TOP 30/31 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL BALLPARK EXPERIENCES: 2003
"As I noted with my Spring Training list, I am not a big fan of ‘grades,’ ‘rankings’
or ‘ratings’ because these are ballparks, not brain surgery, and it’s so subjective anyway. But one must
please the masses, and there was so much response to the Training Sites, 1-26, I’m getting this shameless list out of the way. So, without further adieu, here again a shameless attempt at giving
that infamous ‘Worst Dressed List’ a run for their rankings." - Joe Connor, San Diego, CA, at this
moment writing a list on why people are so consumed by lists!
ABOUT THIS LATEST UTTERLY SHAMELESS LIST
A truly great ballpark reflects its community to the core. It has a certain character, vibe, ambience, feeling, aroma,
texture. It delivers, well, a certain experience. An experience that’s totally unique.
This ballpark experience list is based on Joe’s own experiences, leaning heavily on history; uniqueness of
design and dimensions, characteristics and fan atmosphere as a reflection of its community (such as location); and its overall
quaint intimacy. Factors such as accessibility; ticket prices and availability; climate; amenities; and overall seat comfort
- while important - are considered secondary here (e.g., a one time-visitor to a baseball shrine they’ve
never seen before in person is willing to accept some inaccessible, some cost and some inconvenience - in exchange for
the benefits of the unique experience).
So...if you’ve got only so many days to visit so many ballparks, here’s your list, kiddo. And to plan that
trip, complete details on enjoying each ballpark is featured in A Fan’s Guide To The Ultimate Ballpark Tour:
Fully Loaded! available for purchase exclusively at the Buy Joe's Guides page.
THE TOP 30/31 MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL BALLPARK EXPERIENCES IN 2003
THE BIG THREE
You could easily spend an evening debating which is the best. The reality
is the ‘Big Three" are all - in there own way - in a class by themselves. And not just because of history.
No three ballparks have more unique characteristics than these do (but one example: Fenway’s Green Monster; Wrigley’s
Ivy-colored walls; Yankee Stadium’s traditions - from Bob Sheppard to Monument Park).
1. Fenway Park - Fenway area, Boston, MA (Red Sox) First game: 1912
2003 Sex Appeal: Norm from Cheers couldn’t be happier with his
front row barstool seat above the Monsta: "Great to see you again, Sammy! Give me a refill!"
Yea: Exhibit A of the fans that encompass the Fens and Red Sox Nation: lying
belly down on the sidewalk that separates Van Ness Street from the outer wall of Fenway, youngsters press their faces sideways
on the concrete for a better glimpse of players entering the clubhouse in street clothes.
Neh: Like Ted Kennedy, an Oil Can Boyd sighting and the curse of the Bambino
- some things never change in Beantown: ticket prices remain the highest in baseball. Also, do we have enough corporate
signage along the outfield walls now, fan man John Henry?
2. Wrigley Field - North side Chicago, Chicago, IL (Cubs) First game:
2003 Sex Appeal: Something good has actually come out of the Cubs versus
rooftop owners’ fight: Nothing has changed to Wrigley Field. Yet.
Yea: Nothing like throwing back a few at Murphy’s and the Cubby Bear
before Slammin’ Sammy salutes the bleacher faithful during his daily wind sprint.
Neh: Poor Cubs players. The day games make them tired. Of course, we must
accommodate them: at least 17 night games in 2003.
3. Yankee Stadium - The South Bronx, NY (Yankees) First game: 1923
2003 Sex Appeal: What, cutting our dental plan to save money? George Constanza
will have none of that sir! And we still haven’t reinstated beer sales to the Bleacher Creatures? That’s revenue,
Mr. Steinbrenner! Revenue! Oh, now my tooth hurts!
Yea: Well, Thank Goodness Bean Man didn’t bolt town - would want
to miss him getting busy with the Babe’s statue in Monument Park?
Neh: Ok, so battery tossing from the bleachers isn’t sport anymore.
