BOSTON With an official attendance figure of 30,862, the Red Sox sellout streak at Fenway Park ended Wednesday night a few thousand short of the park’s 37,500 capacity.
Though the ballpark had not always been full over the years, the Sox had distributed a ticket for every seat to every game since May 15, 2003. At 794 regular season games, the streak was the longest by far in Major League Baseball, and only 20 games shy of the major professional sport record set by the Portland Trail Blazers.
An hour before game time Wednesday, the only line on Landsdowne Street was in front of the House of Blues, where a crowd waited to see a sold-out performance by a rapper with a thing for sweatshirts.
“I’m a huge Red Sox fan but tonight I chose to spend my money to support Hoodie Allen,” explained Brodie Horning, a junior at the University of New Hampshire. “I want to support a guy who needs some help and needs a fan base.”
For the month of April, the Sox are giving their customers a modest break from the high ballpark prices, including half-price hot chocolate, reduced-price beer and two-for-one Fenway Franks. That was good news to Horning.
“I didn’t know about that. I love Fenway Franks,” he said. “There’s nothing better than a Fenway Frank so that helps, that is good.”
The end of the sellout streak was welcome news to Californian Michael Lindsay, one of many out-of-towners who were buying tickets for their first ever visit to Fenway Park.
Twenty-four hours before the game, Green Monster seats, once the hottest ticket in baseball, were still available online. But Lindsay was only given the choice between a couple of seats in right field, bleachers or standing room only.
“We’re up in the bleachers. We figured we’d take it all in from above,” he said.
With so few options remaining some fans began to wonder whether the game would be a sellout after all. But from behind the counter an employee pantomimed a tear streaming down her face and told me she was sad to see the end of an era. She also admitted her job might become a little more busy as word gets out that the Sox have tickets available at game time.
Kim Whitcomb, of New Hampshire, hates to see empty seats.
“That is tragic,” Whitcomb said. “I could fill those seats by myself. Not me personally, but I have peeps that could fill those seats.”
Whitcomb says there will always be a demand when it comes to the Red Sox.
“Always. I could have given them to 60 people today. I wouldn’t, but I could have,” she said.
The fact is it wasn’t really a full house for many games last season either. To maintain the streak the team only had to distribute as many tickets as there are seats. Those lingering at re-sellers or stuck to the fridges of season ticket holders didn’t matter. As television broadcasts showed hundreds, even thousands, of empty seats, the team came under increasing pressure to call an end to the streak.
“The media got all over the Red Sox,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College. He defended the Sox earlier this year, saying nothing was wrong with the team’s math. “But I think what happened was this item that was creating this sense of hot tickets that was making people excited about being able to go to Fenway Park all of the sudden became a negative.”
Despite the first non-sellout in nearly 10 years, some things never change at Fenway Park. The food vendors on Yawkey Way still watched the game through the corner of their eyes, cheering for every run as the Red Sox fell to the Orioles, 8-5. And outside the turnstiles scalpers still walked up and down Brookline Avenue looking for tickets to sell.
This post was updated with Morning Edition feature content.