This annotated week in baseball history: July 11-July 17, 1999by Richard Barbieri
July 15, 2010
On July 15, 1999 Safeco Field opened in Seattle. That meant the end of Major League Baseball at the Kingdome, a stadium that hosted the game from 1977 until that date without ever seeing a title. Richard looks at other, similar parks.
It may be a cliché that when one door closes another one opens, but it is an inarguable fact that—barring contraction—when one stadium closes another one opens. When the Mariners played their first game at Safeco Field (a loss unfortunately for their fans) that closed the book on baseball at the Kingdome. And when the Mariners were eliminated from the playoffs later that season, it eliminated any chance the Kingdome had of hosting a World Series-winning team.
But of course, the Kingdome is hardly the only stadium, nor the longest lasting, to spend its entire life hosting a major league team without a title. This week, we’ll look at some of the stadiums that have never seen a title. For the record, in this case I am not being so literal as to demand that the stadium actually hosted the title-winning game, but only that they were the home field of a World Series winning team.
The stadium with the unquestioned longest streak without a World Series title—and probably the longest in American sports—is Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Cubs, of course, have not won a World Series since 1908 but the first few years of that drought were held in West Side Park. The Cubs did not become the Northsiders and play at Wrigley Field until 1916, though the park itself opened in 1914 for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League.
(The Whales, if one wants to be pedantic, did win the Federal League in 1915 but that is basically equivalent to a pennant—they didn’t play any postseason games—so I won’t be counting it.)
Since April 20, 1916, a span of almost 35,000 days, Wrigley Field has been hosting major league games without seeing a title. Being that the Cubs are below .500 as of this writing, it appears at least another season will pass for baseball’s longest suffering fans (and their park) before a title arrives.
While Wrigley is one of the few active parks with a streak of that many years, a number of stadiums have seen decades pass without a title, and unlike the Friendly Confines, have no chance at seeing a title. Candlestick Park, known by a variety of names in its later life, opened for baseball business on April 12, 1960. More than 2,000 weeks later, the Giants departed for Pacific Bell Park without ever having brought a title to the stadium on Candlestick Point.
|Nine decades, and counting, and still waiting for a first title.(Icon/SMI)|
Luckily for those San Franciscans who attended the park year round, Candlestick did host the 49ers' four Super Bowl titles, so the park is not entirely without success. When it comes to success in baseball, however, the stadium now known once again as Candlestick will likely finish its life without a title.
The Astrodome is a remarkable park is a number of ways, from its import in baseball history to its feats as a piece of architecture and modern technology. Despite all this, the Astrodome shares in common with four other Texas parks, Colt Stadium, Arlington Stadium, Minute Maid Park and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the lack of a World Series title.
Collectively, the five parks have hosted nearly 90 full seasons of major league games. The closest any have come is the White Sox 2005 triumph over the Astros, which was celebrated at Minute Maid Park.
Domed parks have also had a rough time of things when it comes to titles. While the Twins had two titles in the Metrodome, other teams were not so lucky. Olympic Stadium, the Kingdome, and (as mentioned) the Astrodome all were without titles their entire lives, while the Rays are hoping to replace Tropicana Field soon, perhaps before they manage a title.
On the other hand, while there are only five retractable roof stadiums, two—the Rogers Centre and the park now known as Chase Field—have seen titles and the remaining three have been open for around a decade.
It is logical that younger parks will dominate the list of those without a title, and indeed no active park built after 1990—excluding Wrigley Field, naturally—is without a title. The second oldest active park without a title is Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which saw its first game in 1992. (Technically speaking, Tropicana Field, built in 1990, is older but it did not host its first game until 1998 and therefore not deserving of that spot.)
Currently 18 parks are without title, including all but one—Chase Field—of those built in the 1990s. Curiously, if not especially meaningfully, parks built in the last decade have had more success; Yankee and Busch stadiums both saw a title in their first year while Citizens Bank Park had to wait just five years.
As of this writing, teams playing in those parks without title are in first place in every division except the American East and Central, and teams in those parks are two or fewer games out of the lead in both cases. Time will tell if this is the year another park plays host to a celebration.
As I was putting the final touches on this column, word came that George Steinbrenner had died. As a Yankees fan I have, paradoxically, both strong and mixed feelings about the man. On the one hand, it is inarguable that his purchase of the team, rescuing them from the inept ownership of CBS, was the most important event in their post-war history. On the other, his style of management led to the dark days of the late-1980s and early-'90s, when both Steinbrenner and his team disgraced themselves. I always thought that the Larry David-played parody of Steinbrenner on Seinfeld, while very, very funny, was in some ways a failure. For better or worse, George Steinbrenner was a man beyond being parodied.
Ultimately, Steinbrenner’s time can be summed up by 11 pennants, seven World Series titles, one new Yankee Stadium and two—yes, two—lifetime bans from baseball. Sometimes the numbers describe a man better than any words. Rest in Peace, Boss.
Questions, comments and thinly veiled threats can be mailed to Richard on the back of a twenty dollar bill or e-mailed to him at RichardBarbieri@yahoo.com