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A ranking of the 45 ballparks where I’ve seen MLB games, Part 5

This installment takes us from California to Minnesota to Atlanta.

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Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota, in 1963
Photo by: Diamond Images/Getty Images

I’m getting to some of the better parks, now, in this ranking. A few of these are no longer in use.

25) Angels Stadium, Anaheim (last visited, 1975)

This is probably an unfair ranking, because as you see, I haven’t been there in 45 years. That’s two renovations ago. When I paid my only visit to what was then officially Anaheim Stadium and informally “The Big A,” there was a specific reason for that nickname:

Orange County Register

Yes, the scoreboard was in the shape of a giant “A”. This photo dates from 1967, but this is pretty much the way I remember the place — and it was taken from about the location I was seated on August 20, 1975, the one and only game I’ve seen at this ballpark.

What I remember most about that game was that Adrian Garrett, who had briefly been a Cub in 1970 and 1973-75, was the Angels’ DH that afternoon, batting cleanup. Garrett had been sold by the Cubs to the Angels only a few weeks earlier, and hadn’t been very good as a Cub (.163/.211/.302 in 65 games covering 95 plate appearances). I had just finished telling the Angels fans seated near me about Garrett’s lack of prowess at the plate when he hit a home run, one of 11 career dingers.

Funny the stuff you remember decades later. I’ve got to get back to this place someday. They still have a big “A” there, but now it’s in the parking lot:

Angel Stadium in 2010
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

24) Turner Field, Atlanta (last visited, 2007)

The Braves didn’t really need to leave Turner Field; they’d played there for just 20 seasons and it was perfectly suitable for baseball, still.

What I recall about it during my one visit there 13 years ago is mostly how generic it seemed. There was nothing that screamed out “Atlanta” to me; it could have been in Cleveland or Cincinnati.

Friends of mine had arranged passes to a stadium club called “The 755 Club,” after Hank Aaron’s home-run total. It was nice, the food was good, if again a bit generic.

This was the stadium originally built for the 1996 Olympics, re-purposed for baseball. It was re-purposed again after the Braves left as the home for the Georgia State University football team.

23) Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minnesota (last visited, 1971*)

I went to this stadium twice while I was attending summer camp in northern Wisconsin; it was a treat for campers to be driven to Minneapolis to see a ballgame. I’ve even got a photo from the first of those visits, in the summer of 1968:

Al Yellon

The game I saw there was this one, the second game of a doubleheader July 23, 1968. To my recollection, that was the first MLB game I ever saw outside the city of Chicago.

The stadium was originally built in 1956 with the hope of attracting a MLB team to play there. They got one when the original Washington Senators moved there in 1961, and the newly-named Minnesota Twins were a pretty good team for most of their tenure at this ballpark, playing in a World Series in 1965. The NFL’s Minnesota Vikings also played there, and for years were thought to have taken strong advantage of the Minnesota winters, cold and snow that visiting teams weren’t used to. It was largely true: The Vikings were 91-56 at the Met, 76-70 on the road during those seasons (1961-81).

There’s an asterisk above next to “last attended,” and here’s the reason for that. In 1982, as I noted in Part 1 of this series, I attended a game at the Metrodome. Leaving the airport, I noticed that the site of old Met Stadium was still standing, so I drove over to have a look. I found a gate unlocked and went to look around. It was like going into some sort of apocalyptic science-fiction setting:

Al Yellon
Al Yellon
Al Yellon

Ancient ruins, it looked like, even though the place had been closed for less than a year. The stadium was demolished in 1985 and it’s now the site of the Mall of America. Inside the mall, you can see a plaque noting where home plate at the Met was, and on a wall there’s a stadium seat denoting the location where Harmon Killebrew hit the longest home run in the Met’s history.

22) Milwaukee County Stadium (last attended, 1999)

I used to head up to County Stadium all the time. The Brewers were an A.L. team for most of their tenure there (through 1997) and so I could root for them back then, before they were a Cubs divisional rival.

Tickets were cheap, $2 for bleachers, and so was the beer. You could buy a bucket of beer for $2.50 in the mid-1970s, and when I say “bucket” it was probably close to a gallon’s worth of beer. That was definitely for sharing, too, no way could anyone drink that much even watching the Brewers, who were pretty horrid in the early days of their existence.

When the Brewers made the World Series in 1982, of course I wanted to go. In those pre-internet days, the team held a postcard lottery for tickets. The ballpark seated over 53,000 for baseball and from what I heard, everyone who sent in a card got tickets.

I wound up with tickets to two of the games, Game 3 which the Brewers lost, and Game 4 where they came from behind to win. At one point during Milwaukee’s six-run rally that won them Game 4, many fans around me pulled their keys out of their pockets and started jangling them around. I asked what was going on, and the response was, “Why, it’s a key situation!”

Milwaukee in the 1980s, ladies and gentlemen. Don’t forget to tip your server.

I also attended the 1975 All-Star Game at County Stadium, and all told by my count I went to more than two dozen games there, including the first series the Cubs played there in 1998 after the Brewers became an N.L. team (the teams split the four games).

By the time it closed in 2000 it was kind of a dump, but I always had a good time at County Stadium. This is how it looked in 1999, with Miller Park under construction beyond the outfield.

Getty Images

There’s a youth baseball park called Helfaer Field now on the former site of Milwaukee County Stadium.

21) Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona (last visited, 2018)

I wish I could rank this place higher, but it just doesn’t impress me. It’s way too large and many of the upper-deck seats are very, very far from the action (and some are located higher than the air conditioning ducts, which makes them very hot in the summer). It looks like an airplane hangar. Here’s an aerial photo I took in January 2018:

Al Yellon

Looks like you could definitely fit a plane in there, right?

One problem I have here is that it’s so generic. There’s nothing really “Arizona” about it, it’s just another retractable-roof stadium. The food is good, if also a bit generic, and if you’re seated in the last few rows of the lower deck you can’t see the video board.

They have a swimming pool. Big whoop, it’s more or less a luxury suite, since it isn’t cheap to rent.

The D-backs have talked quite a bit about wanting to get out of Chase Field and build a new stadium, one that might have a mixed-use district surrounding it as they have in St. Louis and Atlanta, but no one has yet figured out how such a ballpark might be funded. However:

Expect discussions involving the D-Backs to heat up in the future. Under the terms of their settlement with Maricopa County, the D-Backs can look for a new home either in the Valley of the Sun or elsewhere after the end of the 2022 season, effectively shaving five years off the Chase Field lease.

Lastly, please get rid of the dirt path between the mound and the plate here.

It’s an historical anomaly, like the hill (now gone) in Houston. This article posits some reasons for the existence of such things in days of yore, including:

Old-time umpires didn’t have the luxury of the training or equipment available today. In theory, by having a strip of dirt leading from the mound to home plate, it was easier for umpires to follow the path of the baseball over a darker surface. This made determining whether a pitch was a strike or a ball an easier task. Today’s umpires spend years in the minor leagues honing their craft, and they also have the benefit of studying a computerized video system that measures balls and strikes. So, in theory, the dirt strip is no longer relevant.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It’s an affectation, pretending this relatively new place in the desert is some sort of old-timey ballpark. Fill it in with the new artificial turf that was installed in the rest of Chase Field to begin the 2019 season.