“Ballparks Then And Now”
The publishing info:
Published in July, 2019
“Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebration
of all Major League & Negro League Ballparks”
Philip J. Lowery
Fifth edition editors:
Ron Selter, Kevin Johnson, Paul Healey
The publishing info:
Society for American Baseball Research (SABR)
Released March 12
The reviews in 90 feet or less
Where on Earth might you rather be, on this 50th Earth Day, than outside enjoying the sensory overload of a ballpark experience this afternoon?
The Dodgers would have been in our nation’s capital in the middle of a six-game road trip. The Angels would have been playing host to the Orioles, ending a six-game homestand.
The ballpark has always been one of the great American public spaces, as Paul Goldberger figured out when he did his magnificent book last year, “Ballpark: Baseball in the American City,” which allowed the New York Times architect writer to explain how and why the ballpark is the perfect example of a Hamiltonian/Jeffersonian compromise in urban and rural values embedded in the American experience. Alexander Hamilton could see a commerce-driven city within the city. Thomas Jefferson could enjoy a lush, Technicolor-green field, even if there’s a wall bordering it.
“In the baseball park, the two need each other,” Goldberger writes. “The structure of the grandstand exists to allow people to watch what is happening on the field, while the field exists to give the grandstand its purpose.” Our extended Q&A with Goldberger last year also brings out how he felt Dodger Stadium was a metaphor for the city that wants movement and privacy. It’s difficult to often move into the stadium but once you’re there it does feel very secluded.
“In spite of the fact it’s too big, or entirely automobile dependent – which is the worst possible model – Dodger Stadium is nevertheless one of the nicest places in America to watch a ballgame. It’s just horrible to get to and horrible to get out of. But it’s just nice when you’re there.”
As for the current Angel Stadium, Goldberger says: “I’m a great believer in the idea that ballparks should all be different and do things that identify their places. I really thought the Big A scoreboard (a 230-foot tall, 210-ton red metal structure with a halo on the top created in 1966 behind the left-field fence but is relegated to the parking lot off first base) was a sort of funnier and cooler and nicer and more endearing weight than the whole center field water thing they have now.”
(Thanks for the excuse to revisit this exquisite book about the how and why of ballparks as we can weld it into today’s reviews).
On a day that also marks the 144th anniversary of the first Major League Baseball game, featuring the Boston Red Caps and Philadelphia Athletics played at Athletic Grounds in Philadelphia long before naming rights were wrong, let’s get a ballpark figure on some numbers we have going around in our heads now:
A Dodger Stadium fact sheet:
== Opened for the 1962 season, shared with the Angels, built for $23 million, the first privately financed ballpark since Yankee Stadium in 1923.
== Capacity of 56,000 is a city ordinance.
== Parking for 16,000 cars.
== Oldest MLB ballpark west of the Mississippi — a function as much as its brilliant resilience as the fact others have been in rebuild and tear-down mode.
== In 2009 the U.S. Postal Service gave Dodger Stadium its own zip code: 90090.
== Other events in its history: An Aug. 28, 1966 Beatles concert, 2014 Kings-Ducks outdoor NHL game, a Mass conducted by Pope John Paul II in 1987, filming an Elvis Presley movie “Spinout” in 1966, two nights of Elton John in 1975, five nights of Michael Jackson and brothers in 1984. Plus Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones.
An Angel Stadium fact sheet:
== Opened for the 1966 season, known as Anaheim Stadium, then Edison Field, and perhaps best characterized still as the Big A, a nickname coined by Herald-Examiner editor Bud Furillo.
== Built for $24 million, capacity started at 43,250, went as high as 64,000-plus, currently at 45,517.
== Notable statues include one of Gene Autry at Gate 2 and one of Michelle Carew at Gate 3.
== Used to be the home for the NFL’s Rams (1980-94), the Freedom Bowl college post-season game (1984-94), Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton football, and California Surf of the NASL (1978-81).
== Concerts of note: The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, The Grateful Dead, Madonna, Eagles, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt.. And a two-day event called KMET-FM Summerfest in Sept., 1978, that also had Boston, Black Sabbath, and Sammy Hagar’s solo act leading into Van Halen.
== Who’s on first: A 1976 concert by The Who led to marijuana plant seeds starting to sprout in the Angels’ outfield.
If only for that joy of pulling up to a parking gate and seeing the stadium in the distance. Could they just let us in today, just to drive around the perimeter?
Park yourself right here for a moment.
There continues to be new work done on Dodger Stadium’s pavilion entrance, creating a new “front door” to the facility. There are plans now to expand the area around Angels Stadium, after rumblings for a time about a new ballpark for the team in Long Beach as it made a leverage play.
Stadiums are always in the news one way or another, and we’re always open to the idea of a refresh, in one method of another. As long as we don’t compromise history.
