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Best Ballparks

OAFC BBS - All Topics: Archive: Best Ballparks
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By milo on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - 02:56 pm:

I haven't been to every ballpark, but have been to 15 or so...pretty much agree with his rankings. And if you haven't been to wrigley or fenway, you haven't truly experienced baseball..


By Paul Sullivan
Chicago Tribune staff reporter

April 21, 2003, 8:52 PM CDT


I duly concede nothing can beat Fred McGriff's ongoing quest to be the first player to hit a home run in 42 major-league ballparks.

It takes plenty of talent and a keen sense of self-importance to try so hard to become the answer to a trivia question.

But I'm afraid McGriff inadvertently has overshadowed my own quest to be the first sportswriter to eat junk food in every major-league park, an anti-Atkins odyssey that came to a conclusion last weekend at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

My checklist is now complete … at least until the new Philadelphia stadium opens next year. I've been to all 30 ballparks, in addition to 10 now-defunct ones. Growing up in a two-team town, going to a college halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo., and traveling with the Cubs and White Sox for the last decade or so, it sometimes seems that half of my life has been spent inside a stadium.

I've been lucky enough to get the opportunity to stick my head out of a scoreboard window at Wrigley Field, to kick the Phillie Phanatic at Veterans Stadium, to take a nap under the center-field flag pole at old Tiger Stadium, to scrawl my name inside the scoreboard under the Green Monster in Fenway Park, to get dangled by my feet over the left-field wall of Busch Stadium, to witness two Yankees stars duking it out in the clubhouse in Yankee Stadium and to slide into home during Disco Demolition at old Comiskey Park.

Just last week I caught my first foul ball at Wrigley Field, as eyewitness Felix Heredia of the Cincinnati Reds can attest. Being an aficionado of ballparks, as well as a compulsive-obsessive list-maker, I spent the flight back from Pittsburgh on Sunday ranking my favorite major-league parks from top to bottom.

I used the look, the view, the architecture, the food, the smell, the history, the ambience, the sounds, the fans, the comfort level and several other intangibles as my criteria.

In the end, it boiled down to one question: "In which ballpark would you most like to spend a day?" The answer is:

1. Wrigley Field: An obvious, but easy, choice. The ivy. The scoreboard. The bleachers. The brick wall behind home plate. The wells in the outfield. The view of the rooftops. Wrigley is a classic neighborhood ballpark like no other. Often imitated, never duplicated.

2. Fenway Park: So incredibly perfect that its charms are immune to the latest revenue-enhancing schemes of the current Red Sox owners, who recently placed $50 stool seats on top of the Green Monster. Might as well put the Mona Lisa in low-rise jeans.

3. Pacific Bell Park: Best of the retro ballparks, and privately financed to boot. McCovey's Cove is the nautical version of Waveland Avenue, and kids playing on the Whiffle Ball diamond in the left-field bleachers can watch themselves on their own Jumbotron. In the end, it's still about the kids.

4. Yankee Stadium: The mystique never wears off and public-address announcer Bob Sheppard is truly the voice of God. It's Valhalla come October when wrapped with bunting. But if old Comiskey had as many championship banners, it would have been just as revered as Yankee Stadium.

5. Camden Yards: Left-handed power hitters can take aim at a warehouse and not get arrested for vandalism. The distinct hickory smells from the barbecue grills on Eutaw Street waft throughout the ballpark, and the Orioles always look sharp in their home whites.

6. Dodger Stadium: Game's best view, especially when the hills are changing colors at sunset. Vin Scully's smooth voice can be heard on every car radio exiting the park during the seventh inning. Not to mention frequent "Squiggy" sightings for "Laverne and Shirley" fans.

7. Safeco Field: Have to love those hardy Mariners fans. They would rather freeze indoors with their coats on than shut the darn roof. Safeco provides a perfect complement of shade and sunlight during afternoon games, giving it a Wrigleyesque flavor.

8. PNC Park: The steel bridge and the vastly underrated Pittsburgh skyline make this one of the most aesthetically pleasing retros. It looks like Pittsburgh, unlike nearby eyesore Heinz Field, a retro football stadium with yellow seats.

9. Kauffman Field: An old favorite from my many excursions between 1977-79 to watch the South Side Hit Men play the Royals. Simple? Very. But also very open and relaxing. Like Santana, it's a '70s relic that's aging gracefully, and it has a Gates BBQ stand, too.

10. Coors Field: Can't beat those mountain vistas, but this artificially flavored home-run haven is becoming obsolete in the juice-free era. Too many slugfests rob Coors of its inner beauty, changing the essence of the ballpark experience.

