• July 15, 2014

Marks on the Green Monster: A Look at Baseball Graffiti

Sarah Polger

“Look at the wall,” David Mellor, the Boston Red Sox groundskeeper, said to sports photographer CJ Gunther. “Ok,” shrugged back Gunther. “No. Really look at it.” It was then that Gunther realized he was staring at hundreds of baseball marks scattered along Fenway’s famous Green Monster wall. “You need to come shoot pictures of these,” said Mellor.” And with Mellor’s declaration in 2009, CJ Gunther began his body of work, chronicling the detailed scars scattered across baseball’s arguably most famous wall. “My first reaction was awe. I’ve been coming here forever and never seen this,” recalls Gunther.

“I originally called them petroglyphs. But these are marks left by this sport, no one will come find years from now. The marks have a brief life, since they’re painted over each season. Some marks are distinct, others similar, but each has a uniqueness and they only happen once. They’re more like baseball fingerprints. And just like fingerprints are wiped away from a window, each season paints over the marks and covers these baseball prints.”

A veteran sports photographer, Gunther began going to the ballpark to photograph the marks on off days and before team batting practice. Using a tilt-shift lens, Gunther gets close to his subject while also trying to incorporate details beyond the “fingerprints.” Working mainly from the ground or a stepladder, Gunther has also scaled the wall on larger ladders perched along the Green Monster. “It’s not just composition,” he says, “it’s also texture, the details of the wall, the dirt, the bubbles in the paint. I liken it to finding a pretty shell along the shore.”

A fortuitous foul ball toss lead to one of Gunther’s favorite photos; a mark of gold detailing seen on the World Series baseballs. During game one, a Manny Ramirez foul ball was tossed to eager fans in the stands, but instead of reaching a young fan, the ball found Gunther’s cheek. Searching near his feet, Gunther couldn’t locate the rogue baseball. A few innings later, Gunther reached into his pocket, finding the elusive foul ball and revealing the special gold paint. Gunther knew he had to make a picture of gold having brushed the Green Monster. Watching the game carefully, Gunther noted the locations the balls hit and returned after the series to find his mark. Using binoculars, Gunther started in left field, hunting for the gold marks. When he found his target, the grounds crew lent Gunther a ladder, and he scaled the wall to make the picture. After shooting 60-some frames, Gunther used his fingernail to carefully flick at the mark, finding gold dust on his hand. “It had to be the hit from Daniel Nava. Thirty-six feet up.”

Now each season, Gunther’s phone rings with Dave Mellor on the other end of the line. “Hey, there’s one in the o in the O-U-T,” or “near the w, but above the 1898,” he’ll say, the latter being his directions to a mark near the famous W.B. Mason sign in the outfield. Throughout the project, Mellor has supported Gunther, once telling him, “You’re a photographer. I know grass.”

“I don’t know if I would have discovered this on my own. My friendship with David Mellor brought this to me. Dave sought me out and it became something no one else has done at Fenway, that I know. I couldn’t believe there was something new to photograph at Fenway—the park is 102 years old.”

Each baseball season is fleeting and fans return every year, intent to find both old and new aspects of the game. And so Gunther returns to photograph the Green Monster and the baseball graffiti tagged along the famous outfield wall. “I always think there’s a day I’m going to come out and say to myself, Oh wow, here is something I’ve never seen before.”

CJ Gunther is represented by Contact Press Images. You can view more of CJ Gunther’s work on his website.
Follow Sarah Polger on Instagram and Twitter.

There are 26 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. OldAdam.com
    August 9, 2014

    Must be a slow news day …

  2. George Fischer
    August 4, 2014

    Doc Edgerton’s strobelight photos of the moment of impact would go very well with these photos of the other end of the ball’s path. Who would have thought that so much of the ball contacts the wall hard enough to leave some of its paint behind!

  3. Steph
    July 29, 2014

    Many thanks to Mr. Mellor for seeing the artistic potential in something he gets to see everyday he goes to work! So much gratitude to CJ Gunther for seeing Mr. Mellor’s appreciation for the hard work of the players who scorched the ball hard enough to have it hit the wall with such velocity that the imprint of the threads were left! I too am waiting for the coffee table book chock full of these photos! Go Sox! Thank GOD they didn’t tear Fenway down!

  4. Molecular Lionel
    July 28, 2014

    A great idea, poorly shot.

  5. Susan Polhamus Boeh
    July 28, 2014

    Enjoyed this work. Bid baseball fans in the family especially some Red Sox fans. Hello to David Mellor who I remember as a kid (younger than I) back in Piqua OH at Westminster Presbyterian.

  6. Regula
    July 28, 2014

    Beautiful photographs – like poetry, so sensitive, so fine nerved, and so remote from baseball, a relatively rough game. Like the shadows of time

  7. Benoit Hilty
    July 27, 2014

    My first reaction was that they seem to resemble x-rays of teeth

  8. Larry budd
    July 27, 2014

    And now you know what’s left on a body if it gets hit by a pitch. Like the Green Monster a body will keep the purple imprint only for a short while then be erased forever.

