Ballparks of the past remembered fondly, and some just remembered - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Ballparks of the past remembered fondly, and some just remembered

Memorial Stadium
Photo credit: Associated Press

I’ve been fortunate to visit 54 major league ballparks, 29 current ones—no one has yet seen a game in the Texas Rangers’ new home, Globe Life Field. On Thursday, I looked at the current ones, and now I’ll rate the 25 no longer in use.

1.) Yankee Stadium My first baseball experience was at old Yankee Stadium, before its 1976 refurbishment. I went there for the first time in 1963, and in the age of black-and-white television, seeing the green grass of this regal stadium stunned a 7-year-old.

I went there many times through high school when it closed for two years to be refurbished. In the retrofitted version, I saw Chris Chambliss hit a home run to win the 1976 ALCS, Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series and Dave Righetti pitch the only no-hitter I’ve ever seen on July 4, 1983.

2.) Memorial Stadium Just like Oriole Park was probably a hometown vote, so is this one. Forty years ago this month, I visited 33rd Street for the first time, and loved the atmosphere. 

A friend taught me where to park my tiny Toyota Tercel in the neighborhood for a free spot, and then shared the Orioles rites of passages: to yell “O,” and appreciate the Roar from 34.

3.) County Stadium When I visited Milwaukee, I was taken with how much it reminded me of Memorial Stadium. It was about 10 minutes from downtown, it was near a neighborhood and built with bricks. Inside, the ballparks reminded me of each other. 

I liked that it had a bakery. That was a neat touch. Unfortunately, I don’t eat bratwurst.

4.) Globe Life Park I’m sorry this park had to go. The hottest I’ve ever been was during the workout day for the 1995 All-Star Game, when the temperature seemingly was 115.

It had a nice atmosphere and was the scene of a wild celebration when the Orioles won the 2012 wild-card game. In 2017, I saw Adrian Beltre’s 3,000th hit there.

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5.) Busch Stadium With the Raiders leaving Oakland, there are no more multi-sport parks, and that’s a good thing. But this was the nicest of the “cookie cutters.”

When the football Cardinals left for Phoenix, the park was retrofitted for baseball, and it was surprisingly intimate.

When I scored a ticket to Game 4 of the 1985 World Series, I was taken with the Clydesdales performing and Ozzie Smith’s backflips.

6.) Tiger Stadium There’s a popular post on Facebook. People list 10 things they don’t like that they think everybody else does. 

I could list Tiger Stadium on it. In ballpark rankings a generation ago, Tiger Stadium was considered a gem. I always thought Wrigley Field and Fenway Park were far better.

Tiger Stadium had lots of poles and, while it was intimate, it always seemed a bit on the dumpy side.

7.) Comiskey Park was the ballpark cultists favorite in the 1970s and 1980s. Even though it was ancient, the White Sox tried to be inventive about their concessions, and it had some atmosphere even if the bathrooms could be downright scary. 

Nancy Faust was the first modern ballpark organist and, while Wrigley became fashionable, some of the insiders loved Faust’s inventiveness and considered Comiskey cool.

It was across the street from its charmless successor.

8.) Veterans Stadium Everyone hated “The Vet” because it had no soul, but I spent many happy days and nights watching Phillies and some Eagles games.

Before the Nationals moved to Washington, I’d occasionally go to Philadelphia to get a National League fix, and in the years between the Colts and Ravens, I went to a number of Eagles games.

As a result, I have surprisingly warm feelings for this place, the scene of the wild 15-14 Game 4 of the 1993 World Series that I watched from center field in amazement.

9.) Metrodome There aren’t any great parks on the rest of this list, but this was the best of the domes, which is sort of like telling apart shades of gray.

The Metrodome had atmosphere, and was the scene of the terrific 1991 World Series and its deafening roar.

10.) Shea Stadium My father wasn’t much of a sports fan, but he took me to a game or two per season when I was growing up. The Mets played their first two seasons in the Polo Grounds and wouldn’t take me there because he hated the New York Giants (he was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan).