But the high-ticket prices - and never-ending restrictions - have somewhat lessened the raucous fan atmosphere
of the Stadium.
The Future Of The Big Three: There has been much talk of a "new Fenway" and "new Yankee Stadium," with Wrigley being renovated. But here’s
the bottom line: Because land is so expensive in Beantown and New York, don’t be surprised if all three ballparks -
that all should receive federal landmark status (fans, what’d 'ya say, start a petition?) - opt for renovation
versus new pads.
THE BEST HALF DOZEN BUILT IN THE MODERN ERA
If you want to witness firsthand why modern, baseball-only ballparks are 90
light years better than those hideous multi-purpose edifices built in the late 1960s and early 1970s - these are the
best of the best.
4. Pacific Bell Park - China Basin, San Francisco, CA (Giants) First
2003 Sex Appeal: Thought getting tickets was too tough last year? Ha! Try
Yea: Sweet fan atmosphere, location, San Francisco Bay views, plus unique
dimensions and design.
Neh: Man, this concourse is narrow! And the concession lines are long, too!
And the best seats don’t have bay views. Say, can I get a ticket to this place by the way?
5. SAFECO Field - Pioneer Square District, Seattle, WA (Mariners) First
2003 Sex Appeal: No more Lou Piniella tantrums? That can’t be! Oh, that’s
right, poor Tampa Bay does come to visit every year now. Better buy those tickets!
Yea: Perhaps the best fan atmosphere among ballparks built post-1992. Prime
location, Pacific Northwest feel, and great views - you can’t ask for anything more.
Neh: Can a baseball fan get a ticket to this place in summer?
6. PNC Park (Pittsburgh) - North Shore District, Pittsburgh, PA (Pirates)
First game: 2001
2003 Sex Appeal: When a homer is hit to dead center, watch kids run onto a
grass-sloped area, chasing after the ball around a "P" logo and trees that lie beyond the outfield wall. Copy cats.
Yea: Water taxi to the ballgame; admire the statues; spectacular sight lines;
downtown, river and bridge views; and old-school intimate design and feel.
Neh: Ok, we know the Pirates have been God awful for 10 years but can we get
some more fan atmosphere in this place? How about a nightly "Dance with Pirate Parrot" atop the dugout that includes a free tryout
with the hapless Bucs?
7. Jacobs Field - Downtown Cleveland, OH (Indians) First game: 1994
2003 Sex Appeal: Plenty of good seats now available as the youth movement
is here: Maybe they’ll bring back Joe Charbonneau or Cory Synder? Um, maybe not.
Yea: They may not sell out like before but there’s still a great pre-game
atmosphere; urban feel; sight lines; plus the happiest customer service team in baseball.
Neh: Fan atmosphere no match for the glory days, kid.
8. Oriole Park at Camden Yards - Downtown Baltimore, MD (Orioles) First
2003 Sex Appeal: No Godzilla. No I-Rod. Who needs ‘em anyway? We’ve
got "the Bird," the most underrated mascot in baseball, saluting the bleacher faithful, Baby.
Yea: Nothing like cruising Eutaw Street and enjoying a little Boog Powell
Neh: Ticket prices remain very expensive, some seats aren’t angled toward
the field and others have obstructed views.
9. Kauffman Stadium - Suburban Kansas City, MO (Royals) First game:
2003 Sex Appeal: Voters may decide this November if the most underrated beautiful
ballpark needs a little more love, enabling the team to have more revenues so it isn’t usually out of the division
race by Mother’s Day.
Yea: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder: Simplicity sells. Nothing more
unique than wild caroms off the backstop; super sight lines; and those majestic cascading fountains to remind you you’re
in the Fountain City.
Neh: We could do a little better than a suburban parking lot, couldn’t
THE SECOND BEST HALF DOZEN BUILT IN THE MODERN ERA
This group of ballparks is also worth a visit - they’re just a
tad down in caliber from the top six of the modern era above.