11. Bank One Ballpark: The BOB is usually at its best on 75-degree afternoon games—or about twice a year. The swimming pool in right field has been ruined by the preening adults who inhabit it. Time to turn the pool over to the kids instead of the Botox crowd.

12. The Ballpark in Arlington: Nothing says Texas like a bunch of crazy fans diving headfirst onto the grassy knoll in center in search of a home-run ball. Best upper deck of the retros. The park as a whole is too big, but that's considered a good thing in Texas, where the state motto is "Supersize it."

13. Busch Stadium: Renovation has helped this once dull park look presentable, but a team with as much tradition and fan support deserves an eye-opening retro like Pac Bell or PNC Park. Will St. Louis blow it when the new one finally gets built? Let's hope not.

14. Minute Maid Park: Former Cub Kevin Tapani coined the term "Enroned" in 1999 for cheap home runs landing over the ridiculously short porch in left of the former Enron Field. By incorporating parts of many other ballparks, it's supposed to be the best of all worlds. Instead, it's forced and kind of tacky, like the choo-choo train in left.

15. Jacobs Field: A very functional retro that looked fine when it opened and was packed every game. But now that the novelty has worn off and the Indians are back to being the Indians, the Jake seems middle-of-the-road at best.

16. U.S. Cellular Park: Lower deck and bleachers provide a fine atmosphere, but upper deck is still a problem. Best food in the majors, and very kid friendly, in spite of its recent problems with Springer Nation rejects running onto the field.

17. Comerica Park: The Tigers owner abandoned a classic American ballpark to put a merry-go-round inside a food court, begetting the curse of Tiger Stadium. Detroit has tuned out Comerica Park and the lowly Tigers while crying over the sweep of the Red Wings.

18. Qualcomm Stadium: One of the last of the dwindling "bowls," outliving Three Rivers and Riverfront, but on its way out. The weather is always nice in San Diego, and on the rare occasions it's full, Qualcomm is probably the loudest of the '60s-era ballparks. Just ask the '84 Cubs.

19. Miller Park: As if the leaky roof wasn't bad enough, they decided not to move Bernie Brewers' chalet over from County Stadium, building him a new crib that looks like a glorified toll booth. Cheeseheads (no fools indeed) already are avoiding the Keg in droves.

20. Edison Field: Dennis Miller referred to the Edison rock formation in left-center as a miniature golf course on steroids. The Angels' Rally Monkey was once semi-funny, but then again, so was Jimmy Kimmel.

21. SkyDome: Once a must-see ballpark, it's famous now for having the game's loudest sound system, overwhelming one's baseball senses with music, commercials and sound effects. Post-modern, faux-chic and suddenly an anachronism.

22. Network Associates Coliseum: Like Jerry Reinsdorf and new Comiskey Park, Oakland Raiders chief Al Davis left his huge imprint on the renovation of the Coliseum, sticking a gaudy upper deck in the outfield. "Mt. Davis," as it's called, obscures the rolling hills that provided some much-needed scenery, forever dooming Oakland's already low self-esteem.

23. Great American Ball Park: Not so great after all. Cold, unoriginal and very, very red. It's officially the new "new Comiskey" now that the old new Comiskey has changed its name. Cincinnati had its chance, but dropped the ball, as usual.

24. Tropicana Field: Fake grass that looks real is the highlight of this domed monstrosity, which features a real team that looks fake in St. Petersburg.

25. Pro Player Stadium: Also known by its stage name, Rain Delay Stadium. This is baseball squeezed into a football stadium. Marlins fans still are obsessing over the quick break-up of the '97 champs, putting the blame squarely on Jerry Krause.

26. Turner Field: Yogi Bear and other cartoon characters vie for kids' attention with Atlanta's Chipper Jones and Gary Sheffield, in a sad case of AOL Time Warner synergy run amok. Hey Yogi, watch the game.

27. Metrodome: After being cooped up all winter in a tiny ice-fishing shelter, what clear-minded Minnesotan wants to spend a beautiful June night in the nation's ugliest dome? Public-address announcer Bob Casey is easily the most grating in sports, but more tolerable since "Chuck Knaaaaaa-blauch" was traded years ago.

28. Veterans Stadium: This will be the tearful final season for the Phillies in the Vet, a virtual clone of Three Rivers and an abomination for such a great sports town. Smells like one of Clay Dalrymple's old socks. A fitting epitaph: "Mike Schmidt Cried Here."

29. Olympic Stadium: Used to have a retractable roof. Now it houses a contractable team. Likely the last season for major-league baseball in Montreal, so it's au revoir to this second-rate domestrosity. Not to rub it in, but the Montreal Olympics weren't so hot either.

