Red Sox honor 100-year-old fan

Red Sox honor 100-year-old fan

Red Sox honor 100-year-old fan
For a Red Sox fan just out of high school, there couldn't have been a better summer job. John Donnelly is 100 years old now. But back in the 1930s, he was thrilled to become a candy vendor at Fenway Park.

"I was one of the 'candy butchers' walking up and down the aisle with a basket on my head," he said on Friday, shortly after the Red Sox finished their 100th anniversary game at baseball's oldest stadium, a 6-2 loss to the Yankees.

"At the time, Loft candy bars were selling for 15 cents against Hershey's 5-cent candy bar. The same size, but a much thicker chocolate," Donnelly said. "I remember one extremely hot day, walking up and down with the bag of candy on my head. When I went to pass the candy to customers, it was all melted. The candy bar actually drooped on both sides of my hand. And yet the people paid me the money and took them. I've never forgotten that."

The only problem was that Donnelly enjoyed his work just a little too much.

"I only lasted the one summer, and the reason was I spent too much time watching the ballgames, so they didn't renew my contract," he explained with a laugh.

FENWAY AT 100

Donnelly was honored at Fenway on Monday, part of the program to recognize a series of fans as old as one of the most famous sports venues in the world.

Donnelly was given a commemorative baseball cap, calendar and book. And he proudly read from the letter he received at the time.

"Dear Mr. Donnelly, on behalf of the Boston Red Sox, I want to say thank you for spending your 100th year with us at Fenway Park. We are honored to be part of your life's journey on this day. I'm sure you've seen your fair share of games throughout the years, but we hope today can be just as memorable as some of your past highlights as a fan. I hope you enjoy the game, and that you continue to be a great icon for your family and friends," he recited.

Donnelly was sitting just beyond first base on Monday but, with the heat, was moved into the back of the grandstand.

"That was much more comfortable, and I enjoyed the game very much. It was an experience," he said.

"I was amazed at the construction, the extra decks and the seating that were never there back in the old days. They have utilized every available bit of space for seating."

Growing up, Donnelly played baseball, football and hockey in high school. And while he preferred participating in sports to watching, he attended plenty of games both before and after his brief employment there.

"We sat out in the bleachers. Twenty-five cents," Donnelly said. "I belonged to what was called the Knot Hole Gang. You had a membership card with a picture of an old wooden fence with a knot hole in it, which you were supposed to look through to see the game. That and 25 cents got you a seat in the bleachers."

Born and raised in West Roxbury, Mass., Donnelly has been a lifelong Red Sox fan. He first remembers rooting for the Ted Williams-era teams, and later loved watching the Carlton Fisk clubs.

And, yes, Donnelly was in front of his television on Friday for the historic centennial game.

"I saw the first five innings before I had to go to dinner [at his assisted living facility]," he said.

But Donnelly made sure to find out the result.

"I understand they lost, 6-2," he said with the equanimity of a longtime fan who knows there will always be another game tomorrow.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.