10. The Ballpark in Arlington - Arlington, TX (Rangers) First game:
2003 Sex Appeal: There’s a new show in town - The Buck Show. Will
the Rangers debut seven new uniforms, Buck?
Yea: You know you’re in Texas kid, with mammoth-sized shaped longhorns
adorning the facade on the outside, and a Texas-shaped scoreboard on the inside.
Neh: In summer, it can be hot as HELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!
11. Coors Field - Lower Downtown, Denver, CO (Rockies) First game: 1995
2003 Sex Appeal: Humidor II? Could a sequel season of storing balls at 40
percent humidity, preventing them from drying out and shrinking in the mile high elevation, really work? Doubtful.
Yea: Pure Rocky Mountain refreshment - great pre-game experience; in-game
sunsets; and post-game revelry in LoDo.
Neh: For the love of Pete: Forget the damn humidor - Would you heighten
the fences already? You are the Rocky Mountain State for the love of Pete! Create a "Mountain version" of the Green Monster
- something, we beg you, please! I’d like to go home - TODAY!
12. Dodger Stadium - Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles, CA (Dodgers) First
2003 Sex Appeal: New scoreboards - and a new owner? Say potential new
owners, maybe some lower prices in the grandstand for us regular folks?
Yea: Randy, I do "Love LA": Beautifully-landscaped, beach balls, organ music,
plenty of sunshine, an occasional Hollywood babe sighting above the dugout - and no smog up here, too!
Neh: Ticket prices very high on the high end. And they still haven’t
figured it out! You think they’d have figured it out after more than 40 years. Parking is still an adventure -
but not if you buy Joe’s guide and find the in-and-out secrets.
13. Busch Stadium - Downtown Saint Louis, MO (Cardinals) First game:
2003 Sex Appeal: Start the countdown? Not exactly. A projected 2006 new ballpark
opening is becoming less likely because of state budget cuts and more.
Yea: And on the eighth day, God created Cardinal fans. It’s all red,
Baby, and plenty lively - in the most welcoming concrete jungle in Major League Baseball.
Neh: Is it ok if we opened this place up, widened the concourses a tad and
had some decent concessions?
14. Turner Field - Atlanta, GA (Braves) First game: 1997
2003 Sex Appeal: Where art thou Ted? Here’s how you treat a namesake:
take his tickets away - and he’ll exile himself to Florida. Hey, maybe he’ll buy the Marlins? Ah, then again,
Yea: Downtown views, plus great history reflected - from Hammering Hank
to the Knuckler, Mr. Niekro.
Neh: Could we have some civilization nearby like, say, restaurants? Could
fans get just a little more excited? Haven’t we learned from the parking lot era?
15. Great American Ballpark - Riverfront, downtown Cincinnati, OH (Reds)
First game: 2003
2003 Sex Appeal: The "Rose Garden" will have to wait until 2004 during "Phase
II" - Bud, will you be at the christening?
Yea: It’s all red, Baby - as in the seats. Real grass, real sight
lines - and it’s also real good hittin’.
Neh: Can you say Coors Field East? Nine seasons passed before someone hit
a homer at Crosley Field. Nine homers were hit in the first few games at "Great American Ballpark."
THE THIRD - AND LAST - BEST HALF OF THE DOZEN BUILT IN THE MODERN
After you’ve hit the above two, if your budget still permits, and/or
your heart desires, do visit these six pads. Your experience with one or two of these last six may shuffle into the
second group above, but not Joe's.
16. Minute Maid Park - Downtown Houston, TX (Astros) First game: 2000
2003 Sex Appeal: New statues of Bags and Biggio - you think they can lead the
Space City to a playoff series win now that Clark "Wash His Car" Kent has landed?
Yea: You want a unique seventh inning stretch, do you? Welcome to Houston,
Neh: Want to know what vertigo feels like? Just head to the upper deck, kiddo.
