If you read my fifty years post; you can probably tell baseball has been a major influence in my life. To the SABER generation I wish you to see thru my eyes and others the baseball we knew. I not saying the game was necessarily better; it was different. The old time parks had a different feel and character than today. The parks of the sixties that replaced many of the old timers turned off many fans of older generations as a result. Modern architects try valiantly to recreate the old feel with the modern amenities. Because of that they sometimes miss the point.
The fans in many ballparks were literally on top of the players. You could have intimate conversations with the players during the course of a game. Hecklers in the stands could be heard. Many of you have heard the story of how "Stan the MAN" Musial got his nick name. It was literally from Dodger fans pointing at him saying " There's that MAN !" The one who crushed so many of their dreams....
Forever youngsters out there; please help me out. Some of these parks I saw many times on TV but was too young or far away to actually visit. Ebbets field is an apparition to me. I heard so many stories of the place I feel i know it. The cramped confines of the single city block and the kind of parallelogram configuration. The baseball bat chandelier in the entry way. The multi national and lingual working class crowd. The stale beer and urine reek near the rest rooms on a hot summers day. The good and the bad sight lines.
I am not writer enough to rate every ball park and as I was becoming aware of baseball a whole generation of parks disappeared. I am not really old enough to have witnessed a game at League park but I am old enough to have heard stories about it. I have heard lots of stories over the years about ballparks that are too "colorful" to repeat in this forum. I'll let pedalpusher go into detail of Colt stadium and the ol' Astrodome. He lived them.
This is not about anybody's favorite team and criticism of a park does not imply criticism of a city perse but maybe management of the team or city that ran them. Please share your ball park stories. Especially minor league ones.
League park is actually a park now in a suburban neighborhood. It was famous for the "Screen Monster" before Fenway's famous wall was painted green. The screen was a chainlink fence about 70ft tall in right field. While I don't recall the actual dimensions; right field was supposedly shorter that Ebbets or Yankee and the whole footprint was similar to Ebbets. After WW2 Cleveland wanted to promote the lakefront for new development and the changing automobile demographics caused the neighborhood to want something done about the parking and traffic.That lead to the old girl's demise. This lead to the famous "Mistake by the Lake". My dad used to talk about listening to Bob Fellar pitching there before the war
Shibe park was pretty sorry the one time I was there. It was badly in need of paint and the seats were in disrepair. Philly fans can give better color and depth to the place as I was only four at the time. For some reason I can't recall; the walking vendors in the stands made a bigger impression on me than they did in Yankee Stadium; which I had visited first. It also was my first experience with fluent and literate profanity. I'm not saying it wasn't present in NYC. I was too young to notice before. My favorite story of Shibe was Joe Garagiola talking about how when he played there the right field wall had an advertisement that the Phillies used Lifebouy soap and some Philly fan grafitted it to say they still stank.
Crosley field in Cincinnati always impressed me as small and intimate on TV . Much more so than either Fenway or Wrigley. It just did not have the majesty of them, but Reds fans loved the place. It was always a kick to see a homer hit into somebody's convertible hauling down the freeway over the low left field bleachers. Many Reds fans I know of the era thought that "Riverdump" was a poor baseball experience in comparison.
Forbes field in Pittsburg is another I saw on TV but to me she was the dowager empress of the old timers. Built on the campus of the University of Pittsburg; she was in a victorian park like setting. Before the intrusion of lightstandards ( in the field of play! ) the view from the upperdeck must have been spectacular in the fall. She was the only one that did not have out field bleachers cluttering the sight lines. Some of her features were "quaint" by even the standards of the Polo grounds and Wrigley. Her out field was the original baseball "airport". Without the light standards I could easily see a biplane landing and takeing off there. The old girl just had class! She was way past her prime but she wouldn't accept it.
Senators Stadium always looked dilapidated to me on TV. While the basic construction was of the same as Shibe and Crosley; It some how looked poorly built. Shibe was built primarily by out of work shipyard workers. Even though Shibe had seen some hard times; the quality of the construction could be seen and felt. Senators Stadium just did not look as subtstantial some how. Her upper decks reminded me in away of Tiger Stadium but still cheaper. I am old enough to have seen Mickey Mantle clear the building to right center field on TV.
The Polo grounds. If Forbes was the Dowager empress; the Polo grounds was the arrogant old fool that lost the family fortune. When I got there the stogy old man had been neglected for some time. He tried to put on airs but couldn't pull it off any more. I guess the best way to descirbe him is the worst of Tiger Stadium as far as some of the sight lines and nearly the oval shape of Olympic stadium. If you saw that center field in person; you'd have a whole new appreciation of Willie Mays. I actually thought the Polo grounds was better for football.
Cominsky park was Wrigley on a vaster scale. Similar in construction and architecture but much bigger in keeping with the vision of her original owners. She was a pitcher's haven like Forbes with a deep outfield in a truncated triangle. When I say archetecture; I mean method of construction and lay out of the infrastructure. Not completely in looks. They were built at roughly the same time and by many of the same people.
Yankee and Tiger stadiums are recent enough losses that the wounds are still too deep. If you think Coors has a big out field; you have no idea unless you'd seen Yankee stadium's left center field before the reconstruction. Fans of other teams will stone me for it; Yankee stadium was baseball's true cathedral to me and I mourn the waste of it's passing. To me it's destruction is as blasphemous as destroying the Vatican. All that history gone! Red Sox and Cub fans it will happen to you someday too. Tiger stadium was enlarged over time like Mile high was. The old auto worker had many additions and they some how didn't fit togeather. Each section of the ball park had it's own character and feel and the experience of being there gave me imagineary glimpse of all the others..