THE DEFINING EVENT OF THIS DECADE TOOK PLACE SIX DAYS BEFORE IT BEGAN. ON Dec. 26, 1919, the Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 in cash and a $300,000 mortgage on Fenway Park. The Curse of the Bambino struck immediately: Boston finished last in the American League seven times over the next 10 years and never better than fifth.
Over the next few seasons team owner Harry Frazee continued to trade away popular players and future stars. Angry fans and local reporters called for a boycott of the park, and attendance fell to a record-low 229,688 in '23. The boycott was lifted when Bob Quinn purchased the club in '23, but the Sox' win total stayed down. At least there were plenty of other reasons to visit Fenway in the '20s, with the ballpark playing host to an increasing number of football games, boxing matches, soccer games as well as its first concert.
In May 1926 a postgame fire destroyed the wooden bleachers along the leftfield line. The blaze left charred remains that weren't removed until August. Even then Quinn couldn't afford to replace the seats, leaving a gaping area where leftfielders sometimes caught foul flies. In '28 Quinn had temporary outfield stands erected in that area for Boston College football games.
By 1929, Massachusetts had finally approved Sunday baseball, but the Sox were prevented from taking full advantage by Fenway's proximity to the Church of the Disciples. (A ballpark had to be more than 1,000 feet from a house of worship to host a Sunday game.) With the league's approval the nearby city of Revere drew up plans for a 41,000-seat stadium to host the team, and as the decade wound down speculation persisted about a move, putting undersized and dilapidated Fenway in danger of losing its marquee (albeit downtrodden) attraction.