Category Archives: major league team

Ballparks categorized by the major league teams that use them.

Great American Ball Park

Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, OH

Number of games:  1
First game:  August 1, 2006 (Dodgers 10, Reds 4)

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

Man, does I ever love me a baseball museum, especially one that is local in scope and attached to a stadium.  I love

getting prepped for a night of baseball by immersing myself in baseball history, as one is able to do in Texas and in Atlanta.  If you’re like me, when you visit Great American Ball Park, you’re going to want to get there early.  The Reds museum is worth a couple of hours of your time.

I’m not really a Reds fan, but you can’t argue against their history.  Pro baseball began in Cincinnati, after all, in 1869–and the museum accounts for pretty much all of the key moments since then.  While I was there, the highlighted exhibit focused on the World Championship team of 1919…yeah, the other team in that World Series.  How much would it suck to win a championship and always be

remembered for having the other team lose it?  I’d never really thought of that until seeing the story from the Reds’ perspective in the museum. Speaking of gamblers, the museum has a fine way of commemorating Pete Rose’s 4,256 hits:  they have 4,256 baseballs displayed against a wall…about 10-15 yards across and four stories high, behind a staircase and a glass wall.  Quite lovely.  Tributes to past ballparks, past teams, and the best moments in Reds history are there.  My favorite highlights are reproduced here:  a scorecard from Tom Browning’s perfect game, lots of statues, including this one of Sparky Anderson, the pennant from the 1981 team which was denied the postseason during the strike-interrupted year, and the Reds Hall of Fame, where they honor pretty-good-but-not-really-great players from the team’s past.  Every team should have a place to honor its Mario Sotos.

The ballpark itself, I’m afraid, doesn’t live up to the experience of the museum. I do like its location right on the river and the fact that, unlike at Riverfront Stadium (on which GABP, for all its faults, is still an improvement), one can actually see the river from the upper deck. And the history I so enjoyed in the museum appears in the ballpark proper as well,

with sculptures, murals, and even a scoreboard feature of “past Reds to wear this number.”  (Ed Armbrister got a ballpark mention this way.)  But in the final analysis, there was just too much kitsch and too many stinking amenities.  The ballpark simply tries too hard.

I mean, the notion that the ballpark looks like a steamboat from the outside is sort of cute, I guess, but is entirely unnecessary.  Seriously:  isn’t a ballpark beautiful because it is a ballpark?  Why bother trying to make it impressive looking with this sort of extra effort?  It’s like too much makeup on a beautiful woman–it leaves

me wanting less. Also, from my seat, I looked down into a spot sponsored by a furniture store where the mucky-mucks could sit on cushy furniture and not watch the game.  I wanted to mark up that leather sofa with cotton candy.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the baseball is secondary at GABP: it certainly beats abominations like Detroit (with its amusement park rides) and Houston (with its damn stock quotes).  Still, I felt there was too much effort to distract.  All the distraction I need is in the river, with the barges and speedboats passing by.  I didn’t need more.  Even what the ballpark did well–like have lineups displayed on the concourse, minor-league style–had flaws (like the misspelling of Wilson Betemit’s name).

Longtime friends and fantasy baseball rivals Joe and Alison joined me for the game.  The live in rural Central Ohio…about a 3-hour haul from

Cincinnati.  Alison is a lifelong Tribe fan; Joe is partial to the Nationals.  But both did me the honor of joining me for this one, and even headed across to PNC Park the next night.  Add to that the playoff ballgame in Cleveland in ’01, and you have among the league leaders in Seeing Major League Ballparks With Paul.  (First place is still my dad, but my wife is catching up fast!)  Needless to say, a fine time was had by all of us.  We headed up high into the upper deck…the better to have silly conversations without worrying about being overheard.  The topics of those silly conversations?  Well, they’re lost to history–I seem to remember trying to figure out what industries still use barges along the Ohio–but I do know I’m grateful to have friends that are willing and able to decimate a week driving all over Ohio to hang at ballgames with me, and also willing to lug me back to their place for lodging.  Appreciated as always, folks.  I’d love to return the favor for you and your family whenever you get to the West Coast.

So, in the end, the ballpark is somewhere in the middle–or a hair below it–when compared with its contemporaries.  Nonetheless, the quality hardly mattered to me.  The museum was fantastic, and the friends even better.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The Dodgers win a key wildcard matchup.  Wilson Betemit channels his obvious anger at his misspelled name into a 2-run homer, and Rafael Furcal knocks in four runs.

Adam Dunn and David Ross homer for the Reds.

In the first game after the 2006 trade deadline, I see Julio Lugo make his debut for the Dodgers, and Rheal Cormier and Kyle Lohse for the Reds.

(Written August 2006.)

PETCO Park

PETCO Park, San Diego, CA

Number of games:  1
First game:  April 5, 2006 (Giants 3, Padres 1)

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Oh it never rains in Southern California/But it pours/Man, it pours.

The last time the San Diego Padres had been rained out at home was in April of 1998.  Somebody powerful obviously knew, however, that I was returning to

San Diego to check out the new ballpark, because on April 4, 2006, I flew over a thousand miles to check out a ballgame.  So, of course, it was inevitable that I’d head to the ballpark for the first rainout in PETCO Park history and the first in San Diego in eight years.  Unbelievable.  And to add insult to injury, I had that damn song in my head for 48 hours.  (Now I bet you will too).

Part of me was upset.  I’m from Seattle, and we picnic in the little drizzle that was coming down that day.  Sure, it’s cold.  Sure it’s a little wet.  Play ball!  They’re playing it as nearby as Los Angeles…let’s just play ball.  The Padres felt otherwise, and rescheduled the game for July.  I wasn’t going to be in San Diego in July, and when they announced that my ticket could either be redeemed for the July game or exchanged for any other Padres game that year, I figured

I was out thirty bucks.  Not so.  When I went to the very kind ticket people and told them I was from out of town, they told me that if I visited the Padres’ website, I could get a refund.  I was surprised by this…I’m not sure all teams would have such a generous policy.

I felt like Charlie Brown, with a rain cloud hanging over me.  It was a gorgeous April day in Seattle while I sat in the cold and wet on my vacation in San Diego.  There is also precedent for me traveling long distances for rained-out sporting events.  Recently, I missed out on a ballgame at Toledo’s gorgeous Fifth Third Field, and another at Camden Yards, but longer ago (and more tragically), at the end of the year I studied in England, I missed the opening day of Wimbledon. I’ll never forget that day…taking the Tube south of town, queuing up early, scoring tickets to Court One (which was to feature Lendl, Connors, and Cash), only to watch it rain all day.  The next day, I flew back home to America.  Wimbledon’s rainout policy?  I could exchange my ticket for an opening day ticket the next year.  Gosh, thanks, guys.

That’s 23 quid down the drain.

My resentment isn’t as strong in San Diego, because I did get in one of my scheduled two games.  It was an interesting moment in baseball history, as

it was the San Francisco Giants’ second game of the season, and their second game since a book came out with specific accusations regarding Barry Bonds’ steroid use.  The atmosphere was ugly.  A fan had thrown a needle-less syringe onto the field near Bonds on opening day, and the Padres responded by closing the area near left field where fans could congregate.  The booing was intense and merciless, including chants of “Cheater!  Cheater!”  (I’d have enjoyed an extension…a variation on “liar liar pants on fire.”)

PETCO Park itself felt middle-of-the-road to me.  As I see it, it simply isn’t as attractive as other ballparks of its generation.  Inside the ballpark, there are an awful lot of white beams, and even in the two-year-old ballpark, some yucky browns were starting to show through the paint.  The location didn’t really blow me away–it’s sort of near downtown, but sort of not really.  A few sports bars and hotels and stuff were starting to crop up on one side of the stadium, but it’s not exactly an interesting neighborhood.  Not yet, anyway.  There are a few nice views from the upper deck, which helps with the “only in San Diego” feel, but there’s nothing terribly special that sets PETCO apart.

Even when PETCO tries, it falls

just a hair short.  The center-field bleacher area wants to be call to mind a beach–in fact, they call it “The Beach.”  At the base of the bleachers, they’ve set down some light sand where they want people to patrol for home run balls.  But it doesn’t look or feel like a beach…it looks and feels more like a litter box, and spectators there don’t use it like a beach. Instead of chilling out, playing catch, or whatever, they’ll stand with their fingers through a chain-link fence, blocking the $8 bleacher seats behind them.  Why not reverse it?  Put the bleachers up to the fence, and put The Beach” up high behind it, add some picnic tables and sandbox toys, and let people hang out there?  Particularly mammoth home runs that clear the bleachers (unlikely in this pitchers’ paradise) could be said to “make the beach.”  How about it?

PETCO is still a fine ballpark overall, however, in spite of these negatives. 

The integration of the Western Metal Supply Company building into the ballpark is simply brilliant.  It takes Camden Yards’ integration of a warehouse and raises it to a new level…it makes the warehouse part of the ballpark.  (Check out how the corner of the building serves as the foul pole.)  The seats on top of the warehouse and on the balconies are an especially nice stuff.  PETCO also integrates an aspect from many minor-league ballparks I like…the grounds take up far more acreage than just the edifice of the stadium.  It incorporates a lot of space past center field, space which includes a walkway (K Street), a grassy hill, and a Wiffle ball field.  The grassy hill is especially nice, since it’s a casual spot to watch the game on a picnic blanket.  It’s a very large, baseball-themed open space, something I like greatly in ballparks.

