Baseball Pilgrimages

Say Hey!  Check another ballpark off the list!!

About five years ago I made it a life goal to take in a game at all the Major League Baseball stadiums across America.  I wanted to achieve this goal by 2015 – when I reach the big 6-0.  It may be tough to meet that timetable, but what are goals for and I have hit a bit of a jackpot in the past six weeks. It is time for an update.

I do have some rules for this quest. First of all, I have to actually see a game.  I can’t just drive by, or I could put the Ballpark in Arlington, among others, in my checked off category. I use to buy a hat of the local team to prove I’d been there, but Candice thinks I have enough caps – and she’s probably right.  So that’s no longer necessary.  Finally, demolitions have wrecked havoc with these plans. I decided – in a totally arbitrary way, since I am the umpire – that if I’ve seen a MLB team in their home ballpark that has since been demolished, then it counts against my list.  (My best example is Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where I used to catch a Braves game about once a home stand in the early 1980s. Ah, those wonderful $5 tickets not far behind the first base dugout!) I am going to try to visit the new stadiums in those cities when I can, but for the purposes of this goal, getting to one stadium in my lifetime counts…even if it no longer exists.

Now, with that bit of background, on to my recent games. In late June, I was in Chicago for a retreat when a colleague suggested an outing to Wrigley Field to catch a Cubs game.  Now I have been to Wrigley before – in fact it was the site of my first major league game. In 1964 our family took a vacation to Chicago and I went to a game at Wrigley Field with my parents, brothers and sisters, and my aunt and uncle.  I can still remember a great deal about that day.  We sat in the upper deck along the third base line, and the Cubs played the Cardinals – who won the World Series that year. I do remember that Ken Boyer had a hand in the Cardinals victory over the Cubs.  Later that year, Ken and Clete Boyer became the only brothers to hit home runs in the same game of a World Series – in this case the decisive Game 7 won by Ken and the Cards over Clete and the Yankees (one of my earliest World Series memories). A former colleague and I also saw a great day game at Wrigley in 2007 from terrific seats beside the third base dugout courtesy of a mutual friend.

This year, I had the good fortune to experience Wrigley as a bleacher bum. We sat out in center field and took in all the sights and sounds that go along with being “out with the people.” It was great fun – as you can see in the picture above.  I didn’t get too much ribbing for showing up in full Nats gear and I was able to cheer for a Cubbies win since they were playing the Mets who are in the same division as the Nationals. We also got to see the Cubs debut of Anthony Rizzo, who since went on to win Rookie of the Month for July in the National League. Wrigley is, of course, one of the icons in baseball and well deserving of the honor.  It also needs some updating, along the lines of the award-winning renovation at Fenway Park. But as I’ve written before, calls to demolish Wrigley showcase all that is wrong with the modern sports-industrial complex.  Save Wrigley indeed!

While this visit didn’t actually move my number forward, it got me off to a great start for the summer of 2012.

Exactly one month later I was in St. Louis for a speech and meeting, but had the good fortune to take in a St. Louis Cardinals day game in the new Busch Stadium. I went as the guest of a good friend and his wife, and the tickets were – how shall I say this – directly across the diamond from the center field bleachers. Great view! The home-standing Cards were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers and their new man Hanley Ramirez, and the Cardinals won 7-4, punctuated with a strikeout to end the game.

