If you love baseball, you’ve got to love stadiums. Unlike football and basketball (do they even play hockey anymore?) which play their games on identical fields, each baseball stadium is unique. I love going to stadiums and walking around, taking pictures and watching the game from all different angles on all different levels. Here are the stadiums I’ve visited, and a quick little review:
Yankee Stadium (first game: 1968)
I don’t remember much about my first ballgame — after all, I was 5 years old. But I remember sitting in the outfield bleachers with my father, brother and members of our Temple. My father bought me a Cincinnati Reds pennant (which I still have — he is a Reds fan for some reason), and he instructed me to wave it whenever the TV cameras panned the bleachers. It was 1968, which was Mickey Mantle’s last year, so theoretically I saw Mantle play live. That’s pretty cool. I attended about a dozen games at Yankee Stadium over the years, including a Mayor’s Trophy game in the early 1980s that the Mets won. I went back to the Stadium one last time in 2009. It was pretty much a dump, but it was still Yankee Stadium, and it’s really sad that all that history is gone.
Shea Stadium (first game: 1971)
I’ve written in the past about good old Shea. I won’t repeat myself, but I had some great times there. I saw my idol Hank Aaron, in addition to all the NL and Mets superstars — Willie Mays, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Mike Piazza, all the way to Albert Pujols in my final game at Shea — a 13 inning affair that the Mets lost in 2009. I sat all over the place, seeing Shea from every angle. It was a terrible, ugly building, but think about all of the great Mets memories that happened there. I miss the place.
Fenway Park (first game: 1986)
I hate to say it because I love the place, but Fenway is a dump. The corridors are narrow and ugly, the seats are way too close to each other, and it looks like it could collapse at any moment. But it is a thrill to watch a game there. It’s small and intimate — the worst seat in the place seems closer to the field than any seat at Shea. I attended 5 games there in total, including the first two interleague series that the Mets played there. And at each game a fight broke out somewhere in the stands. Oh, and for some reason a “Yankees Suck” chant filled the stadium during the Mets games. We all hate the Yanks, so we all joined in.
Kauffman Stadium (1994)
What a beautiful stadium. There’s not a bad seat anywhere. I love that scoreboard in center field, and the water fountains in the outfield. They recently renovated the place, adding a promenade in the outfield. I hope it doesn’t change the feel of the stadium.
Wrigley Field (first game: 1999)
Look at the picture of Wrigley. See anything missing? Ads. There are no ads marring the outfield. It’s a beautiful place. The first game I went to was a wild one — the Mets lost 17-10. Sammy Sosa slammed two home runs. So did Robin Ventura. Another time, one of my best friends used to work in TV in Chicago, and she was shooting a story at Wrigley. I accompanied her onto the field to interview Aramis Ramirez. I was on the field when Greg Maddux went out to warm up. The pop of the catchers glove echoed throughout the empty stadium. Later we watched the game from the photographer’s booth, which was really cool. Wrigley is a beauty that every baseball fan should visit.
Tiger Stadium (1999)
Early in the 1999 season, Ralph Kiner was talking about Tiger Stadium, which was the final season for the place. Kiner said if you really want to see old-time baseball, go to Tiger Stadium before they close it down. So I did. The place was falling apart, and Detroit was a pit of a city, but I’m glad I went. It was sad to see pictures of them tearing the stadium down last year so there could be yet another empty lot in Detroit.
Riverfront Stadium (1999)
The cookie-cutter, multi-use stadium is now a thing of the past, but I’m glad I got to go to a couple of them. As I walked into Riverfront Stadium, I expected to hate it, having heard all of the negative talk for years. But you know what — I kind of liked the place. Even though it was large and generally soulless, it had a certain intimacy to it. Maybe because it was enclosed, and I had spent so much time at Shea that I had gotten used to an open outfield that makes stadiums seem bigger. The new Reds stadium looks a lot nicer, but still, Riverfront wasn’t so bad.
Turner Field (1999)
I was working at a TV station during the Mets-Braves playoff series in 1999, when my boss called me at home and asked, “how soon can you be at LaGuardia Airport to fly to Atlanta to produce the sportscast?” I was there in less than an hour. It was my first time actually walking on a major league baseball field. Pretty cool. And it was also my first time in one of the new retro parks. It’s a beautiful place. The corridors were nice and wide with lots of place to buy food. After the Mets unfortunately lost, I went into the clubhouse. It was as silent as any room I’ve ever been in. Mike Piazza walked past me. His arms were the size of my legs. All in all, not a bad way to spend a day at work.
Pac Bell Park (2000)
One of the most beautiful stadiums I’ve been to. The building itself is great, and add in the bay behind it, and it is just an extraordinary atmosphere. Barry Bonds hit a home run that made it into McCovey Cove on one bounce. As an added bonus, the whole place smells like the stadium’s signature garlic fries.
Veterans Stadium (2002)
This was pretty much an exact copy of Riverfront, just much larger. The place was also pretty much empty, which added to the vastness of it. The place really had no charm at all.
Camden Yards (2004)
The first of the new retro-stadiums, and the one that all of those that followed tried to be. And with good reason — Camden Yards is brilliant. It is just a great place to watch a baseball game. It has no gimmicks like the newer fields. They knew the purpose of the place was to play and watch baseball, and it really delivers. The warehouse in right field just adds to the charm of the stadium.
