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How the Titanic Disaster Usurped JFK's Grandfather

100 Years ago, the legendary sinking of luxury liner Titanic overshadowed the grand opening of Boston’s Fenway Park. JFK‘s grandfather, John Fitzgerald, threw out the ceremonial first pitch as mayor of Boston.

Boston’s Fenway Park is now regarded as a national treasure, but its grand opening on April 20, 1912, took place with muffled fanfare.

Fenway Park

Although the Red Sox were moving into a ballpark that was considered state-of-the-art at the time, public interest was diverted by ongoing news coverage of the sinking of the behemoth Titanic, which happened on its maiden voyage in the early morning hours of Monday, April 15, 1912.


Bad weather also lessened interest in the Red Sox home opener. Originally scheduled for a Wednesday, April 17, the game had to be postponed three times because of rain.

When the Sox finally did get to play the New York Highlanders (renamed the New York Yankees the following year), pre-game festivities included the ceremonial first pitch, featuring Boston’s mayor, John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald. Decades later, the mayor’s grandson, John F. Kennedy, would become the 35th president of the United States.

Fitzgerald was elected to Boston’s Common Council in 1891. In 1892, he became a member of the Massachusetts Senate, and in 1894, he was elected to Congress for the 9th district, serving from 1895 to 1901. In 1906, Fitzgerald was elected Mayor of Boston, becoming the first American-born Irish-Catholic to be elected to that office. Fitzgerald served as mayor of Boston from 1906 to 1908, was defeated for re-election, but returned to the office again from 1910 to 1914.

Of his stylish manner, a historian wrote: “He was a natural politician—a charming, impish, affable lover of people . . . His warmth of character earned him yet another nickname, ‘Honey Fitz.’ . . . His gift of gab became known as Fitzblarney.”

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was honored with the name of his grandfather, John Fitzgerald.

John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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