Saturday, April 26, 2014

Home Sweet Home: A look at American League Stadiums Through the Years

Last week we reviewed the history of each National League team's home stadiums through the generations.  I'm sure some of you thought to yourselves "that's great but what about Yankee Stadium or Fenway or Tigers Stadium?"  Just calm down.  This week we will explore the history of the American League ballparks throughout the years.  This year you will find out where the Yankees played before the House that Ruth built, which stadium was the first to be built with steel and concrete and which stadium was the first to end the trend of cold, stale, multipurpose stadiums of the 1970's.

American League East:
Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles started as the Milwaukee Brewers (as you may remember from the article following the origin of team names) in 1901 with the birth of the American League.  Their games were played on Lloyd Street Grounds in Milwaukee.  The park was located on current North 17th Street. The Brewers played their one year in the league at this park and had very little success.  They went 48-89 and finished 8th out of 8 teams.  As we saw in the article discussing team names, the league was still searching for consistency and after the failed year in Milwaukee the team moved to St. Louis and became the Browns.

The Browns played at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis.  It was their home from 1902 through 1953, their final year in St. Louis.  For most of that time they shared the park with the Cardinals.  This Sportsman's Park was officially known as Sportsman's Park II.  It was an exact replica of Sportsman's Park which had been the home of the Cardinals which was destroyed by fire.  The condition of the field was atrocious and visiting teams dreaded playing there.  The two teams did end up pouring more money into the stadium and added seating, crucial to accomodate the Cardinals fans but leaving a lot of extra empty seats for the Browns. The Browns were often in debt and non competitive  The Cardinals were clearly the more successful team, and the more profitable.  The Cardinals ended up buying the stadium and renaming it Budweiser Stadium followed by Busch Stadium.  The Busch name was in honor of Augustus Busch, owner of the Cardinals.  The Browns left the city in 1953 for Baltimore.

The Browns, now known as the Orioles, moved into Memorial Stadium.  The stadium was not built specifically for the Browns.  It had existed since the 1920's and was built in the Venable Park area of the city and was known originally as Baltimore Stadium or Municipal Stadium.  The stadium was originally a football stadium for college football but when the minor league Orioles stadium had a fire in 1944 they needed a place to play so Baltimore Stadium was converted to accomodate baseball.  When the Browns moved to Baltimore they moved in.  Baltimore Stadium was rebuilt based on the success of the minor league Orioles and in 1950 was reopened as Memorial Stadium in honor of World War I and World War II veterans.  The main entrance to the stadium displayed a dedication to the veterans.  It was also sometimes called "Babe Ruth Stadium" after Ruth's connection with the city.  The Orioles won three World Series while playing in this stadium (1966, 1970 and 1983) as well as participating in another three (1969, 1971 and 1979).  The Orioles had a successful run at that time winning additional division titles in 1972 and 1974.  The stadium also saw some terrible times including the 0-22 start for the O's in 1988.  When the Orioles made a drastic turn around in 1989, losing to the Blue Jays on the final weekend of the season, they did it in this stadium.

The stadium was old, decaying and smelly.  The parking was terrible and the neighborhood started to get a bad reputation.  The team had a decision to make: pour money into this museum or take advantage of the rejuvenated Inner Harbor area and build a new stadium designed just for baseball.  The result was Orioles Park at Camden Yards.  Built on the site of the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad warehouses and just two blocks from the birth place of Babe Ruth, the stadium has become the bench mark for new baseball stadiums.  The proximity to the harbor, the use of shops and restaurants on Eutaw Street and the incorporation of the Warehouse Buildings as targets for long ball hitters has made Camden Yards the pinnacle of baseball architecture.  Camden Yards is often credited as the first "modern" ballpark.  It ended the cold, faceless multi-purpose trend that had been set by Veteran's Stadium, Riverfront Stadium and Three Rivers Stadium. Many ballparks built after the opening of Camden Yards in 1992.

Boston Red Sox
The Boston Americans opened play at the Huntington Avenue Grounds in 1901.  The site was originally a circus grounds and the quirks certainly made it seem like anything but a baseball park.  The grandstands were wooden (standard for that day), there were sand pits in the field where the grass was unable to grow, there was a tool shed in the middle of the outfield and there was no outfield wall.  The overflow crowds were often placed in the outfield (literally standing room only) and a rope was strung across the outfield.  Crazy as the set up was, it was the site of the 1903 World Series, the first World Series.  This was the home of the American League Boston team until 1911.

For the 1912 season opener the Boston team, now known as the Red Sox, opened a new stadium.  Planned as a festive event, the opener was a bit sombre as the stories of the recent sinking of the Titanic were still trickling in to news rooms.  Despite that tragedy the Red Sox opened Fenway Park in 1912 and christened it with a World Series title.  The name Fenway comes from the section of Boston where the stadium is located.  The fens (wetlands) had been filled in several decades before and the Fenway Construction company was owned by the owner of the Sox.  The glory days of the Red Sox took place in the early days of the stadium with World Series wins in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918.