Technically, this didn’t advance my number either, because I saw a Cardinals game in old Busch Stadium in 1993. However, I’ll take this wonderful venue anytime.  The stadium sits right on the street in downtown St. Louis (I walked about a block from my hotel), it has a cozy feel, Stan “The Man” Musial is appropriately recognized with his own statue (see photo above), the sightlines out to the arch and city are awe-inspiring, and it appears that all the seats provide a great view of the field. Now, if they could just do something about that heat and humidity…

Earlier this week, I finally added another to my “ballparks visited” list when I went to San Francisco’s AT&T Park with colleagues and friends.  This was an especially meaningful visit, as I grew up as a Willie Mays and Giants fan. So the first stop – as seen at the top of the post – was by the Willie Mays statue in front of Willie Mays gate.  The Giants have done a great job of recognizing their players from the past, not just Mays, as important as he is to the history of baseball.  Orlando Cepeda was in the house and looking dapper as he handed out an award to Melky Cabrera before the game. Every left-handed batter who steps into the box tries to hit a “splash hit” into McCovey Cove – named after Willie “Stretch” McCovey, one of the most feared left-handed hitters of his day.

As could only happen in San Francisco, the Giants were handing out Jerry Garcia bobbleheads (for a hefty price) in honor of Jerry Garcia day on what would have been the 70th birthday of the Grateful Dead’s guitarist. Band mate Bob Weir sang a beautiful national anthem with the Giants third base coach Tim Flannery.  (A singing coach was a first for me!) At the seventh inning stretch, Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Deadhead Bill Walton led the crowd in Take Me Out to the Ballgame (see photo of them waving to the crowd above). All in all you knew you had left St. Louis and could only be in San Francisco.

The weather was cool, but perfect, and a full moon came out to shine on McCovey Cove. Unless it is the view of the Rocky Mountains from Coors Field, I’m hard pressed to think of a better ballpark view than AT&T Park. The game was close, with the visiting Mets leaving 13 men on base, yet eking out a 2-1 victory over Matt Cain.

To keep my streak going, I’m looking at Tampa Bay Rays games for when I’m in Florida later this month.  I think it will work!

I want to thank some of the folks who have either encouraged me in the quest, have provided tickets (some pretty wonderful tickets I must say – such as the Citizens Bank box in Citizens Bank Park in Philly), or have cheerfully volunteered to attend a game with me.  I wouldn’t be at this point without their encouragement and help, so many thanks to Alicia, Amelia, Anthea, Barb, Candice, Claire, Dolores, Donald, Genell, Kevin, Jonathan, Mark, Marty, Nancy, and Tom.

For those keeping score, here’s the ballparks visited list:

  • Atlanta Braves – Fulton County Stadium (multiple visits in 1980s; still need to visit Turner Field)
  • Baltimore Orioles – Camden Yards (multiple visits in 1990s and 2000s)
  • Boston Red Sox – Fenway Park (1988)
  • Chicago Cubs – Wrigley Field (1964, 2007, 2012)
  • Colorado Rockies – Coors Field (2008)
  • Kansas City Royals – Kauffman Stadium (2009)
  • Milwaukee Brewers – Miller Park (2005)
  • Oakland A’s – Oakland Coliseum (2008)
  • Philadelphia Phillies – Citizens Bank Park (2008)
  • San Francisco Giants – AT&T Park (2012)
  • Seattle Mariners – Safeco Field (2009)
  • St. Louis Cardinals – Busch Stadium (old – 1993; new – 2012)
  • Washington Nationals – RFK (multiple times) and Nationals Park (multiple times + part of a season ticket group 2012)

And here are the ballparks remaining to visit list:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks – Chase Field
  • Cincinnati Reds – Great American Ball Park
  • Chicago White Sox – US Cellular Field (I’ve seen it from the outside, but haven’t made a game)
  • Cleveland Indians – Jacobs Field (I drove by this on a game day last year, but had to give a speech while the opening pitch was taking place. I’ll work on my priorities in the future.)
  • Detroit Tigers – Comerica Park (Another park I’ve seen but haven’t made a game.)
  • Houston Astros- Minute Maid Park
  • Los Angeles Angels – Angel Stadium
  • Los Angeles Dodgers – Dodger Stadium
  • Miami Marlins – Marlins Park
  • Minnesota Twins – Target Field
  • New York Mets – Citi Field (I thought I was going to catch this one earlier this year on a New York trip, but it didn’t work out.  This is an easy one, as often as I’m in NYC.)
  • New York Yankees – Yankee Stadium (I know – how can I not have made it to Yankee stadium yet?!  Just goes to show I’ve never been a big Yankees fan)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates – PNC Park
  • San Diego Padres – Petco Park
  • Tampa Bay Rays – Tropicana Field (If all goes as planned, this will move to the “visited” list the week of August 20th)
  • Texas Rangers – Texas Stadium
  • Toronto Blue Jays – Rogers Centre

