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tale of the tape

Fenway Park vs. Yankee Stadium: Which Has the Better Movie Roles?

The climactic scene of Ted, the Mark Wahlberg–Seth MacFarlane brobear comedy that opens this weekend, features the titular bear being chased by an evil (or mustachioed, at least) Giovanni Ribisi up, down, and over Fenway Park. It’s just the latest cinematic cameo by the storied ballpark, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year the way any classic sports stadium should: by appearing in a film starring a fart-joke-spewing stuffed animal.

This got us to thinking: While the Yankees have the not-inconsiderable 27-7 World Series title advantage (not to mention their current six-and-a-half-game lead over the Red Sox), do they have the advantage when it comes to movies? Fenway Park and the old Yankee Stadium (the new stadium is too young to have been featured in any films yet) are iconic American structures that have been used throughout movie history. But which wore it best?

Let’s solve this the scientific way: Through a subjective and random tale of the tape of each stadium’s appearances in various cinematic categories.

1. The Bro-Cry Movie

Yankee Stadium: Bang the Drum Slowly. One of Robert De Niro’s first ever movie roles was as Bruce Pearson, the slow, pure-hearted, and dying catcher for the New York Mammoths. The movie’s first scene, of De Niro and teammate Michael Moriarty jogging around early seventies Yankee Stadium, is its most famous. (Most of the ball-playing scenes, though, were filmed at Shea Stadium.)

Fenway Park: Field of Dreams. People usually just remember the corn, but it’s at Fenway — where Kevin Costner tracks down James Earl Jones’s Terrence Mann and drags him to a ballgame — that the voices (and the Fenway scoreboard) tell them both to track down doomed, dead Moonlight Graham.

2. The Hollywood Classic

Yankee Stadium: Pride of the Yankees. This is such a large part of the Yankees legend that many fans still believe Lou Gehrig’s speech was shown live to the country even though TVs had yet to be popularized in 1939. They also think Lou Gehrig looked like Gary Cooper. The film does win bonus points for having Babe Ruth play himself, though. The movie remains a large part of the enduring Yankee legend despite being, you know, fiction.

Fenway Park: Nothing.

3. The Flop

Yankee Stadium: For the Love of the Game. Generally considered one of the worst baseball movies ever, it features Kevin Costner as an aging pitcher reevaluating his life while throwing a perfect game against the Yankees. Somewhat insanely directed by Sam Raimi, it does at least have the good sense to cast John C. Reilly as a catcher.

Fenway Park: Fever Pitch. The terrific Nick Hornby novel about soccer is turned into a limp, bland romance starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. (Jimmy Fallon is many things, but “rabid face-painting Boston baseball jock bro” is rather low on the list of them.) The Farrelly brothers famously had to rewrite their ending when the Red Sox actually won the World Series, which led to the execrable moment right after the Sox made the last out of the 2004 World Series of cameras cutting to Fallon and Barrymore as they ran onto the field. (At Busch Stadium in St. Louis, no less.)

4. The Reality-TV Show

Yankee Stadium: God, no.

Fenway Park: In 2007 and 2008 there was Sox Appeal, a dating show on NESN that set up Red Sox fans on blind dates during an actual game. If YES does this, Michael Kay better not host, no matter how often he asks to.

5. The Awesome Shoot-out

Yankee Stadium: None. (Yet.)

Fenway Park: The Town. This might be the best scene ever filmed at either location, thanks in large part to director Ben Affleck’s obvious reverence for the building. During the big final shoot-out, he even sneaks in a joke about Jack Clark, one of the Red Sox’s more infamous free agent bombs. (i.e., even Jack Clark didn’t steal this much money from Fenway).

6. The Slumming Cameo

Yankee Stadium: Anger Management. Want a little time capsule from 2003? How about this gruesome-in-retrospect scene when Adam Sandler steals the microphone before a playoff game to ask his girlfriend (Marisa Tomei!) to marry him. Not only does the film force the late Bob Sheppard to serve as a comedic prop to Jack Nicholson, it actually makes Mayor Giuliani the romantic hero. Just try to watch this scene now and stay upright.

Fenway Park: Ted. This is pretty much the opposite of The Town. Basically, Ted is chased up a light pole by Ribisi … and then he falls onto the field. The film has no sense of the history or scope of the stadium; there’s not even a joke about the Green Monster or anything. Ted might as well be climbing up a water tower.

The Final Verdict

The old Yankee Stadium emerges victorious. Though The Town shows how great a scene at Fenway can be and how wonderful even the underbelly of the stadium looks on film (so green!), there’s still nothing like the grandeur of the old Bronx yard. But Fenway has plenty of time to sneak ahead. It is, after all, the only building left standing.

Photo: Warner Bros and Samuel Goldwyn Company