Similar to the Huntington Avenue Grounds, Fenway had some pretty significant quirks.  The first was that the left field wall was 37 feet high.  When the park opened in 1912 there was an incline in front of the wall.  The incline was hazardous to visitors but the Red Sox left fielder Duffy Lewis learned to play the incline to perfection.  The same way Carl Yastrzemski would perfect playing the ball off the wall years later, Duffy Lewis could play the incline and would even use the incline to add momentum to his throws toward the infield. Because Lewis mastered the hill it became known as Duffy's Cliff.  It was removed in 1933.

Left field is the more famous section of the park but right field has it's own quirks.  The foul pole in right field is named after Johnny Pesky.  Although Pesky was not a home run hitter he did wrap one game winning shot around the pole that bears his name.

The bullpens located in right field (the ones that Torii Hunter flipped over and Carlos Beltran ran into in the 2013 post season) are known as "Williamsburg".  The bullpens were placed out there to shorten the right field porch where Williams hit most of his Home Runs.  Speaking of Williams Home Runs, the right field stands have one seat painted bright red.  That seat is where Ted Williams hit his last career Home Run.

Fenway has seen more special moments than most stadiums.  All Star Games.  Yankee-Red Sox battles.  World Series.  Famous Home Runs.  You name it, Fenway's seen it.

New York Yankees
As you may remember from the article detailing the team names, the Yankees started out as the Baltimore Orioles.  They played their games at Orioles Park.  There had been several incarnations of the Orioles in previous leagues at different Orioles Parks.  This one, the fourth version of Orioles Park, was called Orioles Park IV.  The team played there for the first two years but after John McGraw and half the team jumped to the New York Giants, the organization could no longer field a team and the franchise was moved to New York.

McGraw and the Giants owners fought tooth and nail to keep the former Orioles from invading New York and used their political power to block any attempt the team made to buy land for a stadium.  Finally, just a few weeks before opening day, the team found their location.  It was high on the hills in the Washington Heights section of New York and was known as Hilltop Park.  It is the current sight of the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.  The team name became alternately the Hilltopers or the Highlanders based on the location.  The park was poorly constructed, slapped together at the last minute, and did not last long.

By the end of 1912 the team was playing at the Polo Grounds as the guest of John McGraw and the ownership group that had fought so hard to keep the franchise out of the city.  As it became clear that the team was a joke and had no chance to compete with the powerful Giants dynasty, McGraw's hatred dissipated.  No longer playing at Hilltop Park the Highlanders name no longer fit so the team became known as the Yankees.  They shared the Polo Grounds with the Giants until 1922.  The franchise's first two World Series appearances (1921 and 1922) were in this stadium.  Ironically, these two appearances led directly to their new home.

When the team moved into the Polo Grounds they were pathetic, rarely finishing above fourth.  By 1919 the team had the best player in the game, Babe Ruth, and were challenging for a title.  As Ruth grew in popularity the Yankees filled the stadium and McGraw had a real rival on his hands.  When the Yankees actually faced off against the Giants in the World Series two years in a row McGraw had enough.  He kicked the Yankees out following the 1922 season.  The Yankees built their own stadium, at the time the biggest and best stadium ever built.  Since Ruth's success had spurred McGraw to kick the team out and the same success had given the team the money to build their own stadium, it became known as the house that Ruth built.  Officially it was known as Yankee Stadium.  The Yankees faced the Giants in the World Series for the third straight year and in their first year in the new stadium the team won their first World Series title.

The stadium remained mostly unchanged until the end of the 1973 season when the stadium underwent major renovations.  For the 1974 and 1975 season the Yankees shared Shea Stadium with the Mets as their home base.  The stadium reopened in 1976.  The last ten years of the original stadium were bad years but with the reopening of the stadium the Yankees made the World Series, losing to the Big Red Machine in the 1976 World Series.  They came back the next two years and won the 1977 and 1978 World Series.  All in all, the original Yankee Stadium (pre and post renovations) would host 26 of the team's current 27 World Series titles.

The renovated Yankee stadium remained in operation until 2008.  In the final season of the original Yankee Stadium the Yankees missed the playoffs.  It was the first time since 1994 that the team had not made the post season.  The New Yankee Stadium, opened in 2009, brought an immediate continuation to the Yankee mystique.  The Yankees won the 2009 World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies (the second time the Yankees have beaten the Phillies in the World Series) adding the team's 27th World Series title.

Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa organization is the baby of the American League.  The organization started play in 1998 and has played at Tropicana Field the entire time in the league.  The stadium is a dome but has some defining characteristics.  Upon entering the stadium fans walk through an ornate rotunda, reportedly inspired by the Dodgers' Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

Just over the right-center field wall is a water tank that contains live Sting Rays.  In the left field corner the wall makes some odd height changes.  This angle played a part in the 2011 playoffs as Evan Longoria hit a Home Run just over the wall.  Had it been hit a few feet farther to the right, the ball would have been off the wall. Instead the ball went over the wall, knocking the Red Sox out of the playoffs, ending the Terry Francona era in Boston.

The ceiling  of Tropicana field can change the outcome of games as well.  As the ceiling ascends there are four rings of catwalks.  The catwalks are labelled A, B, C and D.  D is the lowest level, A is the highest.  A ball hit in the air in fair territory which strikes the A or B ring is still considered in play.  A ball hit in the air in fair territory which strikes the C or D ring is a Home Run.