On the whole, I do like PETCO Park.  It’s an improvement from old Qualcomm Stadium (which wasn’t bad for a multipurpose ballpark), but nevertheless, I don’t think it’s on the same level as the best of the most recent generation of parks.  There’s too much missing; not enough of a sense of Padres history, baseball history, or a California feel…and I don’t think it was just the rain.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Barry Bonds goes 0-for-1.  He is hit by a pitch (off the massive elbow protector), walks, and reaches on an error.

Adrian Gonzalez homers for the Padres.

Matt Morris picks up the win for the Giants.

(Written April 2006.)

Citizens Bank Park

Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA

Number of games:  3
First game:  June 12, 2005 (Phillies 6, Brewers 2)
Most recent game: August 8, 2021 (Phillies 3, Mets 0)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

Work brought me to Citizens Bank Park for the first time–taking student debaters to the National tournament in Philadelphia.  I’m glad it did, too.  Citizens Bank Park isn’t derivative of the 1990s new wave of ballparks; it didn’t exactly remind me of Coors or Jacobs or Camden Yards.  I was glad to see that–by the time this ballpark debuted in 2004, to copy those ballparks, as beautiful and wonderful as they are, would have felt like a cop-out.  Citizens Bank Park is its own park, and a gorgeous one.  It is unquestionably a top-ten ballpark.

There are subtle but significant differences between it and the others–differences that make the ballpark unique and charming.  For starters, there’s the red brick.  Yes, a lot of ballparks are made of red brick–San Francisco’s comes to mind.  However, the red brick isn’t central to the decor as it is in Philadelphia.  And, for reasons I can’t communicate properly, red brick is gorgeous in a ballpark.  Second, Citizens Bank Park has bucked a recent trend towards baseball green seats.  Don’t get me wrong–I love the baseball green.  But it’s been duplicated enough lately that the deep blue seats in Philadelphia are a refreshing, character-giving change.

Philadelphia also has an interesting reversal in design compared to Coors Field, Safeco Field, and probably a couple of ballparks I’m forgetting.  At Coors and Safeco, fans can look out onto the field from the concourse…but only on the first level.  The upper concourse is enclosed behind the seats, and fans can’t see the interior of the ballpark from there.  At Citizens Bank Park, this is reversed.  The lower levels are enclosed, and it is difficult to see the field from there.  On the third level, one can see the field.  It’s a refreshing difference–giving the folks in the

cheap seats a panorama of both the field and downtown Philadelphia wherever they are on the level.  (“Cheap seats” is a relative term, I’m afraid…the cost of a third-level seat at Citizens Bank Park was well above the cost at any park I’ve ever been to.  There are not “cheap seats” there.  Can we work on that, Phillies?)

Another creative touch in design is that fans can look directly down on the bullpen while looking at a sign that provide information about what various pitches look like.  It’s a nice touch, also, to be able to watch bullpen warm-ups from such a nearby vantage point, with no fence barrier.  All in all, the design of Citizens Bank Park is beautiful.  It integrates the texture of the game.

I was a little bit troubled by the atmosphere back in the kids’ corner…the carnival games were in danger of becoming flashy and distracting like those at Comerica Park.  But in

Philadelphia, it’s a little bit different…a carnival game (like the giant pinball game or the competition where kids–or adults–run in place as fast as they can to manipulate a player icon around the bases) is participatory in a way that a carousel or Ferris wheel is not.  For whatever reason, it felt like a celebration of baseball rather than an escape from it, so I don’t view it as a strike against the ballpark.

Part of the reason is that Citizens Bank Park celebrates baseball in a wonderful way throughout its center field pavilion.  There are plaques dedicated to great Phillies at each position.  There are bricks in the ground commemorating Phillies’ all-stars at each position.  There is a mini-museum behind

the brick wall in center field about Phillies and Philadelphia Negro League history.  “Ashburn Alley” is an excellent example of an open outfield pavilion area, all surveyed by a statue of Richie Ashburn.  Perhaps best of all is the bullpen.  This is consistent with the ballpark’s sense of history throughout…there’s a statue of Connie Mack outside the ballpark, put up by a group dedicated to promoting Philadelphia A’s history (what there is of it, anyway).

In addition to the design, the atmosphere in Citizens Bank Park further adds to its charm.  I’ll admit I had a preconception of Philadelphia and its fans coming into my visit.  I was expecting the fans to be rude and surly throughout.  It was in Philadelphia, after all, that Santa Claus was booed, J.D. Drew risked bodily harm, and even Mike Schmidt faced chants of “Choke!  Choke!”…from his child’s classmates on a school bus. So, when my smart and smart-alecky debater boy decided this would be a good place to root for the visiting team, I let him know he was doing so at his own risk.  It didn’t turn out to be a problem…we didn’t get a cross look all day.  Maybe it’s because the Phils were playing Milwaukee that day, and nobody could reasonably expect any human being to actually root for the Brewers.  They knew my student was faking it.  But I don’t think so.  I

think, quite simply, that these were genuinely cool baseball fans surrounding me on this unconscionably muggy Sunday afternoon.  Case in point:  As I walked to my seat, I passed a couple of Phillies fans talking on cell phones.  Usually, in other cities, this turns me off–I hear snippets of business deals or stupid “Yippee!  I’m at the ballpark!” talk.  Both of the individuals I passed at Citizens Bank Park were talking baseball…the day’s pitching matchups, the Phillies’ recent hot streak, and the like.  It was a fine group of intelligent, engaged, dare-I-say pleasant fans.  I hate to blow Philadelphia’s hard-earned reputation, but I’ve got to call it like I see it.

So, all in all, an excellent day at a fine ballpark surrounded by good baseball fans.  Who could possibly cry over the loss of Veterans Stadium when they have this gorgeous ballpark to replace it?

BASEBALL STUFF I SAW HERE:

Chase Utley’s 3-run homer in the 8th supports Corey Lidle and busts open a close game in my debut here.

One of the craziest games I’ve ever seen in my return trip in 2019. Only 4 total hits through 8 innings, and the Phillies have a 1-0 lead on a solo shot by Bryce Harper.  Closer Hector Neris coughs up the lead with three in the top of the ninth, but then Mets closer Edwin Diaz coughs it back. Maikel Franco ties it up with a two-run homer, and then Jean Segura wins it with a walk-off three-run bomb.  1 run on 4 hits in the first 8 innings, then 8 runs on 8 hits in the 9th.

2021 finds Zack Wheeler pitching a CG 2-hitter, with solo homers by three teammates, including my kid’s favorite, Bryce Harper. 

Notable: As of 2021, I have seen the Phillies play at home four times in four different decades…and win all four games.

Turner Field

Turner Field, Atlanta, GA

Number of games: 2
First game:  April 12, 2005 (Nationals 4, Braves 3)
Most recent game:  April 13, 2005 (Nationals 11, Braves 4)

The Braves left Turner Field for the 2017 season. The park was reconfigured and now hosts Georgia State football.

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

FUN THING TO DO:  Go up to a concession stand at Turner Field, preferably with someone else. 

Order lots of salty food–popcorn, nachos, french fries, hot dogs, etc.  When the concessionaire asks you what you’d like to drink, say:  “How about a Pepsi?”  See what reaction you get.  My guy, fortunately, laughed.

Turner Field came to us at the tail end of the new-retro stadium craze of the 1990s, so we can count on its quality.  It has a lot of the positive attributes of ballparks of its era, including charm in its architecture and a sense of history integrated into it.  The folks at Turner Field also make a good night’s entertainment out of the game.  Combine that with quality baseball the Braves traditionally give, and you have a fine Georgia night.

I made it all the way up from a game at Sarasota, Florida the night before, listening to sports talk radio and Les Miserables for most of the trip.  The plan was to take it easy and only attend the Wednesday afternoon game that my kid sister was flying down for, but the drive wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.  I was up in time for a Tuesday night game, and decided to get a cheap single ticket.  The ticket woman offered me a front row seat in center field, “right behind Andruw.”  I took it.  And I enjoyed a load of pre-game hype.  The Braves have one of the best drum/dance troupes out there.  As they did their big drumming and dancing routine on the center field pavilion before the game–awesome rhythmic dancing by the drummers, gyrations by the cute young women in pink–I thought they were the entertainment recruited

for just the one game.  I was wrong.  They’ve hired some excellent drummers to bang away both before and during every game, while the scantily-clad pink ladies dance around, periodically appearing on the giant scoreboard for promotions.

And oh, that scoreboard!  It is the largest LED screen in the United States.  I don’t care how much of a traditionalist you are…you’ve got to admit that’s kind of cool.  There’s enough room that the bottom 20% or so of the board can be devoted to full lineups AND statistics AND the linescore of the game, still leaving a breathtakingly large expanse for pictures and replays.  I certainly hope that the Braves have a charity auction where they team up with Xbox or Playstation or someone to sell the right to sit in center field and play video games on the big screen.  I’m not a big video game guy myself, but I would pay big bucks to do that.

The stadium itself is designed well, albeit not quite as well as others of its generation.  I’d like to be able to see the field from the concourse (like in Coors Field or Safeco Field, to name two).  I’d also like to have a view of the outside world from the upper-level concourses, like at Jacobs Field. It’s a hell of a long trip to the top of the left-field stands by the foul pole, which is the only place where spectators can get a look at the downtown skyline.  Plus, the overwhelming Coke advertising is oppressive.

