The Boston Red Sox ended June with a winning record and currently sit just a half game behind in the American League wild card race, a pair of feats which seemed unlikely at best for a Sox team for whom the first two-and-a-half months of the season were just an extension of the misery it endured during last September’s stunning collapse. As a result, the sellout streak at Fenway Park that once appeared as wobbly as the Red Sox themselves could make it to 10 years — and beyond.
The Red Sox welcomed their 754th straight sellout crowd Wednesday, June 27, when the Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays 10-4 to cap a nine-game homestand. With Fenway Park being an annual summertime destination for tourists from around the world, the Sox have a legitimate shot at not only reaching a decade’s worth of sellouts but also breaking the North American record for consecutive sellouts.
The NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers recorded 814 straight sellouts from 1977 through 1995. The Sox, who have 39 home games remaining this year, could break that mark sometime in mid-to-late May 2013.
However, the sellout streak has survived thanks in some part to a liberal interpretation of the word sellout. The validity of the streak was called into question earlier this year by The Boston Globe, which sent a reporter around Fenway’s ticket offices during a game against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday, May 2.
The reporter was told during each stop that tickets still remained, and according to the paper, the Sox admitted there were still 300 tickets left when the team stopped selling tickets during the seventh inning. The game, of course, was deemed a sellout by the Sox, who announced a crowd of 37,434 at the 37,495-seat Fenway Park.
When determining the official attendance, the Sox told The Boston Globe they count the 800 or so free tickets they distribute for each game as well as any standing room tickets that are sold.
“I can understand the confusion,” executive vice president Sam Kennedy told The Boston Globe. “But we operate by a definition that is commonly practiced throughout Major League Baseball and professional sports.”
According to attendance figures at Baseball-Reference.com, the Red Sox have not filled every seat at Fenway Park in 22 of the 42 games they have played there this season. Most of the non-sellout sellouts feature just a few dozen empty seats and the Sox have announced a crowd of at least 37,000 in all but one game. Coincidentally, that game was the opener of a three-game series against the rival New York Yankees — whose presence usually guarantees an overflow crowd — that drew just 36,770 on Friday, April 20.
“No team can ever sell every single seat to every game,” Red Sox senior vice president of ticketing Ron Bumgarner told The Boston Globe.
While there have been some empty seats during the sellout streak, the Red Sox remain one of the hottest tickets in baseball. Even though they were in last place for most of the first three months and didn’t move over .500 until after Memorial Day the Sox rank third in the American League in average attendance at 37,535. That makes them the lone team in the AL — and one of two in baseball, along with the Philadelphia Phillies — to average beyond capacity crowds at home.
Still, with the Sox within a year of a decade’s worth of sellouts and dethroning the Trail Blazers as the all-time sellout champ, the team can never be too safe when it comes to keeping the streak alive. On Monday, June 25, the Red Sox sent out an email to fans trumpeting the July 16-19 series against the Chicago White Sox and former Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis — whom the Sox had traded to Chicago less than 24 hours earlier.