Manning the Fenway Park Scoreboard

Odd Jobs, People, Seasonal, Sports, Traditions
on May 6, 2010
David Mudd Christian Elias is in his 20th season of posting runs, hits and errors on the manual scoreboard at Boston's Fenway Park.

In a narrow, dusty scorekeeper's box hidden behind the 37-foot-high left field wall in Boston's Fenway Park, Christian Elias can read the signatures of Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice and other Red Sox greats as he records baseball history in progress on a manual scoreboard.

"This is the best seat in the house," says Elias, 37, of Waltham, Mass., sitting on a bench in an 8-foot-wide space without air-conditioning or a bathroom.

Elias earns his living in sales, but his moonlighting job at Fenway Park is what makes him the envy of Red Sox fans. Since age 18, he's been paid to attend every home game—more than 1,400 through 19 seasons and two World Series—and to post runs, hits and errors the old-fashioned way—sliding 12-by-16-inch numbered metal plates through the slots of a low-tech scoreboard.

From his exclusive perch, Elias gets a periscope-like view of the games over the left fielders shoulder through six 10-inch-long, 1½-inch-wide slots along the scoreboard.

"There is a mystique, an aura, a romance of being back here," says Elias, who began his 20th year at Fenway in April during Boston's season-opening victory over the New York Yankees.

Elias is so close to the action that he can listen to outfielders talk, hear the thwack of a long line drive hitting the metal scoreboard, and track the game almost intuitively from the sounds of the crowd.

In addition to posting an inning-by-inning account of the game, Elias monitors as many as 14 other Major League Baseball games on his laptop computer, posting American League scores and dispatching two assistants on the field to update National League scores between innings.

His is a unique job at a distinctive American landmark—baseball's oldest original ballpark, built in 1912.

In the park's early days, left field was a 10-foot-high dirt mound topped by a wooden fence, where scorekeepers hung numbers to mark the game's progress. When the park was renovated in 1934, the hill was leveled, and the legendary left field wall—nicknamed the Green Monster—replaced the fence, with the scorekeeper's space hidden behind Major League's tallest outfield wall. When an electric scoreboard was installed in 1976, Fenway officials chose to keep the manual scoreboard as a vestige of old-time baseball.

"We think that its part of the character of Fenway," says team archivist Dick Bresciani, citing Chicago's Wrigley Field as having the only other operating manual scoreboard among original Major League ballparks.

As a youngster growing up in Belmont, Mass. (pop. 24,194), Elias watched Red Sox games from the stands, never dreaming that he'd someday score them from inside the wall. Then, while studying communications at the University of New Hampshire in 1990, he sought a part-time job at Fenway and jumped at the assistant scorekeeper's position.

Elias' seat offers an insiders view of baseball. As part of a longstanding tradition, left fielders visit the box during pitching changes by climbing through a small door in the wall. He fondly recalls Boston's Mike Greenwell for his humor and Manny Ramirez for his knowledge of cars.

Another tradition, which predates Elias' tenure, is for players to leave autographs on the back wall of the box. "The earliest one I've found is Jimmy Piersall. They say Ted Williams also signed, but I've never found him," Elias says of the two Red Sox legends.

Elias has made a few blunders through the years. One evening, he posted a rain delay in Minnesota, where the Twins were playing in a domed stadium. "People thought that the Metrodome had sprung a leak," he remembers with a smile. "It was just scorekeeper error. Mine."

Over time, Elias has learned to juggle the Red Sox home schedule with his day job as director of ticket sales for several Boston-area entertainment venues, and his personal life with his wife, Kristina, and their daughter, Madison, born last June.

Kristina, who grew up near Boston and never attended a game at Fenway, has learned since their 2007 marriage to work around the Red Sox home schedule and to plan family trips during the off-season. "He was doing this when I met him, so it has just been part of our life," she says.

"Elias considers himself one of the world's luckiest baseball fans. It's more fun than work," he says.