On December 28th, the Boston College football team will make their first ever appearance in the new Wasabi Fenway Bowl, playing against the 11-2 AAC champion SMU Mustangs. But this appearance is far from the first time BC football has taken the trip to the historic baseball stadium. In light of their first appearance in this bowl game, we decided to take a trip down memory lane to look at a history of BC football games played at Fenway Park.
The Eagles played their first game in front of the iconic green Fenway walls in 1915, just 3 years after the park opened to the public. They defeated Norwich University in a 35-0 late November drubbing to cap off a 3-4 season. That started what became a yearly tradition for the Eagles, who played other opponents such as Holy Cross, Tufts, and Rutgers for much of the first 10 years of the park’s history. Fenway wasn’t their true home, but the Eagles played most of their important games there.
In 1922, BC moved to a schedule that had them more regularly play at Braves Field in Boston rather than a game or two at Fenway. That is until 1928, when Fenway became Boston College football’s home stadium for a few years. From 1928 to 1931, the Eagles played 31 of their 39 games at Fenway Park, becoming a fixture of the park’s history in the fall once the Red Sox season had ended. This stretch included an undefeated season in 1928 and multiple games against Northeast rivals like Holy Cross, Boston University, Villanova, Fordham, Maine, and UConn. It was possibly the greatest time for college football in Boston, as the city’s greatest venue was hosting important games between several local teams.
Boston College returned to playing most of their home games at Alumni Field in 1932, but they continued to make appearances in Fenway Park in the following years against programs traveling up to Boston like Auburn, Michigan State, Florida, Kentucky, NC State, Duke, and then for yearly rivalry games against Holy Cross and BU. Then, in 1939, things started to get big for Boston College. The #11 Eagles faced off against #10 Holy Cross in Fenway for their annual match-up. BC won and went to the Cotton Bowl, where they lost to Clemson.
And then 1940 rolled around, possibly the greatest BC football season ever. The Eagles marched their way to an undefeated season that included games in Fenway Park against Temple, Idaho, BU, #9 Georgetown, Auburn, and Holy Cross. The game against Georgetown was an especially big one, as BC was ranked #8 entering the contest and #9 Georgetown hadn’t lost in 23 straight games. After a hard-fought battle in front of the Fenway crowd, the Eagles emerged victorious with a close 19-18 win in what a journalist at the time called “probably the greatest football game ever played by college or pros.” BC QB Charley O’Rourke was the star of the day, as he passed for a 43-yard touchdown to take a 3-point lead in the 4th quarter, and then took an intentional safety on BC’s final possession to seal the victory.
BC football continued to be a nationally relevant team while playing most of their home games in Fenway Park once again. In 1942, BC was undefeated headed into the final week of the season to play their yearly rivalry game against Holy Cross at Fenway. But this time the Eagles, who were ranked #1 in the country and knocking on the door of a national championship, got shellacked by the Crusaders, 55-12. The game famously preceded the Cocoanut Grove fire, a fire in a Boston nightclub that killed 492 people and was set to be the location of the Boston College team’s victory party. Fenway Park was the venue for one of the biggest college football games of the year, a dramatic and storied hometown rivalry.
BC football came back to Earth from their impressive stretch of national championship contention soon after, but still continued to play plenty of games at Fenway through the end of World War II. They eventually returned to Braves Field as their primary home in 1945, but found themselves back at Fenway for most home games from 1953 to 1956. Then, in 1957, Alumni Stadium opened to the public. It replaced Alumni Field, which was located near Gasson where Stokes Hall stands today. The new Alumni Stadium became the permanent home of Boston College football from there, hosting the majority of Eagles home games from 1957 to present day.
From there, Boston College would go on a long hiatus from playing at Fenway. But Fenway Park was still a fixture in Boston sports, and BC football would eventually find special occasions to play in front of the Green Monster. Their next appearance at Fenway after the move to Alumni in 1957 finally came in 2015. The yearly rivalry with Holy Cross had ended in 1987 and the mystique of college football in New England had long disappeared. Fenway hadn’t been the home to a college football team in decades and playing there was now a novelty to games at Fenway instead of tradition.
BC played against #5 Notre Dame in that 2015 match-up, coming surprisingly close to upsetting the Irish thanks to a noble performance by the stout BC defense and unlikely starting QB John Fadule. BC would again play in Fenway in 2017, this time winning against UConn in a 39-16 blowout that featured some great AJ Dillon highlights. And that was the last time we saw the Eagles there.
Personally, I don’t know anyone who attended any of those original games that Boston College football played at Fenway Park. But, regardless of how long ago it happened, Fenway Park is part of BC football’s DNA. This game for the team later this month is an opportunity to continue a New England college football tradition that has existed for over a century now. And, in the light of big future changes coming to college football on a national level, coiuld even be one of the last opportunities to see it happen in person.
I hope to see you there! Go Eagles!