Rambling On About My Glory Days: The True Measure of a Ballpark
One of the signs that you are getting old is that most of the ballparks that you played in are no longer in existence. The getting old part sucks but that some ballparks don’t exist anymore is not all bad. An often asked question I get from people is, “Which parks were your favorites?” Players’ opinions of ballparks, at least mine, have nothing to do with how they look, how the fans treated you or even what the clubhouse was like. You see, especially as the season wears on, all parks are the same and all fans are pretty similar. Once on the field, a ball field is a ball field and you don’t notice the surroundings much.
Players get to the point where they don’t recognize how many people show up for games and they come to expect that the opposition fans will not like you when playing in their stadium. So, what separates a good ballpark from a bad one? It is how you performed in that park, period. For example, everyone thinks playing in Fenway had to be awesome. Not. Yea the park is cool, the fans are great and it is baseball at its finest. However, I did not hit very well in that park so I cannot get myself to say it was a favorite place for me to play.
With this in mind, I will review my favorite major league parks as well as my least favorites. Keep in mind these are the stadiums these towns had back in the early eighties. As a side note I never played in the National League East or Central ballparks except for Atlanta and Milwaukee, which were in different divisions back in the day – another sign of getting old. (Please excuse me for not remembering the official names of all the stadiums. Uh-oh, there is that sign again.)
Parks that have been torn down and I celebrated when they were:
1. Detroit stadium: Near the end of my career I had three hits in one game there and that probably equaled my career total in that stadium.
2. Astrodome: I did not get many at-bats there but struck out my one appearance against Nolan Ryan.
3. Minnesota’s Metrodome – soon to be gone as a major league park, thank God. I had trouble doing anything right there and besides, baseball should be played outside.
4. Giants’ Candlestick: Terrible place. As I was a member of the rival Dodgers, in San Francisco you can disregard what I said about not worrying about the fans.
5. Milwaukee County Stadium: I failed to turn a double play there to end a game one night and the next batter, who I believe was Robin Yount, hit a walk-off home run. Good riddance.
6. Cleveland Municipal – I played horrible there and should have thrown a party when they knocked it down; enough said.
Parks that I felt neutral about when they were put to pasture:
1. Atlanta - First major league at-bat was there and I popped up, but I did hit a game-winning triple there one night.
2. White Sox’s Comiskey - Hometown park that I felt sentimental about, but had some rough games there also.
3. Blue Jays Stadium - Good and bad games there but theme song stays in my mind, “Let’s go Blue Jays, let’s play ball” or something to that effect.
4. San Diego - I was in awe of playing against Dave Winfield there, but don’t remember much else good or bad.
5. Boston’s Fenway - Ok, park is not out to pasture and I did not play well there, but I did catch Yaz’s last batted ball in his final at-bat so I can’t put it in the above section.
Parks that I was sad to see go or hope never goes:
1. Seattle Kingdome - I know I said baseball is supposed to be played outside but my finest big league days were there, including my two long balls.
2. Yankee Stadium -Played pretty well there and could not help but love the history of the place.
3. Baltimore - I could flat out hit in that place, at least one night when I had 5 hits in a game.
4. Texas - Another place where I saw the ball real well.
5. Kansas City - Played well there and being on same field as George Brett, priceless.
6. Dodger Stadium - Beautiful, and hearing Vin Scully say your name, so cool.
Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of The Making of a Hitter (http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction site that can be found at www.baseballcoachingtips.net. He has recently published his second book Raising an Athlete – How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport