Tag Archives: california ballparks

Qualcomm Stadium


From the “Ballparks of Baseball” website. Used by permission.

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA

Number of games:  2
First game:  July 31, 2000 (Padres 4, Phillies 1)
Last game:  August 1, 2000 (Padres 10, Phillies 9, 10 innings)

Qualcomm Stadium is no longer in use for baseball as of the 2004 season.

I never knew why the Padres were called the Padres until I got to San Diego and visited the Mission there (recommended) a few hours before my first game at Qualcomm.  Duh!  The ballpark is in the Mission District!  So it’s not that they believed that priests were somehow intimidating (although I’ve known a few who are), it’s more a local historical nickname, which I think are the best kind.

Qualcomm–this name is an abomination.  It is especially offensive in light of the switch from Jack Murphy Stadium, named from the sportswriter who lobbied so hard to bring pro sports to San Diego…and yes, I know it’s “Qualcomm Stadium at Jack Murphy Field,” but that seems to be a weak and lefthanded tribute to Murphy, which actually makes it worse.

The stadium, however, was a pleasant surprise.  Given that it’s a multipurpose stadium of the era of Busch, Riverfront, Three Rivers and the Vet, I was expecting it to be bland and boring.  While it faces some of the problems of multipurpose stadiums (namely the expanses of empty upper-deck seats), it wasn’t nearly as charmless as all of those.  I like the grass, I like the warm dry air, I like the huge out-of-town scoreboard in right field, and I like the immediacy and doggedness with which they report pitch speed and type of pitch on the left field wall.  I especially like the good-looking laid-back fans who show a lot of skin because it’s so warm in Southern California–it was a fine place to kick off the 2000 Erotic Love And Baseball Stadium West Coast Swing (which was, alas, completely devoid of erotic love).  In short, I guess I like San Diego and its ballpark.

Only one guy talked to me during the games, teasing me about my Mariners hat.  He said, after a highlight video between innings:  “Dude!  [Okay, maybe he didn’t say dude.]  There weren’t any Mariners in those great plays.”  I said “Stan Javier was in there.  He’s the guy who made that juggling catch at the outfield wall.  If you’re going to make fun of me, that’s fine, but you’re going to have to get your facts right.”  His response.  “Okay.  Game on!”  I waited for him to challenge me again, but he obviously knew he was in over his head.  He never spoke to me again.

Before game one, I committed an absolute atrocity.  I was lingering in right field, trying my luck in getting a batting practice ball.  The right field pavilion is a good 20-25 feet above the ground, so players cannot hand kids balls (the best technique in getting kids a ball…adults too often muscle kids aside to get thrown balls).  Anyway, I’m there waiting when Randy Wolf arcs a ball our way.  I settle under it, reach up with my 6’3″ body and freakishly long arms, and I’ll be damned, I caught a real-live major league baseball! I felt good about myself for about three-tenths of a second until I looked behind me and saw the 12-year-old I was standing in front of.

Here’s where my mind started to go haywire.  I instantly felt a strong wave of Catholic guilt for stepping in front of him…and this on the day I visited the Mission!…and in my mind, I heard:  “you should give the kid the ball…you were far taller and in front of him.” As I was thinking this, a group of bitchy junior high girls standing in front of me, between me and Randy Wolf, girls who don’t even have gloves, said “He was throwing us the ball!  Give us the ball!  He was throwing us the ball!” Something about the combination of these two factors–the mind saying “give the kid the ball” and the girls saying “give us the ball” led to the worst possible outcome.  I gave the girls the ball.  I should have either kept the ball  (it’s not like I bumped the kid aside or reached over him, I was in front of him all along, and there’s no way Randy had an intended receiver so far away) or else given it to the short kid I inadvertently blocked out.  I did neither.  And the stupid girls didn’t even thank me.  I should have ripped the damn thing back from them.  Won’t make that mistake again.  But yes…I caught a ball.


The Phillies and Padres were both bad teams in 2000, but I saw two good games…

I saw Woody Williams battle Bruce Chen in quite a pitchers’ duel…Woody had a 3-hit shutout until Pat Burrell homered with two out in the 8th.

The 10-9 game was amazing.  The Pads took a 9-1 lead through 6 innings…then blew it before winning in the 10th.  I don’t have a Padre record book handy (indeed, or at all), but I wonder if that’s the biggest lead they’ve ever blown…or does it count as a blown lead if you win anyway?

