA of 4.50. Williams gave up three hits and allowed just one run to the Detroit Tigers in his only big-league pitching appearance.
Ted Williams broke into the league in 1939 and after his mammoth rookie season, Owner Tom Yawkey began renovations to Fenway Park that would move in the right-field wall some 20 feet, shortening the home run distance for the young slugger. As part of the most significant construction project at the ballpark since 1934, the renovations featured a new bullpen area in front of the bleachers to accommodate the home and visiting teams. A wonderful sight to left-handed hitters, the new bullpens shortened the distance down the right field-line from 325 to just 302 feet and to the right-field power alley from 402 to 380 feet. Though Williams actually hit fewer home runs in 1940 than during his rookie season the year before, the reconfiguration of the park accommodated the star's left-handed swing so well in the following years that the new bullpens took on the name "Williamsburg."
With the relocation of the bullpens from the foul territory, the right-field seating, which was re-built in 1934, was replaced with an extension of the grandstand with individual seats. In addition, in the location formerly used as the Red Sox bullpen just short of the right-field foul pole, the box seating area that lined the infield was extended. A similar extension was completed in front of the left-field grandstand seats, where the bullpen for the visiting team had been.
In 1940, Fenway Park hosted interscholastic high school baseball again and held its annual Boston Park Department Baseball Field Day.
|1940 Non-Red Sox Baseball At Fenway Park|
|June 15||Belmont High 6, Turners Falls High 4|
|August 17||Boston Park Department Baseball Field Day|
On their way to an undefeated, Sugar Bowl-winning season, Boston College won all six of the games they played at Fenway Park in 1940. The American Professional Football League's Boston Bears went 2-2 at the ballpark and the Washington Redskins returned to Fenway Park for second game in as many years against a team of college stars.
|1940 Non-Baseball Events At Fenway Park|
|May 19||War Memorial Service*|
|September 10||Washington Redskins 35, Eastern All-Star Collegians 12 (Football)|
|October 2||Columbus Bullies 17, Boston Bears 0 (Football)|
|October 6||Boston Bears 29, Cincinnati Bengals 7 (Football)|
|October 12||Boston College 33, Temple 20 (Football)|
|October 19||Boston College 60, Idaho 0 (Football)|
|October 20||Boston Bears 20, Buffalo Indians 0 (Football)|
|October 27||Milwaukee Chiefs 14, Boston Bears 0 (Football)|
|November 9||Boston College 21, Boston University 0 (Football)|
|November 16||Boston College 19, Georgetown 18 (Football)|
|November 23||Boston College 33, Auburn 7 (Football)|
|November 30||Boston College 7, Holy Cross 0 (Football)|
*Started in the 1910s, a late May memorial service coinciding with the Memorial Day weekend was often held at Fenway Park through the mid-20th Century.
The stakes couldn't have been higher, with a $75,000 bowl bid on the line and a shot at a national championship looming for the two best football teams in the East.
Sportswriting legend Grantland Rice was part of the 40,000-plus crowd that jammed Fenway Park and stood for the entire game. In a memorable column, Rice called it the greatest college football game he'd ever witnessed.
The hype leading up to the game was monumental as both squads came to Fenway Park undefeated. Georgetown had an unbeaten string of 23 games on the line and Boston College hadn't been beaten since a New Year's Day 6-3 loss to Clemson in the Cotton Bowl.
BC trailed early by a 10-0 margin but roared back thanks to the masterful passing of Charlie O'Rourke, who connected on 14 passes for 209 yards. O'Rourke preserved the victory by taking a two-point safety in his own end zone as the final seconds ticked off the clock. The victory made Boston College a national force in collegiate football, while establishing Head Coach Frank Leahy as a leader worthy of comparison with his mentor Knute Rockne.