30. Shea Stadium: Shea is the dump de tutti dumps, and nothing is quite as annoying as hearing a jet fly overheard, drowning out natural ballpark sounds. When they eventually blow this place up, Ron Santo should get to push the button.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By rickhoneycutt on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - 03:24 pm:

My summary of the above rankings in a few spasms of thought:

Fenway is better than Wrigley. Dodger stadium too high, PNC too low. Minute Maid too high, Comerica too low. Cincinnati, ouch. And yes Shea really is that bad.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By okplayer on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - 04:34 pm:

Camden yards is bad-ass, the vet is also really that bad. Can't argue with his take on the Coli either. The Ed should be above Qualcom. I only disagree with the author's take on Dodger stadium...been there several times and it's way way overrated. Weather's nice but the facilities are pretty standard. Nice scenery but the smog neutralizes things. Also, re. Fenway, I didn't see a game there but walked through the stadium and wasn't overly impressed. The facilities were really old and dank. Guess I gotta see a game there though, to make a fair assessment.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By milo on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - 04:38 pm:

No way that fenway is better than wrigley, especially since they added those silly seats on the monster. Wrigley has the beautiful ivy, the rooftops, the friendly atmosphere..and there is no experience in baseball like the bleachers in wrigley.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By wbell on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - 05:07 pm:

I haven't been to all 30 stadiums, so I can't re-adjust the rankings completely. (My #1 is a tie between Camden and the Ballpark in Arlington.) But for some of those I have visited:

Fenway - Interesting, but a dump. Should be ranked no higher than 10.
Bank One Ballpark - All the charm and ambience of an airplane hanger. Should be rated much lower.
Turner Field - Should be rated much higher. Good design and a pleasant place to watch a game.
Jacobs Field - Too plain. Nothing special about it.
U.S. Cellular Field - Same problem as Jacobs Field, but I visited before the renovations.
Edison Field - A nice place and deserves a higher ranking.
Olympic Stadium - Actually, the place isn't that bad. Both the sightlines and atmosphere are good.
PNC Park - Except for being a touch small, it is a fantastic park. Great atmosphere and location.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By diamond_lil on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - 05:08 pm:

I think Jacobs Field should be way up in front of at least Safeco Field. The fact that the Indians are not doing well and the honeymoon with the team is over has nothing to do with the ballpark itself.

And I think the inside of PacBell Park is WAY over-rated. Yeah, the outside brick building and setting is great...the view is magnificant, but many aspects of the ballpark itself is not good at all. The outfield upper decks have completely obstructed views of the field and the hallways are narrow and with very poor circulation for fans.

I don't think the Coliseum is as bad as people make it out to be...I personally prefer the view of the four WS flags than the view of the Oakland hills or the bay for that matter. The problem with the Coli is that 60K is not a baseball ideal size for baseball and it becomes very difficult to get the feel of a packed house with 20K seats empty most of the year.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By okplayer on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - 06:47 pm:

wb,
whew, so I'm not the only one that thinks Fenway's so-so and that the Ed's not so bad.

lil,
I don't think the Coli's bad at all. Mt. Davis is just too imposing. What I never understood is why they didn't just extend the upper deck all the way around rather than plop that monstrosity out there in CF.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By bleacherdave on Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - 07:30 pm:

As the author points out, the biggest problem with the 'Net is Oakland's lack of self-esteem. I, too, think the 'Ed should be higher. Very pleasant park. Pac Bell is an absolute jewel from a seat down the 1B line with a view of Angel Island and the Cove. Wrigley made me shed a tear - holy baseball ground. Got to get to Kauffman, it gets surprisingly good views all the way around....

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By gregorymark on Wednesday, April 23, 2003 - 08:58 am:

I get sick of the comment that Mt. Davis took away the view of the Oakland hills. For crying out loud, do fans show up to look at the hills? Frankly, the view of San Francisco from the top of Mt. Davis is a better view!

And I would take Pac Bell Park down a couple of notches on the Top 30 list. It may be a nice park, but when one goes there, they have to watch the Giants, afterall.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By kevink on Wednesday, April 23, 2003 - 09:14 am:

The writer got 1 thing wrong- the Voice of God is our own Roy Steele- not the Yankees announcer!

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By yc2578 on Wednesday, April 23, 2003 - 01:13 pm:

I can't believe anyone would actually defend Mt. Davis. Its a total eye sore and looks completely out of place with the rest of the stadium and with all the extra seats it made the Coliseum a lot less intiment. Before Mt. Davis (and well before a lot of new ballparks obviously) the Coliseum was actually considered one of the better ballparks out there and definently the best of the ugly multi-purpose stadiums. I'll take the old bleachers and the giant manual scoreboard anyday of the week over Mt. Davis.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By linusalf on Wednesday, April 23, 2003 - 01:34 pm:

A couple of things about the new parks.

