|By the winter of 1988, the eight-story building in Boston's Kenmore Square, on the corner of Kenmore Street and Commonwealth Avenue, housed a bank, offices, and apartments for the elderly. In an earlier incarantion, 490 Commonwealth Avenue was the Hotel Kenmore, the hub of Boston baseball.
Opened in spring 1926, the elegantly appointed hostelry eventually became headquarters for all fourteen teams that came to visit the Red Sox and Braves. It became known as the "Baseball Hotel" and catered to the special needs of the boys of summer. "Baseball players are wonderful guests," assistant manager Everett Kerr said in the summer of 1952. "But they can be superstitious. And they're moody."
Hired help was required to know the game thoroughly. Front-desk clerks had to be able to recognize and accommodate, say, Connie Mack if he showed up without a reservation. Bellhops and coffee-shop waitresses had to know who was in a slump in order to tiptoe around them. The staff was encouraged to listen to ball games over the radio as they worked.
After night games, the kitchen stayed open until 2:00 A.M. so the boys could grab a bite to eat before bed. Extra-long beds were supplied to taller players, such as Hank Greenberg and Ralph Kiner. Bathrooms were equipped with showerheads just like the ones in the ballpark clubhouses.
The place was rich with baseball lore. In the grille, Giants manager Leo Durocher had a lucky booth, the one he occupied while listening to the Dodgers lose a crucial game en route to the 1951 one-game playoff. When the Indians beat the Red Sox in the 1948 playoff, Cleveland owner Bill Veeck threw a party at the Kenmore that legend says lasted two days. Brooklyn shortstop Pee Wee Reese spent hours on Commonwealth Avenue feeding sugar cubes to the mounted policeman's horse. At one sitting in the dining room, Cardinals slugger Stan Musial consumed six lobsters.
Joe McCarthy quit as Yankees manager, Bill Dickey was fired as Yankees manager, and shortstop Rabbit Maranville retired from the Braves at the Kenmore. In the lobby in the spring of 1947, Detroit catcher Birdie Tebbetts was traded to the Red Sox for catcher Hal Wagner. House detectives were routinely stationed outside the room of a player known to fall asleep while smoking cigars. In the spring of 1943, Casey Stengel walked out of the Kenmore at 2:00 A.M. and was hit by a cab.
When the Braves left Boston for Milwaukee before the 1953 season, the Kenmore's baseball business was halved. In the spring of 1965, the hotel was closed and the building was sold. From the rooftop boxes at Fenway Park in 1991, fans can look up from the ball game, see the old hotel's mansard roof and dormer windows, and wonder about the old ballplayers who used to throw them open in the morning, breathe in deep, and look forward to a coffee-shop breakfast and a ball game.
-- David Cataneo
Baseball Legends and Lore
Baseball Legends and Lore, David Cataneo
Copyright 1991 by David Cataneo
Published by Galahad Books (New York), 1995
available at ABEBOOKS