in which he writes about ballparks, ballgames, and a bunch of things that have happened to him in his life
(me, moments before being knocked senseless by a foul ball)
This site describes ballparks to some extent, but not in tremendous detail. If you want that, Ballparks.com is easily the best site out there for you. My site talks about baseball’s games, personalities, and events in some detail, but only games, personalities, and events I was present for. The writing is admittedly self-centered here, but I think we remember parks not so much for their amenities and for history we haven’t seen, but for what we were seeing and doing there. If you want a historic look at what has happened through the park’s history on occasions other than when I was there, again, Ballparks.com is your place, or else the links off to the side (including links of others trying to get to all the ballparks).
I’m also not terribly big on ranking the stadiums, but I bet a good number of you, if you email me, will want to know “Which is your favorite?” Well, if you put a gun to my head and forced me to rank them, I would make this list.
aka The Genesis and Legend of the “Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tours”
I’d been to only three ballparks by the summer of 1993, when I decided to spend the summer driving around the Midwest in my Subaru, attending baseball games in every ballpark I could. Actually, I’d planned to spend the summer living in sin with my girlfriend in Pennsylvania, but our relationship’s sudden demise prevented that, and I needed something to occupy my mind more than staying at home (which, at the time, was Leesville, Louisiana) would. So I spent a month in the summer of 1993 alternately attending major league games and sleeping on (usually female) friends’ floors. My good friend and long-ago prom date Jennifer, when she heard of my plans, named this endeavor the Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour. She even made me a poster listing cities, baseball teams, and women together. For example: “June 16: Chicago. Chicago Cubs. Jennifer.” I’ve still got that poster somewhere…this is the expanded on-line version of the poster. Thanks to Jennifer for giving me such a catchy name to that tour, and for letting me sleep on her couch for a couple of nights.
Many things have changed since then–I’ve gone from being a lonely single guy barely out of college to a happily married guy on a serious collision course with middle age, but the tours have not. I have done many similar tours since, which have taken me all over the country.
Me in a posed (but typical) moment at Safeco Field.
Some things I have learned going to so many stadiums:
- Scoring games gets people to talk to me. Frequently, I am assumed to be the resident expert on the Brewers or Angels or whatever because I happen to be scoring the game. I get questions like “How many walks for Hilly Hathaway?”, which I can answer–which makes me the Section Information Source. Also, however, I get questions like “When is Andy Van Slyke due to come off the DL?”, which I cannot answer.
- When scoring games, include the player’s first initial as well as his last name, as shown here, in my actual scorebook in my actual lap during an actual game:
- Eight years later, I’ll be damned if I remember who some random “Johnson,” “Martinez,” or “Williams” is. Adding the initial will make it simple enough to look them up in the Baseball Encyclopedia if ever I suddenly need to know the pinch-hitter whom I saw ground to short in the eighth inning some night in June 1993.
- If you’re going to buy single seats to meaningless games way in advance, sometimes you can get really, really lucky, even at parks that sell out all the time. I sat in the front row behind home plate at PacBell Park in August 2000. I sat in the second row behind home plate at the Metrodome in the first game of the 1993 Tour, as well as at The Ballpark in Arlington in 2004.
- It’s easier to catch a ball, batted or thrown, in batting practice than you might think. You have to be aggressive if you’re competing with adults. Don’t compete with kids for batting practice balls (meaning don’t step in front of them; just catch what comes to you).
- Single guys take note: The two best kinds of dates to take to a baseball game, at least for my ego, are: (1) An incredibly intelligent woman who doesn’t know too much about baseball, but is willing to learn. (This puts me in position of being the wise and sage teacher, which I admit I like.) (2) An incredibly intelligent woman who is a big fan, and wows the studly men around her with her knowledge while hanging onto my arm. Yeah, that’s a little possessive, but whatever.
- Worst three things a date can do at a baseball game: 1. Read a book. 2. Say and do nothing. 3. Fake interest.
- The song that teams play after “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” after the 7th inning stretch is one of the most critical factors in establishing local color. They play “Mountain Music” at Coors Field. “Louie Louie” at Safeco. “Roll Out The Barrel” at Miller Park.. In the realm of the incongruous, “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” is the song at Camden Yards (and, if I recall, was also played during the fifth inning at Tiger Stadium). (This changed for a while after the September 11, 2001 attacks. I liked the way stadiums played patriotic songs for a while, and especially how the players and umpires paused to look at the flag.)
- People everywhere, as a rule, are very nice. When people talk to me (because I’m scoring the game), they find out what I’m doing and that I’m from out of town, and without fail, they’ll tell me stories about the stadium and the team only locals will know. Nicest people so far were in Kansas City, Florida, and San Juan. Special mention goes to the incredibly kind and giving stranger sitting next to me at Dodger Stadium.
- The people at Yankee Stadium might be an exception to the above rule.
- The joy of sports, and especially baseball, for me mostly derives from witnessing a moment in countless simultaneous stories. The game itself is a story, with conflict, characters, climax, and a beginning, middle, and end. Simultaneously, a game is a part of a story called a season, and the greater stories of the history of the game and the history of our culture. Plus, each player and manager is enacting his own story. I love hearing and telling those stories, and especially the rich interplay between them.
- Beyond that, for reasons I cannot explain, baseball encourages people (or maybe it’s just me) to reflect on where they are in their own stories. I think it may be because there’s time to think at the game. I think this is why memories of baseball games are inevitably couched in “That was the summer when…” or “That was the game I saw with…”. I have no evidence to back me on this, but I don’t think this happens as intensely in other sports. So the multiple stories of the game, season, and players are superimposed over our own stories every time we go to the ballpark. This is what I’ve tried to capture in these pieces.