Thursday, January 12, 2012

Resurrecting Green Death

Fenway Park's left field wall wasn't painted green until 1947. But before it became known as the Green Monster (somewhere around 1960), and after it had already been called simply "the Wall," players gave it another name:


[...] the inviting leftfield wall, which Boston pitchers call, "green death" [...]
--The New York Times, 4/28/1956

[...] Fenway Park, with its Green Death in left field [...]
--Boston Daily Globe, 4/13/1958

[...] the left-field wall, the porch in left, Green Death, or whatever you want to call it [...]
--Boston Globe, 12/24/1967

Pitchers have long called the Fenway wall "the Green Death."
--Sports Illustrated, 7/13/1970

In the July 1965 issue of Baseball Digest, there's a long article about the wall. Joe Falls writes:

Nobody knew it [in 1912] but a monster had been created...a massive monster that would spread a "green death" to all those who would attempt to bring it to its knees.

The article focuses not on the pitchers' fear of the wall, but the hitters' problems with it. Tony C talks about how he won't mess around with swinging for the Monster, saying "no green death for me."

You never know with newspaper accounts--are they using terms people actually say? New York is "known" as "The Big Apple," as Boston is "known" as "Beantown," but you're never gonna hear any locals from either place use those terms. But "green death" has enough examples to show it was used by players, if no one else. I'd put it higher on the list than "the Green Giant" and "the Jolly Green Giant," each of which I found referenced just once. And that Baseball Digest article isn't the only one from the 60s to call it the "big green monster."

A 1961 AP article even said that "THE WALL" is "often referred to as 'the chummy left-field wall'." Which led me to look that up...and I indeed found lots of references to the wall (and the park itself) being "chummy," dating back to the 1930s and extended all the way to 1990. But that's more of an adjective than a nickname.

It should also be noted that one of Narragansett's beers has apparently been known as "green death" for quite some time. I wonder if either the wall or the beer influenced the other.

As for the "Green Monster" nickname--Stout claims it wasn't widespread until the 1980s, an idea I find absurd. There are so many references to it in '67 and '75, from papers and magazines nationwide. And many of those talk about how it's "commonly known as," etc. I think even by 1967, any baseball fan anywhere would know what you meant by "Green Monster." Certainly by '75.
Oh, and I also think we should use "Green Death" in 2012. More of a catch-all, though. We hit a homer or wall-ball, it's "Green Death" for the opponents. They swing for the fences and fail, it's "Green Death" places upon them by our pitchers.
Green Death

me likey.

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