In olden times (like, the ’50s) battered old ballparks -- dusty and rather bleak -- sufficed and they were plentiful. Moreover, we were happy to have them. Gripes were rare and rarer still were heated calls for the body politic to belly up and provide newer and grander playpens for the hirelings of the local ball clubs who would come and go.

Few are the patrons still with us who recall the likes of Griffith Stadium, an oddly misshapen joint where the Senators of ancient memory cavorted in Washington. Then there was Philadelphia’s Shibe Park (AKA “Connie Mack Stadium”) which I knew well having spent a fair amount of leave-time there while hanging out at nearby Fort Dix the summer of ’62. The Shibe had all the charm of a subway station on the hard side of town; one that hadn’t been painted or even cleaned in about a half century.

None of the ball yards of legend and lore were equal to their myth. By the time I got to see it, New York’s creaking and obtuse Polo Grounds was still throbbing with memories dating back to the Age of McGraw but fast rusting away and might have been condemned were it not soon to be abandoned. Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, now fabled in song, was painfully small and cramped. Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium was hideously huge and unsuited. St. Louis’ Sportsman’s Park was damp, dirty, and dingy. Tiny Crosley Field in Cincinnati wasn’t much better, although it developed something of a cult following after being replaced by one of those plain and ugly “cookie-cutter” bullrings that became strangely fashionable in the ’60s

There were exceptions. Detroit’s park -- then named for the Briggs Family ownership -- was actually deemed “pretty” (a term never lavished on Fenway Park at the time) as was Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, which had wonderfully symmetric lines and a certain aura more often than not wasted on terrible teams. Chicago’s ballparks always ranked among the best with Boston’s back then ranking not so highly for neither of them was well maintained. Complaints about Fenway were percolating as early as the late ’40s and about a decade later Master Tom Yawkey was clearly getting sick of the place. Only one ballpark was considered “majestic”: Yankee Stadium, then as now being in a class by itself.

The subject has new wings with the opening of the two purportedly state of the art ballparks in New York this spring, capping an era of ballpark construction around the country, which has produced some genuine beauties.

All of which is reviving the old debate about Boston’s stadium situation; or more precisely, the wisdom of the Red Sox current ownership’s policy of endlessly tinkering with tired old Fenway Park. Some find all the recent refinements enchanting and they have certainly been bold, innovative and above all profitable, ownership’s main concern.

But others liken these glorified touch-ups to plastering the old pig with coat upon coat of lipstick, rouge, and false eyelashes and question whether such gimmicks as adding seats to the top of the wall alleviates the fact that the vast majority of all the other seats in the park are too small, too tight, and too dang uncomfortable nor is there any hope of improving them.

To date, the former school of thought has prevailed with sentiment and a falsely formed nostalgia overwhelming reason. But me thinks that may be about to change. When Larry Lucchino, ownership’s chief underboss and the last word on such issues, recently asserted that the many cosmetic upgrades guarantee Fenway’s viability “for the next 40 to 50 years” you could only groan. Unless, that is, you are a thoroughly brainwashed citizen of the Nation who breaks into a chorus of “Sweet Caroline” whenever Lucchino or one of his lackeys say, “Boo”. Fenway Park, as we essentially know it, still serving as the home of the Red Sox at the age of 150? That is preposterous!

Yawkey, the man most responsible for making Fenway what it is -- for better or worse -- would have been infuriated, I strongly suspect. It was way back in the early ’60s that he became restless with the notion of plowing new money into the old playground. He wanted a brand, spanking new, stadium and he wanted state government to provide much of the wherewithal. He became annoyed when, inevitably, the stadium debate got ensnared in the familiar Massachusetts political machinations and when he realized the pols were more concerned with the plight of the Patriots than the needs of the Red Sox his aggravation greatly heightened.

People forget all this and they have further forgotten that Yawkey’s disenchantment had him muttering about selling the team. Then came the little miracle of “the Impossible Dream” season of 1967, which utterly revived the team and redefined everything about it. Soon the diehards were taking seriously John Updike’s casual characterization of the “lyric little bandbox” and its “Euclidean determinations”. The subject has been wrapped in such mush ever since.

But Yawkey never bought into it. Right up to his death he was probing for answers and alternatives. His immediate successors carried on the task with what I believe was sincerity. Throughout the process the doubts about the wisdom of remodeling Fenway as a long-term solution persisted and they were honest doubts.

The new ownership team, under John Henry, has obviously dismissed those doubts quite summarily and it has been mighty good for business to do so. Furthermore, the selling of the 97 year-old ball yard as some sort of imperishable civic treasure has been a handy way to not only rationalize the policy but give it charm. Maintaining and even institutionalizing this attitude becomes imperative, especially if one day they hope to sell their “priceless and timeless treasure” of a franchise. Is that likely? Let’s put it this way. It isn’t likely they’ll be around as long as the Yawkey’s were.

Meanwhile, the devoted citizens of the Nation embrace the heresy that it’s more like High Mass than a mere ballgame that they’re partaking of when they do their pilgrimages to “the shrine”. In this sense, the selling of the Fenway myth has been a masterpiece of salesmanship. It is only those of us who are not profiting who might consider it a tad cynical.

In the long run there’s little doubt the Yankees will be better off in their new palace, no matter how egregiously overpriced or faintly ostentatious you may deem it at the moment. The carping about all that fuss and feathers stuff has provided a field day for the Yankee bashers, who hardly need an excuse. But it’s a momentary thing.

The Yankee ownership will smooth out the kinks, correct the errant sight lines, lessen the traces of vulgarity, modify the silly price structure, pacify hidebound characters who are still in love with the old stadium. These are minor issues. It’s all very doable. And in the end they will still have a $1.5 billion dollar plant, sturdy and implacable as the Rock of Gibraltar that will be just as viable in 50 years. How do you think Fenway Park will then compare?

It’s possible the Red Sox have made a huge mistake on the stadium issue. With the team’s great surge -- heightened by the recent championships -- combining with new ownership’s evident clout, there may have been a window of opportunity for the landing of a gem of a modern ballpark -- perhaps something on the order of a Camden Yards down by the waterfront -- with an agreeable combination of public and private financing and related amenities. It could well have been a sweetheart deal for the Town Team, with so many taxpayers being zealots of the bloody “Nation”.

It’s a window that may have been but briefly open. But given all the impetus the Red Sox have lately enjoyed it might have gotten done quickly had it been sought. Now, with the entire world having taken a 180-degree turn into an historic tailspin, you can forgetaboutit.

Did those so smart, Ivy League boys over at the old ball yard blow it? We’ll know for sure, in about 50 years.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...