Still, there were many positives.  Most notable was the wonderful concourse.  There is a nice party atmosphere to be had there, and you don’t need a ticket to be there.  Of course, you do need a ticket to get in with the drummers!  Anyone can walk in and see statues of Warren Spahn, Phil Niekro (with a perfect knuckleballers grip), Ty Cobb, and Hank Aaron (twice).  There are 6-foot-in-dia

meter baseballs representing each of the Major League clubs and several other notable baseball events.  Quite beautiful.  Also, I appreciated how the Braves did such a thorough job documenting their history.  I didn’t have a chance to visit the Braves Museum, but that’s very much the kind of thing I like in my stadiums.  I also like the Braves’ history in the concourse.  They had every single team photo since the Braves moved to Atlanta on display.  The 1995 World Champions are honored with a large mural, but even the lamentable teams in history like the 1 985 Braves have their team photos present. There is something slightly amiss in my eyes about Braves fans.  Hard to pinpoint it exactly, to be honest, but there’s just a hair of smugness about them.  Make no mistake–I enjoyed the company of a very nice man from Knoxville and his sweet daughter on the first night, and a guy who didn’t mind my sister rooting for the Nationals on the second night.  Still, it seems strange.  When I attended this ballgame in 2005, the Braves were on a string of 12 consecutive division titles, and were favored to win a 13th…but each game featured only about 20,000 fans.  What’s the deal?

Of course, the Braves suffer from a certain self-obsession that probably comes from their field’s namesake.  My kid sister Kathleen flew in from DC to join me for a Nationals/Braves game; this, the day before the

Nationals’ first home game after moving from Montreal.  She brought me a baseball cap that said “Washington DC” on it, just to force me to display allegiance to her new team.  She was very excited to pick up a Nationals hat, since Nationals Fever was so pronounced in DC at that time that she couldn’t find one there.  We wandered around the ballpark looking in the shops.  Braves hats.  Braves hats.  More Braves hats.  Come ON!  I can’t remember ever being in a ballpark that didn’t sell caps for any other MLB teams.  What’s more, I would think selling others’ caps would be good business…there are surely a few people per night who want to buy that night’s opponent’s hat, or some other rival’s hat.  So we asked a cashier:  “Where can we find hats for teams other than the Braves?”  Her answer, I swear to God, was this:  “At the other teams’ stadiums.”  Yes, she really was that snide.  Whatever…that’s $25 Ted Turner won’t be getting.

If memory serves, this is the fourth ballpark I’ve been to with Kathleen.

I casually–half-jokingly, actually–mentioned to her that I was going to go to a game in Atlanta, and that if she wanted to, she could swing by.  Much to my surprise, she obliged.  She’s a very busy first-year lawyer who is, of course, slammed with first-year lawyer work which had included flying back from observing the Djiboutian elections just a few days before taking a day off to fly to Atlanta.  (For those of you scoring at home, Ismael Omar Guelleh ran unopposed and won.)  She told some fine stories about the Djibouti City Sheraton, which, apparently, is not at all like a Sheraton.

Anyway, between her cool jet-setter stories and a big Nats win, we had loads of fun.  In fact, we had every bit as wacky a time as I do with my brother or with my buddy Rob.  Case in point:  When the Nationals got on a couple of runners, Kath and I started shouting:  “C’mon Nats! 

Bring him home!  Bring him home!”  Now, when you were raised in the house Kathleen and I were raised in, what follows will seem like normal behavior, but I recognize that it might feel downright bizarre to others.  But whenever any bit of dialogue happens to distantly remind any Hamann of any song, it instantly becomes a moral imperative to sing that song, ideally with great gusto, and with harmony if at all possible.  So I’m not sure who started it–I’m probably the guilty one–but it didn’t take long before we were singing the chorus to “Bring Him Home,” the show-stopping heart-rending climax of Les Miserables.  “Bring hiiiim hoooooooooooooome…bring him hooooooome…” High notes, schmigh notes.  Colm Wilkinson had nothing on us.  Of course, when we got to the bridge (“He’s like the son I might have known/If God had granted me a son”), it was important for me to make up wacky baseball-appropriate lyrics.  Alas, the exact lyrics are lost to time, but they probably went something like this:  “It surely would be very fun/If Jose Vidro scored a run…”  Laughing.  High notes.  We had about a three- or four-row buffer zone between us and the next fan (remember, only 20,000 were in attendance).  It wasn’t enough.  The Atlantan a few rows ahead of us turned 180 degrees around to check out the freaks.  I had on my Washington DC hat.  He probably figured I was a government weirdo.

There were a surprising number of Nationals fans at the game who, like my sister, were getting a jump, seeing their home team before they had a home game.  After enduring a ninth-inning rain delay, during

  which most of the crowd went home, the few fans who remained came up behind the dugouts to cheer.  That’s how I found myself behind the Nats’ dugout, surrounded by Nats fans, watching Nats’ pitching coach Randy St. Claire converse with umpire-in-chief Randy Marsh, watching Carlos Baerga warming up, and watching legendary Frank Robinson, who, immediately after this photo, gave a friendly wave to the guy next to me who shouted “DC loves you guys!”

So, quite a fun pair of nights.  The ballpark had positives (fun atmosphere, good sense of history) that outweighed its provincialist

negatives, and I got to do it all with my kid sister who very kindly took a day off to fly down.  Thumbs up for both the park and the experience.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Two Nationals wins, the first one quite dramatic.  The Braves led 3-1 going into the ninth inning.  Danny Kolb came on to close it out, but failed.  A walk, a hit, and a walk, and the bases were loaded with nobody out.  Kolb got a fielders’ choice and a sacrifice.  Two out, 3-2, tying run on second.  Brian Schneider up…and he spanks a double to right-center.  The Nationals lead.  The skies open up…it’s a big downpour.  Rain delay for 31 minutes.  The suddenly cold, wet night sees Chad Cordero nail down a save.

Jose Guillen homers twice in one game.  Jose Vidro and Chipper Jones also homer.

(Written April 2005.)

Tropicana Field

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL

Number of games: 1
First game:  April 10, 2005 (A’s 6, Devil Rays 1)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

It’s a hell of a drive from Miami to Tampa, especially when a fan is trying to make a Sunday afternoon game after a Saturday night game after a Friday night red-eye flight from the opposite corner of the country.  Perhaps this was a foolhardy move, but I made it.  I zipped across Alligator Alley after midnight.  Traffic was very light…just a couple of truckers and me.  I had a hotel room set up in Naples, which I took to be about the halfway point.  As usual, very nice people guided me along the way.  I didn’t know where my hotel was, so although I wasn’t hungry, I stopped at an all-night McDonald’s off the interstate–the first exit in Naples–for fries and to ask for a phone

book.  The manager didn’t have a phone book, but he went to the back room and actually called the hotel to ask directions.  There are good people everywhere in the world.  If you’re in Naples, be sure to grab yourself an adult happy meal and thank the guy for going above and beyond.

I made it to St. Pete in plenty of time for that afternoon’s ballgame.  I met up with my ubiquitous Florida relatives.  I would be willing to bet that more people have relatives in Florida than in any other state.  I wonder if anyone has done the research on that?  My relatives are from my mom’s side and fairly big sports fans.  They were kind enough to get me a ticket and meet me at will call.  Once I got to the seats, I was met by one of their relatives, who was across the ocean from England and taking in her first baseball game. 

Gloria was her name, and I took it upon myself to teach her the game as best as I could.  I lived in England for a year in college, and while there, learned trace elements of cricket, so I could compare a few of the basics for her.  And for that, I got to hear her English-little-old-lady-accent analysis of the game.  When Joey Gathright was caught stealing in the fifth inning–this after I had explained the risks and benefits of the speedy Gathright’s imminent stolen base attempt–her analysis of the play was as follows:  “Oh!  That was dear, wasn’t it?”  I love that British use of “dear” for “expensive.”  We must try to get it to catch on in this country.

The ballpark itself certainly tried hard, but in my mind, nothing can get me past its status as an ugly dome.  It’s quite simple:  I’m from rainy Seattle, I’m on vacation in Florida–the Sunshine State, for goodness sake–and I want to spend my afternoon at a ballgame in the sun.  I asked my local aunt why they built it as a dome.  Her answer:  “Without it, we’d never get a game in.  It rains at 4:00 every afternoon.”  I didn’t point out that it was about 4:00 when I asked that…and it wasn’t raining.  At the very least, couldn’t Tampa have an open-air retractable roof like Seattle’s?  Secondly, I’m afraid the building’s interior is simply ugly…grey colored throughout, covered with advertising. There’s an annoying orange catwalk which surrounds the stadium, blocking off the leadoff hitters on the scoreboard.  It’s no wonder that this, combined with Devil Rays teams that have literally never been anything other than dismal, leads to so very many empty seats at Tropicana Field.

In spite of this, Tropicana Field has supplanted the HHH Metrodome for the dubious honor of best domed stadium I’ve ever been to.  It doesn’t have the layout of the dreaded multi-purpose stadiums…it appears to have been built for the exclusive purpose of baseball.  They use the long, skinny scoreboard that wraps around 90 degrees of the field to put long

messages about each batter; sometimes something as basic as his hometown (which I appreciate) and sometimes longer, deeper statistics.  The ushers dress up in flowery shirts–totally appropriate for the place, thus aiding in the do-you-know-where-you-are test (which the ballpark still fails).   They have a nice mosaic path of fish swimming to the stadium.  There’s even a real-life moat-like ditch spectators cross when approaching the ballpark from the south.  The field turf is the only kind of turf an indoor ballpark should be allowed to use.  Although players have complained about the full dirt basepaths (rather than the cutouts that turf ballparks usually go with), they do add to the ballpark aesthetically.  So they’re trying to make the best of a bad situation–a lousy team in a yucky dome.

