December 12, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Saturday, March 23, 2013
5,000 days ago, the baseball world welcomed a new major league stadium into its midst: Safeco Field in Seattle.
July 15, 1999—the first game after the annual All-Star break—witnessed the Mariners breaking in their new digs. It was a massive improvement over their old place.
For the last two decades and change, Seattle had played in the Kingdome, one of the oft-derided multipurpose stadiums from that era. Those places rarely had much of a good reputation, and the Kingdome had many of the features that most people don’t like.
First, it was a domed stadium, and many purists never cared for that. Those places felt more like football stadiums. In fact, the Kingdome originally was built to be a football stadium and then was converted into a facility that could host baseball, as well. Most multipurpose stadiums at least began life as genuine multipurpose stadiums.
Second, as a domed stadium, it required artificial turf, and the longer turf was around, the more maligned it became. It just ain’t the classic baseball atmosphere. Players also tended not to like turf, claiming it was harder on their knees and other joints.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the seats were too far from the field. This shouldn’t be too surprising. A main knock on multi-purpose facilities was that their foul territories were too expansive, pushing fans further from the action. That was the case in the Kingdome, with some upper-deck seats over 600 feet from home plate.
So I can only assume that Safeco Field came as a huge improvement to the Mariners’ long-suffering fans. I had the chance to attend a game there in 2007, and I thought it was beautiful, easily the best of the new generation of stadiums I’ve been to.
It’s also a dome, but as is currently the fashion, it’s a retractable one, and it has to be the best retractable dome in baseball. I’ve been to a few stadiums with retractable roofs, and it’s by far my favorite. At first I didn’t even realize it was retractable because it felt like such an open-air environment. (That makes it a marked contrast to Milwaukee’s Miller Park, which felt like a dome even with the roof open.)
The game itself didn’t go well for the Mainers. In an interleague contest against the Paders, Seattle fell behind early 1-0, and for the longest time it looked like that would be all the scoring. However, with two out and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth, the Mariners rallied with three consecutive doubles. Now it was 2-1 home team in their stadium debut.
With their first lead of the day, closer Jose Mesa reliever Jamie Moyer. Things didn’t go his way, as he walked each of the first three batters he faced. (In his defense, it took 24 pitches to walk those three men as those pesky Padres fouled off a half-dozen offerings.)
After striking out Dave Magadan for the first out, Mesa allowed the game-tying run. Naturally, it came on a base on balls. A few seconds later, Mesa got the second out, but it was a run-scoring sacrifice fly. That was all the damage, but the Padres had scored two runs on zero hits.
The Mariners went down in order in the bottom of the ninth. It wasn’t a good game for them, but it’s the game that broke in a great stadium.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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