The countdown begins…

June 24, 2008 at 11:57 pm | Posted in Baseball | 1 Comment

As I promised, today I will rank and count down the 12 Major League Baseball stadiums where I have attended games during my lifetime. It’s a mix of old and new, including three that are no longer in use, two of which have been demolished. Let’s get it started…

12. Exhibition Stadium (Toronto) – This was the place where I saw my first major league games in 1987 and 1988. I really wanted to rank it a bit higher for sentimental reasons, but after looking at some pictures of it online, I just can’t. Let’s face it, Exhibition Stadium was a dump and was not suitable for baseball. See for yourself here. It was an oddly shaped football stadium where the majority of the seats didn’t even face the field. Still, for a 7-year old attending his first game in ’87, it seemed wonderful. But as I grew up, I began to appreciate how much better other stadiums were.

11. RFK Stadium (Washington) – I am an admirer of RFK, but not the stadium that bears his name. RFK was originally a baseball and football stadium, but only hosted football after the Senators moved to Arlington in 1971. I thought it was a great football venue for the Redskins, but when the Nationals moved in for the 2005 season, it just wasn’t a good fit. I enthusiastically attended games there in 2005 and 2006 since Washington is the closest MLB city to my home in North Carolina. It was ugly and cavernous as a baseball stadium. Very bad selection of food too.

10. Three Rivers Stadium (Pittsburgh) – Three Rivers was one of many “cookie cutter” stadiums built in the 1960s and 1970s. These stadiums were all circular, had artificial turf, and hosted both baseball and football. They were bad venues for both sports. I only saw one game there sometime around 1994. It was ugly and lacked character and charm. The best thing that I can say is that the Pirates had some great memories in Three Rivers in the late 1970s and early 1990s, so it ranks ahead of the first two dumps on this list.

9. Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg) – Now we move on to the stadiums that I like. I attended games at The Trop in 2005 and 2007 and my Rays beat the Red Sox both times. The Trop doesn’t get much respect nationally, but it’s a lot better than you’d think. It’s much smaller than other domed stadiums since it only hosts baseball. When there’s a big crowd, which is rare, it gets loud and the atmosphere is great. The current Rays owner, Stuart Sternberg, spent a lot of money on renovations in recent years, and it has paid off. Highlights include the tank of live cownose rays in right-center field and the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame and Museum, the best collection of memorabilia that I’ve ever seen outside of Cooperstown. The selection of food is pretty good too. On the other hand, the turf is ugly and it is a dome. The Rays are hoping to build a new waterfront stadium by 2012, and I am convinced that it could be the best in all of baseball. You can check out the details and artist renderings here.

8. Turner Field (Atlanta) – I attended several games here in the early part of the current decade, most recently in 2003. I like Turner Field; there’s really nothing wrong with it. But there isn’t much that’s special about it either. It’s one of the least unique stadiums that were built in the last 15 years. One good thing that I remember is the Braves Museum located in the stadium.

7. Nationals Park (Washington) – I wrote extensively about Nationals Park yesterday. Check out that post for the details.

6. Sky Dome (Toronto) – It’s now called Rogers Centre. I grew up within three hours of Toronto and I remember the incredible hype when Sky Dome opened in 1989. Everyone wanted to attend a game there. I finally got to go in June 1990 and was completely amazed by it. Back then, the retractable roof was the coolest innovation imaginable. Add to that the built-in hotel with rooms facing the field (where Roberto Alomar used to live), the on-site Hard Rock Cafe, the gargoyles attached to the exterior of the stadium, the location right next to the CN Tower, and the fact that the Blue Jays were the best team in MLB in the early 90s. Until Camden Yards opened in 1992, Sky Dome was the jewel of baseball stadiums. After that the “retro” stadiums became popular and now the stadium seems almost outdated. In 1990, the game I went to against the Yankees was a sellout and the place was rocking. I went back for a game in 2004, and it was almost empty. It seemed cavernous and the turf looked ugly. It’s amazing how quickly Sky Dome dropped from the top of most MLB stadium rankings to near the bottom, but I’ll always remember the excitement that I felt walking into Sky Dome as a 10-year old in 1990.

5. Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore) – It was very tough to choose between Oriole Park and Jacobs Field. I have to give Oriole Park a ton of credit for starting the “retro” stadium revolution in 1992 and inspiring the design of almost every single stadium built after it. I saw my first game there in 1999 and I’ve been back many times since then (most recently in 2006) because my dad lives in Baltimore. I’d say that the best aspects of Oriole Park are the cool look of the warehouse behind right field, the memory of Cal Ripken’s 2131st consecutive game in 1995, and its influence on other stadiums. However, in recent years, the terrific baseball atmosphere that once existed there has vanished as the Orioles have fielded some very bad teams. There are now way too many empty seats and some of the luster is gone.

4. Jacobs Field (Cleveland) – It’s now called Progressive Field. I was fortunate enough to attend a game there in 2006. It has a classic ballpark feel with lots of modern amenities. The video board and the views of downtown Cleveland beyond the outfield were two highlights. There was also a great selection of food including sushi and hot dogs with Cleveland’s legendary Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard. I remember there being a lot of fun activities for kids in the concourse, and I got my picture taken with life-size cutouts of Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, and Aaron Boone.

There are three stadiums left to rank (in alphabetical order to avoid giving any hints): Citizens Bank Park, PNC Park (Pittsburgh), and Yankee Stadium. Who will win? Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of the countdown to find out!

What do you think about the rankings so far? What are your favorite stadiums that you’ve been to? I’d love to see your comments on this post.

Picture time … my wife and I at Jacobs Field in 2006:


1 Comment »

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  1. man, I can’t wait until I have a point of reference! I’ve yet to get inside a Major League Stadium. I’ve seen plenty but never once have I attended a game…

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