Since my father isn’t here to defend himself, and I don’t believe in criticizing him because he was a wonderful dad, I wished he had taken me to the Polo Grounds just once.

Shea Stadium aged quickly and there was nothing special about it, but it was the scene of the first  playoff game I witnessed. In Game 3 of the 1973 NLCS, Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose got into a brawl.

11.) RFK Stadium It was probably better for football, and I saw a handful of Redskins games there. I covered a number of Nationals games in their early seasons, but it was old and dumpy.

My most memorable moment was watching Mark McGwire in batting practice before a 1999 exhibition game when he drilled a ball far into the upper deck in left field, which had to be more than 500 feet away.

12.) Jack Murphy Stadium was named for the sportswriter who tirelessly campaigned for San Diego’s addition to the major leagues. It wasn’t a bad park, and it was helped because the weather was ideal.

I saw my first inside-the-park home run there when Lonnie Smith watched a ball land under a folding chair in the left field bullpen, and mistakenly thought it was out of play. Jack Howell rounded the bases while Smith signaled it was out of play. It wasn’t.

13.) Three Rivers Stadium The first time I saw a game there was in 1988 and, on a Sunday afternoon, the Pirates and Cubs played 18 innings, the longest game played there.

It was similar to Veterans Stadium and Riverfront in Cincinnati, nothing unique about it.

I remember Mets announcer Lindsey Nelson welcoming viewers to the confluence, where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers met to form the Mighty Ohio.

14.) Riverfront Stadium The Big Red Machine played there, but again the only thing unique was that it was built next to the Ohio River, and it was easy to walk from Cincinnati to Kentucky.

15.) Candlestick Park I once watched a Sunday afternoon game where I wore a sweater to begin the game, took it off shortly after the game started, and then was freezing again by the end of the game.

The opposing team had to walk off the field in short right field to reach its clubhouse.

16.) Arlington Stadium This was the first home of the Rangers, and it was a retrofitted minor league park. I remember tasting Blue Bell ice cream there for the first time, and it was very good.

It had the largest percentage of seats in fair territory of any ballpark and, on adjacent land, has now seen two ballparks replace it.

17.) Turner Field It had a short lifespan, just 20 seasons. It wasn’t far from downtown Atlanta, but there was no gathering place near it. Built for the 1996 Olympics, it didn’t have any special characteristics, but it was still a surprise when the Braves announced their move to Cobb County for what’s now called Truist Park. 

It’s currently used as a college football venue.

18.) Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium It was home to some of baseball’s great moments, Henry Aaron’s 715th home run and three games of the epic 1991 World Series.

It was charmless but great if you liked home runs. For many of its years, it featured extremely small crowds. In 1975, the year after Aaron left, the Braves drew barely more than 500,000 fans.

19.) Municipal Stadium In 1977, I graduated from college and looked for a job in television, touring Pennsylvania and Ohio. I ended up in Cleveland and went to my first game there.

It was an enormous stadium, and I remember listening to Jon Miller call an Orioles game, and he said there was a foul ball in the empty left field stands.

There hadn’t been a ball hit there since the 13th century, during the Crusades.

20.) Astrodome I didn’t get to see it until it was more than 20 years old. By then, there were other charmless domes, and saw nothing special about it.

21.) Kingdome was the first time I saw an indoors game, and what struck me was how close everything seemed.

22.) Joe Robbie Stadium was one of many names for the stadium shared by the Marlins and the Dolphins. I was there during the Marlins’ first year, and it didn’t seem terribly hospitable to baseball.

23.) Olympic Stadium I saw one game there in 1988, and a friend and I had our picture taken with the great mascot, Youppi. The dome was orange, and it was a shame that a great city like Montreal would have such a sad ballpark.

24.) Mile High Stadium A great venue for football was a grotesque one for baseball. The Rockies drew record crowds, nearly 4.5 million in their inaugural 1993 season.

25.) Exhibition Stadium Home of the Blue Jays from 1977-1989, this was a trumped-up CFL park. At my first game there, I sat in the stands behind first base, and the sun set in my eyes.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

 

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