After the game, I got to talk to one of the matriarchs of my family…I think she’s my oldest living relative.  She didn’t come to the ballpark, but we talked for a while after the game while I audiotaped her.  She’d recently lost a sister who was a huge Tigers fan.  Aunt Joyce.  I don’t remember meeting her…if I did, it was either a long time ago, in a room with a hundred relatives, or both…but she and I were both fans enough that the family decided that I should get her Tigers scrapbook.  Aunt Joyce was a librarian who scored the games, so I was looking forward to seeing handwritten scoresheets featuring Gehringer and Greenberg.  Turned out not to be true…her big season was the 1968 season, and rather than her scoresheets, there were meticulously clipped newspaper articles of the Tigers’ 1968 pennant and playoff run.  It was fun to see.  I was hoping I could see at least one scoresheet, as that would be the tightest link between me and this relative-I-wish-I’d-met.  I got my wish on the inside of a 1971 All-Star Game program.  She must have gone to the game at Tiger Stadium.  She gave up scoring it after the fourth inning–and I can forgive that, this being an All-Star game with a million substitutions, and the program scoresheet not being sufficient for that.  But she scored it carefully, with small, precise writing.  And she scored it for long enough to get in Reggie Jackson’s famous homer off of the light in right field.  I sincerely wish I’d gotten to talk to her.  I saw Dwayne Murphy do the same thing.

All in all–a nice afternoon with nice people in a not-so-nice ballpark.  I enjoyed it, but won’t shed any tears if this team moves on from this ballpark.  There’s nothing at all special about it.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

A bit of a dull ballgame.  Oakland’s game-winning runs came on three walks, two hits, and two sacrifices.

Scott Hatteberg homered and went 3-for-5.

Aubrey Huff went 3-for-4.

(Written April 2005.)

Dolphins Stadium

Dolphins Stadium, Miami, FL

Number of games: 1
First game:  April 9, 2005 (Nationals 3, Marlins 2, 10 innings)

The Marlins left this ballpark in 2012. 

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

I had never been to Florida when I traveled there over my spring break in 2005 to take care of the Southeastern United States’ major league baseball stadiums. 

This might serve as a surprise for many of you for whom Florida is a regular vacation destination, but I in fact made it to 45 states before I made it to Florida.    I had heard negative things about Miami as a tourist destination, and therefore had low expectations once I disembarked from the red-eye, lathered my pasty Seattle skin with suntan lotion, and headed out for my one-day-to-see-Miami adventure.  I had a fun day puttering around the town before fighting through God-awful traffic to get to an early-evening start at the too-distant-from-the-city-center ballpark.  All in all, the ballpark was subpar, but the wonderful fans of Miami made the night memorable.

Let’s start with the name, which gives away the main problem with the stadium.  Its original name, Joe Robbie Stadium, came from the Dolphins’ owner.  Its second name, Pro Player Stadium (which, as of the start of the 2005 season, still graced a few forgotten signs both inside and outside the stadium), was a fairly typical dull corporate name,

but when that name was gone, it reverted to Dolphins Stadium.  The name says it all:  it is a football stadium, sitting on Dan Marino Drive.  Indeed, calling this a “multipurpose stadium” is a bit kind, as baseball is quite clearly an afterthought at this ballpark.  This leads to a few problems with atmosphere that are insurmountable.  Most importantly, there’s no place in the seats where one can see outside of the ballpark.  I even went up to the top row of the top deck (quite a trip) to see what kind of views it offered.  Once there, I discovered that the wall behind the back row was about nine feet tall and could not be seen over.  And since the stadium is the same height all the way around, there’s an enclosed feeling that doesn’t work for baseball.  It’d be great for football, I’m sure…I bet that 70,000 Dolphins fans can make a lot of noise there.  But it’s terrible for baseball, where I like my eyes to be able to wander outside the ballpark during quiet times.  Additionally, the place feels empty even when it isn’t.  About 30,000 people were at the game I attended–not bad for the first Saturday of the season.  But in a football stadium, that feels desolate.  The seats’ annoying orange color doesn’t help, either.  It’s just not a very nice atmosphere.

One of the things I was most looking forward to at the ballpark was seeing the salsa dancing. 

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I happened to see a special on cable TV listing the top ten ballpark foods.  There, I learned that the Marlins have a salsa band play before Saturday night games.  Sure enough, when I got there, there was a salsa band playing.  Sort of.  By playing, I mean “mailing it in.”  For starters, although the band featured a singer, a guitar player, and a drummer, most of their noise came from a boom box which appeared to be playing karaoke versions of their salsa favorites.  Secondly, when I arrived at the ballpark, I found the drummer actually talking on a cell phone while he played.  This has to be the worst possible thing a performer can do.  Was he working on a real estate transaction?  Was he missing beats with his left hand while he played with his right?  Combine that with the yucky concrete concourse where they played, which was bad for both acoustics and atmosphere, and there wasn’t any reason to hang around and listen to them…and few people did.

One more complaint–in spite of the smallish crowd, the concession lines at Dolphins Stadium were the longest I’ve ever experienced.  I got in line a half hour before the game began, and barely made it back for first pitch.  The service was slow, but the folks made up for it by being rude.  You might not want to head to the concourse to eat, at least not on the lower level.

In spite of all of these negatives, I still had a marvelous time at Dolphins Stadium, in good part due to the wonderful fans around me. 

I met a kindred spirit seated behind me.  Jackie is about 17 years old–a senior in high school–but appeared to watch the game in the same spirit as I do.  She had a stat or an anecdote for every batter who came to the plate, not only for her beloved Marlins, but even for the Nationals.  And she had a photographic memory for the details of the game.  To be honest, I really felt like I was listening to a version of myself from 20-some years earlier.  Baseball wasn’t my sport yet–it was basketball.  I could feel myself sitting in McNichols Sports Arena, telling my dad and anyone else would would listen minutiae about Dan Issel, Alex English, Mike Evans, and any Nuggets opponents whose Statis Pro Basketball cards I remembered.  It was really wonderful to listen to her riffs.  She’d chug along in perfect English until she came to a word where Spanish would be a better match for her thoughts, at which point she’d seamlessly throw in the Spanish word.  I eavesdropped for six innings before I finally told her family how fun it was to listen to her.

Jackie’s eidetic skill was most apparent in the following exchange she had with her dad after a screaming foul ball landed not far from us:

JACKIE’S DAD:  “Remember that game we came to last year, where they guy near us got hit in the head by a foul ball?”
JACKIE:  “Yes.  That was when we saw the Braves on April 24th last year.  A Saturday game.  Brad Penny got the win, and Conine had his first homer of the year.  The foul was off of Cabrera’s bat.”

Guess what?  Every detail of that was accurate.  I checked it out.

Now that’s a fan after my own heart.  Someone asked Jackie how she knew so much about the game.  Her answer could apply to anyone who’s knowledgeable about any topic, from history to calculus to baseball to musical theater to motorcycles:  “Baseball is interesting.  I just watch, listen, and read a lot.”  Charming kid.

I also had a bizarre small-world moment after meeting a Floridian next to me.  He casually mentioned that his son played Division III baseball.  I don’t know what Division III schools are in the Southeast, so I asked where his son went to school.  His answer:  “A school called Kenyon in Gambier, Ohio.”  What a bizarre moment!  I went to Kenyon, and only missed his son by a couple of years.  The odds against that were astonishing…I’m from Seattle, so Dolphins’ Stadium is 4,000 miles away from home and 1,500 miles away from Kenyon.

As the game wore on, I grew to like these people around me, and once they started talking to me (because they figured out that I was trying to get to all of the ballparks), we got to be buds, and I started rooting for the Marlins, even though I don’t have any emotional attachment to them

at all.  It came down to the bottom of the ninth inning.  When Carlos Delgado came up with the Marlins down by one, I said to the Kenyon father:  “You know, Carlos Delgado leads the league in the very esoteric statistic of Most Home Runs in Paul’s Presence By A Non-Rockie or Mariner.”  Not surprisingly, the guy looked at me with a confused expression, but broke out of it in time to say “Well, that’s good news.  We could use the help.”  Next pitch:  Carlos hits it out.  His first homer as a Marlin.  I take full credit for that!  I high-fived all my new friends.

Points for the organist at Dolphins Stadium, for playing snippets from tangentially-appropriate songs as every Nationals’ player approached the plate–snippets that were only appropriate with some thought.  For example:

Jose Vidro–The Carpenters’ “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”
Livan Hernandez–Elton John’s “Levon”
Ryan Church–Dixie Cups’ “Goin’ to the Chapel”


Nick Johnson–“Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town”

The organist would play bits buried in the verses of the songs, too, so that I had to think ahead to future lyrics to get the jokes.  Fun stuff.

Special thanks to the Dolphins Stadium usher who saved my bacon.  I had lost my rental car key…it had fallen out of my pocket when I took my camera out to take pictures of the postgame fireworks display (always a silly idea, yet one I keep trying when I’m at a game with fireworks).  It had fallen out of my shorts pocket.  When you’re carrying a big wallet, cellphone, tickets, camera, and more in your pockets, it’s easy to lose keys when taking things in and out of them.  I was trying to figure out how I’d make the game at Tropicana Field the next afternoon, and my new friends were desperately looking for a single car key, when an usher found the key for me–and, incredibly, refused my grateful tip.  I only wish guys like him worked the concession stands.

