Lucchino: Sellout streak a top achievement

BOSTON -- Baseball is primarily a game of numbers. Whether it’s DiMaggio’s hitting streak or Williams’ batting average in 1941, the numbers endure.

And so the most notable number associated with the Red Sox in recent memory is 793. That is the number of consecutive home games deemed “sellouts” at Fenway Park. As sure as the Star-Spangled Banner will be played, that odometer will click over to 794 with the team’s home opener Monday.

“Opening Day should be seven-ninety-four,” said Red Sox president Larry Lucchino on Friday during a tour of the park. “What happens after that is uncertain. What I am certain is that it will likely end sometime during April, during the first or second series.”

Akin Cal Ripken Jr.’s iron-man streak, the end of the sellout streak is a nod to nature and inevitability.

Lucchino talked about the streak while joined by Boston Mayor Tom Menino in a pre-opening day tour of Fenway and a taste of its newest culinary offerings. Menino made news last week, announcing he would not seek election for a sixth term. So Friday served as a kind of farewell tour for a man who will be inextricably linked to the city’s pro sports success story of the last decade -- along with a wheelbarrow full of colorful soundbites.

“I’ve still never ridden on a Duck Boat,” Menino said, predicting another rolling rally starting on Lansdowne Street.

After sampling the fare -- Bavarian pretzels smothered with garlic butter and bowls of chicken lo mein -- Lucchino reflected on his first interaction with the mayor. It was Dec. 21, 2001, a day after the group of John W. Henry, Tom Werner and Lucchino won the bid for the Red Sox. Their first matter of business involved what was to become of Fenway Park.

“There never was any doubt about what we wanted to do to improve, expand, enhance Fenway Park,” Lucchino said. “But we had to be here for a couple of years to see how that would work, making sure it was financially feasible. But we always wanted to preserve and protect the park.”

About a decade later, Fenway Park is still revered in the present tense with marked facelifts at every turn. The ownership group has turned up revenue streams in every nook and cranny of the confines and beyond -- from seats atop the Green Monster to the right field roof seats. There were even some pie-in-the-sky plans, including one initial plan for the Monster construction that Lucchino described as “an iron-and-steel catastrophe,” that never saw the light of day, in addition to some more outlandish ideas from fans, including a mausoleum built into the 37-foot wall, a final resting place for devotees.

“We’ve had some off-the-wall ideas,” Lucchino said.

That phase is now complete.

“Now we’re just fine-tuning, with minor improvements,” he added.

Aside from the persistent swing of crane booms around the park, Lucchino counts the sellout streak among the most noteworthy of accomplishments by the ownership group.

“I think the world championships in 2004 and then the repeat in 2007 have to go to the top of the list,” said Lucchino, who wore a hunter green necktie with peanut shells speckled on it. “But I think the fact that the fans supported the team in such numbers and with such consistency, I’d certainly put that on the list.”

The streak is the longest in American professional sports history, though some questioned its authenticity last season.

“I don’t think anybody will come close to that kind of success for a very long time,” Lucchino said, all but talking about the streak as a bygone era. “We’re proud of it, but it’s time to move on.”

The Red Sox will play 17 games at home during the month of April -- the most in team history. Lucchino maintained that with the chilly nighttime temperatures and potential drizzle, it will be “easier to get tickets.”

“We had a disappointing season last year and a terrible finish the year before,” he said.

While taking two games out of three in the Bronx might help, the key to any streak -- or success in baseball, for that matter -- is consistency.

“The best way we can do that is to provide good, winning baseball," he said. "We haven’t forgotten that’s the most important part.”