Category: Ballparks

After a few years of equivocating, Major League Baseball has decided to move the Montreal Expos to Washington DC. (and I’m already sick of the phrase “the national pastime returns to the nation’s capital.”) This is of particular interest to Em and I, as we’re going to have to add another stop on our quest to hit all the Major League parks.

We went to Olympic Stadium in 2002 because there was talk at the time that they’d be contracted out of existence. It was awful. Montreal is a great city, but just not a place for baseball. So I’m excited that they’re moving, and there’ll be a new stadium only an 8 hour car ride away. I was hoping that Portland, Oregon would get the team, but that’s mostly because I’d like to go out there.

Now, please, please don’t let them be the Washington Expos. (Utah Jazz?! Arizona Cardinals?!)

Au Revoir, Montreal

We made it to ballfields number 7, 8, and 9 on the Bil and Em 30* Parks Project. How do they stack up? Here’s my thoughts:

We missed St. Louis’s Busch Stadium due to rain, of course. I’m not overly concerned about that since we did get to walk around outside the next day and get some pictures. Since Busch is one of the “cookie cutter” stadia built in the ’60s (usually circular, astroturfed and able to accommodate football and baseball), if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Veterans Stadium in Philly was one of that unfortunate type, so we’re set on the cookie cutters. I was sad that we didn’t get to experience baseball in St Louis, since Cards fans have a reputation for being some of the best in sports. Given that we were due in Cincinnati and Detroit, with their less than rabid rooters, it would have been nice to get the trip started on a high note. Oh well.

A few hours after leaving St. Louis we arrived in Cincinnati, just about an hour before game time. The Highway dumped us off right on the Ohio Riverfront, where we found parking a few blocks from the park. We were so excited to actually be going to a game, after a scary forecast that had the storms following us from St. Louis. Great American Ballpark (that’s an insurance company, not a patriotic naming gesture) is brand new, opening just last year, after replacing, you guessed it, the cookie cutter Cinergy Field.

Great American is a great place to watch a game. We got in about half an hour before the game and made the rounds, taking in the sights (and a ton of pictures). Our seats were in the second row back on the upper level, giving us a great view of the field straight down the third base line. From that vantage point we could see the muddy Ohio River flowing behind the right field fence, a cool touch.

The Reds were coming home on a high note, trying to extend a seven game winning streak when we saw them take on the Florida Marlins. We were rooting for the home team as a rule, and as happens more often than not, it seems, we totally jinxed them. Not only did the Reds lose, but they only managed one hit the whole game. One. So, sorry about that Cincy fans. It was a treat to see Ken Griffey Jr, even if he did take an 0’fer. The Reds made some noise in the bottom of the ninth, but a double play ended any excitement, and the already quiet fans headed for the streets.

The downsides at Great American? First of all, the hot dogs. Nothing compares to Fenway Franks, of course, but these dogs were pretty bad (they even looked like albino dogs!) We always try the hot dogs at each park we go to, and on this trip Cincy had the worst. The only other complaint (since I already mentioned the lackluster fans) was the ballpark architecture. Inside the place is really nice, if a little unremarkable, with accents like riverboat smoke stacks in center field that puff when the Reds pitchers get a strikeout. Outside is another story. I couldn’t believe this park was built only last year, it looked like something out of the 70s to me. Completely white except for a couple brick buildings outside the structure, it retains the feeling of a spaceship landed in the middle of a city that I’m sure the old Riverfront stadium had (the giant hole from which is still being developed, next to Great American). I much prefer the urban style ballparks that most new stadia are emulating now. Build the spaceships for football or basketball, please.

So Great American Ballpark gave us a nice night of baseball, but it was a little disappointing given my expectations. That’s not to say it isn’t better than many of the older parks, but as a new stadium it doesn’t come close to Colorado or Pittsburgh.

Part 2, covering Comerica Park in Detroit and Jacobs Field in Cleveland (the American League leg of our tour) tomorrow!

*Already one park we went to has been imploded, so another trip to Philly is in order.

Pictures (sorry, no galleries. I’m still a big mess over here) are here: St. Louis and Cincinnati

Rating the Parks

Greetings from St. Louis! Or should I say the wet, baseball-less Gateway to the West. After a nasty nasty storm swept across the area this afternoon, the Cardinals game we were due to see was rained out, to be played in August or something. So that sucks big time. We’re due in Cincinnati tomorrow night for a Reds game, so it looks like we’re 0 for one on our Great Midwestern Baseball trip.

We did manage to salvage the rest of the day. We got into town around 11 am or so, took a quick driving tour (there should be some cool stuff on the URBlog from what we saw here). Breakfast was at Panera, but here it’s called St. Louis Bread Co. Randomly following a big red line on the sidewalk we ended up touring the Old Courthouse (site of the Dred Scott decision! Exciting!) While we were in there, the skies opened up and ruined our Busch Stadium plans.

After checking into the hotel, we walked over to the Arch. You can ride a Kubrickian pod 630 feet up to the top, but the weather restricted the view to just about a mile or so. Some sights were cool, though, while others were cruel. After descending, we walked over to the original settlement, which was dead in the Tuesday afternoon rain. We took the only subway/light rail line in St. Louis from there to Busch Stadium, where we quickly learned from the many ballpark employees filing out of the stadium that tonight’s game was off. We were hungry (saving room for the all important hot dog test), so we hopped back on the train to the old Union Station, where we found food in a pretty well designed rehabilitated train station/mall-type thing.

Next, an after dinner stroll back to the hotel and we found out there was no ESPN2 in our room. We ended up in a TGI Friday’s which had the Sox-A’s game on (and a local pale ale on tap) and at least got to watch our nine demolish the Athletics. After I post this (on the hotel’s complimentary high-speed internet, thanks guys!), it’s bed time. Five hours on the road tomorrow and all… And here’s the view out our window as we go to bed:

Day Two – Failure

Starting tomorrow:

map

Monday – Tuesday: St Louis
Wednesday – Thursday: Cincinnati
Friday: Detroit
Saturday – Sunday: Cleveland

Now you can follow along at home!!

The Trip

Yesterday in Philadelphia (home of the Phillies and all sorts of phunky “ph” spellings) Veterans Stadium, one of the cookie cutter baseball stadia so popular in the 70’s, bit the dust. Or rather, created a giant cloud of dust as it was brought down with 3,000 pounds of explosives.

Last year was the final season to catch a game at the Vet, and luckily Em and I, on our continuing quest to see a game at every major league park, got the chance to drive down to Philadelphia to see the Red Sox play there. Having that perspective, the first thing that comes to mind upon seeing yesterday’s implosion is “good riddance.”

One thing I’ve realized in travelling to other major league parks is just how good we have it in New England. Most people will readily admit that Fenway is one of the top places to see baseball, but you just can’t appreciate how much better it is than everywhere else. The new parks are very nice, but can’t compare with the palpable sense of history in Boston. And the 1970’s fields, of which we’ve been to two, have no redeeming qualities whatsoever when compared to our lyric little bandbox.

The Phillies will open their new park next month, and it should be a real treat for Philly fans. It won’t be Fenway, but then, nothing ever will. Em and I will of course make another trip down, but this time there’s no rush.

Anyway, here’s a couple pics from our trip last June, you can see what Philidelphians won’t be missing anymore.

Pharewell, Veterans Stadium