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Ask die-hard Boston Red Sox fans what they love most about their team's home ballpark, and the answer is invariably the Green Monster left field wall, with its manually operated scoreboard.
"That has been there forever," said Jason Chaves from East Bridgewater. "The scoreboard? Absolutely been there forever."
Actually, that's not true. The scoreboard, which for the 2011 home opener is showing a deplorable 0-6 season start, has only been there for 10 years.
It's a replica.
The original was installed in 1934, during the ballpark's last major construction before the current ownership began renovating Fenway in 2001. So what happened to the 1934 original?
"The original scoreboard is in a storage place," said Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino. "I believe it’s in South Dakota."
Really? South Dakota?
If you get on the Mass Pike right where it nudges up against Fenway Park, you have to drive west on I-90 for 1,600 miles. Then take a right. After another 50 miles of corn and soybean fields broken up by herds of heifers, right there off the highway is a company called Counterpart, Inc.
Inside a large industrial building, Counterpart workers cut steel panels to specs for dashboards, utility boxes, and commercial signs. General Manager Don Deibert remembers how back in 2001, Counterpart got a very unusual order: To make a metal scoreboard from scratch.
"They sent us the drawings to replicate the original scoreboard," Deibert said stoically. "And then we basically built it."
Built what's now the the scoreboard in the Green Monster, that is.
During the All-Star Break in 2001, the Red Sox quietly took out the original and put in the copy. Deibert’s job then became to restore the Red Sox national icon.
"The old structure was in pretty bad shape," he remembered. "It had a lot of rust and holes in the bottom."
Counterpart rebuilt the internal framework that holds up the scoreboard. Workers also replaced the edge that touched the field and had rusted through.
"The unique part of it was, we had to have a special insurance policy on it," Deibert recalled. "Because inside that old scoreboard were signatures of players, bat boys, score people, whoever had signed the inside of that scoreboard all those years, and we had to make sure we didn’t destroy that."
But what happened to the 1934 Green Monster manual scoreboard after that is not entirely clear.
Deibert said Counterpart returned the green scoreboard to Daktronics, a South Dakota company that does work for Fenway. Deibert heard that it went into a Daktronics warehouse. But a company spokesman had no comment.
However, recently retired Daktronics co-founder Duane Sander does try to put Red Sox fans at ease. Personally, he doesn’t ever remember hearing about any scoreboard from Fenway Park being stored at the company. But he said if it is in Daktronics' custody, Sox fans need not worry.
"I’m sure we’re being very careful with all the parts and the scoreboard," Sander said, remarking that Daktronics has good facilities. "Controlled environment as well as well-secured."
What if somebody wearing pinstripes or named Steinbrenner showed up, saying they were looking to line the urinals at the new Yankee Stadium. Would Daktronics accidentally hand over the scoreboard?
"No," Sander said, laughing. "I don’t think so, no."
So that’s where the trail gets cold. If the original Green Monster scoreboard is indeed gathering dust in a South Dakota prairie warehouse, maybe the next question is, what should the Red Sox do with it?
Owner and CEO Lucchino said they’ve talked about it.
"We’re contemplating taking it perhaps to Florida, to the new spring training facility and having it up down there," he said.
But some Sox fans hanging out at the Cask 'n Flagon outside Fenway don't think it's a good idea to ship the 1934 scoreboard to hurricane country. John Beach from East Bridgewater thinks there’s only one place for it to go: the Baseball Hall of Fame.
"If the original Fenway scoreboard is not in Cooperstown," Beach said, "I don’t know what the hell should be in Cooperstown."
So what do you think? Keep it safe and sound on the prairie? Break it up in pieces like the parquet floor from the Boston Garden? Auction it off wholesale, so the Red Sox can buy some pitching?
Let us know in the comments below. Unless you're a Yankee fan, of course.
This program aired on April 8, 2011.
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