Toronto Blue Jays
As you may remember from the article on Disney Baseball, Toronto very nearly won the first American League Expansion Franchise in 1961.  Instead they had to wait for 1977 to enter Major League Baseball. In a country (and city) known best for hockey, the Blue Jays played baseball in a stadium that was designed for football.  Exhibition Stadium was originally used for Canadian football and was the home of the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL. The Stadium was modified in time for the Blue Jays to play their first game in 1977.  Although Toronto summers bring beautiful weather, there should be no surprise that April and late September games caused serious weather problems when playing out doors in Toronto.  As if the weather wasn't enough, the proximity to Lake Ontario caused more problems.  The offer of dropped pop corn and hot dogs attracted seagulls in droves.  This led to one incident where a fly ball hit by Dave Winfield hit and killed a seagull during a game.  Clearly the stadium, with poor sight lines and some seats over 800 feet away from the action (they were great seats for a football game) something had to be done.

Photo of Exhibition Stadium Courtesy of Toronto Blue In this wide shot you can see the left field stands extending perpendicular to the outfield wall making it difficult to see the action.

After spending their first decade plus in the poor baseball grounds of Exhibition Stadium, the Blue Jays went in a completely opposite direction. Since the summers in Toronto can be beautiful, they didn't want to lose the beauty of outdoor baseball.  Yet, knowing that the Toronto weather could lead to snow and wind they knew they needed a dome.  So they did what Walter O'Malley had wanted to do before leaving Brooklyn.  They built a stadium with a retractable roof.

Skydome officially opened in June 1989 with a nation wide broadcast to celebrate the new amazing feat of architecture.  On the day of the opening ceremony Toronto sat in 6th place, 8 games out of first.  They were playing on the road the day of the big broadcast but their first game at the new home came on June 5, a 5-3 loss to the Brewers led by Paul Molitor, Gary Sheffield and a two run Glenn Bragg Home Run.  By June 21 the Jays had flown as high as second place (in fact they jumped from fifth to second over night in a tightly packed  middle of the division.  Although they climbed to second they were still seven games behind the first place Orioles.

Toronto did not exactly catch fire but the Orioles certainly fell apart.  The Jays steadily cut the lead and by 8/31 the two teams were tied.  The last weekend of the season was a head to head showdown at the brand new Skydome with the Orioles.  The first place Blue Jays were one game ahead of the second place O's.  The team that won the series would win the division.  The Jays won the first game putting them up two games with two to play.  The second game, on Saturday, became the crucial one.  Baltimore took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the 8th. A three run bottom of the 8th (2 walks, a sac bunt, two singles and a sac fly) gave Toronto the lead and the division, in their first summer in the new stadium.

Skydome would become remembered for the glory days of Blue Jay baseball.  The stadium was home to two World Series titles, including the most famous Blue Jay moment, Joe Carter's walk off World Series winning Home Run.  Although the name of the stadium has since been changed to Rogers Center the building is still the same.  Included in the stadiums attractions are a hotel, restaurant and a bowling alley.

American League Central:
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox were one of the original eight American League franchises but they started their existence by moving into a second hand park.  The South Side Grounds (officially South Side Grounds III) was built as a cricket field in 1893 and when the White Sox moved into town Charles Comiskey added the grandstands and bleachers that made it a major league park.  The White Sox played here until part way through the 1910 season.  During their time there the 1906 Hitless Wonders fought the Cubs in the first ever same city World Series.

The biggest problem with South Side Grounds was the wooden construction.  As stadiums like the Polo Grounds and Columbia Park in Philadelphia suffered fires, teams wanted to move to concrete and steel construction.  Just a few short months after Ben Shibe opened his modern miracle (see the Oakland Athletics) Comiskey opened his new palace.  Comiskey Park.

On July 1, 1910 the park, officially known as White Sox Park for the first two years, opened with a Sox loss to the Browns.  It was said that the park was designed as a pitcher friendly park to help pitcher Ed Walsh, the star of the team at the time.  White Sox pitchers who threw there over the years would likely disagree that it was pitcher friendly.

The stadium name changed to Comiskey Park in 1913 and Comiskey began building a team that he thought would keep him competitive for years to come.  he collected players like Eddie Collins, Buck Weaver, Joe Jackson, Happy Felsch, Ray Schalk, Eddie Ciccotte and Lefty Williams.  This group won the 1917 World Series and were heavy favorites entering the 1919 World Series.  Both of these World Series were played in part in Comiskey Park.  Following the 1919 World Series and the disgrace of the Black Sox the stadium would see very little competitive baseball.

Between 1921 and 1951 the team finished higher than fifth only six times (never higher than a distant third).  The team outlook was often bleak until 1952 when they were continuously fighting in the top three spots with the dominant Yankees and Indians.  In 1959 Comiskey Park hosted its first meaningful games in 40 years.  The White Sox made the World Series.

