Diamond Notes: Pro Stadiums

Progress or Nostalgia?

By: Al Hudson-December 14, 2007


Two completely separate ideals, yet our future generations will be led in one direction or the other. I have been fortunate enough to have lived in some of the most historic cities in the United States of America. Boston, Massachusetts, Charleston, South Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee have all been rich in history, and for different reasons.

The Boston area is teeming with people, places and things that will take you back to Colonial times. This area was first settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a mere 40 miles from Boston and its harbor. Charleston, on the other hand, is the home of Fort Sumter. This was site of the first attack on the South in the Civil War.

The architecture in both cities is still period based to this day. The city administrators understand the importance of history and nostalgia. Is there progress? Certainly, but it is not at the cost of our historic values.

Nashville’s history is a combination of many cultures. The heart of country music is here. We also have our ties to the Civil War, but even before that Tennesseans played an important part in the development of this country.

What this brings me to is the modernization of ballparks throughout this great country.

Yankee Stadium is going to be replaced with a new park in 2009. Is this going to be the House that A-Rod built? For those that remember, the original stadium was built in 1923. It was called the House that Ruth built. Now that most of the Babe’s records have been surpassed, has his place in history been diminished as well? Personally, I do not place very much importance to individual achievement. The steroid era has tainted my feeling toward all records.

Ruth, however, was a trendsetter. For all his warts and misgivings, he was the first in numerous areas of accomplishment. The monuments will be moved, and the memories will remain, but history will have been altered to accommodate progress.

Fenway Park in Boston is the Cathedral of baseball in my mind. Built in 1912, it is the oldest park in the Major Leagues. People can take their children and grand children to Fenway to see the “Green Monster”, the “Pesky Pole”, or show them exactly where Carlton Fisk hit the greatest home run in Red Sox history. Here’s hoping the Sox never remove Fenway Park from the landscape of Boston. Never deprive future generations of kids from seeing where the greatest hitter of all time, Ted Williams, was a hero to so many.

New Yorkers, will never again, be able to show their offspring where Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, and so many more of their heroes won their hearts during their youth.

Currently, Nashville politicians are facing a decision of sorts with our Triple A farm team, the Nashville Sounds. Should they build a new stadium, or let them move to another city or town, and deprive us of minor league baseball? I, for one, am very curious to see the final decision.

I think the wrong decision was made on September 7, 1963. Nashville was home to “Baseball’s Most Historic Field”, Sulpher Dell. The last professional baseball game was played on that date. The debt to save the franchise and the park was $22,000.

Many major league teams played at Sulpher Dell on their way back from spring training. Future Hall of Famers like the aforementioned Ruth, Gehrig, and Mantle, along with Warren Spahn, Duke Snider, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, the immortal Jackie Robinson, and many others graced the field at Sulpher Dell. The Houston Astros stadium has a hill for outfielders to climb in center field. At Sulpher Dell, every field had a hill for each outfielder to climb. The field just had character.

Union soldiers taught the game of baseball to the locals, and the field was actually built in 1870. Noted writer Grantland Rice named the field “Sulpher Dell” in the 1920’s. The home to the Nashville Vols and the Negro League Elite Giants was dismantled in 1969. Although memories of Three Blind Mice being played as the umpires took the field probably still resounds today.

We spend hundreds of millions to create stadiums for our professional teams to call home. I wonder how much it would cost to recreate Sulpher Dell. I know it would not be the same. But what cost is history and nostalgia for future generations?

In this selfish world of excess, we all want a better life for ourselves and our children. Bigger houses, nicer cars and all the necessities that we didn’t have growing up. But is it time to reflect, as we give thanks, for what we are made of, and where we came from, and be able to show these things to future generations.

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