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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Stadium Bits

Yeah, I'm not a loner, I'm not a fool
Don't need a reason, reason to be cool
I got my whisky, I got my wine
I got my woman and this time the lights are going out

I thought I would throw out some interesting bits from past ballparks.

-One of the major factors in the latest home run craze (besides the steroid factor) is that the ballparks nowadays are really tiny compared to the ballparks back in the day. Here are some examples,

The Polo Grounds in New York was one of the weirdest ballparks in terms of dimensions. The foul poles sat at an unbelievably short 280’ which would clearly be the shortest corners in baseball but that’s where the generosity ends. The left and right corners of the field (power alleys) were at around 450’. 450’ feet for POWER ALLEYS!!! The longest power alleys now are around 380’ but 450’ is incredible. Then center was at 475 which made for a spacious outfield to say the least.

With such an outfield, the bullpens were actually in play at the power alleys. I can just imagine some reliever warming up with a huge “CRACK” resonates throughout the stadium.
“Woah shit! EVERYONE DUCK!” and sure enough Mickey Mantle is taking out the bullpen.

Seriously, you could raise cattle in this outfield. Whenever one hit’s a ball near a bull it would need to be a ground rule double or a conceded homerun because no one’s going to mess with a bull.

Then if you thought that was huge, before there was Fenway there was the Huntington Ave Grounds which hosted the Red Sox for ten years. HAG had a center field fence (at one time) of…635’. Let me say again, the centerfield fence at HAG was measured at six hundred and thirty five feet.
I would be surprised if anyone could see the fence from the backstop. I could just see the owners screwed up kid working on his messed up…say 90’ Buick Regal in deep center while a game is being played a ninth of a mile away. While he’s looking in his hood with a rag on his shoulder, a baseball rolls to a stop a couple feet away. Jogging up is the center fielder.

Owner’s screwed up kid: Let’s see here I gotta move the vibration gasket injector with the--What the hell are you doing out here?
Centerfielder: Well, let’s just say: bases loaded + 3-0 count + Brad Radke = me fetching a baseball 600 feet away.

And those are just two extreme examples. The Centerfield fence was usually around 430-440’ in a lot of ballparks back in the day.

-A lot of people complain about places like Minute Maid Park in Houston about all the weird crap that’s in the outfield with the flag pole being in play and the sharp incline out in deep center. The truth is, ballparks were really crazy back in the day.

Take Forbes Field in Pittsburgh for example. They had a short chicken wire fence out in left with at least four lighting towers which were all in play.

Crosley Field in Cincinnati had, instead of a normal outfield track, a sharp incline (Minute Maid Park made as a tribute to this incline) to warn outfielders of the approaching fence.

Yankee Stadium had three monuments in Center (before the renovation in the 70’s) that were also in play. These monuments were of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Miller Huggins. I remember seeing and old clip of a centerfielder having to jump behind the monuments to fetch out a result of a pitching mistake.

Tiger Stadium had a flag pole that was in play

Fenway Park has a ladder on the green monster which is also in play.

Polo Grounds had an upper deck that stretched out over twenty feet over the field. Outfielders could set themselves up for a long outfield fly and the upper deck would rob them of an easy catch.

-One of my own personal ballparks that I’ve been keeping tabs on is League Park in Cleveland. Before the Indians played in Jacobs Field and before they were in Cleveland Stadium, they were in League Park which hosted the Cleveland Indians and before them, the Spiders. From 1910-1946 all the American League greats played at this field and Cy Young even opened up the place in the late 1800’s. It's also the place whereJoe DiMaggio hit in his 56th straight game and Babe Ruth hit number 500.

As Cleveland Stadium opened, League Park fell by the wayside. What’s interesting is that there’s still a field there, the old ticket booth, and the left field stands from the early 20th century still remains. As of a couple years ago, no one has tried to restore anything, the bleachers are crumbling (they have to be over 100 years old!) and apparently it’s in the middle of gansta bitch territory. I have to admit that this old park intrigued me a little when a possible “Cleveland trip” was brought up. I’d like to walk around and soak it up if I should ever go there…and before I should get my ass capped.

Tomorrow, we figure out a name for this new Twins ballpark.

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