In game one the White Sox, known as the Go Go Sox, crushed the exhausted Dodgers 11-0 (Los Angeles had to play a tie breaker against the Milwaukee Braves and fly from Los Angeles to Chicago overnight).  It was the first World Series game in Comiskey Park since October 1919.  Game Two would not go quite as well for the home team.  They lost 4-3 thanks to a pinch hit Home Run by Chuck Essegian and a two Home Run game by Charlie Neal.  The stadium did see one final game in the 1959 World Series but thanks to Essegian's second pinch hit Home Run of the series, a two run double by Charlie Neal, a two run Moon Shot by Wally Moon and a two run Home Run by Duke Snider (the last World Series home run of his career) the Dodgers won their first World Series in Los Angeles.

Comiskey Park did see one more playoff run in 1983 as the White Sox led by Carlton Fisk, LaMar Hoyt, Richard Dotson and Harold Baines fell to Cal Ripken and the eventual World Series Champion Orioles.  Two of the four games in that series were played at Comiskey Park but neither was a happy occasion.  The Orioles won game three 11-1 and game four 3-0 to advance to the World Series.

The original Comiskey Park saw its final game at the end of the 1990 season and was demolished in 1991.  It was replaced by a new stadium, known as New Comiskey Park, for the 1991 season.  The new park, now known as US Cellular Field since 2003, has already seen its fair share of special moments.  The White Sox have made the playoffs four times since the opening of the stadium.  Most importantly, the 2005 version of the Pale Hose won the first World Series for the organization since the 1917 team.

Cleveland Indians
League Park officially opened in 1891 and was used by the Cleveland Spiders of the National League.  When the Cleveland Blues became a flagship organization for the American League, they played at League Park.

The team played there officially until 1931 although for a time it was named Dunn Field after the owner of the team.  During their time in the stadium the Indians won their first World Series in 1920.  Cleveland legends Cy Young, Tris Speaker, Nap LaJoie, Joe Jackson, Terry Turner and Ray Chapman played at this stadium.

In 1932 the Indians moved into the new Cleveland Municipal Stadium (also referred to as Cleveland Stadium and Lakefront Stadium).  Built originally for the Cleveland Rams of the National Football League and later used by the Cleveland Browns, the Indians played here from the 1930's through the 1990's.  Games 3, 4 and 5 of the 1948 World Series were played here as the Tribe won their second  (and so far last) World Series title.

Players and fans complained about the stadium and felt it led to the team's poor performance as the outfield was large and it was felt this cut down on Home Run production.  The stadium did see one more World Series in 1954 but the Indians lost to Willie Mays, Dusty Rhoades and the Giants.  Between 1954 and 1994 there were few great moments at the stadium (for baseball that is) although Frank Robinson did take the field as the first African American Manager in this stadium, it hosted an All Star Game and Len Barker pitched a perfect game here.

In 1994 the Indians opened Jacobs Field and immediately the Indians saw a stretch of competitive play the team had never experienced before.  In Jacobs Field the Indians made the playoffs 8 times including two World Series (1995 and 1997).

Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers have played in the same city under the same name since 1901.  Their uniforms have changed, their stars have changed and their stadium has certainly changed since then.  In their first two years they had one stadium for regular games and a second stadium for Sundays and special occasions.

The Sunday park was known as Burns Park.  It was named after one of the owners of the team. The other park, the everyday park, was located at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Street.  It was originally known as Bennett Park after the owner of the team and it hosted the World Series in 1907, 1908 and 1909 (all Tigers losses).  The team remained relatively competitive and the team was taken over by Frank Navin when Bennett passed away.

The stadium name was changed to Navin Field in 1912 and was known that way until 1938.  During that time the team struggled but it did see several World Series teams led by Hank Greenberg and Schoolboy Rowe.  In 1938 with the death of Navin, Walter O. Briggs took over the team and the stadium was changed to Briggs Stadium.  From 1938-1960 it was called this and although the team won the 1945 World Series (it also lost the 1940 World Series) while playing here, there were few other bright moments as the Yankees dominated the era.

In 1961, again under new ownership, the stadium finally got the name that made sense: Tiger Stadium.  During the final stretch of the stadium the field saw the 1968 and 1984 World Series titles.  It also saw Reggie Jackson hit a ball that nearly left the stadium and Cecil Fielder come out of nowhere to blast 49 Home Runs (the closest anyone had come to 50 in years). The stadium saw its final game in 1999.

The new millennium brought a new stadium, Comerica Park.  It was pitcher friendly to say the least and though the Tigers made a big trade to bring slugger Juan Gonzales to town the large ballpark made the offensive power irrelevant.  The lack of offense gave the park the nickname of "Coma Park".  The first few years here were not happy and included a near historic worst 43-119 record in 2003.

Since then the team has turned around and the park has seen some historic moments including Placido Polanco galloping around the bases in the 2006 ALCS, Miguel Cabrera winning a Triple Crown, Justin Verlander no hitters and two World Series.