Tokyo Dome (2005)
Yes, the Tokyo Dome. I was in Tokyo, the Giants were in town, and I was able to score standing room tickets. In Japan, fans of one team sit on one side of the stadium, fans of the other on the other side. The fans sing and chant all game long. It was fascinating to see. This was also my first indoor stadium experience, which was kind of weird. As Mickey Mantle said after playing the first exhibition game at the Astrodome. “It’s like playing in my living room.” After watching a game at the Tokyo Dome, I know what he meant.
RFK Stadium (2005)
A pretty crummy place for baseball. Fortunately the team knew that and they now have a new stadium. The only saving grace of the building was the sloping roof, which adds a nice architectural element.
Citizens Bank Park (2005)
I really can’t explain it, but I just didn’t like Citizens Bank Park. And not because it’s home to the Phillies — I went to a game in 2005, and the rivalry with the Phils really started in 2007. Maybe it was the open outfield, but the stadium just felt big. The outfield concourse was nice. And it was also nice to have a bar on the ground floor to kill time before the game.
Minute Maid Park (2006)
I was expecting to hate Minute Maid Park — the dumb train on the roof, the stupid hill in center field, the asinine flag pole in fair territory. And I also hate stadiums where left field and right field look like they could be in different buildings (Arlington is like that, too. What is it about Texas?) But you know what — I loved it. It felt really small and intimate, and just had a great feel.
Petco Park (2006)
Just like Citizens Bank, Petco was another stadium I just didn’t like all that much. I think it had to do with the open outfield. It just seemed empty. While it makes a place feel airy, you lose the intimacy. Those of us who grew up at Shea know what I’m talking about. Petco certainly is not a bad place, however. That quirky little niche in right field annoys me, however. Man-made quirks never work in a stadium.
Angel Stadium (2006)
Angels Stadium is a weird place. It’s a nice place to watch a game. The sight lines are good. It doesn’t feel too big. But it’s just a boring stadium. There’s nothing much to it. Not much Angels history, just a lot of nothing. And the best part of the old stadium, the “Big A” was moved years ago to the parking lot. Personally, I liked it in left field. On the plus side, the outfield concourse is a nice place to walk around and still see the field.
Dodger Stadium (first game: 2006)
Ah, Dodger Stadium. I used to watch games there on TV and say, “It’s the same age as Shea. Why can’t our place look like that?” I couldn’t wait to go to Dodger Stadium when I moved here. And I wasn’t disappointed. It is simply a beautiful stadium. The hills behind the stadium just add to the beauty. One disappointment however — whenever the Mets would play there, the announcers would rave about Dodger Dogs. As a hot dog lover, I couldn’t wait to eat one. And you know what? — a Dodger Dog is just an ordinary ballpark hot dog, and an underwhelming one at that.
Chase Field (2006)
The roof was closed for the game I went to, which was a good thing because it was 105 degrees outside. Both inside and out, the place felt like a warehouse. I was not impressed. The post-game bar scene was pretty good, however — there are a couple of joints right across the street from the stadium.
Citi Field (first game: 2009)
I’ve written in the past about Citi Field, so I won’t repeat myself. It’s definitely an upgrade over Shea, but I think it could have been better. The outfield feels a little cramped. I wish that big scoreboard in center field were set back on the same plane as the right field board. This way, you would be able to see the field from the food court. I love the food court, but you should be able to see the field from there, not the back of a giant scoreboard.
Safeco Field (2010)
The outside of Safeco is nothing to write home about, but it is beautiful inside. The roof was open for my game, but it still had a very intimate feel. The site lines are great, and there is a wide-open corridor in the outfield where you can walk around and watch the game. There are ledges to stay and rest your beer and watch, too. I wish Citi Field’s outfield were more like this. Overall, one of the better stadiums I’ve visited.
U.S. Cellular Field (2013)
“The Cell” has been roundly criticized since it replaced old Comisky Park, and perhaps the criticism was justified — it used to have an insanely steep upper deck, steeper than Shea’s if you can believe it, and it had little amenities. But that was then, this is now. This is one of my favorite stadiums. The upper deck has been fixed and its angle is normal. There are lots of concession stands (although the variety of food is not great). My favorite part is the large outfield pavilion; you can walk around and watch the game uninterrupted from foul line to foul line. The park is spacious yet still intimate. One negative — they wouldn’t let me into the pavilion because I did not have field level seats. I had to get special permission. That needs to be changed so everyone can enjoy it.
New Yankee Stadium (2013)
Upon entering the new and improved Yankee Stadium, the first thing I noticed was that the old, cramped corridors have been replaced with lovely, wide walkways, especially the Grand Hall. Those terrible claustrophobic ramps are also gone. But when I saw the field itself, it looked almost exactly the same as the old place, which I guess was the plan. It feels familiar, so there is no “wow” factor. One difference is the outfield promenade where you can walk around and watch the game. As I’ve said in the past, I like this feature of the new parks. The stadium is smaller than the old one, and it feels it. Overall it is a nice place to watch a game, but I was not overwhelmed.
Nationals Park (2013)
When I enter a stadium and see the field, either I feel it or I don’t. It is a gut reaction. I just did not feel Nationals Park, and I am not sure exactly why. It is very nice, bright and clean. There are great food options. The outfield pavilion, on two levels, is wide and has great sight lines of the field. There is even a bar on one of them! Perhaps it has something to do with the lack of symmetry. I know it is trendy to forego the symmetry of the old stadiums, but it upsets my sense of obsessive-compulsiveness. Much like Citi Field, the outfield at Nationals Park is just messy. I don’t know; maybe after going to so many stadiums, I am expecting more, something that just may not exist.