So while I believe that there are a lot of negative aspects to Dolphins Stadium–namely, that it’s the Dolphins’ Stadium first and foremost, and that baseball isn’t meant to be there–I still had a tremendous time there with the residents of South Florida.  I continue to be impressed with how nice people are when I travel, and on this swing through Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, the fine folks of Miami were the nicest I encountered.  Great baseball fans, all of them.  Although things don’t look good for them as I write this in May of 2005, I hope something comes through for them and that they get a stadium they deserve someday soon.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

A tremendous ballgame.  Ryan Church and Vinny Castilla homer back-to-back to give Washington a 5th-inning lead, but the Marlins tie it up with Delgado’s 9th-inning homer.  Two batters later, Paul LoDuca pounds one to left field that I am convinced ends the game…I start high-fiving people again…but it turns out that, rather than a home run, it’s a single that hit six inches from the top of the tall left-field scoreboard.  The game goes to extra innings, and the Nats win it on Jose Guillen’s homer in the 10th.

(Written April 2005.)

Skydome

Skydome, Toronto, ON

Number of games:  2
First game:  July 24, 2004 (Blue Jays 4, Devil Rays 2)
Most recent game:  July 25, 2004 (Blue Jays 5, Devil Rays 3)

Skydome changed its name to the Rogers Centre for the 2005 season.
(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

CUSTOMS GUY, WINDSOR, ONTARIO:  Where are you from?
ME:  Seattle.
CG:  Where are you headed?
ME:  Toronto.
CG:  What for?
ME:  Two Blue Jays games.
CG:  Are they playing Seattle?
ME:  No.
CG:  Who are they playing?
ME:  Tampa Bay.
CG:  All right.  Have a good time.

Welcome to Canada!  I never knew that knowledge of the baseball could ever serve me well at Customs.  Since I knew the Jays were due to play the Rays, I was allowed in the country. 

A few hours later, I was inside the Skydome.

Even though Skydome was built fairly recently, in my eyes, it has a distinctively retro feel.  It was the second-to-last park built before Camden Yards revolutionized the building of ballparks, and therefore doesn’t have a good number of the attractions that we’ve grown to expect from Camden’s ilk (such as the outdoor pavilion of Jacobs or Coors Field, rides for the kids like at Comerica Park, wacky dimensions like at Minute Maid Park, statues and sculptures like in about a dozen places, and views of cities or water like just about everywhere now).  It harkens me way back to a time–all the way to the late ’80s and early ’90s!–when baseball parks’ primary purpose was to serve as a place to watch a baseball game, rather than be a massive theme park where baseball viewing is incidental.  This, to me, is a breath of fresh air, and lends Skydome a good deal of charm.

To be sure, Skydome has many of the problems as its predecessors.  I don’t care for the astroturf, of course, which gives the place a bit of a sterile feel.  But in spite of the Argonauts’ retired jerseys hanging high in the rafters, this clearly is a baseball-first ballpark–no silliness around me, just sharp baseball fans watching the game.

Even though the park is only 15 years old, I get a “futuristic retro” feel from it, sort of like at Disney’s Tomorrowland.  This is the way we used to think the future would be.  Here are some of the predictions from Skydome that felt advanced at the time, along with the verdict on whether it has caught on:

–One day, ballparks will all have hotel rooms looking out on them!  Wrong–no other ballparks have that I can think of have a hotel on site.  I do admit I like the idea…if ever I could afford it, I’d rent a room and watch the game in my bathrobe while eating room service.

–One day, all ballparks will have Hard Rock Cafe restaurants on site!  I guess Skydome did more or less start this, as it was the first ballpark to have the plexiglass linen-napkin restaurant as a part of the experience, and most ballparks opened since then have followed suit.  I’m not a huge fan of eating there during the game, but for recent trips I’ve grown to enjoy them for pre-and post-game meals.  The folks at the Hard Rock Cafe, for the record, have no idea what, if any, dishes contain MSG.  They’re polite about it, but not exactly helpful.

–One day, all ballparks will have retractable roofs!  Yup, Skydome was the first, and four have followed suit since.  As I said earlier, I don’t like the massive upper-deck that a retractable-roof-with-enclosure necessitates–I much prefer the canopy-style roof at Safeco Field, although I understand the need to shelter fans from cold Toronto

Aprils and Octobers.  The retractable roof completely encloses the stadium.  This creates a terribly tall upper deck, including a few rows along the first-base side that are actually above one of the lights–the only seats I can think of in the majors that are obstructed by lights.  At this low point in Blue Jays’ history, this leads to immense expanses of empty upper-deck seats, one of the largest negative consequences of huge multipurpose stadiums.  Still, the roof was impressive in one way.  I watched it close after the game, and I have to say that the technique for roof closure in Toronto is actually quite striking and beautiful (at least in the roof-closure department).  It’s hard to explain verbally, but here goes:  First, a not-quite-semicircle of covering (which covers perhaps a third of the surface area of the roof) extracts itself from the always-covered semicircular cap over the outfield, sweeping around the circular top of the stadium until it’s opposite where it began.  At that point, there’s an uncovered rectangle at the top of the stadium between the two coverings, and covering extends itself from the outfield side to render the entire building covered.  It was quite fun to watch, but once the roof is in place, the result is a predictably antiseptic indoor ballpark.

One nice touch–the Blue Jays

apparently let local Little Leagues play on the field when they’re not around.  Not two hours after the Jays and Rays were done, I watched from the Hard Rock Cafe while 13-year-olds (or so) played a game on the field.  This might be one advantage of Astroturf, actually–no way that the hypersensitive groundskeepers of teams who play on real grass would ever let anyone trod upon it besides major leaguers.

A quick anecdote, apropos of nothing:  on the scoreboard, the Blue Jays, acknowledging the presence of a group at the ballpark, put the following bizarre message on their scoreboard:  “Crystal Springs:  Welcome to Today’s Gamete!”

Skydome provides a unique look at the is-there-any-question-where-you-are test I give to my ballparks because it is the first baseball park I’ve visited outside the US (if you count Puerto Rico as the US).  I want there to be no question that I’m in Canada during the game.  But this leads to the inevitable question…what would Canadian baseball be like?  What the hell are Canadians all about anyway?  When I think of Canada, I think of the following things, roughly in this order:  socialized medicine, Bob and Doug McKenzie, Second City comedy, a weaker dollar, hockey, and a friendly, polite affect that is occasionally clouded by either a gentle smugness or a troubling inferiority

complex.  Fair enough, but what would this look like at a game?  I did sit in front of people from London, England via London, Ontario at one of the games, so Toronto gets credit for bringing its international and cosmopolitan flair into the ballpark.  What’s strange is that, even though Toronto is the largest city in Canada, I didn’t get anything like a big-city feel in either the ballpark or Toronto as a whole.  Sure, some of the people tried to heckle umpires, opponents, and a .205-hitting Carlos Delgado, but they lacked both creativity and passion.  I suggest you stick to politeness, Toronto…it suits you.  Also, Canadians go too far in their effort to be Canadian by making “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” the second song played during the seventh-inning stretch, after a forgettable, insipid singalong called “Let’s Play Ball.”  I don’t think it’s caving in to American cultural creep to drop “Let’s Play Ball,” or at least put it second.

Beyond those minor negatives, there is a nice Canadian feel to the park, from the advertisements for GM Canada

to the subtle-but-proud maple leafs on the outfield walls.  The ballpark’s location immediately next to the CN Tower leaves no question as to where I am.  It makes me feel as though I’m in the center of activity, and the CN Tower, along with a massive skyscraper (I think apartment buildings…only in Canada do you have people living in such large and beautiful downtown skyscraper locations) actually gives something to look at beyond the stadium’s massive upper deck.  The approach to the park is also wonderful…in spite of aggressive scalpers (and, in Toronto’s poorly-attended and losing 2004 season, quite desperate ones), there are nice gargoyles of Statler and Waldorf-like fans on the ballpark’s exteriors, including one of a guy giving a big raspberry to someone, perhaps an umpire or opponent…the only instance, I believe, of an impolite fan in stadium art.

For what it’s worth, I’m convinced I’ve found the best bang-for-the-buck for a ticket in major league baseball.  My favorite bang-for-the-buck seats in any ballpark are always in the top deck behind home plate.  It’s where my Safeco Field season tickets are…I can watch the entire play develop, have an excellent angle on top of the play, and don’t pay a lot of money.  Skydome’s top level, the 500 level, is actually closer to the field than comparable seats in other parks.  I could hear home plate umpire Larry Vanover’s every call, even the quieter ones.  I could even hear the beginning of an argument between first base umpire Sam Holbrook and Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca that got Tosca ejected from the game.  After a couple of close plays, Tosca was obviously expressing displeasure from the dugout, and Holbrook shouted at him:  “I don’t want to hear it anymore!”  This drew Tosca out of the dugout, which led to his early dismissal.  The point is, I was very close to the action, as this photo should demonstrate:

Here’s the amazing part:  That seat was, as of 2004, $7.  Seven dollars…Canadian. If I were in Toronto, it would be very difficult for me not to buy 30-40 of those a year.

