Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ball Park Winners

Well, there are other ball parks besides Fenway. I'm told.

Wrigley Field is a charming example. It was next up after Fenway and promptly installed quirks of its own. It's got scalloped edges and an extra chunk in right field, and it's all hugged by a brick wall covered with ivy that can actually eat baseballs. The fielder gets to decide if he's going in there after one or just holding up his arms for a ground-rule double like a big pussy. Sticking with the theme of being bollixed up by Nature, the park is sited next to a howling and properly quirky wind off Lake Michigan. In a nod to Wrigley tradition, Candlestick Park was later situated in a perpetual hurricane. Denver's Coors Field one-upped them all by removing most of the air altogether.

Fenway and Wrigley are the only survivors of those days; the newest currently occupied park didn't show up for another 52 years. The old Yankee Stadium is gone now, too. Yankee Stadium, the House That Ruth Built After The Sumbitch Left Boston, was suitably lumpy. Not only that, there were three large stone monuments to star players parked right out in center field that players had to negotiate around. Serial nutcase Jimmy Piersall once hid behind the monuments during a game to have a word with Babe Ruth's ghost, but Babe Ruth's ghost was drunk. The stadium was renovated between 1973-1975 during which time the Yankees had to share the Mets' stadium, leading to confusion over who had the home-field advantage (uh, it's always the Yankees). Then the old stadium was retired in 2009 and replaced by a new one next door. The famous old metal frieze that had adorned the old stadium was supposed to be stuck onto the new as a salute to history, but it had too much scrap value and somehow disappeared into the Bronx. The new stadium safely quarantines the monuments off field, features improvements that help keep the players from getting fan cooties on them, is the most expensive ball park ever built, and oh who cares.
And by the way, Go Red Sox.

But as Yankee did, stadiums get tatty, and new teams proliferate like fruit flies, and owners conspire to vacuum money out of taxpayers, and what with one thing and another we've got new ball parks coming down the pike all the time. The Houston Astros kicked it off with their Astrodome in 1965. Right off the bat, as it were, we were in trouble: the field was symmetrical. Symmetrical! It had a lid on it, and it was air-conditioned. The pitchers not only brought the heat, they brought the humidity. They took a stab at real grass but it kept steaming up the joint and so they invented fake grass and rolled that in. It was all wrong.

Other parks followed that attempted to make an indoor sport out of baseball, but eventually they started building stadiums that hearkened back to the so-called "jewel-boxes" Fenway and Wrigley: seating in mandatory forest green, red brick facades, and antique announcers. Wrigley itself underwent renovation; as the last holdout, it finally installed lighting for night games, thus signing the death warrant for the time-honored practice of playing hooky from work to watch a ball game. In keeping with tradition, however, they refused to install a winning team.

Nationals Park was the first to receive LEED certification as a green building, but given the standards for stadiums--Chase Field is air-conditioned when the roof is open--it probably just means they heat the dugouts with recycled hot dog farts. The Marlins in Miami finally broke the mold by daring to be modern. After twenty consecutive retro-style parks were built, they had a different idea. There are lime
green fences. There's glass. There are swooping lines of concrete. There are waterless urinals. Two long aquariums stretch out behind home plate, stocked with colorful, freaked-out fish.

It's not the worst idea. At least it snaps the trend to manufactured nostalgia. It's possible to go modern without sacrificing quirkiness. I propose a park shaped like a double helix. The warning track could be a Moebius strip. Or a moat with a single roaming shark. In deep center field, a small Starbucks is in play. An ironic ukulele band replaces the organ. Let's do it.

24 comments:

  1. Great and priceless commentary! Lifted the Saturday morning grey day in the UK! Many thanks...

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    1. We're having that kind of day here today too. No lifting in sight.

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  2. TV rating are way down for this World Series and the reasons why are clear.... The regular season is a month too long, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck are really terrible and then there's the game - most people dislike - hate - the Red Sox unless its a NY-Boston regular season game, then, Boston is sorta OK.

    Wrigley and Fenway, while quaint, are both dumps. Both are like toys played with at a day care center - they're worn out.

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    1. Harsh! I'm watching anyway. I'm not out of peanuts yet.

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  3. It's good to know about this facts...

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  4. Wonderfully researched article. Funny, too.

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  5. You can make anything fun to read. Say, will you take a stab at the Income Tax Act? (any country will do)

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    1. Man, not even tempted. Talk me into it.

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    2. I got nuthin'. That's why I wanted YOU to do it.

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  6. I LOVED THIS!!!
    I miss the old Yankee Stadium and hate most of the new parks. The shape of the old parks were dictated by the city around them. Now the just plow whatever part of the city gets in the way. Symmetry has no place in baseball!! And the WS should be played in day light. Sure we were in school during games, but we could run that ear piece from a transistor radio through our sleeve, rest our head on our hand and listen,,,way more fun. Today kids fall asleep by the 5th inning.

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    1. Unrelated, but I read recently that kids today don't get nearly enough sleep. What the heck keeps them from getting enough sleep? I'll bet I got 9-10 hours a night.

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    2. facebook, twitter, a million and one apps. = no sleep.

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    3. Man. I'd rather sleep. So far I've only bought one app. It's a star finder. And I never take the sucker out to look at them.

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  7. I agree with Bill that the season is too long and the announce team is lame, but like you I watch the WS anyway. (Where else can you see a game won--or lost--on a call of obstruction?) And I'm sad when it's over, no matter who won or lost.

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    1. See, what I do is not pay attention till the post-season. That way the season isn't long at all. And every time I woke up last night I was replaying that obstruction call in my head. I can only imagine how the actual Red Sox are dealing with it.

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  8. Chase Field is air conditioned, when the roof is open. Ha Ha. Just like my home....

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    1. I'm sorry, I wasn't clear. I aircondition by opening the windows.

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  9. love the commentaries on the fields, especially my home team's Fenway Park - also like your beard. My niece has the best one so far, she's tying her hair under her chin - it's a look...

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