If I’m able to make it to Tampa this month, I’ll have 14 out of 30 ballparks…with a month to go in this season plus three additional years to meet that 2015 deadline.  Yikes!  I need to pick up the pace.  So let me know if you believe in the Church of Baseball and want to join me at any of the 16 still on the list.  Time for a road trip!

More to come…

DJB

7 Responses

  1. David, I love this post. While, I haven’t been as fervent as you to go to all these parks, I have had a modest stadium tour of my own. Of course, I have been to Atlanta Fulton County many, many times and got to see many of the greats in the 60s, 70s and 80s, including the great Giants of old including, Mays, Cepeda, Marichal, and McCovey. I also have a great memory of watching Clemente with the Pirates. My most memorable ball game of all time was to attend the All Star Game in Atlanta in 1972. I went with Phillip Sullivan and we sat behind the right field foul pole. It was an exciting game in which Aaron hit a home run and Joe Morgan knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th. I have been to one game at Turner Field and walked in the parking lot where the old field stood. They have the bases and outfield fences etched in the parking lot with a special plaque at the spot where Aaron’s 715 landed. That’s pretty cool to stand on that spot.

    Here is a list of other parks in which I have seen a game:

    Cincinnati Riverfront and Great American Ball Park
    St. Louis Busch Stadium (the old one)
    New York Yankee Stadium 1989
    Chicago Wrigley Field
    Kansas City Municipal Stadium** When the A’s played there

    **You might like this little history of this stadium and Charlie Finley

    (The stadium was home to many of the shenanigans of Charlie Finley, who bought the A’s after Johnson’s death in 1960. Most notably, he tried to shorten the rather distant fences by creating a 296-foot (90-metre) Pennant Porch in right field, fronting a tiny bleacher section, to mock the famed short fence in right field at Yankee Stadium, home of the powerful Yankees. The move was quickly vetoed by the league. So Finley rebuilt the fence to the bare legal minimum of 325 feet (99 metres), and repainted the fence to say “One-Half Pennant Porch”. Later he tried the ruse of putting a canopy over the little bleacher, which just happened to have an extension that reached out 29 feet (9 metres) over the field. The league, not amused by Finley’s sense of humor, again ordered him to cease and desist. According to legend, on a road trip that the A’s made to New York, a Yankee hitter lofted a long fly ball to left field which, in the cavernous left field of Yankee Stadium, became a routine out. Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard is alleged to have then said over the microphone, “In Kansas City, that would have been a home run”, itself a response to Finley’s dictum for Municipal Stadium public address announcer Jack Layton to announce, “That would have been a home run at Yankee Stadium” for any ball hit beyond a line Finley painted in the outfield grass 296 feet away from home plate in Kansas City.)

    I actually saw them play the Detroit Tigers there in the late 60’s and saw that crazy right field porch. I got autographs from several Tigers, including Mickey Lolich. Didn’t get Al Kalines though.

    I have only one ballpark on my “bucket list” and that is Fenway in Boston. I hope to get there to see a game someday.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Your Cuz, Tommy

  2. Tommy, Thanks for the remembrances. These are great stories! DJB

  3. […] in Pittsburgh for one major reason: to attend a Pittsburgh Pirates game tomorrow at PNC Park and check another MLB ballpark off my bucket list. (Look for that post tomorrow.)  But since the game is tomorrow afternoon and we arrived in town […]

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