So, in the end, Skydome will land somewhere in the middle of my ballpark rankings, but I did enjoy the experience there a good deal.  There was just enough personality to shine through some of its drawbacks, and in the end, it’s the last of the ballparks that was designed as a ballpark first and a tourist destination second.  For that, I give it credit.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Carl Crawford was the hitting star in the first game, collecting three hits, scoring two runs, and stealing a base.  Still, the Jays’ Josh Towers was too much to beat.  He’s now 2-0 in my presence–this in two appearances.  I’m your man, Josh…as of that ballgame, I’d seen two of your 21 career wins, including a (sort-of) close to perfect game!  Invite me to a game, dude!

Carlos Delgado homers to collect his 1,000th career RBI.

Aubrey Huff homers.

David Bush gets his first career win.

(Written August 2004.  Revised July 2009.)

Comerica Park

Comerica Park, Detroit, MI

Number of games: 2
First game:  July 21, 2004 (Tigers 4, Royals 2)
Most recent game:  July 22, 2004 (Royals 13, Tigers 7)

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

I grew up in Denver before it had a major league team.  When the time came (as it inevitably does in any young man’s life) to select a favorite team, the Tigers were my choice, mostly due to my legions of relatives in the area.  Some of my best

childhood memories are centered around trips to Michigan in my youth…every damn summer, my parents would pile my three siblings and me into the back of a station wagon and drive the three days to my Aunt Sally and Uncle Fred on Bishop Street and Grandma Gene’s place on Lennon.  Indeed, it was with them and my two cousins that I went to my first ballgames at Tiger Stadium.  So I was excited to head back to them in 2004–returning to the original scene of the crime–to take in Comerica Park.

I had the pleasure of attending my first game back at Comerica with most of the same relatives I went to my first game with 24 years earlier.  I think my Uncle Fred was born drinking a beer and watching a ballgame…so

he’s got to be one of the top choices for partners at any ballpark.  Aunt Sally is not at all a sports fan, and yet she tagged along, offering me her unique perspectives on baseball.  (Example:  she believes that, if major league hitters were indeed the best in the world at hitting baseballs, a .600 average should be the baseline for greatness, not the paltry .300 we use as a benchmark now.)  My cousin Joe helped me remember the fourth and fifth starters for the ’84 Tigers, a problem that had dogged me for several days prior. (I thought Juan Berenguer was the #5, but he was the #4.  Dave Rozema spot started at #5.)

I was especially impressed with the art in this ballpark.  Loads of tiger statues and gargoyles festoon the exterior of the ballpark, including several with baseballs in their mouths.  Tigers guard just about every entrance

and even patrol the tops of the scoreboards, and they’re the right mixture of cute and scary.  Baseball bats serve as columns and bats crossed like swords mark the entrance.  There’s even a lovely baseball-themed fountain.  But the sculptures of past Tigers’ greats absolutely knocked my socks off.  I’ve now been to about a dozen stadiums which feature some kind of baseball player sculpture, and it’s usually one of my favorite parts of the ballpark.  Tiger Stadium’s sculptures (of  Cobb, Gehringer, Greenberg, Harwell, Horton, Kaline, and Newhouser) are immensely superior to any I have seen anywhere else, and it’s not like the other ballpark sculptures are bad.  I’m afraid my photographic skills don’t do the sculptures justice, but I gave it a try.  Here’s a look at the sculpture of Hank Greenberg.  I’m making this picture larger than I usually do so you can get a better look at it.  Check out how the artist hints at motion with the swinging bat and traveling ball.


The ballpark further adds to its local color by focusing on Tiger history in its pavilion areas, setting up exhibits focusing on the Tigers in each decade in the twentieth century.  I found my beloved 1984 team and learned a few things about earlier teams.  I even got into a brief conversation with a woman about the ’67 Tigers as well.

In spite of all this, there are a few drawbacks that, in my eyes, keep this from being a top-ten park.  First of all, Comerica Park is guilty of

outrageous excess.  I’m referring here to its carousel and its Ferris wheel.  I ask this:  why?  My Detroit relatives got a little testy when I asked this, saying something about how there needs to be something at the ballpark for the kids so that they’ll grow to like baseball.  This is, I believe, a flawed argument.  There were no amusement park rides at Tiger Stadium, and it’s not like I was bored there at age ten.  Even when I was younger, as a seven-year-old attending Denver Bears games at Mile High Stadium, I managed to make do without a Tilt-a-Whirl or an Octopus.  “But Paul,” my opponents say, “That was a different day and age.  Kids today are raised on MTV and video games.  Surely they can’t make it through a game without at least two or three visits to a carnival thrill ride.”  Baloney.  I have taken my nephews to major and minor league games when they were as young as six, and again, they have no problems.  Do we need to go walk around and burn off energy during the game?  Of course.  (And because of this, I can even handle playgrounds and slides like those at Safeco Field, PacBell Park, The Ballpark in Arlington, and a few others I’m forgetting…they give a destination less garish and silly than Comerica’s rides are.)  Do I need to provide my nephews with astonishing amounts of ice cream, hot dogs, and/or soda pop?  Yup. But we watch the game.  We get through it.  We enjoy it.  We even score it.  This, to me, is incontrovertible proof that Comerica’s carnival rides are unnecessary at best and deleterious at worst.

Speaking of deleterious, the PA announcer was the worst cheerleader PA guy I’ve ever heard.  His announcement of “Brandon Inge” made me cringe.  His voice goes up at least an octave and a half as he announces the name of any Tiger.  I can feel his vocal cords tensing to the point where they might snap.  Lighten up, buddy!  We know when to cheer.

I can’t ignore the fact, however, that beyond carnival rides and overly perky PA guys, there’s something a bit deeper about the whole experience and atmosphere of going to a game at Comerica Park that creeped me out.  I guess I see some things in Detroit now that I formerly didn’t, and those things bother me.  The city has devastating problems.

For starters, the stadium is in such a bad area that a stadium-induced neighborhood renaissance (like the ones that turned iffy warehouse neighborhoods in Baltimore and Denver into cool spots with nightclubs and brewpubs) is simply too much to ask.  There’s no feel of being in a neighborhood…spectators don’t linger before the game, don’t hang out near the ballpark, don’t go to sports bars before and after the game.  Indeed, there aren’t any sports bars there–around the ballpark, all I saw was the tony, alienatingly-exclusive, don’t-even-think-you’re-good-enough-to-belong Detroit Athletic Club, one diner, the Fox Theater, and about a half dozen court buildings and jails.  No watering holes.  No places selling Tiger merchandise.  The fantastic feeling of anticipation that comes with heading through a throng of ballpark-goers headed toward the game is replaced by people concerned for their own safety, trying to get into the ballpark (and back out to their cars) as quickly as possible so they can make it back out to the safety of Bloomfield Hills or Birmingham.  Not that I blame them–I’d do the same thing, and in fact did.  (Update 2009:  I recently read a Sports Illustrated article indicating a great sports bar opened nearby.  Possible change for the better?)

Why does this bother me in Detroit when other ballparks in terrible neighborhoods (such as Comiskey Park or Yankee Stadium) don’t trouble me as much?  In Chicago and New York, the edginess of the neighborhood makes its way into the ballpark.  Even though it scares me, I think I like that better than the freaky oasis-from-the-poor-outside-these-walls vibe at Comerica.  Plus, at Yankee Stadium anyway, the subway ride gives me atmosphere–I feel a part of the city rather than apart from it.

Additionally, as scary and depressing as the housing projects near Comiskey Park and Yankee Stadium are, they’re not nearly as depressing or scary to me as a deserted, broken downtown.  Comerica Park took a page from the new ballparks in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere by providing a vista of downtown past the outfield wall. 

But it’s a little different in Detroit.  With the exception of the distant skyscraper that houses GM headquarters, instead of the gleaming glass-and-metal buildings I’ve grown accustomed to seeing in downtowns, the view from Comerica features old stone-and-mortar buildings–brown and tan instead of gray and reflective.  This, in and of itself, isn’t a problem–it just gives me a feeling of a retro downtown.  But things go sour for me at twilight…I learn that Detroit’s downtown isn’t retro, but instead is simply decimated.  As it got dark in Detroit, I looked out past the scoreboard and saw the skyscrapers again, and I noticed something that, to me, is nothing short of alarming:  there were literally no lights on in the skyscrapers.  It was Wednesday night, about 9PM.  Where the hell were the people?  Where was the lawyer working late, the businessman calling overseas?  Geez, where was the custodian cleaning the offices, even the staircase that’s lit 24/7?  Nothing.  The only conclusion I can reach is that these two buildings have been completely abandoned.  I turned to my relatives to ask why there aren’t any lights on downtown.  They live here, so I guess they’re accustomed to it:  I get a shrug.  “I guess nobody’s working there.”  To me, this downtown vista, intended to be a beautiful view and celebration of the city, had the opposite effect.  It scared me.  Possibly the scariest movie I’ve ever seen is This Quiet Earth, where a man wakes up to discover everyone in the world has disappeared…he wanders around the cities looking for any human contact.  The darkened downtown Detroit reminded me of that…we’re all entertaining ourselves with a baseball game surrounded by a city that’s disappeared. Comerica Park makes me wonder about how things got this broken.  It even stirs in me some predictable and passe’ white guilt, since Detroit is a city that’s about 90% African-American and I’m sitting in a crowd that’s about 90% White…and much of the other 10% are ushers, hawkers, and cleanup crew.  Simply put, this is not the best mindset in which to entertain myself, but I can’t help but feel this way.