Where Goldberger brings us the intellectual joy and understanding of how and why a ballpark functions in our society, these two take it from the more visceral angle of documenting what we’ve had and the layers we built upon them, depending on the local city’s needs and wants.
With “Ballparks Then and Now,” Enders, a SABR member and former researcher at the National Baseball Hall of Fame who lives in Cooperstown and admits to being a life-long Dodgers fan growing up in El Paso (where the team once had a minor-league affiliate), here is a revision of an enlarged coffee-table book he originally came out with in 2002, then updated in 2014.
As part of the publisher’s “Then And Now” series (www.thenandnowbooks.com) that includes the 2017 book “Lost Ballparks” by Dennis Evanosky, Enders’ end game is to easily pick up from his 2018 book “Ballparks: A Journey Through the Fields of the Past, Present and Future” (Chartwell Books, 304 pages) – even though that includes a tear-out checklist of parks one has visited. He also did “Big League Ballparks: The Complete Illustrated History” in 2009.
(We also appreciate how this new Enders edition has Wrigley Field featured on the cover from 1945 and then the almost same angle for present day on the back, in color. Of all the other books that could be confused as this one, here’s a structured response.)
One of the first things a book like this needs to do is fill in the gaps in our mind. What were the dimensions of the Polo Grounds in New York, to make the Bobby Thomson home run so dramatic – and short? Page 5 of this book shows us from the batter’s perspective.
What happens when old ballparks are basically abandoned? Page 6 shows that with the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Why do we allow this?
Is today’s Dodger Stadium and Angels Stadium too Disney-fied? Trying to make them less a place to sit and enjoy an afternoon and more accommodating to restless kids who want to get up, run around and jump on things?
Until Enders kind of tells us the obvious – Anaheim Stadium’s construction for the Angels in the mid-60s was really trying to replicate Dodger Stadium for the Dodgers – we really hadn’t connected those dots. Because around both parks, the environment is so different – acres of flat parking versus hills and palm trees and parking that leads to a direct level of entrance.
But when you see the old photo on page 12 – and since it’s alphabetical, Anaheim and the Angels jump first – that assessment looks right. It is also somewhat odd to list of Angel Stadium’s “greatest moments” to lead off with July 3 2004 (Eric Gagne of the Dodgers sets the record with his 84th straight save) and sidestep Oct. 27, 2002 when Darin Erstad catches the final out in center to secure the Angels’ lone World Series title light the halo.
Yet, in those two pages, we move on… to Atlanta and Baltimore (six pages each), Boston (10 pages) …
Sorry, Big A.
The Dodgers get a look at Brooklyn (pages 36-41, highlighted by a shot of the neighborhood that shows some laundry drying in the backyard of an apartment less than a block from Ebbets Field) and Los Angeles (pages 82-87) that also covers the old L.A. Wrigley Field, the Coliseum, and Dodger Stadium, which remains “the largest-capacity stadium in Major League Baseball … built in 1962 and the third oldest after Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field … still a delight to visit.”
Again, very little in the way of critiquing, for better or worse, and more about showing what history was there, and what replaced it these days.
Writer’s note: This just in off the teletype to correct the previous paragraph:
And according to this SABR newsletter, Lowry’s first edition was just 157 pages and took seven years to compile, with 45 members of the society helping him collect more than 2,300 letters with information.
Lowry, a Minnetonka, Minn., resident with a Harvard MBA, has watched this thing grow to 583 ballparks now — most of that increase due to the discovery of more Negro League facilities that have finally been documented.
The coverage is from the 1870s to the present — there’s a new one in Arlington, Tex., that hasn’t had the seal cracked yet for the Texas Rangers. It sits there empty.
The small-town places are the most intriguing, such as Renziehausen Park in McKeesport, Pennsylvania or Duncan Field in Hastings, Nebraska. Or the parks that met their demise because of natural disasters — a tornado took down one in Waco, Texas in 1953.
Bill Ott of the American Library Association writes: “Though technically a reference book (alphabetical arrangement, encyclopedia-style entries), this guide … belongs in most library circulating collections. For baseball fans, it’s browsing heaven. In paragraphs labeled ‘Phenomena,’ Lowry delivers juicy details about each park that provide their own sociopolitical commentary — Ruppert Stadium in Newark, for example, home of the Negro League Newark Eagles, was located near a garbage dump, which generated so much smoke and such horrible smells that games were often delayed.”
It all adds to the charm, right?
How they go in the scorebook
Save the bulldozers. Build on our memories.
Ballparks are like our churches right now in many ways. It seems to be the most essential of all our gathering spots. We can have faith they will open soon as long as we’re assured a safe spot to clasp our hands together at the end and pray for everyone’s well being.
Other virtual resources
== As for the Twitter sites we tend to monitor, just because:
And here’s our closer before we turn out the lights