Kansas City Royals
While the American and National Leagues remained consistent in geography during the first 50 plus years of existence, Kansas City was considered minor league.  Their minor league Kansas City Blues started play in 1923 in Muehlbach Stadium, named after the team's owner.  Also utilizing the stadium were the Negro Leagues' Kansas City entry the Monarchs.  The Monarchs were one of the more successful teams in the league and through their history (from 1920-1950) would feature players like Jose Mendez, Bullett Rogan, Turkey Stearnes, Cool Papa Bell,Satchel Paige, Connie Johnson, Hank Thompson, Hilton Smith, Buck O'Neil and Jackie Robinson.

In the late 1930's Muehlbach Stadium was renamed Ruppert Stadium after Jacob Ruppert, owner of the Yankees.  Ruppert bought the Blues and used it as part of the Yankee farm system.  It was one of the main training grounds for years during the great Yankee dynasties.  The stadium was also used for NFL football in the early 1920's and again in the 1960's for the Chiefs.

When the Athletics brought major league baseball to Kansas City they started here, at what was called Municipal Stadium by that time.  To accomodate the big league baseball, renovations were made and the scoreboard from Braves field in Boston (now abandoned with the Braves in Milwaukee) was brought to Municipal Stadium.  When the Athletics moved to Oakland the stadium sat empty for a season until the Royals joined the league in 1969.  The Royals used the stadium until the end of the 1972 season.  Although only there for a few years, the Royals sent several memorable players onto the field in the hometown uniform at Municipal Stadium.  Among them were Lou Piniella, Jerry Adair, Galen Cisco, Dick Drago, Wally Bunker, Buck Martinez, Amos Otis, Buck Martinez, Freddie Patek, John Mayberry and Paul Splitorff.

In 1973 the Royals moved into a new stadium called, what else, Royals Stadium.  The team had not been good since entering the league.  In fact many felt they were still a minor league affiliate for the Yankees since many of their players ended up in New York eventually. Although they had finished second in 1970, they were still 16 games out of first place.  The move to the new stadium coincided with a new era in Royals baseball as the team became competitive adding players like Kurt Bevaqua, Hal McRae and George Brett.

The team continued to improve and the stadium saw it's first competitive Major League Baseball in the first year as the Royals finished only 6 games out of first.  Seen as an up and coming team, the Royals  fell off in 1974 to fifth place as the Oakland A's dominated the west.  Just as the Royals followed the A's into the town, they followed the A's into the top of the division and won the west in 1976, 1977 and 1978.  The Royals played in their only two World Series appearances at Royal Stadium.  In 1993 the stadium was renamed Ewing Kauffman Stadium after the long time owner of the team.

The stadium has some truly amazing features and has seen many great moments.  In center field is a beautiful fountain not seen in any other stadium.  The stadium also features a Buck O'Neil legacy seat where O'Neill used to attend the games.  The seat is awarded each game to a member of the community that best represents O'Neill's legacy.

Minnesota Twins
It is often forgotten that the Minnesota Twins are one of the original franchises of the American League.  They began as the Washington Senators in 1901 and played at American League Park. For their first two years in the league the Senators played in this non descript stadium.  It was fitting since they played non-descript baseball.

Starting in 1903 the team moved to National Park, former site of the Georgetown Hoyas football games.  Until 1911 the team continued to live in the American League basement while occupying this stadium.  Bleachers lined the first and third base lines and there was standing room in the outfield (similar to the Red Sox at the Huntington Avenue Grounds) but no outfield wall to speak of.  In March of 1911 the stadium had a serious fire and the wooden bleachers were nearly destroyed. (Probably symbolic of the play of the team, the fire was reportedly started by a plumber).  After the cathedral of Shibe Park (see Oakland) set the new standard with steel and concrete stadiums, the Senators followed the trend.  Construction was an ongoing process and although the team was playing in the construction site, the construction was completed on July 24, 1911.  The newly rebuilt Griffith Stadium, named after owner Clark Griffith and located at the same site, was officially opened.  The Senators would play in Griffith Stadium until the team moved to Minnesota to start the  1961 season.

The first home in Minneapolis was Municipal Stadium.  The Stadium certainly served the intended purpose as the city built the stadium with the hopes of luring a big league team to the area.  Summers in Minnesota can be beautiful but April and late September or early October can sometimes be reminiscent of football, not baseball.  Regardless, the Twins took over the stadium in 1961 and appeared in the city's first World Series just a few years later.  They lost to the Dodgers in Game 7 at the stadium in 1965.  The stadium was also used by the NFL's Minnesota Vikings when they entered the league and used the poor weather to their advantage.

The stadium was not kept up and the quality of the structure began to decay.  The Twins and Vikings considered leaving town but just as the Senators had followed the lead of Shibe Park, the Twins now followed the trend of negating the weather issue by building a domed stadium.  Officially known as the Hubert H. Humphrey Metropolitan Stadium, it was commonly called the Metrodome.  The Metrodome was opened in 1982.  It was named after LBJ's Vice President and presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey who was from the area. (The man did much more than just hold the office of VP and run for President but I am trying to keep this short.  I know, too late).