John Mabry homered in his first at-bat for the Padres after being traded from Seattle the night before.

Trevor Hoffman took the mound with a 9-7 lead for the 9th…it really is cool when they play “Hell’s Bells” as he comes in…got two outs, then gave up back-to-back homers to Scott Rolen and Burrell to blow the save.  The crowd couldn’t believe it. Neither could I.

(Written August 2001.  Revised July 2005.)

Oakland County Coliseum/McAfee Coliseum/O.co Coliseum

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum/McAfee Coliseum, Oakland, CA

Number of Games:  3
First game:  September 16, 1995 (A’s 6, Twins 1)
Most recent game:  July 4, 2011 (Mariners 2, A’s 1)

Oakland County Coliseum was temporarily renamed Network Associates Coliseum.  As of the 2005 season (and for my second visit in 2006), it was called McAfee Coliseum.  In 2011, as of my third visit, the name had changed to the o.co Coliseum. It has now reverted to the original name of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

(Click on any image to see a full-sized version.)

They were in the midst of remodeling Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum when I was there, so my concerns may have been alleviated, but I still have a couple of complaints about the stadium.  First–and this is a problem in quite a few two-sport stadiums–there is so much foul territory that, no matter where you’re sitting, you’re about a mile and a half from the play.  I thought the grade in the lower deck was so gradual that I felt even farther back than the foul territory originally made it seem.  The place was more or less charmless–again, the construction dust may have added to that.  And maybe there was a problem with me watching two teams that were out of the playoff hunt in mid-September.  But I don’t have too much of a positive impression of this stadium.  I wasn’t able to go back there on my 2000 West Coast Swing.  Maybe sometime down the road, when I next visit friends in the Bay Area, I’ll get a chance to return and will

find it more to my liking.

Good old Kristina, longtime friend and sometime crush (I never told her so…until now, of course) lugged me around the Bay Area for an entire wedding weekend, and accompanied me to the ballgame on top of everything else. She was a trooper.  At the ballgame, she scored for me while I bought her a hot dog…but there was something bad in the hot dog, and Kristina got sick.  Damn that Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum!  They made Kristina sick!  Anyhow, she has since married, and she, her husband, and their new baby daughter live in Sacramento.  We remain in sporadic touch…she and her husband even volunteered to host me on my last baseball trip.  So that’s what I remember Oakland for–we were far away from the game, I was hanging out with a good friend, and she got sick from a hot dog.  Not the greatest ballpark experience in history.

I missed Oakland on my West Coast Tour 2000…I was due to stay with Kristina and her husband, but an sudden, severe illness in her family prevented that, and I truncated the trip instead of spending many dollars I didn’t have on a stadium hotel.  Bless her heart, Kristina still offered to let me to stay with her.  “I’ll be at the hospital a lot, but my husband and I really want to see you…”  Next time, Kristina.  The three of us will go to the ballpark together.  I’ll even sneak in our own food.

REVISIT 2006: I made it back to Oakland’s ballpark with my wife and my buddy Rob in 2006.  When I wrote the above, I wrote it in 2001, recalling a 1995 game.  I now can give a better review–the construction was finished and the ballpark is fresh in my mind.  The ballpark has the same problems as most dual-purpose stadiums…massive expanses of unused

seats and large amounts of foul ground.  My recollection that the stands’ slope felt gradual was reinforced on this visit:  even in the front row of the second deck, I felt very, very far away from the action.  The players looked smaller than they do at most other ballparks.  The team made the wise decision to close off the third deck in 2006, which enables them to cover it with decorations, retired numbers, and World Series title commemorations.  This closure makes the concourses a hotbed of activity, since literally all of the spectators are shoe-horned into one concourse, which winds about 270 degrees around the ballpark.

The funny thing is that these old, unfortunate characteristics–the concrete slabs above the concourses, the vacant upper decks, the possibility of a lousy seat–have become the new retro in stadiums.

The good aspects of old ballparks (Tiger Stadium, Wrigley Field, and even Fenway Park) have been imitated in the new wave ballparks (more or less anything built in the 1990s).  There aren’t many of the 1970s multipurpose ballparks still in use:  this one, Shea, Skydome/Rogers Centre (to an extent), and the Metrodome (for a few more years, anyway).  None of these are great ballparks, but none of them are modern carnival/theme parks, either…baseball is central here.  The old crappy and dull has become the new retro, and it’s fun to get to a ballpark like this while we still can, to enjoy a lousy seat, less-frequent horrible promotions, and even the kitschy-retro dot races instead of the whatever-can-be-sponsored-locally races on the ballpark screens at so many other ballparks.  It’s not a great ballpark, but I’m glad I went back, and I’ll do it again if I have the chance.


