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Fields of Dreams

Written by: Peter Coolbaugh

I am going to stray away from my usual Orioles banter today to visit a topic that I read and hear a lot about and want to weigh in. Greatest baseball ballparks of all time or even just current ones is hotly contested will lots of different thoughts and theories out there. As a person who has seen over 20 parks himself at the major league level (some don't exist anymore), I have a little more insight than most people who have nothing to compare their favorite to and just shout that theirs is the best.

Recently, the MLB Network - the greatest invention ever after frozen pizza - and its Prime 9 show did a countdown of their top 9 parks of all time. Below is the list.

9. Shibe Park
8. Astrodome
7. Dodger Stadium
6. Tiger Stadium
5. Camden Yards
4. Ebbets Field
3. Wrigley Field
2. Yankee Stadium
1. Fenway Park

Personally, I think this list is a joke. Is it based on history that occurred there? Is it based on innovation? There are other parks I would put here myself.

Now, I did not have the fortune of seeing certain places in my lifetime that were gone by the time I was born. My father went to Shibe Park, Ebbets Field, the Polo Grounds, and Yankee Stadium (prior to the 1970's renovations). So I don't have the perspective that some older folks do.

In these lists which you will often see in articles and on TV, usually Wrigley and Fenway top the list along with Old Yankee Stadium and also Ebbets Field. As we all know, there is no historically greater place than Yankee Stadium (1923-2008). The house that Ruth built saw 26 World titles along with a slew of legendary players over the decades from Ruth to Gehrig to DiMaggio to Mantle to Berra to Jackson to Jeter and so on. It was the first building to be called a "stadium" and it was mammoth back in its day, but age caught up with the facility and the narrow walkways and tight halls are now no more. I only saw one game there, ironically in its last season, but it was worth going to see at least once. RIP

Shibe Park, later known as Connie Mack Stadium, was the first place to use concrete and steel and have stacked decks. It was the prototype for all future parks and was nestled into a neighborhood in north Philadelphia. Of course, as time went by it aged poorly and was demolished in the 1970s. In terms of being the blueprint, this park stands up there above the rest.

Of the current great ones, I have seen Wrigley and Fenway. Without going into great detail, I will say that while they opened around the same time, Wrigley is the superior place. Better park overall, better seats, better neighborhood, better fans, and cheaper tickets. The views are better than Fenway and it is a much friendlier atmosphere. And despite what Boston people might tell you, Fenway is a dump and the green wall is just really an eyesore. I may be somewhat biased but I went, and I saw, and I did not like it.

Camden Yards is quite possibly the most important field to open after 1960. Sure the Houston Astrodome made fake grass, multipurpose stadiums, and closed roofs all the rage but the Orioles got it right by creating a throwback with natural grass nestled in a downtown setting.

When it opening in April of 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards it signaled the end of the cookie-cutters and nearly every city took notice of the scenic beauty of modern throwbacks and wanted one for themselves. Now, almost 2 decades later, Camden Yards sparked the revolution that led more than 70% of MLB cities to get new modern "Camden clones" to enhance the ballpark experience.

For my money - the 5 best parks I have seen (though I have not seen all the ones out there) are:

1. Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore)
2. Wrigley Field (Chicago)
3. PNC Park (Pittsburgh)
4. AT&T Park (San Francisco)
5. Coors Field (Denver)

People can debate this issue until the cows come home. And I hope they do. I love a good argument. But it certainly does not mean that I will back down.

1 comment:

  1. My take is Wrigley is also a bit of a dump but has its charms so if you need an old one sure. Camden was no doubt the most influential of the current generation and deserves to be near the very top of the list as it still holds up. I hear great great things about PNC but haven't gone yet and I would agree on AT&T. The new parks are all pretty good to be honest, I think the Twins missed the boat a little bit but still overall nice and way better than the dome. Miller Park in Milwaukee is flat out cool from the outside with the dome in my opinion which brings me to I would put Skydome ahead of Astrodome because it did more for the game. The Astros and DBacks all have nice parks because of it. Just rambling at this point but thinking about all these parks makes me think it is baseball time, I am ready to go.