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

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Roley59

    April 10, 2020 at 8:46 am

    Memorial Stadium should be number 1 Rich in my opinion. I liked the Vet and saw Phillies games there. Love Fenway Park. Went to one game at Yankees Stadium in the 90s. Too rich (money) for me. RFK Stadium was okay. Riverfront Stadium reminded me of Vet but liked it. They are my favorites. Keep up the good articles Rich.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 10, 2020 at 8:47 am

      Thank you, Roley.

      • Roley59

        April 11, 2020 at 12:48 pm

        You are welcome Rich. Keep up the great columns.

  2. CalsPals

    April 10, 2020 at 9:52 am

    Municipal stadium wasn’t too bad of a football stadium, not good for baseball, saw my first game there in 1966, tribe vs O’s, an O’s fan since, thx for bringing back some great memories…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 10, 2020 at 12:01 pm

      Thank you, Ray.

    • CalsPals

      April 10, 2020 at 5:39 pm

      We never drove downtown, always took the rapid transit & walked from terminal tower, an adventure I’d never want my kid to experience, all these crazy times, maybe why we’re so much tougher than the current generations, go O’s…

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    April 10, 2020 at 11:12 am

    While we’re waxing nostalgic …

    I spent 6 years growing up in Massachusetts. Haven’t been back since 1975. This is why I’m considering Fenway amongst the old pahks.

    Although I was always an Orioles fan, I cut my Major League teeth in Fenway Pahk. I had never seen anything greener in my life than the 1st time I emerged from a portal, and laid eyes on the field and that wall. No doubt OPACY captures that same old-timey field and more than its share of the character of Fenway. But thank goodness Camden takes it to the next level of modern amenities. However, there is a reason they won’t tear that decrepit building down in Bahston. Probably more due to the age I was at the time, Fenway Pahk will never be replaced in my heart, not even by OPACY. (blasphemy I know)
    .
    That being said, here is my 1975 take of Fenway. Bluntly put … it really was not a nice place. Game day experience. After hiking for what seemed like a half marathon after pahking the cah in the front lawn of some Frat house on University row, all the while dodging winos and panhandlers, you’d get to Lansdown street. This street featured the outside of the Green Mahnstah, where on occasion you might spy a rat the size of Rin Tin Tin running along its’ base.
    .
    After entering the complex by pushing with what seemed like all your might through some rusty-green turnstile, you of course would immediately seek out the nearest restroom, which always featured one of those latrine-like, mangled, stainless steel, hog feeding type urinals which featured a stream of water and urine carrying all sorts of refuge from left to right. Half the patrons seemed incapable of hitting to anyway, preferring the floor in front of it! The narrow, overcrowded concourses smelled only slightly better than the restrooms masking the scent of those wonderful yet overrated 75 cent Fenway Franks. (which at the time was a kings ransom!) One saving grace was there was a Ginos Burger joint across the street, at which you could purchase a sack of 4 burgers for a dollar to take in with you. Ah, but after pahking your ahse in your $1 bleacher seat, all would be well with the world, especially if you’re watching Lee May and Don Baylor take the Spaceman or El Tiante deep into the night over the monster in the direction of the Jimmy Fund sign. Of course, if you were at a Yankees game, you’d get the bonus of at least 2 fistfights in your section alone making that $1 well worth it! Now here is the worst thing about Fenway … It’s full of Red Sox fans! One thing I never realized until I moved away from that narcissistic little state, is that by and large, the people of New England are really unfriendly … and frankly, that’s the nicest way I can put it!
    .
    Then the game would be over. Of course when you’re 10 to 17 years old, you’d never leave the game until the last out was made. Thus began the tortuous half marathon hike, again, dodging winos, panhandlers and other Bahston rift-raft back to your car, where hopefully you wouldn’t be blocked in by some drunken patrons that don’t leave games early!
    .
    Fenway .. it was ahhsome.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 10, 2020 at 11:57 am

      It’s slightly different today, Ken. For a mere $75, you can park your car a few blocks away.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        April 10, 2020 at 3:04 pm

        To be truthful Rich, although occasionally I went by car with a neighbor’s father that took pity on me, most games I rode a school bus in from the Worcester area. Our town’s recreation center had about 20 tickets per game located down the left field line. The buses parked right across the street. (but that doesn’t make for as good a story)

        Yeah, for what I remember as $3.50, you got a reserved seat ticket and a ride. Spent a majority of my summers paper delivery and lawn mowing money this way.

        • Raveonjo

          April 11, 2020 at 11:24 am

          I sat in a box seat by the Pesky Pole. It faced away from the diamond. I had a great view of the Green Monster, but I couldn’t see homplate unless I turned my head way to the left. Eventually, I kept track of the game by watching those ball and strike lamps on the scoreboard. It was literally a pain in the neck.

  4. Baltimore Castaway

    April 10, 2020 at 11:14 am

    That is an impressive collection of Ball Parks Rich.