Mark McGwire homered in the 1995 game.

In 2006, I saw one of the most dramatic pitching performances I’ve ever seen.  The Diamondbacks’ Miguel Batista threw 6 2/3 innings of a perfect game.  The game remained scoreless through 6 before Arizona blew it open with 6 runs in the top of the seventh.  This meant there was no doubt as to the outcome of the game, but that there was a lot of drama as to whether Batista could get nine more outs consecutively.  He retired the Jason Kendall to lead off the seventh.  Then, second baseman Orlando Hudson made an absolutely incredible stop on a grounder up the middle to retire Mark Kotsay for the second out.  I whooped with glee.  About 50% of the Oakland fans–they’re hard-core, remember–were cheering, but I got a few major glares from A’s fans.  Would that great play propel Batista the rest of the way?  No.  He walked the next batter on four pitches, and then surrendered a huge home run to Frank Thomas to surrender the no-hitter and the shutout.  Batista finished with a three-hitter, and in the process gave me one of my biggest ballpark thrills…the deepest a player has ever taken a no-hitter in my presence, just beating out Roger Clemens’s one-hit gem in the ALCS at Safeco Field in 2000.

Another big pitching duel highlighted my family’s July 4th visit to the newly-named O.co Coliseum in 2012.  Mariner Michael Pineda got the best of Oakland’s Brandon McCarthy, combining with two relievers on a 3-hitter.  Josh Bard’s 6th-inning homer tied it and Justin Smoak’s 7th-inning double won it.  (Smoak is pictured up in the body of the entry, fouling off a second-inning pitch from McCarthy). The highlight of the day might be this photo of my elder son, which might be the greatest image in recorded history:

(Written August 2001.  Most recently updated March 2012.)

Anaheim Stadium/Edison Field


From the Great Major League Baseball Trip 2000 Website. Used by permission.

Anaheim Stadium/Edison Field, Anaheim, CA

Number of Games: 2
First game:  July 30, 1993 (Angels 4, Twins 2)
Most Recent Game:  August 2, 2000 (Tigers 4, Twins 3)

Stadium was called Anaheim Stadium for my first visit, Edison Field for the second.  As of the 2004 season, the stadium is called Angels Stadium of Anaheim.

There is hope for multipurpose cookie-cutter stadiums!  Both Edison and Busch were once boring combination football/baseball facilities.  Both had their football teams high-tail it out of town, and both reorganized into baseball-only facilities.  And at least Anaheim always had the sense to have natural grass.  It is now a fairly nice place to watch a baseball game on the West Coast.

If you’re really lucky, like my friend Chris and I were on my first visit, you might even get in for free.  You just have to time your visit perfectly and arrive in the midst of a marital spat.  Chris and I fought god-awful traffic for about a million miles on our way down, and had circumnavigated the stadium on foot in our effort to find the ticket booth.  As we were finally approaching, some exasperated man came up to us.  “Are you guys looking for two tickets?”  We barely had a chance to nod.  “Here are two.  Just TAKE them.  I don’t care.  Just take the damn things.”  Before we could thank him, he’d thrusted them into Chris’s hands and was walking away to harangue his wife.  We hadn’t even figured out what was going on enough to offer to buy him a beer or whatever.  He was long gone (like his marriage, I bet).  That’s how Chris and I wound up sitting about 15 rows behind first base for free.  Try it sometime…just walk near married couples having awful fights outside the ticket booth.

Seats that close can be dangerous, though.  It was at that game I saw the worst injury I’ve ever seen at a baseball game–and it was to a spectator.  It was the ninth inning, and a woman, 50-60-ish, was getting her stuff to leave (always a bad mistake…NEVER leave early, I say).  Just then, some Twin smacked a wicked line drive up the first base line.  As the ball came, she was leaning over to pick up her purse, and the ball, surely traveling at least 80 miles an hour, got her right on top of the head.  I’m sure it knocked her unconscious.  Stadium security worked on her for most of the inning…at which point the poor, barely-revived woman had to be walked up the aisle past everybody so we could get a good look at her.  We applauded as she passed.  I wonder if that made her head hurt more.