While Municipal Stadium was built specifically to host baseball and was used as a football stadium, the Metrodome was built to host any event imaginable.  The design led to some quirky baseball landmarks.  For example, the stands in Center field which were put up and taken down for the games, had a Plexiglas window on top  of the outfield wall.  This played a part in one of the most memorable moments in Twins history as Kirby Puckett saved the Twins season with a catch up against the glass in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series.  In right field, where the retractable seating was housed, the Twins decided to cover up the eye sore with black plastic tarp.  The wall came to be known as the garbage bag wall.

The Twins won two World Series (1987 and 1991) in this building.  The stadium, like Municipal Stadium was allowed to fall into disrepair and the Twins had enough.  They moved. (The Vikings remained although they will be moving into a new stadium shortly.) Although the stadium has gained a bad reputation, especially after a partial roof collapse in 2010, it served the intended purpose.  The Metrodome is the only facility that has hosted a Super Bowl, World Series, MLB All Star Game and Final Four.

In 2010 the Twins moved into a new home, Target Field.  In the few years there the Twins have given the fans little to cheer but the rebuilding process is beginning and great memories will be coming soon.

American League West
Houston Astros
The Houston Colt .45's joined the National League in 1962.  Their first stadium was called simply Colt Stadium.  Why bother being creative with the name?  It was intended only as a temporary stadium while the real home was built.  It was used for three seasons and it was awful.  Houston heat at the height of summer brought a number of issues, not the least of which was a mosquito infestation.  Rusty Staub described it as the hottest place on earth and during one game over 100 fans sought first aid for heat related issues.  The bigger story may have been that there were over 100 fans at the Colt .45's game.

Not surprisingly the second stadium was a dome. The first dome, in fact, and was unveiled as the eighth wonder of the world.  The precursor to the Metrodome in Minnesota, the Harris County Domed Stadium was opened in 1965.  The name was changed to the Astrodome starting in 1966.  Designed as a multi purpose facility the Astrodome saw the Houston Oilers play some of their best football.  While there Warren Moon, Earl Campbell, Billy Johnson, Heywood Jeffries, Ernest Givens, Drew Hill and Curtis Duncan played for the Oilers until the team moved to Tennessee.  The stadium also saw the Astros play some truly terrible baseball.

It wasn't all bad as the team made the playoffs in 1980, 1981 and 1986 nearly reaching the World Series and losing in devastating fashion in both 1980 and 1986.  Many of the Astros legends played in this stadium including Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richards, Mike Scott, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.

The Astros had some good times in the stadium but it seemed sometimes like playing in some one's basement.  The lighting did not always translate well to television.  There was little personality to the stadium and the Astros wanted better.  After making complaints of the lack of renovations and mentioning that the team might be sold and moved to D.C., the Astros decided to build their own.

They built a new stadium and to help pay for the construction they sold the right to name the stadium to the highest bidder.  Until the park was officially named it was known as the Ballpark at Union Station and was built at the site of the old Union Station representing Houston's rich history as the southern hub of the railroad industry.  The stadium had some interesting quirks including a center field incline (similar to the old Duffy's Cliff in Boston) known sometimes as the grassy knoll but officially known as Tal's Hill named after Tal Smith, former team president.

The highest bidder for the naming rights was a Texas based company called Enron and the company named it, obviously, Enron Field.  Not wanting to be associated with the disgraced company during the scandal, the field changed the name to Astros Field for most of the 2002 season but the naming rights were sold again, leading to the new name Minute Maid Park.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
You probably remember the early history of the Angels franchise from the recent Disney Baseball article so I will spare repeating the details of the early days.  Suffice it to say when they entered the league in 1961 the team played at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles.  No they did not pick up Wrigley from Chicago, although it was almost identical.  Wrigley Field in Los Angeles was built by the same man for the same team in 1925. The Cubs had trained in Southern California for years, including time on Santa Catalina Island and Wrigley built a stadium to host the Cubs in Spring Training as well as his minor league affiliates.

The stadium was used for many television productions as well including episodes of the Twilight Zone, Munsters and the baseball series Home Run Derby.  The Angels played their one season here until becoming the tenants of Walter O'Malley at Dodger Stadium.  As mentioned before, Anaheim Stadium opened for business in 1966 and the Angels had the place to themselves until the Los Angeles Rams moved in 1980.

Although the stadium was not terrible, it was not great.  It had few prominent features but it did have the big A out front.  For years the halo on the big A would light up in front of the stadium after an Angels win.  The stadium was known as Angels Stadium until 1997 when the name was changed to Edison International Field of Anaheim.  The stadium, with the help of Disney Magic, was improved into a beautiful modern park, including a rock formation in center field.  The stadium has been officially known as Angel Stadium of Anaheim since 2004.

Oakland Athletics
The Philadelphia Athletics started play in 1901 with a standard baseball grounds. They played at Columbia Park (or Columbia Avenue Grounds).  It wasn't much but it certainly brought the team luck,  In 1902 (before the World Series era) the A's won the American League.  In 1905 they reached the World Series and Columbia Park hosted the first World Series in Philadelphia as Christy Mathewson beat Connie Mack's Athletics.  The A's lost the AL pennant to Ty Cobb and the Tigers in 1906, 1907 and 1908 but they lost more than that in 1908.  Following a major fire (not uncommon with the wooden grandstands in baseball parks) the Athletics had to make a decision.  Rebuild the wooden structure at Columbia Avenue or find somewhere else and start over.