  9. Donald Murdock
    July 27, 2014

    Nice photos of an iconic tableau, but most sincere gratitude to Mr. Mellor for his brilliant insight. It is frequently those who operate “closest to the ground” who are most in touch with the nuance of our surroundings, the minutiae that actually creates quality of life. Millions see Mr. Gunther’s wonderful photos, but how many know every blade of grass, and the tiniest details of that Beautiful Wall. As has been said, “God is in the details”. Thanks again to both of you gentlemen.

  10. Ursa ~
    July 27, 2014

    This set of pictures brings back such wonderful memories (from theis West Coast Lady), of my road trip cross-country, and the very sweet Italian Bostonian gentleman who took me to Fenway Park to see Boston beat New York! What a wonderful memory: Johnny Damon (playing for the Red Sox), the carnival atmosphere, the Green Wall that I had heard so much about, and of course, going to a North Boston Italian restaurant for dinner. Every time I remember that afternoon, I start to talk like them, I have to cook something with Gahhhlic in it too.

  11. jerome sifford
    July 27, 2014

    yes,remember getting tickets from saving stop & shop grocery receipts when 10 years old in 1960 watching with my father as sammy white playing catcher

  12. Linda Peterson
    July 27, 2014

    I appreciated the novelty of this photo project and the reminder to look more intently at images all around us. I’d also mention that the author misspelled the word “led.” Lead is present tense.

  13. Mark W. Hawks, Architect / Photographer
    July 27, 2014

    In this case, myself like Gunther… this is reporting the Art Work. Could you ever imagine standing in the Batter’s Box and your Bat being the Brush and the Pitcher’s Ball being the Paint and the The Big Green Monster being the Canvas? Thank you David Mellor, Master Grounds Keeper for having the eye to see the details of all the Painters… and thanks Gunther for bringing it to us…!!! The Photographer, The Master Grounds Keeper, The Pitchers, The Batters, The Balls and The Wall…Awesome…Fenway, 102 years, thank you David Mellor for sharing… wow…

  14. Carol Morton
    July 27, 2014

    When I saw some of these telltale skid marks and slam marks close up on a ball field tour, I cringed for the scorekeepers barely protected by the thin plywood. These photos give me the opposite perspective, a whisper of the ghosts of games past.

  15. Drew Erickson
    July 27, 2014

    Our national past time will continue to provide artistic and athletic opportunities to capture, but the rare glimpses into the details of the game, as CJ Gunther has captured, will always delight the fans. Outstanding work highlighting one of baseball’s details.

  16. Calvin
    July 27, 2014

    So Mr. Gunther, how soon will I be able to purchase the coffee table book of your work at Fenway?

  17. Ron
    July 27, 2014

    Too bad that wall can’t be preserved every year and a new one put up. Would have been something to see where one of the greats may have left an imprint.

  18. Lee M, Pavao
    July 27, 2014

    This is wonderful Baseball & Red Sox Trivia History. I’ve been going to Fenway since I was about 8 years old. Every year my Dad would take my cousin and me to Fenway for Holiday Double Headers. We started when I was 8 until I entered College. I have been a Red Sox Fan since then and am now 80. I have taken my children to Fenway and they theirs. I remember the first time I took my sons to a game, one of my sons, age 10 at seeing the field, exclaimed “Gee, I can even hit a home run here”. Such optimism.

  19. Betty Patterson
    July 27, 2014

    Art appears in the rarest places! You just have to look around!

  20. RogerG
    July 27, 2014

    Fleeting beauty and life – so a hint of tragedy too in the capture. I especially like the marks that left their color traces! Kudos to CGJ and gratitude to groundskeeper Mellor for his insight!

  21. Gary Capen
    July 27, 2014

    A beautiful testimony to some of the eternal greats of baseball – thank you CJ Gunther

  22. Anya Royce
    July 27, 2014

    The combination of baseball, Fenway Park, and superb photography is certainly a home-run.

  23. jim mckinnis
    July 27, 2014

    I took my son on a baseball trip shortly after he turned a teenager. We went to the four ballparks remaining from my 13th year, Yankee Stadium, Fenway, Tiger Stadium and Wrigley, none of which either had ever visited. Fortuitously we attended the Boston landmark on the Fourth of July on a perfect afternoon for baseball, with Clemens pitching for the Sox. The Green Monster became part of the iconic memories, Dylan and I have shared since.

  24. Adrienne Auger – Gunther
    July 19, 2014

    Classic and well captured..

  25. suresh
    July 16, 2014

    Hi sir very good and am happy from this and good learn see this
    thank you

  26. Ginny Cooper
    July 16, 2014

    CJ Gunther’s work on the “green monster” is superb artistry…a picture is worth a thousand memories.

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