The other side of a turnstile

The other side of a turnstile

By: Austin Alexander-August 17, 2006


I sat in front of the television recently taking in a mid-week game on ESPN between the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers. When I saw the game advertised earlier in the day, I was certain that it was a game I wanted to reserve time for. Mid-way through the Red Sox victory, I began wondering why I wanted to see that game over the two on other channels (which I watched during commercials).


Was it to check out the up-start Tigers and Justin Verlander who have become the talk of the baseball world? Maybe…Was it because I might see another in the long line of late-inning heroics from Big Papi? Possibly…I like Boston but am not a Red Sox fan, but somehow I find myself watching an awful lot of games at Fenway Park. Which got me to thinking more. My whole life has been spent watching games at Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. I seldom turn the station when the Dodgers are at home, the Mets either.

And then it struck me!

I’ll watch any ballgame on any network but I soon realized my attraction to one game over another often is determined by where the game is being played.

Hang with me for just a moment for a quick history lesson…

If you grew up in the 70’s or 80’s, there are only nine ballparks remaining in existence from your childhood; they belong to the New York Yankees, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, Anaheim Angels, Kansas City Royals and Oakland Athletics. You could count the Washington Nationals–or Senators–but RFK Stadium will always be a home to the gridiron.

Already there is no landmark of Pete Roses’s record breaking-hit, Hank Aaron’s #715 or Nolan Ryan’s 5000th K. We already have lost the park where Bobby Thomson’s ‘shot heard ‘round the world’ was hit, Mazeroski’s 1960 walk-off left the park and where Willie Mays made his famous ‘over the shoulder catch’ in the 1954 World Series. Only eight years ago Mark McGwire surpassed Roger Maris, this area is also a parking lot. How about where Jackie Robinson debuted, Ty Cobb stirred up dust and the stadium in which Bob Gibson made World Series history? Gone.

Of those nine remaining, two have changed names, which leaves us seven. The Mets, Yankees, Twins and Royals have plans to build new ballparks in the next two years.

Which actually leaves us with three: Dodger Stadium (Opened in 1962), Wrigley Field (1914) and Fenway Park (1912).

What does all this mean?

Baseball is a game where its heritage has become synonymous with the game itself. But consider what will be wiped away with hardball’s facelift in the next 36 months.

It mean’s that by the year 2010, there will be no dirt where Bill Buckner muffed a routine groundball in 1986, pavement will replace the area that Kirby Puckett once roamed and became a post-season legend and where, in 1985, a controversial call at first base propelled the Royals to its only title. No Miracle Mets or homer hankies will exist…and then there is “The house that Ruth built!”

Upon learning of a new park in the Bronx, you soon realize baseball as we know it will cease. On August 16, the 58th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s death, the Yankee brass broke ground on the second, New Yankee Stadium. The original was opened in 1923 with a $675,000 price tag, then was renovated in 1976. In April of 2009 the class of professional sports will unveil its $1 billion field of dreams…a field of dreams for high rollers. But what about the fans?

I understand salaries have spiraled out of control and corporate sponsors pervade the game on their way to becoming the new necessary evil. I get that part of it and am thankful that owners have found a way to keep the game running on all cylinders and not re-hashed the fiasco of 1994 when a work stoppage cost all of us the post-season.

But with the passing of Yankee Stadium, take a quick glimpse at what is gone forever: Lou Gehrig’s famous speech in 1939, Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956 and the site of Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak. Most recently, Aaron Boone’s homer, Jeffrey Maier’s grab of a Derek Jeter fly ball and Reggie Jackson’s tri-fecta in the 1977 Series. What about monument park, the familiar façade and memorial tributes made to the victim’s of 9/11? Shades of Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Don Mattingly– just to name a few–will soon vanish when baseball’s cathedral leaves us.

Not a baseball fan? Shall we start on the list of major sporting events that occurred inside Major League Baseball stadiums over the years?

You see, baseball fans are tied to stadiums, familiar turf and recognizable names.

The new wave is all about skybox suites, priority seating and panoramic views. While they are at it, they normally throw a baseball game in the middle of the amusement park they call a stadium. For every new stadium that retained the name of its old digs, (i.e. Busch Stadium), there is a New Comiskey Park (turned US Cellular Field) and an ever-changing name like Pacific Bell, SBC or AT&T Park (all names for the Giants home since 2000). Let’s hope the day never arrives when Wrigley Field becomes Home Depot Stadium or that Fenway turns into Sam’s Wholesale Field at Hewlett Packard Park…

Several yards have admirably attempted to re-create certain characteristics of there old venue. Nice try but I want to sit in a ballpark and visualize Hall of Famers standing in that batters box, pitching from that mound and running down those baselines.

Where did all of that overload of information take us? Further from our childhood. Further from our roots!

One thing is for certain. Fans in Hollywood, the Windy City and New England can enjoy their own heaven into the next few decades. Each have made a commitment to ballpark renovations and retaining the name of their stadium. I, for one, am grateful that some semblance of familiarity will remain in our game so that one day I can watch a game with my son where the players are performing on the same dirt and grass as my childhood heroes.

Which takes us back to why we enjoy watching games in familiar venues. While Turner Field, Camden Yards, Miller Park, The Ball Park in Arlington and the like provide us with comfortable seats, un-obstructed views and plenty of ads for industrial America…give me the bleacher seat far from bathrooms with long lines where the cotton-candy man rolls by once every three innings. I’ll take that in a heartbeat along with the black and white memories that I can re-create as I sit there waiting for a foul ball!

Now, I know why I like watching Boston play on television. Because I can still imagine Ted Williams swinging, Carlton Fisk waving and Curt Schilling bleeding!

Long live old-school baseball and its storied yesterday’s!