Anyway, the stadium was decent, nothing special in 1993…and by the time I got back there for its baseball-only incarnation in 2000, it was a bit better.  Not as nice as Coors or Pacific Bell, to be sure, but nicer than it was.  It doesn’t quite pass my test of true ballpark greatness, which is to say that it should be obvious, just from sitting inside the park, where in the United States or Canada you are.  The Disney/Angels folks put in those red rocks out past center field.  They’re pretty, sure, but what do they have to do with Southern California?  How about a beach volleyball pit out there?  That way, the L.A. people who go to the game to see and be seen don’t have to take up any space in their seats, and bored spectators can aim their binoculars at the gorgeous people in swimsuits out past center field.  They could also have tables with umbrellas where you could get sit with your drink.  Now, to me, that would be something to look at.  On SportsCenter…somebody hits a home run…and past center field, you see sand and umbrellas, abs and bikinis?  Where else could it be but Southern California?

If you’re looking for a batting-practice home run, park yourself in the right field corner.  It was a hot day game when I was there, but if you have a glove, you can catch one on the fly or clamber for one in the seats.  I just don’t have the killer instinct, I guess…I was second man in for three home run balls.  Plus, nice pitchers will toss balls to kids in the front row.  Or, better, hand them to them.  Like Doug Brocail of the Detroit Tigers…he walked right up to the kids screaming for baseballs, plopped one right it a kid’s glove, took his pen, and signed it.  Then he signed autographs for about 10-15 minutes in the 90+ degree heat when he could have been cooling off in the clubhouse.  I will cheer for Doug Brocail anytime I see him anywhere from now on…he made some random kids in L.A. happy.

Not that everyone was happy. The elderly lady on a trip from her senior center was fun to talk to because she was so damn angry at her Angels and Ken Hill, but nice to me (although I didn’t tell her I was a Mariner fan eager to see another Angels fold in progress).

So, the ballpark isn’t terribly special, but I enjoyed going there and appreciated the efforts at change.  It is, after all, a ballpark, and I’ll take that over Disneyland every day of the week.


Nothing too great.  Bobby Higginson homered.  Kirby Puckett scored a couple of times and stole a base.

(Written August 2001.  Updated July 2005.)

Dodger Stadium


from "Ballparks of Baseball" website. Used by permission.

Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, CA

Number of Games:  3
First Game:  July 5, 1992 (Phillies 9, Dodgers 3)
Most Recent Game:  August 5, 2000 (Brewers 4, Dodgers 2)

Quick–what are the oldest stadiums currently in use in the majors?  The first two are easy–even a non-fan could name Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, of course.  And then there’s Yankee Stadium, although it’s been completely remodeled and changed to the point where it doesn’t feel old (edit 2009:  well, now its nonexistence gets in the way…).   What’s the next oldest stadium in the majors?  The answer might surprise you.  It’s Dodger Stadium, and it’s an absolutely fine place to watch a baseball game.

I hate L.A.  Absolutely endless freeways all leading to the same strip malls, and I’m sure those mountains are beautiful, but when will anyone ever get a chance to really see them?  It’s an exaggeration to say that all of the fans are laid back to a fault, arriving late and leaving early, but that element is certainly there.  (Next time you see footage of Kirk Gibson hitting his game-winning homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, cast your eyes above the right-field stands and into the parking lot.  That’s right–you’ll see brake lights of at least two cars leaving early! World Series, home team down by one, bottom of the ninth, and people are leaving!)  But once I’m in Dodger Stadium…with those wonderful multiple decks, with virtually all seats very good seats…well, I find myself as enveloped in baseball as I am anywhere.

The park passes the is-there-any-question-where-you-are test, meaning that while sitting in the ballpark, there’s no question that you’re in Southern California.  I especially like the HOLLYWOOD-like sign on the hill beyond the outfield wall…it reads “THINK BLUE.”  The fans that stick around–the ones I talk to–are affable, knowledgeable, and loyal.  There is ample food easily obtained.  And I was there for two only-at-Dodger-Stadium promotions.

