Thursday, 10 January 2013

Take Me Out to the Ballpark

As usual, I spent a large part of Christmas with my head in a book someone bought me.

Take Me Out to the Ballpark by Josh Leventhal is an illustrated guide to major and minor league ballparks of the past and present. It also has sections on things like ballpark food, souvenirs and how the architecture of baseball's cathedrals has changed over the decades. There are basically three generations of ballparks: the idiosyncratic wood and brick "jewel boxes" built in the early twentieth century, the indentical, concrete, doughnut-shaped "cookie cutters" that largely replaced them in the 1970's and the "retro ballparks" that have sprung up across the major leagues in the last twenty years incorporating many of the features of the originals.

My first trip to the US in 2002, a baseball tour along the East Coast, took in games at all three types of ballpark, the retro Camden Yards in Baltimore, the "cookie cutter" Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia and the ultimate "jewel box", Fenway Park in Boston. Fenway is still my favourite ballpark notwithstanding a later trip to Wrigley Field in Chicago - its small size gives it a wonderful intimacy, like watching a baseball game in your front room. I also have a lingering afffection for the now demolished Shea Stadium in New York which despite being a "cookie cutter" had a lot more atmosphere than Veterans Stadium, mainly because the outfield wasn't enclosed by seating and you could practically wave to the pilots of planes landing at nearby La Guardia Airport.

As well as Shea Stadium, Veterans Stadium and Yankee Stadium have also been bulldozed since that 2002 trip and replaced by retro ballparks. I might have to add the US East Cost to the list of places I need to go to again.

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