Even during the next day’s day game, the s

adness of the urban situation interfered with the experience.  I borrowed the relatives’ car and headed downtown, making sure I did not make any turn that could put me even a half block out of my way.  I zipped to the ballpark.  Ninety minutes before the game and the streets around Comerica Park were deserted–everyone was on a beeline straight from their cars into the ballpark.  There was zero neighborhood atmosphere.  Even on the inside, while wandering around getting a feel for the park, I was attracted to two bits of graffiti on the bar in a restaurant by the Ferris wheel.  They felt to me like examples of the problems of Detroit, as hard as Comerica Park tries to keep them on the outside, pushing their way into the stadium.  Something about these words written a few feet away from a Ferris wheel–and a few more feet away from a world nobody should ever have to know–really struck me somewhere deep.

In any event, I was very much impressed by Comerica Park in all kinds of ways.  In spite of the theme-park overkill, the ballpark is quite lovely, and the art there probably better than the art at any ballpark I’ve ever been to.  They do well to focus on baseball history and on Detroit history.  But the experience was,

paradoxically, harmed by that very history.  I’m not a city planner–I don’t know what combination of social and economic factors got Detroit where it is, and I certainly can’t propose a way out.  But I sincerely hope that there comes a day when being located at the heart of downtown Detroit is an asset rather than a liability, and that I can head back one day–ten years from now?  twenty?  more?–and take a leisurely walk through a vibrant, interesting, and active stadium neighborhood.  I hope I can score a Tigers game in the ballpark without feeling just a tad guilty and callous because of the conditions all around me.  I hope that I can walk to a sports bar after the game and have some nachos and a drink, staying downtown without a second thought until the end of the West Coast games.  Somebody out there–please find a way to heal this city so that the beauty of this ballpark is the rule rather than the exception.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Mike Sweeney hit a pair of home runs–a grand slam and a three-run homer–to lead the Royals to a decisive win.

Nook Logan makes his major league debut, going an amazing 4-for-7 in the two games I see him.

Omar Infante homers twice in a game.

Indeed, I saw ten homers in two games–and many of them would have been homers at the old Comerica.  Only a couple were made homers by the then-recently-shortened left-field porch.

(Written August 2004.)

Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX

Number of games:  1
First game:  April 15, 2004 (Brewers 6, Astros 2)

(Click on any image to view a larger version.)

It’s better than the Astrodome.  But then, every ballpark I’ve ever been to is better than the Astrodome.  Since Minute Maid Park (nee Enron Field, nee Astros Stadium) was built in a better location and in a better era for ballparks, I was ready for something good.  I’m afraid I wasn’t terribly impressed with what I saw.

I admit that some of it had to be my political views.  I rarely take my bleeding-heart-liberal-thinkin’, dove-lovin’, Dukakis-votin’ political views into the ballpark.  And maybe I was just politically sensitive because of my experience earlier in the day at the George H.W. Bush Museum in College Station.  But there was something dreadfully awry about the way this ballpark was set up.  It’s especially helpful to compare this ballpark with the excellent Ballpark in Arlington because Minute Maid does wrong all of the things that The Ballpark in Arlington does right.

What do I want to see out on the exterior of a ballpark?  A celebration of baseball or local history.  What do I see on the exterior of this stadium?  In the most prominent location, a celebration of…Halliburton.  Ugh. 

It goes all the way back from their beginnings striking oil up through modern day.  And, on the day I attended the Bush museum, I couldn’t seem to escape Republicanism in Houston.  I admit that I was sort of hoping to encounter George and Barbara in the flesh on the day that I visited their museum, but alas, it was not to be.  My seats weren’t nearly good enough (I can’t afford to sit with Republicans).  But I don’t at all see the point of heroic pictures of Dick Cheney outside a ballpark.  I’d find a heroic, flag-featuring plaque of Al Gore just as silly.  George H.W. Bush?  At least he was a ballplayer.  But a celebration of Halliburton just because they helped roust up the bucks for the ballpark violates what I see as the sacredness of a shared space.  Ick.

To be sure, I tolerate corporate sponsorship at some level.  Naming rights?  Hate it, but understand it…even for Enron.  Silly advertising, like “This batter digging in is brought to you by Ace Hardware, for all your digging needs?”  Terrible, but I’ll swallow hard.  But both are preferable to this silly self-aggrandizement of a company.  How can they place Cheney in a better piece of real estate–closer to the stadium, easier to find, larger–than past Astros like Joe Morgan, Jose Cruz, and Darryl Kile?  Unacceptable.

Besides, if a noted Republican wanted to, they could always simply buy a brick, as this one did:

What a sweet little father-to-son gesture!  I agreed with very little that Bush 41 did in office, and less with his son, but still, you get a sense that it’d be fun to hang out with them at the ballpark.  Clinton, too, although he’d more likely ditch you to be with the babes.

I’m still not done with my complaints of the capitalist creep in this place.  Once on the inside, there are not one but two scoreboards (one down the third-base line at field level, the other up high by the right-field foul pole) that actually run the day’s stock ticker.  Come ON!!!  I thought “well, maybe it’s just for the pre-game.”  Nope.  It continued through the game, popping up between every inning.  I can tell you that, on April 15, 2004, Halliburton stock was up 37 cents a share.  I could also tell you the price, both current and settle, for natural gas, crude, unleaded, and heating oil.  Please!  That’s simply not acceptable.  Why not do one quick ticker at some point and have it sponsored by Charles Schwab or something?  Who the hell is going to come to the ballpark to look for stock quotes?  Isn’t a ballpark supposed to be an escape from these sorts of worldly pursuits and concerns?  If you need to check your portfolio while at the ballpark…and check it between every inning!…I urge you to trade in your tickets and use the money you save on professional help.

This issue was only one part of the generally charmless feel of Minute Maid Park.  I understand that Houston’s hot, humid summers necessitate a retractable roof that can completely enclose the stadium.  It’s better than the retractable roofs at Miller Park and Bank One Ballpark because there’s no tall wall beyond the left field stands…but still, a tall enough one to obscure potential views of downtown.  There’s no excitement to the neighborhood as there is in Baltimore or Denver…the ballpark is hemmed in between downtown on one side and freeways on the other, with all the inherent business therein (but given the Halliburton history and stock tickers, that’s probably what they have in mind for a crowd).  The concourses are sterile, with no sense of history–team records are horribly misplaced in a back stairway.  THERE ARE NO CUP HOLDERS IN THE THIRD DECK!!!!

I just kept finding new ways to be annoyed with Minute Maid Park.  Even the bits that were meant to be endearing felt more annoying to me, like the ballpark was trying too hard…sort of like a four-year-old mugging for the camera.  The wacky, jagged outfield walls…the stupid train with oranges on it…all too much, I felt.

There were a few positives:  the Biggio and Bagwell statues turning a double play outside, for instance, and the

displays of PA announcers’ words for the hearing impaired (I’d never thought of that).  I have to admit, I like the hill in center field, and the flagpole in play there.  It’s sort of like playing in a backyard, only larger and with better players.  There was a lovely scoreboard promotion for a car maintenance company that I wish I’d thought of:  “Brake for a kiss.”  The camera would focus on couples at the ballpark–all ages, races, levels of physical attractiveness–and when couples saw themselves on the screen, they were expected to kiss.  Some kissed sweetly, one woman totally jumped her date, some elderly couples got respectful, sweet applause…it was a nice bonding moment throughout the stadium, I think.  One of the best uses of the Diamondvision I’ve ever seen.  (Given the Republican slant to this ballpark, how long will it be before we see a gay couple in this promotion?  I won’t hold my breath…even in my liberal hometown of Seattle, they’d get too many complaints from the God squad.  Someday, though, I hope…)  Also, I got to spend part of the game talking about my former Louisiana home with David, the gentleman from  Elton, LA who sat next to me.  I spent 6 innings annoyed with David because he didn’t have a sense of personal space.  He sat with his legs pointed out diagonally from his body, such that his knees were interfering with my personal space.  I tried every socially acceptable method I could think of to move him back to his space…light leaning, fidgeting, etc…but to no avail.  But eventually, I asked him where Elton was (it was displayed on his hat…and maybe that’s a Southern thing…why don’t I see baseball hats with small companies that announce “Redmond, WA” on them?).  Turns out it wasn’t far from the place I taught for a couple of years…and he has relatives who went there.  A nice guy, even though (or perhaps because) he’d had a few beers by the time we talked.  He informed me that Ben Sheets is from Monroe, Louisiana, and had struck his sons out in high school ball a few times.

But on the whole, this ballpark represents all of the negatives of the new proliferation of ballparks and few of the positives.  But at least the Astros are outdoors now.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Ben Sheets pitches magnificently for five innings to pick up the win, only leaving due to an injury.

Craig Biggio homers.

(Written April 2004.)

The Ballpark in Arlington

The Ballpark in Arlington, Arlington TX

Number of games:  2
First game:  April 12, 2004 (Rangers 7, Angels 6)
Most recent game:  April 13, 2004 (A’s 10, Rangers 9)

After several name changes from their beautiful original name, the ballpark has been known as Globe Life Field in Arlington since 2014.

(Click any image to view a larger version.)

Two things I like, and will travel to see:  baseball stadiums and historic museums.  The Ballpark in Arlington enabled me to see both of them in the same day!  For this and many other reasons, The Ballpark in Arlington was a huge, pleasant surprise…big enough of a pleasant surprise to be a top-5 ballpark.

baarlingtonventura

Why didn’t Ventura sign it too?