    Will quibble w you on Shea Stadium and Candlestick Park–they were iconic places, especially Candlestick. Unless you’ve been there when the temperature swings 30+ degrees, it is hard to believe. Was there for a Garlic Festival once when everyone got free heads of fresh garlic—it was not pretty…

    Crazy times Rich… I have zero confidence that the MLB Commissioner has the moxie to effectively salvage even a part of this Season. The Minor Leagues are smoked, and lastly; I believe that the Orioles are going to get screwed badly w this new Amateur Draft format… oyyy.

    All the best.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 10, 2020 at 11:59 am

      Thank you, Castaway. I’ll try to be confident, even though it’s hard sometimes.

  5. Birdman

    April 10, 2020 at 11:53 am

    I’ve had the pleasure (well, not always pleasure) of visiting seven of the ballparks on your list. A few recollections.

    MEMORIAL STADIUM – Of course, my favorite, though that is colored by the fact that it was my home town park, and I got to watch, from the mid 60s to the early 80s, one of the greatest runs of wining baseball in history. It really was a very good park to watch a baseball game, unless your view was obstructed by one of the concrete support poles in the lower deck. However, by the time I returned to Memorial Stadium to watch the Ravens inaugural seasons (96 & 97), I must admit the charm had worn off. By then, after experiencing Camden Yards, the lousy concession and restroom facilities at Memorial were tough to take.

    YANKEE STADIUM – Went to one game at old Yankee Stadium in the early 70s before the renovation. My main memory is sitting in the lower deck in a rickety old wooden seat that seemed like it was about to fall apart.

    VETERANS STADIUM – Remember going to a Phillies game and sitting in one of the last rows near the top of the upper deck. Have never watched a baseball game from so far way – they should have provided the fans with binoculars.

    JACK MURPHY STADIUM – As you note, the San Diego weather was so fantastic that even watching the Padres was enjoyable.

    ARLINGTON STADIUM – Saw quite a few games there – the heat is my overwhelming memory. They would show the temperature on the scoreboard, and I remember one game when it was 98 degrees at the start of the game, and that was a night game!

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 10, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      Birdman, nothing better than Texas heat.

  6. dlgruber1

    April 10, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    One of my most memorable “sports” moments occurred at RFK stadium. I don’t recall the year but I believe it was mid 70’s. My cousin (who was and is a HUGE Vikings fan) and I took a bus trip to see the 9-0 Vikings play the Redskins. We were too young to drink and as such we’re seemingly the only people on the bus not drinking. Redskins jumped out to a big early lead but Fran Tarkenton led a comeback that resulted in a field goal attempt of about 45 yards by Fred Cox on the final play of the game. The kick was blocked (I think by Ron McDole) and the stadium was actually shaking from the crowd going nuts. My memory of this tho is of 4 men who’d been drinking on the bus and throughout the game passed out completely as the insanity was going on all around them from the conclusion of the game.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 10, 2020 at 4:33 pm

      Dlgruber, when Chris Chambliss hit the pennant winning homer in 1976, a guy was passed out in front of me. I had to step over him as I was leaving.

  7. WorldlyView

    April 10, 2020 at 6:12 pm

    I am old enough to remember the now forgotten pre-1954 Memorial Stadium. No upper deck. No amenities. Not needed for International League baseball. In retrospect, it was a dingy place. But for a kid seeing his first professional games, the atmosphere was sublime. 15 cents for a program. I was surprised that I could not find any photos of the old Memorial on the Internet, so it is truly forgotten.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 10, 2020 at 7:58 pm

      Professor Cohen, I have a large collection of baseball books, and I glanced around just now, hoping I’d get some inspiration because I have seen photos of the old Memorial Stadium.

      I was not alive during that time, nor did I live here, but am aware of the history. Thank you for reminding us.

  8. Raveonjo

    April 11, 2020 at 11:31 am

    The Polo Grounds had to be a sight to see. If I could go back in time and could only visit one park, that would be the one. What was it, 290 feet down the lines and 500 feet to center? It was an extreme version of the original Memorial Stadium dimensions of 309 and 450.

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 11, 2020 at 12:15 pm

      Raveonjo, the Polo Grounds was 279 in left, 258 in right and 480 to center. The bullpens were in fair territory in left-center and right-center, which were 450 and 449. That’s the one that I could have gone to, and am sorry I didn’t, but at seven, I couldn’t go on my own.

  9. ptmt86

    April 13, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    Great list. Great comments. You and I are close to the same age. I’m a year older. However, you’ve been to more parks. I also have so many great memories of baseball. I was lucky enough to attend the Orioles ’66 ’70 and ’83 WS. I know two things that will never happen again in baseball. 1) Four (20) game winners on one team. 2) Cal Ripkins consecutive games played. Thanks for your great reviews!

    • Rich Dubroff

      April 13, 2020 at 7:22 pm

      Thank you, ptmt. Your kind words are deeply appreciated.

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