The A's found a location at Lehigh and 20th in Philadelphia and built a modern marvel.  Instead of just building a field and putting up some bleachers Ben Shibe and Connie Mack built a stadium using steel and concrete.  The first, in fact, to be built on such a grand scale for baseball.  Considered a particularly spectacular gem in the crown of baseball parks, Shibe Park had great architectural detail never before imagined for a sports facility.  The identifying feature was the tower at the Left Field Corner of the building which housed the A's offices.  The sacred place opened in April 1909 and was immediately the focus of the press.  It became the blue print of how to build a stadium.

While playing here the A's saw the $100,000 dollar infield win them AL pennants in 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1914.  It would also see Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove dominate the American League in 1929, 1930 and 1931.  It would also see some of the worst teams in history as the A's struggled to win on a budget (sound familiar).  The fans came in droves and they couldn't fit everyone so similar to Chicago today, fans would sit on the roof tops across from the stadium and see the game for free.  With the ballpark overflowing the A's could care less about the people across the street until the depression ate into their profits.  The A's found that poor teams and lack of funds led to the stadium being empty but the roof tops overflowing.  To discourage the practice the A's put up a 50 foot corrugated wall known as the "spite fence".

Although the name of the park was generally referred to as Connie Mack Stadium by the public, Mack refused to allow it to be officially named Connie Mack Stadium. For years Mack would tell people that Ben Shibe was the genius behind the stadium and deserved the credit, so it remained Shibe Park until his sons made the decision for him.  In 1953, just a few months after he turned 90, the stadium was officially named Connie Mack Stadium. It was too late as the A's were on their way out of town to play in Municipal Stadium in Kansas City.  Since the Kansas City Stadium was detailed under the Royals we will just suffice it to say that the A's played there from 1955 through their final year in Kansas City, 1967.

When the team jumped to Oakland they landed in Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, a stadium without a tenant for many years.  The city of Oakland worked hard to gain a reputation as distinct from San Francisco, the city it was often linked to by outsiders, so they built the Coliseum to attract a team, any team.  The A's were that team.  The Raiders began play in Oakland in 1966 at the Coliseum and the A's joined them in 1968.  When the A's arrived they were not a good team and often played to empty seats, leading many players to call it the Mausoleum.  The A's have played in this stadium ever since and have appeared in six World Series (1972, 1973 1974, 1988, 1989, 1990) during their tenancy, although the name of the facility has changed often.  It is currently called the Coliseum (or and has also been known as Network Associates Coliseum and McAfee Coliseum.

Due to the multi purpose necessity the stadium is one of the larger baseball stadiums ever and has a tremendous amount of foul territory.  Many foul balls that would be well out of play in other stadiums are merely pop outs in the Coliseum.

Seattle Mariners
Seattle does not have the reputation for being a baseball town and a lot of that may have to do with the facility the fans were given when the Mariners arrived.  It was a concrete, domed stadium of little description (and I do not intend to offend any Mariners fans but I have rarely heard Mariners fans say anything nice about the place).  It was poorly lit for television.  It was devoid of personality.  It was in short, the stadium that no one wanted and got anyway.

It opened in 1977 with the Mariners and although it was not well liked it did host the greatest moment in Mariners history when the 1995 team shocked baseball.  There has never been a greater sense of pride by any fan base than when Ken Griffey, Jr. slid home to beat the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS.

The Kingdome was demolished in 2000 and the obvious joke was how could you tell?

You could tell because the Mariners moved into beautiful Safeco Field for 2000.  If the Kingdome was cold and dim, Safeco shines bright and beautiful.  My mental picture of the Kingdome is the drab blue walls.  My mental picture of Safeco is the beautiful green of the grass.  Of course, playing in the Pacific Northwest, rain is a major factor so the Mariners built a stadium with a retractable roof.

Texas Rangers
You may remember from a few weeks ago that I told you Texas Rangers were originally the Washington Senators.  They entered the league in 1961 as a replacement for the Washington Senators, who were now the Minnesota Twins.  Although they were a new organization, they started play in Griffith Stadium just as the previous Senators had, at least for the first season.

Following that first season at Griffith Stadium the team moved into District of Columbia Stadium. It was another of the "multi-purpose" facilities and was also home to the Washington Redskins of the NFL.  District of Columbia Stadium is still in operation, however, it has become more commonly known as Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, or RFK.  The Senators played there until their move to Texas.

When they moved to Texas they moved into Arlington Stadium, originally built as a minor league stadium  in 1965.  The stadium was renovated in time for the Rangers opening day but it was still a minor league stadium.  The Rangers played in this stadium, which was on the outskirts of Dallas, until 1993.

The Rangers built a brand new stadium and in 1994 moved into Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.  The new beautiful facility has been the home of the Rangers for all of their playoff appearances and has hosted an All Star Game and two World Series.