So unabashedly baseball-loving, and so unabashedly Texan!  For starters, there’s the deification of Nolan Ryan.

Of course, everybody deifies Nolan Ryan, as he is the only player in baseball history to have his number retired by three different teams.  But in Arlington, Ryan-worship is taken to the nth degree.  The ballpark is located on Nolan Ryan Drive (closer to the ballpark even than the cleverly named Pennant Drive…perhaps because, while the Rangers have had Nolan Ryan, they haven’t had a pennant).  Everywhere you look, there’s a Ryan reminder.  The statue feels right, although I’d rather it not be hidden away beyond the center field bleachers.  It deserves a spot outside the entrance.  Perhaps a little more disturbing was the signed photo for sale in the gift shop of one of the most famous pummelings in the history of sports…his facial on Robin Ventura.  Now, I normally hate bench-clearing brawls, but even I got a visceral charge out of watching him crush Ventura that night.  There was something just so, well, one-sided about it, on top of the notion that you can’t challenge God.  But would I want this on my wall?  Would I pay money to bring this into my home?  Well, maybe if I were a massive Ranger or Ryan fan, I suppose…

 

 

It’s not just Ranger or Ryan history that the ballpark celebrates.  It also is a hotspot for baseball history in general.  The ballpark is attached to the Legends of the Game Museum, which contains the largest collection of baseball memorabilia outside of Cooperstown.  I can classify the memorabilia in this museum (and, I assume, in Cooperstown) into two groups:  idol-worship and history.  The first bit–the busts, jerseys, bats, balls, and shoes–does absolutely nothing for me.  Out of all of the items in this classification, I only took a picture of one…Sparky Anderson’s shoes, worn during a game in 1990.  Seriously.

Who the hell wants to see Sparky’s shoes?  And not even from a playoff year?  It reminds me a bit of going to a church in Italy and seeing some saint’s blackened, decaying finger in a glass case.  Only nobody’s praying in front of Sparky’s shoes.  Yet.

The second classification is the numbers section.  I love seeing all of the numbers, and the folks at the Legends museum take care

of theirs with care.  Note the all-time home run leader list in this picture here.  The picture is not otherwise notable except for what’s going on with the tie for third place all-time.  Barry Bonds is tied for third with Willie Mays at 660.  The key here is that I visited the museum the afternoon of April 13, 2004.  Barry had only hit #660 the night before, and would hit #661 that night.  This means that the museum staff are updating their numbers daily!  This is quite a feat, especially when one considers that the museum didn’t just track all-time leaders in at least a dozen categories, but also active league leaders, Rangers’ all-time leaders, and Rangers’ active leaders.  There were quite a few numbers up there that the staff had to stay on top of nightly, and the net result was me feeling exactly the way I like to feel in a ballpark:  like I’m in the middle of a thousand stories that will be recorded for all of history.

Finally, the museum did an excellent job of communicating baseball history, especially local baseball history.  Their large section on Rangers history included an original scorecard of Kenny Rogers’ perfect game, and they branched out to the minor leagues with a large exhibit on Texas League history.  I like this even more than the numbers…these are stories, interesting stories I’ve never known, presented in the context of where I am and what I’m doing that night.

The sense of history continued in the walk around the stadium.  The Ballpark in Arlington has a brick display to commemorate every team in Rangers history…and every player on every team in Rangers history.  Think I’m kidding?  Check out these bricks:


Yup.  There it is, etched in stone for time immemorial:  Larry Biittner’s underwhelming numbers that were achieved, it appears, during the baseball season of 197 A.D.  Immediately, I was curious as to who I could see commemorated from my single trip to Arlington Stadium (which, by the way, I am certain NOBODY but an incredibly sentimental Texan sap misses).  The Rangers had a god-awful day…the only performance I could remember was the horrendous start by Brian Bohanon, who, along with four teammates, helped to walk Jose Canseco five times in five at-bats.  I think it was one of Bohanon’s first starts in a long and undistinguished career.  But I wanted to see him commemorated, so I walked to the 1992 team to find this:


Ouch!  What a sad diss to Mr. Bohanon.  I remember how to spell your name, Brian, even if your former employers don’t.

The exterior also gives an artistic nod to some key images in Texas history in faux-marble (at least I believe it’s faux) etchings along the building’s exterior.  Etchings include an oil gusher, the Alamo battle, astronauts, and cowboys on the range.  When you combine this with the museum and the team bricks, I’m already deeply ensconced in both baseball history and local history.  I can’t conceive of a better frame of mind to be in when I enter a ballpark in a strange city.

Once inside, my only disappointment is the center-field terraces, which seem architecturally out of place.  I assumed they were skyboxes; it turns out they’re offices, and not even just the Rangers’ offices.  (An usher informed me that Troy Aikman has an office

there.)  It seems to me that there’s no need to block off that center field view–even if it’s just of the neighborhood–just to have all offices with ads stacked on top.  But that’s quibbling…the offices don’t look too bad, particularly when there’s so much else the ballpark offers.

The tony club level has suites that are named after Hall of Fame baseball players.  I was able to wander around and check them all out because an usher was kind enough to let me in and wander around “as long as I don’t tell anyone.”  (Does this website count?)   Each suite has a big portrait of the player on the door…a portrait that’s visible to everyone on the concourse and on the ramps headed up to the upper decks.  They further celebrate baseball history–Rangers’ history–by posting plaques commemorating the key games in the Ballpark’s history on the main level…the first game,

Kenny Rogers’ perfect game, the first interleague game (I’d have left that one out…now, it’s just a weird Giants/Rangers matchup), and the first playoff game, plus perhaps one or two I’m forgetting.  The plaque contains the box score of the game as well as a brief synopsis and a picture.  It’s the only ballpark I can think of where there are box scores available for public view.  That’s a major plus.

The ballpark also passes the third-level test…the level-three concourse is open to allow for views.  I looked out on Six Flags (immediately adjacent to the park) and downtown Dallas (quite a ways in the distance). I don’t understand why more of the recent ballparks don’t incorporate third-level views.  It provides local color.  Of course, even without the view, the Ballpark had local color in spades.  For starters, there’s the friendly presence of Texans.  It doesn’t take long for me to join them in calling everyone

I encounter over a certain age “sir” or “ma’am.”  What a pleasant way to get along with each other.  And as if the Ryan-deification, view, sense of history, and trademark Southern politeness were not enough for the park to pass the “is there any question where you are” test, I heard the following actual bits of dialogue from those around me in the park:

“Is an armadillo on the side of the road spooky?  Out where we are, it’s all racoons.”

In the front row, where some fans joined me late in the game:  “Down here, you can smell the dirt.  Intoxicating!”

From a child, in the first homestand after Alex Rodriguez left Texas for New York:  “Is the white team the Yankees?”  His annoyed father should have answered:  “Not yet, son.”  The son also asked a great question about the players that got my imagination going:  “Do they live here?”  How cool would it be if they did?

Incidentally, and much to my surprise, it’s not hard to get a table in the restaurant in the upper deck of right field before the game…I walked in a half hour before the first pitch,

asked for a table by the window, and was back on the concourse before the National Anthem, and in my seat by the first pitch thanks to a speedy, reliable, and helpful waitress.  Not that I would ever want to watch a game from the restaurant, but of the three ballpark restaurants I’ve been to, this one is vastly preferable to Coors Field or Jacobs Field.  It’s simply a matter of orientation.  A two person table by the window out here in right field enables both people to watch the game while only turning 90 degrees to the field.  The same table at Coors or Jacobs, since it’s in foul territory and down the line, would require one of the people at the table to face away from the action to eat, and to make a 180 degree turn, away from the food and his/her companions, to watch the game.  Unacceptable.  (Incidentally, “open 363 days a year”?  I’ve never seen an establishment advertise that way.)

The game itself went off without a hitch.  A nice promotion lets a kid hit a home run in their wiffleball field and set off the home run fireworks.  That’s got to be a HUGE charge for a kid.  Only one little glitch…the scoreboard told me that Kevin Mench had a batting average of .360 and an on-base percentage of .346.  I’m not really a seamhead, but I know full well that’s impossible.  They didn’t fix it for future at-bats, either, leading me to believe they could use a proofreader for their scoreboard graphics.

Special mention has to go to the gentle, 60-ish usher who tossed the drunken college-aged louts who were in the front row next to me simply by saying “Sir, could you come with me?”  When the usher returned, I asked him how he pulled that off.  “He decided he’d rather go when I pointed out how many beers he’d had.”  Ballsy!  Don’t mess with the AARP usher!

On the whole, what a wonderful couple of days.  Texas history.  Baseball history.  Local color.  Kind people.  I don’t know that my travels will lead me back to Dallas…Dallas is one of those cities that business takes you to, and not much else…it’s not exactly a tourist destination.  But if I’m there, you can rest assured I’ll catch another Rangers game.  This ballpark, in my view, is simply up there with the best.  They understand exactly what a ballpark is all about.

 

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

A couple of sloppy games.  Francisco Cordero got a save and Brad Fullmer hit a huge pinch-hit double against the Angels.

Jermaine Dye and Damian Miller went deep for the A’s, who roughed up Mickey Callaway for 6 runs in 1 1/3 innings.  Barry Zito got an underwhelming win when the Rangers’ comeback fell short.

(Originally written April 2004. Most recently revised April 2008.)