Seventeen Ballparks and Counting

Russ Smith from Splice Today has visited 17 ballparks. He runs them down today. The difference between him and most other folks who write this sort of thing (myself most especially): He’s capable of honesty when it comes to his own team’s park:

Fenway Park. Surprisingly, I have mixed feelings about Fenway, despite a slavish allegiance to the Sox. I haven’t been there in several years—the prices are prohibitive for a family of four—and so have thankfully missed out on the bandwagon fans since the team broke their curse in ’04, but the myth of the “lyrical little bandbox” is a little rich for my blood. Until recently, the groundskeeping and drainage was awful, so much so that one June night in the late 90s, after a violent but short thunderstorm had flooded not only the field but the ground floor inside as well, the game was postponed even though the sun was suddenly shining at the schedule start time. In addition, the seats are cramped and not built for people who weigh over 150 lbs. The hardcore fans can be very nasty, even to fellow Sox partisans, and only in puritanical Boston would a 40-year-old have to show identification to buy an overpriced Coors Light beer. That said, the atmosphere both inside and outside Fenway is truly electric; no baseball icon, in my opinion, tops the Green Monster; and I’ll never forget the day Pedro Martinez, then in his prime, fawned over one of my sons, giving him a piece of Bazooka bubble gum.

As Russ notes, every ballpark means something different to different people, so I never get tired of reading this kind of thing, and in fact, I should probably write my own sometime soon. Better yet: if someone can figure out that pay-for-content thing I mentioned this morning, I’d gladly take the road trip Russ suggests in his article — all summer, hitting as many parks as possible — and report my findings back to you.

Wait, I think I just figured out why pay-for-content is never going to work: people don’t like to pay for the privilege of being made jealous.

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  1. Levi Stahl said...

    I’ve only been to Fenway once, and what I loved about it was the way the structure of the park—its high walls and cramped conditions—focused all attention on the field itself. There’s barely a skyline to see, and certainly not one that’s distracting; instead, what you get is a very closed-off view, offering nothing of interest but the game.

    It’s the total opposite of my home park, Wrigley Field, in that regard.

  2. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Levi—I really like that too.  Never been to Fenway, but Tiger Stadium was like that.  Totally enclosed, so you can’t help but watch baseball. I think it focuses the drama in a suspension-of-disbelief way as well in that you can pretend for a few hours that nothing of consequence exists in the world outside of this ballgame in this park.

    The open-air ones are nice in their own way, but I have always been the kind of guy who likes to look at tall buildings and traffic and stuff, and if you add enough of those kinds of distractions, I tend to miss some plays in a game.  That’s probably more my fault than the park’s but it’s true all the same.

  3. hermitfool said...

    It’s probably pure coincidence, but both visits to Fenway Park have been marred by the mean drunk, loutish behavior of fans who had little baseball knowledge and no interest in acquiring any.

    Certainly not all Boston fans are ugly. My dear daughter, a passionate BoSox fan does not behave this way, nor do several of my friends who root for the Sox. And certainly every baseball crowd has too many drunken, ignorant fans. We sat next to an entire section of idiots at Wrigley Field last year, most of whom had no idea who was playing. But in multiple visits to Wrigley Field, County Stadium, Busch Stadium, Kaufman Stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Hemorrhoid Dome, Yankee Stadium and Coors Field, we have never encountered the vicious brand of crowd behavior on display at Fenway Park. Like some people who can’t hold their liquor,  the fans in Fenway Park should never drink. Sobriety would not raise their IQs, but it might keep their stupidity from being quite so evident.

  4. Matt S. said...

    I love Fenway and have been there many times and I think Mr Smith does a great job of being objective. Fenway is so steeped in myth that it is hard (especially for a Sox fan) to realize it has its flaws as well. One flaw(the biggest in my opinion) that this article fails to note is the lack of beer vendors in the stands. This is a problem for drinkers and non-drinkers alike because it results in a constant flow of people getting up or returning to their seats, blocking your view of the game and requiring you to stand up and suck in your gut at alarmingly regular intervals. Since even weekday games are selling out nowadays, this seems to be becoming a bigger problem with the Sox recent successes.

