Something old, something new... that’s what I’m featuring in today’s installment of this series.
30) Globe Life Park, Arlington, Texas (last visited, 2010)
This will undoubtedly get confusing, because Globe Life retained their naming-rights deal when the Rangers left this stadium, which lasted just 25 years. The new park, Globe Life Field, has already been mocked on Twitter:
Smart of the Rangers to future-proof their new stadium... pic.twitter.com/YJ0Ijmx1zM— Bryan (@NachoHelmet) June 24, 2020
The Texas Rangers have unveiled a brand new stadium designed purely to troll the Astros by looking like a trash can. https://t.co/AL3hqKtHxz— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) June 24, 2020
There’s more; you can find plenty around the web.
The old park was nice, if a bit generic. Like many 1990s era ballparks, they decided to take features from other stadiums and fit them inside:
The ironwork at the top was said to evoke Old Yankee Stadium. Yeah, if you squint. The right-field seating, with an “overhang” of the upper deck: Tiger Stadium. Sure, but why? And the thing in center field... well, it was team offices, a team store and a team museum (which was actually pretty nice and which the Cubs could do well to copy), but it looks like a parking garage.
The experience was generic Texas, too. Ginormous parking lots which you could easily get lost in (they have to be huge because they also serve the 100,000-seat AT&T Stadium for the Dallas Cowboys next door), pretty generic food choices, which was kind of sad for a state that usually has some of the best BBQ anywhere, and sightlines which weren’t much better than meh.
The Rangers’ new ballpark is supposed to look nicer on the inside than the outside, which won’t be difficult to do, and it has a roof, which will help in the summer heat and thunderstorms. The Cubs might wind up going there in 2022.
29) Jarry Park, Montreal (last visited, 1976)
On the one hand, this park was an afterthought, a baseball diamond in a Montreal city park where they hastily built enough seating for about 30,000 fans. Some of it wasn’t completed by Opening Day in 1969, forcing some patrons to stand until they could get some folding chairs for them. There was no shade from the sun or shelter from the rain (or snow).
And you think Chase Field has something fun with a swimming pool? Mes amis, Montreal’s Jarry Park had one of those nearly 30 years before the Diamondbacks played their first game!
Yes, that’s right. A public swimming pool — and a busy one at that, as shown — in use on a day the Expos weren’t in town.
The seating area was a joke. All the seats — save the few you see behind the plate — were aluminum benches, cold in the spring, hot in the summer, and when the place wasn’t full, foul balls would clang off the benches. They did that the day I went there, August 6, 1976, to see the Cubs sweep a doubleheader from the Expos, 6-5 and 1-0. (Check out who threw a four-hit shutout in the second game, too.) The Cubs weren’t very good that year but the Expos were horrid (55-107), so that was a trip worth making.
I recall driving through residential neighborhoods as cars snaked through an alley to the parking lot. Not only was the seating area unsuited for Major League Baseball, so was the orientation of the field. Instead of facing northeast like most MLB parks, center field was due north — so in the peak of summer, the sun would set in the batter’s eyes, forcing “sunshine delays.” This is the French/English scorecard I bought that night in Montreal:
Twenty-five cents. Ah, those were the days.
I wrote earlier this year, in this commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Ernie Banks’ 500th home run, of the home run Rusty Staub of the Expos stole from Ernie on a foggy night at Jarry Park in June 1969. Honestly, the place wasn’t really suitable for Major League Baseball.
But the place they moved into, Olympic Stadium, was a soulless monster whose roof never quite worked right and whose seating felt miles from the field. They’d have done better spending money on better seating at Jarry Park, because that place had quirkiness, had character, felt like it was part of the fabric of life in Montreal rather than a spaceship dumped into the downtown area. The debt on Olympic Stadium wasn’t paid off until 2006.
Meanwhile, Jarry Park had its own theme song!
Jarry Park was a dump of a baseball park, but its charm puts it higher on this list than it would otherwise deserve. I wish they’d renovated it and stayed there.
28) Old Comiskey Park, Chicago (last attended, 1990)
If you talk to White Sox fans who’ve been around a while, they’ll tell you that Jerry Reinsdorf probably could have spent the money renovating Old Comiskey, as the Cubs did for Wrigley Field, and had themselves a gem of an old/new ballpark.
But Reinsdorf used the threat of leaving town to strong-arm the state of Illinois into building him a new stadium, and he’s probably got the sweetheartiest of sweetheart deals for any ballpark in baseball.
The old stadium was dingy, had cramped seating, and by the time I started going there on a fairly regular basis in the late 1970s, was beginning to fall apart.
But like Jarry Park, it had character. And history — 80 years’ worth of it when it finally closed September 30, 1990, and yes, I was there that day. How could I not experience that sort of baseball history in my own city?
