…softball with Mattingly and Canseco…Ken Griffey’s grotesquely swollen jaw…Steve Sax’s run -in with the law…we’re talking Homer…Ozzie and The Straw.
In honor of Opening Day 2015 I thought I would take a trip down memory lane. As much as my yearly fantasy baseball league helps me stay in tune with the crop of current stars (Kershaw and Kluber – I bow down to yee…but you will never replace in my mind Greg Maddux or John Smoltz)…they’ll never compare to the memories of watching the stars of my youth…like those who appeared on the greatest episode of The Simpsons ever where Mr. Burns attempted to build an unbeatable softball team. Ahh, I miss those halcyon days of steroids and other recreational drug use (cough cough Doc Gooden and The Straw)…of battery throwing (I still hate you JD Drew!) and Bash Brothers.
With a looming getaway to Chicago and tickets to this year’s July 4th game at Wrigley Field secured, I’ll be able to chalk another park off my bucket list. Here’s a run down of my fields of dreams where I have spectated over the years (complete with slightly exaggerated “memories” and vignettes to accompany them)…
- The Vet – former home of the Philadelphia Phillies – so many memories…my first game at age seven (it was the Phanatic’s birthday and he was brought out to the field like Cleopatra)…the traffic on I95 during that amazing 1993 season (50-70 thousand fans united and cheering in the stands)…all of those extra innings into the wee hours of the morning (my mother always let us stay to the very last pitch)…the potheads and drunks in the 700 section…the way trash got whipped up in a cyclonic weather pattern within the unfriendly confines…the raucous fans…fights in the stands…nothing will ever compare.
- Citizens Bank Park – current home of the Philadelphia Phillies – golly gee, you’re swell and so pretty and landscaped and parky…but ever since getting into you, fans have had an awful chip on their shoulders. You were there for some pretty great runs and the magical 2008 series, but I knew the Vet, madame, and you are no Vet!
- Camden Yards – current home of the Baltimore Orioles – oh when our youths collided and you first opened – entering you was like entering Valhalla! You were the start of the ballpark Renaissance. You were the first. You are still the best. Here’s hoping your classy name never changes or becomes corporatized. And never tear down those warehouse walls. You are THE Ballpark – and don’t you ever forget it!
- Old Yankee Stadium – former home of the New York Yankees – I had an awkward quasi-first-and-only date with an actress here…so strange to have met you as they were building your new sister right next-door. The highlight of the night was a squirrel running up and down the foul pole. There’s really nothing that can describe your aura accurately. Ghosts surely haunted your confines. The stooping Bronx architecture kissed by a full moon rising over your outfield was like some art-deco painting or entrance into another place and time, and that image will never be forgotten. I tip my hat to you. I don’t think there will ever be another quite like you – you will haunt the dreams of millions.
- Turner Field – soon to be former home of the Atlanta Braves – I remember liking you quite a bit. You seemed a pleasant cookie-cutter version of that retro-ballpark craze that swept the nation and you were home for the bulk of Atlanta’s unprecedented 15 year run. You also served amazing soft pretzels. Not quite sure why they are in such a rush to leave you for newer suburban confines set to open next year.
- RFK Stadium – former home of the Washington Nationals – oh, weren’t you a big, rickety, salty old place…a gritty reminder of those all-purpose round coliseums that had a brief heyday in the 1970’s. I was drunk, your stands shook and wobbled…the neighborhood outside offered a different kind of spectating as throngs of paranoid folks flooded your streets heading back to the metro station. You were one helluva good show.
- Rogers Centre – current home of the Toronto Blue Jays – you’ll always be the Skydome to me. I love that you are right in the centre of downtown, right near the headquarters of my current employer. I love that we were able to sneak into you one night last year (after a corporate event at the Aquarium next-door) and watch your Jays slaughter our Phillies. You offer a certain je ne sais quoi for those who were impressionable children and watched in awe when you hosted an All Star Game back in the early 90’s and reporters did their broadcasts from the luxury hotel rooms overlooking your field. Stay classy, T-town!
- Fenway Park – eternal home (hopefully) of the Boston Red Sox – I haven’t seen a game played in you, but we took the grand tour when we were in Boston this past New Years. You are a special old place…iconic and magical. You allow us to touch history. And your Green Monstah is a site indeed.
- AT&T Park – current home of the San Francisco Giants – during a brief getaway to San Fran during the playoffs last fall we caught a fleeting glimpse of you from the outside. Gosh you looked so nice sitting there right on the bay. Maybe one day I’ll return and spend more time with you.
Share your favorite ballpark memories in the comments field, and Play Ball!
Written by David H. Schleicher
Sadly I live on the wrong side of the Atlantic to have visited any of these ballparks, but I’ve read stories of Ebbets Field and The Polo Grounds, and as a lifelong sports fan I really enjoyed your memories. The Vet sounds very much like the English football stadiums that I spent much of my youth in.
I’m very glad to hear there’s been a ballpark Renaissance in America, Camden Yards sounds fantastic and long may it remain so. I still can’t get used to calling my local football ground The Etihad Stadium, City will always play at Maine Road as far as I’m concerned.
Enjoy your trip to Wrigley Field!
Thanks, Paul. The baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown, New York has a wonderful exhibit on the history of ballparks – I would’ve loved to have seen Ebbets Field and The Polo Grounds in person.