In 1993, I was lucky enough to catch old-timers’ day.  Saw every Dodger hall-of-famer you could think of.  Tommy Lasorda played.  The 1993 Lasorda was a somewhat svelte version, but it was still something to watch him run around the bases.  He scored from second on a single, diving into home with a head-first slide.  This was indeed an interesting and comical thing to see.  When the groundskeeper saw Lasorda diving on his way home, surely he worried that he wouldn’t be able to fix up the damage before game time.  On the scoreboard–Dodgers against Dodgers.  And every batter that reached base–no matter how egregious a fielding miscue got him there–was awarded a base hit.  And I can say something not too many people of my generation can say–I saw Don Drysdale pitch.  Yeah, it was an old-timers’ game, but I did see him pitch.

I enjoyed that game about six weeks after I graduated from college, as I was undergoing crash teacher-training in preparation for being a sixth-grade teacher for two years in rural Louisiana.  Laurie, a new attractive female friend (now attending graduate school in educational administration at Harvard), joined me, and didn’t complain when we took three buses about a thousand miles to get to Dodger Stadium.

Seven years later, I returned as a part of the Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour–West Coast Swing.  Saw games on consecutive nights as I tried (and failed) to secure a tryout for a game show.  This time, I enjoyed Hollywood Stars Night.  I arrived two hours early in a too-hot L.A. early evening to see Hollywood Stars play ball.  Let’s just say that the Dodgers’ definition of a “star” differs a little bit from mine.  When the first player they introduced was the voice of the Taco Bell Chihuahua, I knew I wouldn’t exactly be seeing a battery of Neve Campbell and Reese Witherspoon, with Nicole Kidman batting (well, I’d continue to see that in my mind).  Nope.  My favorite actor in the bunch, Gordon Clapp, struck out.  Tony Danza pitched against Corbin Bernsen.  Adam Corrolla and Dr. Drew Pinsky each played.  And Lisa Guerrero, then the obligatory babe on the Fox Sports game show at the time, did an amazingly stupid gag.  She grounded to the pitcher, but ran to third instead of first.  The pitcher threw to first, and the third-base umpire ruled her safe.  Ha ha, how funny, the umpire let the gorgeous silicon-laden babe be safe.  It was awfully stupid, and there wasn’t anyone on the field who was more than a C- or D-list star.  But still, it was an Only In Hollywood kind of moment, where being the voice of a popular fast-food spokesdog will let you play where Koufax and Drysdale once played.

I was stoked to see Kevin Brown pitch, and Kerry, my longtime friend whom I sorta have a past with, is almost as obsessed with Kevin Brown as she is with Mike Sweeney.  (She leads our fantasy league in harassment suits and restraining orders.)  So I called her from the stadium, got her machine, and said “This is Kevin Brown.  I know I’m pitching in a few minutes, but I can’t get you out of my mind.  So tonight, I’m going to go out and pitch a shutout FOR YOU.  It’s FOR YOU.”  And he almost did.  It would have been unbearably cool if I’d actually foreshadowed a shutout for Kerry.  She got a cute miniature teddy bear with Kevin Brown’s number on the back.  That’s actually not a bad souvenir for ten bucks–I recommend it.  They’re on sale for many different players in many different parks.

The people were incredibly nice.  The first night I was there for my ELABST West Coast Swing, a woman did something I’ll never forget.  She saw me scoring the game, and said “You must really be quite a Dodger fan!”  I explained that I wasn’t, explained that I was touring the West Coast stadiums, and she asked a few questions.  Four or five innings later, she asked if I planned on going to Oakland County Coliseum.  I did (although it didn’t pan out–I ran out of money, and a friend’s free accommodations fell through at the last minute).  Right there on the spot, she pulled out her cell phone.  “I have a sister who works at the stadium…maybe I can get you a behind-the-scenes tour before your game.”  Amazing!  She didn’t have to do that.  I could have been an axe murderer.  But she chose to be kind to a passing traveler.  Although she didn’t reach her sister, I am highly grateful that she would take that chance.  The family behind me the next night was just as nice and just as talkative.  So thumbs up to the people of L.A., who were kind to me on consecutive nights.  I’m so grateful to them, that if I could, I’d send them the money to move to Seattle or Denver or somewhere where they actually could see the beautiful mountains they live next to.


Mike Williams gets his first career win in his second career start.

Eric Karros homers.

An awesome pitchers’ duel between Kevin Brown and Paul Rigdon, won on a tenth-inning homer by the Brewers’ Henri Blanco.

(Originally written August 2001.  Last updated July 2009.)