17. Bank One Ballpark - Downtown Phoenix, AZ (Diamondbacks) First game:
2003 Sex Appeal: Player autographs - well, at least eight players or
coaches - before every game. Also, has Guillermo the Pigeon abandoned the former World Champs?
Yea: Nothing like being stuck in a desert aircraft hanger and hearing the
theme music from Halloween now and then - and then some goatee dude wearing the Halloween mask, too.
Neh: Instead of the nickname, "the BOB," perhaps "the BIG" is a tad more appropriate,
18. Comerica Park - Downtown Detroit, MI (Tigers) First game: 2000
2003 Sex Appeal: With the left center field fence moved in, maybe we’ll
actually see a final score that doesn’t resemble an outdoor soccer match.
Yea: They built a freaking Ferris Wheel on site, but give them this much:
they did a pretty good job of showcasing Tiger history - from decade-by-decade in the main concourse to the outfield
Neh: After moving the left center fence in, the last vestiges of old Tiger
Stadium are bye-bye. Way to carry over the unique double-decker overhangs to the new pad. Now, the flag pole isn’t in
play anymore either, you morons.
19. Edison International Field (aka, Anaheim Stadium, 'The Big A') -
Anaheim, CA (Angels) First game: 1966
2003 Sex Appeal: Katie is one year old, one year wiser.
Yea: Only in the land of make believe can a monkey become a mascot. But you’ve
got to admit it, those Jumbo-Tron drop-in movie clips of Katie throwing catch with Costner in Field of Dreams get you
Neh: Want the perfect recipe to kill a halfway decent fan atmosphere? Have
the ushers and a 13-year-old Brittany Spears wannabe try and sing "Take me out to the ballgame" in really cheesy costumes.
20. U.S. Cellular Field (aka, Comiskey Park) - South side, Chicago,
IL (White Sox) First game: 1991
2003 Sex Appeal: Just in time for this year's All-Star Game,
Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdork sells out (shocker) and says "our goal is to transform U.S. Cellular Field and to provide a fun,
family-oriented atmosphere for our fans," acknowledging that it’s basically been a piece of junk since it opened. Too
bad it still is.
Yea: Shoeless Joe may have no place in Cooperstown, but at least Reinsdork
pays him some kudos along the main concourse - as well as other Sox history.
Neh: Nothing better than having to commute all the way out to the attractive
south side projects to witness baseball in the Chicago Morgue.
21. Miller Park - Suburban Milwaukee, WI (Brewers) First game: 2001
2003 Sex Appeal: Nothing like playing hooky on a lazy weekday afternoon -
and sneaking down to better seats because no one is sitting there anyway.
Yea: The best between innings race in baseball - those crazy Racing
Sausages causing lots of trouble.
Neh: What irony. Bud "urban ballpark" Selig couldn’t get it done in
his hometown. The results are the most disappointing of any new ballpark built since the early 1990s - and that’s
quite a few now, kid.
BOTTOM FEED BLUNDERS - WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING?
The answer is they weren’t. And that’s the problem. Solution?
BLOW THEM UP! Before you now, the multi-purpose messes that, in a perfect world, would have NO BUSINESS HOSTING MAJOR LEAGUE
22. Shea Stadium - Queens/Flushing/Whatever, NY (Mets) First game: 1964
2003 Sex Appeal: With the airline industry on the verge of collapsing -
hey, less planes overhead! Yippie!
Yea: The Yanks may have more titles, but the Mets - because of their
recent failures, perhaps? - have better fan atmosphere.
Neh: If it weren’t for the fans, this place would be about as comforting
as a root canal.
23. Qualcomm Stadium (aka, Jack Murphy Stadium, "The Murph") - Suburban
San Diego, CA (Padres) First game: 1969
2003 Sex Appeal: Marking its final season at the concrete jungle, the Padres
are having "tributes," including to the glorious 1970s and 1980s. Yes, those brown uni’s are coming back. But what
about the Chicken?
Yea: The Padres are finally leaving this God-awful place, whose baseball design
has never been either authentic or terribly charming.
