BOSTON – The Boston Red Sox think their lyric little bandbox deserves a great big birthday party.
The ballclub will celebrate the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park's first game next year with a yearlong celebration that will be heavy on history and filled with special events to usher the oldest ballpark in major-league history into its second century.
"We are going to be the first to do that and, pardon me, but we are going to do it in a major, big-time way," Red Sox president and chief executive officer Larry Lucchino said on Thursday. "This is an important year for us."
The actual anniversary will be observed on April 20, 2012, with a 3:05 p.m. game against the New York Yankees — a repeat of the afternoon game the Red Sox played against the Yankees' precursor, the Highlanders, on that date in 1912. The opener — the same week the Titanic sank — was twice delayed by rainouts.
(The actual first baseball game at Fenway was an exhibition against Harvard. Vice president Sam Kennedy said the school has arranged for representatives to come to the ballpark on April 9, when the Red Sox will be playing in Toronto, for a workout or exhibition to be determined.)
The schedule was laid out at a news conference in a club suite as the ballpark was decked out for Christmas, with giant wreaths hanging from the Green Monster. Artifacts from Fenway's history were on display, as were items featuring the Fenway 100 logo that have been available for purchase this winter.
In attendance were longtime Red Sox player and coach Johnny Pesky and Lou Lucier, who at 95 is the oldest living former Red Sox player. Current players Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway were also there, modeling their uniforms with the Fenway 100 patch that the team will wear this season.
"It means more than just playing baseball when you put on the uniform," Saltalamacchia said. "Just being a baseball player watching the history unfold, it's something amazing to watch."
The Red Sox also announced a charitable campaign called "100 Acts of Kindness," which will involve donations, volunteer efforts and community events. To start, the team donated a copy of its new coffee table book, "Fenway Park: 100 Years" to each branch of the Boston Public Library and to the libraries of all 125 schools in the Boston Public School system.
"A baseball team without a sense of social responsibility is not the kind of baseball team we want to be," Lucchino said.
The team also announced that it is forming a not-for-profit called the Preserve Fenway Park Fund, which will raise money to preserve and display historic artifacts in the ballpark. The team has already documented and preserved more than 4,000 items, including photos, architectural plans, baseballs and ballpark memorabilia including chairs, signs, tickets, lineup cards, bases and championship pennants.
Many of these archives will be on display at Fenway during the 2012 season.
"We think Fenway Park is a museum. It's also a vibrant, lively ballpark," Lucchino said. "We want it to be both."
Among the other plans are:
— Throwback days, one confirmed so far, against the Oakland Athletics on May 2, when the Red Sox will wear its 1936 uniform to acknowledge the year they acquired Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx from the Philadelphia A's.
— A 256-page coffee table book on the ballpark history, with a foreword by Stephen King and remembrances by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Conan O'Brien, George Will, Charles Ogletree, and Bobby Orr.
— A logo that will be on merchandise that is for sale and on game-used equipment, including the bases and all of the balls used during games, Kennedy said.
— An open house on April 19 — the day before the anniversary — where fans will be allowed to enter the ballpark for free to view historical artifacts and memorabilia and meet former Red Sox players. Fans will also be able to visit parts of the ballpark not normally accessible, such as the dugout tunnels and clubhouse, the team said.
— Commemorative tickets, featuring a photo of the original entrance from 1912.
The Red Sox opened the celebration on Thursday with a old-timey re-enactment of the auction for the parcel of land that Charles Taylor bought for $120,0000 in the winter of 2010. Upstairs, local writer Dick Flavin, "the poet-laureate of Red Sox Nation," recited a poem he wrote in honor of the occasion.
Before beginning, Flavin remarked on the historic nature of the gathering.
"It is interesting to note that 100 years from today, there will be a press conference on this very spot," he said, "to announce that the Red Sox and Chicago Cubs have reached an agreement on compensation for Theo Epstein."