When fans flocked to Fenway for Wednesday night's 6-1 Red Sox victory over the Marlins, they did so as part of the 500th consecutive sellout at the iconic ballpark. A streak that began May 15, 2003 -- and surpassed the previous Major League record of 455 on Sept. 8, 2008, held by the Cleveland Indians from 1995-2001 -- continues to wade into unchartered waters.
"It doesn't really seem like there's an end in sight," said left fielder Jason Bay, who was thrust into the Boston spotlight last summer after spending six seasons with the attendance-starved Pirates. "Pittsburgh gets these crowds, but it's for Opening Day."
The Red Sox held a number of activities and giveaways during Wednesday night's eventual 6-1 win to thank fans for their unprecedented achievement. During inning breaks, brief video "Thank you" messages from players, ownership and other notables were played on the center-field videoboard.
When the 500th sellout became official after the top of the fifth inning, a congratulatory message appeared on the videoboard. The package featured some of the most memorable moments that occurred over the past 499 regular-season home games, during which Boston was a Major League-best 326-173.
"This record is the fans' record," principal owner John W. Henry said in a statement issued Wednesday. "We want to salute the members of Red Sox Nation for reaching this extraordinary milestone. It's a testament to the passion and dedication they have for the game, the team and the ballpark. Every day, we work hard to ensure we are worthy of their loyal support."
"It's pretty neat," Francona said. "I try not to take it for granted, but I think we just get caught up so much in winning and losing. [The streak] creates an opportunity for me to brag about not just our fans, but our ownership. This ownership group has tried so hard to find ways to show great fans that they care about them. They try to make the fans feel very, very important.
By the numbers
|The Red Sox have sold out 500 consecutive regular-season games. A look at Boston's numbers at Fenway during the milestone sellouts.|
|Pitches thrown by Red Sox||73,480|
"I don't think I can remember a day since I've been here when I thought, 'Oh, let's get this game over with.' The fans' emotions don't let that happen."
Fenway's impact has been influential as ever this season, as the Red Sox own the best home record in the Majors, 23-8.
"Our crowd is phenomenal," pitcher Tim Wakefield said. "[The sellout streak] says a lot about our fans. I've always said they're our 26th man. Everybody in our clubhouse realizes that and enjoys playing in front of our home crowd."
"I think sometimes you take it for granted," Bay said, "especially when you come back from the road. It's almost like you missed it, like 'Oh, that's what playing at home is like.'"
The combination of a rabid fan base and a perennially contending team has made Fenway one of the most desired venues in all of sports.
"We're in the midst of a very unique time," Francona said. "We have a very special place. There's no getting around that. You get to the seventh inning, somebody throws ball one for the opposing team, and the place starts shaking.
"It's unique. I've never seen any place like this."
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.