The White Sox for years had a reputation of having better food than the food at Wrigley, and it was true even going back this far. The smells of grilled onions on hot-dog carts and cotton candy greeted you as you walked in and that and the image of it being the “city’s largest tavern” surrounded you. Back then, there wasn’t the Cubs/Sox hatred that many fans feel now. Cubs fans like me often went to Old Comiskey. Pre-interleague play it was the only way to see A.L. teams in person, a perk of living in a two-team city. I went to the 1983 All-Star Game there, saw Billy Williams smack a homer into the upper deck in the Old-Timers Game the day before, saw one of the most brilliantly-pitched postseason games ever in a loss when Britt Burns was outdueled in Game 3 of the 1983 ALCS, saw Jack Morris no-hit the White Sox in 1984... lots of good memories from that old South Side Park.
Here’s how it looked after the final game there in 1990. I sat in those bleachers more than once and was there (to the left-field side) that day.
27) Rogers Centre, Toronto (last attended, 2014)
This was state-of-the-art when it opened in 1989, the very first retractable-roof stadium in baseball. Considering what it replaced, the awful Exhibition Stadium. Torontonians were thrilled.
Unfortunately, the retro ballpark architecture trend was only a couple years away at the time the Skydome (as it was then named) opened and it quickly became obsolete. Sure, it was great to not have to worry about the weather for Blue Jays games, but I’d bet the folks in Toronto would rather have a better retractable-roof park if they had the choice.
Despite its location right downtown and near Lake Ontario, the stadium is curiously not right on any public transit or train line. It’s probably a three-quarters-of-a-mile walk from the nearest subway stop, and while there’s parking, it’s limited and pretty expensive.
There’s a hotel attached to the stadium, with some rooms that have a view of the field. In 2003 I stayed in one of those rooms, which is pretty cool. Back in the 1990s, a few amorous couples, uh, did their thing in full view of people at games:
When several Blue Jays players discovered that a local cameraman caught the passionate couple on tape, they made a beeline for the video room.
“It’s a good thing they finished before the game ended or I don’t think anyone would have seen the game,” Blue Jays first base coach Alfredo Griffin said.
Hotel patrons are required to sign a release stating they will not have sex in view of the fans.
In recent years the Jays have improved the artificial turf, going with FieldTurf, much easier on the knees and much more looking like real grass, which they’ve actually talked about installing, though the price appears prohibitive. That link also notes some improvements in food choices and reduced prices for beer, which I did note when I was last there in 2014.
I’ve seen every Cubs game ever played there (2003, 2008 and 2014) and had plans to go next month. Now, with the schedule moving on for interleague play, the Jays and Cubs won’t meet until 2023 and that one might well be in Wrigley Field. So it could be a while before we see this logo on the Rogers Centre video board:
26) Minute Maid Park, Houston (last attended, 2005)
There’s a train that runs atop the left-field wall at MMP, and it chugs away with train noises whenever an Astros player hits a home run. It’s filled with large orange things which are, I suppose, oranges, given the ballpark’s sponsor. I learned when I was there that one way to make an Astros fan unhappy with you is to ask him or her, “Why are there pumpkins on that train?”
Why is there a train? Because the ballpark was built on the site of an old train station in downtown Houston and the original, pre-naming rights name was “The Ballpark at Union Station” and some of the concourse has a train motif. That’s all well and good, but the rest of the park is a mishmash of styles that make you wonder where the heck you are. It’s as if they had a meeting and told everyone, “Think of every ballpark quirk you can” and then they put every single one of them in this ballpark.
Thank heavens they got rid of this monstrosity:
You can’t see it really well there, but this was an actual hill — an incline — put in deep center field. The reason, apparently, was to mimic the incline in the outfield at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. That incline was there because the natural terrain was that way. The hill in Houston — dubbed “Tal’s Hill” after Tal Smith, then Astros GM — was fake, phony, bogus, affected, a sham of a mockery of a sham. Then they put a flagpole in the middle of it, again supposedly a hat-tip to an in-play flagpole at the original Yankee Stadium. Neither of those was a good idea. Fortunately, they’re both gone, replaced by an inner outfield wall closer to the plate and some private clubs.
Then there are the “Crawford Boxes,” named after the street that runs behind the left-field wall and atop a scoreboard meant to imitate Fenway Park’s Green Monster. (Did these people have a single original idea?)
I decided I wanted to try sitting there for a game. Unfortunately, the ticket was not marked “obstructed view,” but when I got there, the foul pole was directly in my line of sight with the batter. It took a good 45 minutes to get a customer-service rep to move me to a different seat.
In the hot summer months, they start games with the roof closed, but often open it in the middle innings after sunset. You can just feel the humidity pour in.
I dunno, maybe it’s changed since 2005, but this park... I don’t recommend it. The Cubs won four of the five games I saw there, and of course the Astros weren’t banging trash cans at the time, but... I don’t think I’ll be heading back there anytime soon.