1)A common misconception is that they are a sharp contrast to the cookie-cutter parks of the 60's and 70's, when in fact they can be just as cookie cuttter. Pretty much all of the seating not in the OF looks almost the same in every single park. From foul pole to foul pole in the First, Second and 3rd decks at Pac Bell, Coors, Minute Maid, Safeco, Camden yards, Miller Park, and even the renovations at Anahiem Stadium are EXACTLY the same. For example after sept 11 the chronicle had a picture of a ball park that was empty and my first reaction was that it was pac bell. However on closer examination (and reading the caption) i realized that it was not pac bell but enron. some uniquness. Another thing that makes these all cookie cutter is the brick facades are pretty much dupicated in every retro park. Camden yards, coors, enron and pac bell all preatty much have the same brick facade. Borring.

2)Whats wrong with symetrical? THe thing about these parks is that they are phony asymetical. I realize the older parks like fenway are not symetrical at all but there is a reason for this. There is no reason why the LF fence at Jacobs has to be so high, or that certian parks need to be asymetrical because thats how the older parks were. The only reason why the older parks were like that is because the only land available to build a ballpark was often misshaped and accomidations had to be made for houses, streets ect. Fenway park never had with the monster until shopkeepers began complaining about the number of balls hitting their store fronts. Pleanty of older parks were fairly semetrical such as Shibe Park and the Polo Grounds. And ebbets feild was symetrical until they wanted to expand it and build the double deck bleachers in LF and having to bring the LF fence in to accomdate the extra seats.

3)Coors Field was NOT designed as a hittters park. in fact its dementions have more in common with pitcher parks like Turner Field, Safeco and Comerica. THe problem is that its in Colorado and any park (unless it was a climate controled dome) in that state will be a hitters park becuase of the high altitude. Pac Bell on the other hand has dementions more like a hitters park but also because of the wind patterns off the bay its more of a pitchers park.

I also think that pac bell is over rated. Its high number of ramps, cramped concorses, and poor fan movement around the park dont remind me more of Veterans Stadium and Candlestick Park than any classic park. THe view is nice but thats all.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By sactodavey on Wednesday, April 23, 2003 - 02:33 pm:

good point in the few time i have been to pacbell
i hated the fact it was discrimitory in the point of the 2nd deck was not accsessable to fans who did not have the tix for those sections, so one who wanted to eat in the specialty food restauants there in the inside of the second deck could not, but all of the nets fine food venues along wth the west side club are for everyone,can you imagine if only those with the club seats could only go to the west side club? this is what pac bell does and it is not right.

the Coliseum has great food venues that are one equel to the pac and they are for everyone, all the renovatons except that mount raider have made the net greatplace for baseball.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By rickhoneycutt on Wednesday, April 23, 2003 - 05:19 pm:

I still like Fenway better than Wrigley, but good point about the seats over the monster. Terrible, terrible, terrible.

Someone mentioned Jacobs field and I thought I'd throw out my two cents. I went last summer and it was very mediocre. While I like when the ballparks are right in the middle of downtown there were like five thousand rows of luxury suites and the second deck felt steeper than Mt. Davis and the view was just as bad. And yes I was too cheap to go for the good seats.

Saw ray durham play the indians when he was on the white sox that day too. Who knew?

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By okplayer on Wednesday, April 23, 2003 - 08:05 pm:

linu, true dat about Coors field;..it's the air. In fact, if you guys recall, guys on the Denver Zephyers (SP?) AAA team (For Milwaukee) back in the day used to put up sick #s...and I always thought it was b/c the Brewers had such good prospects. wasn't the case.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By kevink on Thursday, April 24, 2003 - 09:48 am:

You're right okplayer. Joey Meyer had some ridiculous record for that Denver team, had like 50 HRs one year. I thought he was the next Babe Ruth, but I don't think he ever made it to the bigs!

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By okplayer on Thursday, April 24, 2003 - 10:45 am:

kevink,
how funny, I remember looking at baseball america or whatever and saw these guys named John Jaha and Dave Nillson and both were hitting like .380 and I started telling my friends about these great prospects for the Brewers...thought they were the second coming...they weren't.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By okplayer on Thursday, April 24, 2003 - 10:47 am:

Kevink,
Actually Joey Meyer made it to the bigs and hit like 15-16 bombs in 1988. Guy must have weighed about 280 lbs. Never really heard about him after that, though.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By kevink on Thursday, April 24, 2003 - 01:26 pm:

Thanks okp, I feel better about my Babe Ruth 2nd coming predictions now. :)


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