Munsey on Ballparks
Some of my favorites
by Paul Munsey (archive)
April 23, 2005
We humans have a natural tendency to rank things. Give us some choices and we'll automatically put them in order from biggest to smallest, tallest to shortest, best to worst. Today I'm going to write my opinions about some of the ballparks I've been to. I'll be using words like "best" and "favorite" to describe these places, but my main intent is to share some interesting aspects of places I enjoy.
Favorite all around ballpark - I'll cut to the chase. Wrigley Field in Chicago is hard to beat. It retains a charm from a bygone era. Once you get over the beauty and nostalgia of the place, you'll realize just how well it's laid out. It's easy to enjoy a game there because the seating is intimate, and there is an astonishing lack of advertising to distract you. The scoreboard is simple and old school. Plus, you haven't lived until you've experience the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley.
Favorite urban ballpark experience - Several years ago we stayed at a hotel on 3rd Avenue and East 51st Street in New York City. From there it was just a few steps to get on the #4 train to the Bronx, which dropped us off right at Yankee Stadium. I don't think it is possible to describe that experience and do it justice. In New York, things aren't just big. They're gigantic! Every time you turn around there is a famous building, store or restaurant. Taking the subway from midtown Manhattan to Yankee stadium was like an amusement park ride of sights and cultures. That we could get from our hotel to the ballpark so effortlessly in such a big and confusing city is still amazing to me.
For me, the best part about Yankee Stadium isn't the history, architecture or the team that plays there. The best part is the people who attend the games. The people in New York are great. They know they have something special there, and they really take pride in their city.
Favorite view of a skyline - I could go to PNC Park just to take in Pittsburgh's fantastic skyline. The ballpark is great in its own right. There are only two decks, with luxury boxes tucked under and the press box above the upper deck. It's similar to Wrigley Field in that regard, but the inspiration for the press box came from Forbes Field, where the Pirates played ball for most of the twentieth century. There are plenty of restaurants nearby and vendors on 6th Street / Roberto Clemente Bridge, which is closed to automobile traffic before and during ballgames. If you're feeling artsy, check out the Andy Warhol Museum down the street.
Ballpark with the best climate - This is a tie between Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and PETCO Park in San Diego. The climate in southern California feels like you could live outdoors. It's always a good day for a game because it almost never rains, at least during baseball season.
Ballpark which most reminds me of a cathedral - The halls along the perimeter of Ameriquest Field, formerly known as the Ballpark in Arlington, are tall and dramatic. Even the stairways and ramps are inspiring. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what it is that this place does to me, but it's inspiring.
Best ballpark under a roof - I remember when there was only one indoor stadium on the entire planet. It was called the Astrodome and it was located in Houston, Texas. Now that city has three indoor stadiums. There are so many indoor stadiums around the world today that I almost can't keep track of them all. What they all have in common is that they all seal out the environment, except for one. Safeco Field in Seattle has a retractable roof to keep out the rain, and that's all. It doesn't seal out the elements, so the breeze off of Puget Sound still blows through. The ballpark has many other fine features, like the beautiful brick and steelwork. But, the design of the roof is what sets it apart.
Best ballpark on a bay - Twelve years ago, the Giants were leaving their miserable wind tunnel of a ballpark on Candlestick Point for St. Petersburg, Florida. Well, fate intervened and, thanks to the efforts Peter Magowan and his ownership group, the team plays in a downtown ballpark with a beautiful panoramic view of San Francisco Bay. SBC Park, formally called Pacific Bell Park, is also the centerpiece of a gigantic redevelopment of the South of Market area in San Francisco. Land that was old docks and rail yards only ten years ago is now the most dynamic part of The City.
Favorite ballpark from my home town - This one's kind of lame, but you didn't think I was going to get through this column without mentioned Fenway Park, did you? Actually, I should have entitled this paragraph "ballpark with the smallest seats." The seats at Fenway are small. If three grown men are sitting in consecutive seats, then it isn't possible for all them to sit back at the same time. That's a drawback. The upside is that there are more seats close to the game on the field than any other ballpark.
Paul Munsey is the editor of Ballparks.com.
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