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Book Review: ‘Lost Ballparks’

Baseball as it was played in places long gone, including some in Chicago.

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West Side Grounds Library of Congress

As you can see in the photo at the top of this post, rooftop seating across the street from a baseball park isn’t a 21st-Century invention.

Those seats were on the roofs of buildings across from West Side Grounds, the Cubs’ home from 1893-1915.

That’s just one of the departed ballyards celebrated in the new book by Dennis Evanovsky and Eric J. Kos, “Lost Ballparks,” a coffee-table size book with dozens of photos of stadiums that once hosted baseball. Some of these parks existed for many decades, only to fall to the wrecker’s ball. Or being “dredged away,” or “burned,” or “sold for scrap.” Each chapter has a description of exactly how these parks met their fate.

It’s not just big-league ballparks that are included here either. The stories of Borchert Field in Milwaukee, home of the minor-league Brewers for many years, and Rosenblatt Stadium, long-time home of the College World Series, are also told, as well as the tale of Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo, a place venerated by Japanese baseball fans as home of the Yomiuri Giants. I was pleased to learn that I’ve actually seen the site of this stadium, as it was located immediately adjacent to the Tokyo Dome, a park I visited in 2000.

West Side Grounds wasn’t the only ballpark that had seats built on top of buildings across the way, as many of these older parks were wedged into city neighborhoods. At one point, Connie Mack had a “spite fence” built in right field to block views from rooftop seating that had been built across the way.

What’s that they say in French? “Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.”

In any case, it’s the photos that make this book worth the price. There’s a large photo of Ebbets Field where you can clearly see how Citi Field was modeled after it, and a large color photo of Tiger Stadium that makes me really sad that they couldn’t have preserved even part of that old park for future use.

If you like ballparks, you’ll enjoy this book. Here’s another photo from the area near West Side Grounds that you’ll find within, showing fans arriving at the park from a nearby rail line.

West Side Grounds Library of Congress