  5. Connecticut Mike said...

    @hermitfool: I’ve probably been to Fenway 50 times over the last 25 years or so.  I agree with you regarding fan behavior.  I actually think it has improved somewhat since the new ownership took over.  Back in the mid 80s-early 90s it was actually far worse, but I don’t think I fully realized it because I was so young.  In defense of Sox fans, I’ve encountered more or less the same behavior at Shea, Yankee stadium, and the Vet (the only other baseball stadiums I’ve been to).  Maybe it is a trait of my fellow north-easterners, I don’t know. Obnoxious fan behavior is one of the many reasons I would rather watch games at home than in person. 

    Also, Fenway Park, while better than it used to be, is still a relative dump with small seats many of which face in the wrong direction, crowded concourses and concession stands, and exorbitant prices.  The experience is great and the field itself is iconic, but John Updike was probably had free seats in the press-box when he wrote that famous essay.

  6. MooseinOhio said...

    Fenway is a must visit for baseball fans as it represents what baseball was through it history (i.e., think about who has played there), location (i.e. within the city, accessible by foot, bus, subway and car – though that is the least desirable method) and uniqueness in design (i.e. size, odd angles, obstructed views).  Wrigley is truly the only other ballpark that can make a similar claim so both represent baseball in a very unique and interesting way.

    I was fortunate to attend many games as a child with my father and brother and remember fondly the road trips from Portland to Boston to not only see the Red Sox but to be exposed to life in a big city.  In high school and college I attended many games with friends and preferred sitting in the centerfield bleachers as the tickets were affordable and the bench seats more comfortable for my 6’3”, 200 plus pound frame.  Plus if the game was a stinker there was usually some good fights to keep you entertained. 

    As an adult who now lives in Ohio and has seen the Red Sox play in Cleveland (old and new), Cincy (new), Pittsburgh (new) and Detroit (old and new) I prefer seeing the Sox on the road for a variety of reason including comfort, affordablility and the opportunity to see more ballparks. 

    Will I see games in Fenway again? Of course as I intend on taking my dad to see a game from the top of the Monster and will take my daughter someday.  However Fenway will be more of a treat as I struggle with spending the money required to watch baseball with my knees under my chin and prefer ballparks that are a gentler on my wallet and body.

  7. Ted said...

    I’ve lived across the street from Fenway for almost 9 years now and I stopped going to more than a few games a year because of the awful behavior on display there. It doesn’t change my feelings for the team at all, but I’d rather run a cable up to the roof and watch on tv. Can’t see into the park from there but I can see the jumbotron and hear the crowd. Good enough for me.

  8. Bill said...

    In my experience, Red Sox fans (especially Fenway-area locals) are the only ones who are down on Fenway Park at all, so I don’t think it’s that surprising that he would have “mixed feelings” about it. I loved my one trip there (rudeness and all—and we were in the bleachers for a Yankee game, so there was plenty of that), but I can see what people who go there frequently to see their own team complain about—the seats are cramped, some of the angles are horrid, and so forth. Things you don’t notice nearly as much when you’re just there for The Fenway Experience.

  9. gdc said...

    I vaguely remember going to the concrete-roofed Kingdome and, like basketball arenas, the lighting focused your eyes on the baseball field.  But even with good games the atmosphere was not “electric”.  So there has to be more than that to explain Fenway; maybe someone old enough to have been there when they didn’t sell out can say if it had the same aura with a 10,000 attendance game

  10. Michael said...

    Thumbs up that the author has been to almost as many parks as me (21 and counting – 22 if you count the great Angel Stadium and the crappy Anaheim Stadium as two different parks).

    Thumbs down that he had to work in (very poorly, I might add) his political beliefs (I thought he was a Sox fan, but apparently he has Yankee politics smile), then claim “well, this article isn’t about politics.” Shoulda thought of that before you took the swipes at Biden and Dowd.

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