Neh: You mean no more parking in a mammoth lot next to a concrete jungle?
Oh, I need a hankie now…
24. Network Associates Coliseum (aka, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum) -
Suburban Oakland, CA (Athletics) First game: 1966
2003 Sex Appeal: Barring a miracle, last season to see Miggy getting Jiggy
in the green and gold.
Yeh: What would A’s life be without those banging drummers in left field?
Neh: If it weren’t for the banging drummers and other fans, this place
would have no life.
25. Hiram Bithorn Stadium - Hato Rey, San Juan, PR (Expos Other
Home) First game: 1962
2003 Sex Appeal: Baseball’s answer to make some quick, lame duck
cash: If you bring Los Expos to Estadio Bithorn, they will come. Si!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yea: Expos may very well thrive off the awesome, Latin-style fan atmosphere.
Neh: Beyond the fan atmosphere, this lame duck ballpark is a D-U-M-P. How
does an island ballpark that has more rain than Seattle not have natural grass?
26. Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodump - Downtown Minneapolis, MN (Twins)
First game: 1982
2003 Sex Appeal: Can a playoff team (once on the verge of "contraction") now
help owners secure funding for a new ballpark?
Yea: With winds blowing out at zero miles per hour, you can't miss the banners
honoring Twins history.
Neh: You'll enter the dump through revolving doors to prevent air from being
released and the dome from collapsing (which, on second thought, may not just be such a bad idea).
27. Tropicana Field (aka, Thunderdump) - Downtown Saint Petersburg,
FL (Devil Rays) First game: 1998
2003 Sex Appeal: Up close chance to see Sweet Lou throw his infamous temper
tantrums inside the Costco of Major League Baseball.
Yea: Now we’re talking entertainment! Why, who wouldn’t pay to
see Lou Piniella throw what’s sure to be a on-field temper tantrum at least once every homestand - right in his
Neh: You mean, I’ll still have to witness lousy Triple-A level baseball
inside an antiseptic dome that’s located in a retirement community?
28. SkyDump - Downtown Toronto, Ontario Canada (Blue Jays) First game:
2003 Sex Appeal: In case you haven’t noticed, they didn’t raise
ticket prices this year. Still plenty of good seats available.
Yea: Attend a "value game" under the new ticket plan, and you can scoot down
to a $21 seat for just $7.
Neh: Welcome to Toronto’s largest empty mall! Open 1 p.m. this Sunday!
29. Veterans Stadium - South side, Philadelphia, PA (Phillies) First
2003 Sex Appeal: The team’s PR department has the audacity to encourage
fans to "bring cameras and handkerchiefs" for the final game in September. Please!
Yea: They’re eventually going to blow this place up. Really. It will
become a parking lot for the new ballpark. Gee, what a fitting tribute. Bottom line: We’ll all sleep easier knowing
this is the last year of this absolute freaking dump of a ballpark.
Neh: How we will ever forget the touching moments here? Let’s see: Who
can forget Michael Irvin’s career ending injury, the aroma of beer stench mixed with vomit, or JD Drew being showered
30. Pro Player Stadium (aka, Joe Robbie) - Suburban Miami, FL (Marlins)
First game: 1993
2003 Sex Appeal: Could it be: attendance actually up 5,000 per game
in 2003 (from close to 0 in 2002)?
Yea: Miami resident Juan Rodriguez should bring a renewed enthusiasm not seen
Neh: No knock on Pugh, but "Yea" has about as much change of succeeding as
hell freezing over come the monsoon season in summer.
31. Olympic Stadium - Montreal, Quebec Canada (Expos) First game: 1976
2003 Sex Appeal: Finally - FINALLY - this could very well be the
FINAL year for baseball in this disaster.
Yea: Great sales on Expos merchandise! Plenty of great seats available! Hey,
no rainouts unless the roof collapses!
Neh: Sure gonna miss those long metro rides out to bufu Montreal - and
those corroding seats, too.