Finally, you’ll get to read about parks that are still in existence, though one of them I haven’t seen in more than two decades.
20) Yankee Stadium III, New York (last attended, 2011)
Serendipity brought me to this park. I had a business meeting in New York the day after a 2011 Tigers/Yankees division series game, so I figured I’d scare up a ticket and go. It wasn’t expensive — a bleacher seat for $37, pretty good for a postseason game.
You know, they did a pretty good job of replicating the feel of the original Yankee Stadium in this place, down to the friezes at the top of the upper deck. But the overwhelming feeling you get in this stadium is that it’s ... big. I mean, really enormous:
It’s a monument to excess, which given where (NYC) and when (2009) it was built, should make a great deal of sense.
Sad to say, I did not get to see much baseball. The game I attended was Game 1 of the division series, and they knew big storms were coming but thought they could get the game in. They were wrong:
Game suspended in the middle of the 2nd inning and the score DET 1 NY 1. Completed 10-1-2011.
So, I saw the stadium and an inning and a half of baseball. Then, since I had neglected to bring any rain gear, I had to try to get back to my hotel in the rain. Surprisingly, I managed to do so without getting too wet. And I put my ticket on StubHub and sold it for $50.
One of these years I’ll get back there and can file a more complete report.
19) Progressive Field, Cleveland (last attended, 1997)
One of my eternal regrets was not going to World Series Game 7 there in 2016. I just couldn’t make it happen. For this and many other reasons, I really, really want the Cubs to eventually win the World Series at Wrigley Field, the last Holy Grail of any Cubs fan. The Cubs have never won a WS at home — both the 1907 and 1908 WS were won in Detroit.
The series I saw there was a Cubs series, though, an interleague set in 1997. The Cubs lost two of three, not surprising since the ‘97 Cubs were a 94-loss team and the ‘97 Tribe made it to the World Series, losing in extra innings in Game 7... does that sound familiar?
Funny thing. I had been at an interleague Cubs/White Sox game earlier that year and had asked some Sox fans if they would be rooting for the Cubs when they played Cleveland, as the teams were in competition for the A.L. Central title that year.
“Oh, no, we could never do that,” was the response. Right there is the difference between Cubs and Sox fans. When the Sox play the Cardinals or Brewers, I want them to win every single game in those series.
The ballpark’s fine and the view from the upper deck is nice:
Hopefully, one day soon the word on top of that video board will be “Spiders.”
18) Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati (last attended, 2007)
It’s just so... generic.
Now raise your hand. How many here know that this ballpark has a naming-rights deal with an insurance company?
Some of you didn’t, right? Just thought it was an Ohio thing to make it seem like a “Great American” ballpark. Wonder how much value Great American Insurance Group actually gets from the deal. They didn’t spend too much: $75 million for 30 years. The deal runs through 2033.
This ballpark, like some of the other modern parks, is generic. There’s nothing that screams out “Cincinnati” or “Ohio” in it, though if you squint real close you can see the Ohio River behind right field, and Kentucky behind that. They have some kind of fake riverboat that goes off when a Reds player hits a home run. Here it is for the very first Reds home run hit there in 2003:
The thing caught on fire in 2015, and firefighters put it out while the game continued:
The food’s okay. A lot of people bash the Cincinnati 5-way chili that’s a local favorite, but I kind of liked it.
The red seats make the park look more full on days it’s not, which is fairly often. Reds fans don’t like Cubs fans taking over the park when the two teams play, to which I respond: “Buy the tickets yourself then!”
17) Nationals Park, Washington (last attended, 2010)
If you go way, way up to the top level of Nationals Park in right field, you have this view of the US Capitol:
But that’s it, the only real indication that you’re in the nation’s capital. Other than that it’s just a generic mishmash of apartment buildings outside, as they are trying to make the area surrounding Nats Park into a neighborhood. It’s succeeding to some extent, and it’s better than the decrepit warehouse district that was there before.
With the Nats now defending World Series champions, perhaps they’ll solidify a real fanbase. With no MLB team there for 33 seasons (1972-2004), people in the DC area either became Orioles fans or remained fans of the team in their hometown, as Washington has a high proportion of area residents who are from somewhere else.
One of the best things you can get at almost any ballpark is Ben’s Chili Bowl, a Washington-area tradition. The sightlines are good and it’s right across the street from a Washington Metro station. Beware, though — the Metro stops running at 11:30 and they had to get special dispensation to extend those hours when a Cubs/Nats division series game in 2017 ran long.
16) Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago (last attended, 2019)
It’s fine, really it is, though if Jerry Reinsdorf hadn’t been so stubborn, he could have had this ballpark instead:
Those drawings and that proposal were made in 1987 — three years before the Sox’ current park opened. Architect Philip Bess made them available to Reinsdorf and Sox management and they were summarily dismissed.
The Sox could have had a whole neighborhood developed around a new park and the first of the retro parks. Instead, they wound up with the last of the concrete ashtrays, though it was a baseball-only park. Here’s how it looked under construction on September 30, 1990, the last day of play at the old Comiskey Park:
They did just about everything wrong in the new park when it opened. The upper deck was 30 rows’ worth of seats that no one wanted to sit in — you can see how steep in that photo. The seats were blue — who chose that? Ballpark seats should be green. (I understand why the Cardinals and Reds want red seats.)
They’ve pretty much fixed most of those issues. They lopped the top eight rows off the upper deck in 2004, after they had added some extra lower-deck seats. This reduced the capacity from about 45,000 to about 40,000, but the seating and views were better. The blue seats were replaced with green seats and some brickwork and ivy (!) were added. Some ironwork was placed on the upper-deck facade to resemble the old Comiskey Park.
Food there has always been good, many times better than Wrigley Field. I wish I could say the same for the fans, yes, every fanbase has meatball fans but for some reason Sox fans just want to bait Cubs fans. I wish they could just enjoy baseball. You can usually de-fuse a Sox fan by saying “Go Bears!” or “Go Blackhawks!” when you see one there.
I used to go there a handful of times a year even when the Cubs weren’t playing, but time constraints now limit me to mostly just Cubs games on the South Side. Once a year is enough. Although I did go there last September, the day before the season ended, to see the Sox play the Tigers. It was fun to watch a game and not worry about what I’d have to write about it when it was over, and now I can say I’ve seen a 110-loss team play in person.
I’m glad Chicago is a two-team city; the Sox nearly decamped to a number of different places in the 1970s and 1980s. But they really should have used Philip Bess’ stadium concept.