Posted by: Larry Smith Jr. | March 17, 2010

On Old Baseball Parks

Well, this is not only the time of year that Spring Training begins anew and the excitement of games can continue, but it also the time of year that the new baseball video games hit the store shelves. This situation is a major reason for the small gap in time between blogs, as baseball gaming has dominated my free time over the past few days.

The newest game, Sony’s MLB ‘10: The Show, has opted to include several older stadiums for use. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Players have to pony up an additional $9.99 in order to get the six extra stadia, otherwise the only “old time” cathedrals of the game available are those way-back places like Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium, and the Metrodome. However, after paying the additional ten dollars and seeing the way that the old time places were wonderfully rendered (Side note: I was and still am greatly irritated that they elected to include Sportsman’s Park and Crosley Field but for some strange reason neglected Tiger Stadium and Ebbets Field) in the game, it reignited my interest in reading about some of the bygone temples of baseball.

During the lengthy internet sessions during which I read about them and sought out as many photos as I could, I came across an outstanding resource — A message board called “Baseball Fever” which has an entire portion of its board dedicated to celebrating the different baseball diamonds of today and yesteryear. One of the most amazing things to me are the dimensions of the old Polo Grounds where the New York Giants (and briefly, Yankees and Mets) played. That one stadium could have fences under 300 feet away from the plate at the foul poles and yet over 500 feet away from the plate in Center Field is simply a marvel of stadium design (and a nod to the need to shoehorn fields into whatever spaces were available in the older days).

I was completely unaware, until last night, that portions of Forbes Field still exist. The next time I go to Pittsburgh (and it undoubtedly will be soon, maybe even this season — PNC Park is the best ballpark in all of baseball to watch a game) I will try and make a point to visit the remnants of the old park, which currently sits within the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Knowing that Crosley Field was converted into a car impound lot before demolition makes me feel happy that a similar fate did not befall Tiger Stadium, which sat dilapidated for ten years before its final demolition last year. I didn’t know that Jarry Park still existed as a Tennis arena, and I wasn’t aware that the Cleveland Browns football stadium was built on the exact plot of land as Cleveland Municipal Stadium, a place that I visited as a child.

Reading some of the commentary on the Baseball Fever board, I found that the people there were not only baseball fans with a lot of passion, but they really had a lot of respect for the aesthetics of the game. For example, in one discussion there was a debate on the qualities of the open concourse. I admit — With some degree of embarrassment — That I’d never even thought about the issue with much depth. It has become generally accepted that the open concourse is a great thing. I don’t particularly mind it or love it and therefore I never thought to challenge the concept. Yet there was a rather in depth discussion about it in which many posters convincingly defended the idea that the open concourse is a bad thing. While I was not convinced to completely adopt that attitude, I found it refreshing that an alternate-to-popular-perception opinion was presented and defended well enough to make me at least consider it. The most compelling argument to that end, in my estimation, was that there is just something about exiting a tunnel and having the field slowly reveal itself to you as you walk from the concourse into the seating area. Having had that experience for years at Tiger Stadium, and having experienced it at Wrigley and at Old Yankee Stadium most prominently, I completely agree with that point of view. It’s almost like being awash with a giddy feeling of excitement.

In any event, I was happy that the (video) game presented me with these beautifully rendered old parks that inspired me to review many pictures of those parks and other old parks. It also served to make me excited to see some new ones this year (and a few of the ones I’ve been to before but wouldn’t hesitate to go to again, like Progressive Field, Nationals Park, and PNC Park) and to just experience live baseball games in person again. Here’s to hoping 2010 will be another fun year.

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