Mentioned in this week's article was the Home Run Derby television show.  The series aired in 1960 and was re-aired on ESPN during the 1980's and 1990's.  The series featured nine future Hall of Fame players.  What player won the most contests during the run of the series?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
Forbes Field in Pittsburgh was demolished in 1971.  The location is now a building belonging to the University of Pittsburgh.  In the lobby, preserved forever, is the home plate from Forbes Field.  Also preserved for years was the brick left field wall, the same wall that stood when Bill Mazeroski ended the 1960 World Series.  The remains of the wall stood for years in the same spot but continued to decay.  What is left of the wall was transported to PNC Park, the Pirates current home.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Home Sweet Home: A Look at National League Stadiums

A team's home can make a big difference in how they succeed.  Teams will play 81 games a year in their home stadium.  They will play 81 road games per year but since each stadium is unique and they will play in each road stadium about 5-10 times each year.  With that big of a disparity, teams obviously build their teams around the home grounds.  A large outfield or a lot of foul territory could lead a team to build around speed and pitching.  A smaller outfield, or a skewed outfield with a shorter field in right or left, could lead a team to stock up on right or left hand hitters.

Stadiums have changed greatly over the eras.  Starting as open fields where the plate and bases were measured off before each game and fans sat on the sidelines, they developed to accomodate the growing number of fans.  They grew in structure, design, oppulance and functionality.  This week we will take a look at the homes of each of the National League team's stadiums.

National League East
Atlanta Braves
The Boston organization, as you will remember from the articles exploring the team names, joined the National League in 1876 and started play as the Red Stockings and they did so at the South End Grounds located at the corners of Walpole and Columbus leading it to often be called Walpole Street Grounds.  The team played at this stadium, a basic ball park that had been opened in 1871 for the city's National Association entry, until 1887 when the stadium was rebuilt (at the same location) and was renamed the Grand Pavillion.

The Grand Pavillion served the Braves well until 1894.  That year tragedy struck the city as teenagers playing with matches under the bleachers started a fire that destroyed over 100 structures in the city, including the Grand Pavillion.

The third version of the South End Grounds opened mid season 1895 and was effective through the 1914 season.  Part of the reason they were able to play there for so long was that the team was bad and didn't need to worry about large overflow crowds.  That is until the miracle of 1914.  As the Braves started to make a serious run at the top spot in 1914 the fans started showing up and the South End Grounds could not accomodate the crowds.  To make sure they profited from the Miracle Braves' miracle run the rest of the games of the 1914 season were played at Fenway.

For 1915 the Braves opened Braves Field.  The fans nicknamed the stadium "the wigwam" and when the team went by the nickname the Bees it was often referred to as "the beehive".  The field dimensions were gigantic.  There was a rumor that the owner wanted a larger outfield conducive to inside the park Home Runs.  Unfortunately, Babe Ruth would revolutionize the game within five years and spark the public's interest in over the fence Home Runs.  The dimensions of the field were so large that it took until the stadium's 7th year to see even one Home Run.  As the ownership changed so did the dimensions and the Home Runs started to fly at a normal pace.  The wins did not follow suit.

Braves Field may have been born out of the success of the 1914 pennant but the excitement was short lived.  The 1915 Braves finished second behind the Phillies (7 games out of first) but there was little success that followed.  Between 1915 and 1947 the team finished above 5th place only 7 times and only twice was it third or second.  There were rumors the field was built on an ancient burial ground and that was why they couldn't win.  Realistically they just didn't have the talent to compete with the big boys.

As the league moved on after the war the Braves started to gather some good young talent, especially pitching.  Warren Spahn, Johnny Sain, Eddie Stanky and Bob Elliott were the leaders on the team that surprised everyone in 1948 with a National League title and took Cleveland to 6 games before losing the World Series.  The success, like the 1914 win, was short lived.  They quickly sank back to the middle and by that time the team was nearly broke.

Lou Perini made a decision that no one else dreamed would actually come true. A Major League Baseball team picked up their business and went elsewhere.  The Braves were the first MLB team to move and the Braves moved west to Milwaukee.  They landed in Milwaukee County Stadium which was built for the Milwaukee Brewers, a minor league affiliate of the Braves.  Ironically, the St. Louis Browns wanted to move to Milwaukee (if you remember from the article following the team names the Browns were originally in Milwaukee) but the Braves owned territorial rights because of their affiliation with the Brewers.  So you may have had the Baltimore Braves if the Browns had gotten their wish.  Of course that didn't happen and the Braves landed in Milwaukee for 13 seasons.  During that time they won two National League Championships and one World Series.  You can find more details of Milwaukee County Stadium under the Milwaukee Brewers.

With the Braves original move (followed by the Senators, Browns, Athletics, Dodgers and Giants) and pressure building for expansion the city of Atlanta built a stadium to announce to the owners they were ready.  The Braves were successful when they landed in Milwaukee but decline in play led to decline in attendance and with television becoming more widely accessible, the Braves decided Atlanta was a better market place.

The stadium that was built was officially called Atlanta Stadium but was known also as Fulton County Stadium.  Construction was finished well before the team moved to Atlanta so the stadium was used for a number of events.  On August 18, 1965, just six short months before the release of the controversial "We're more popular than Jesus" comments, the Beatles played at the stadium to a sold out crowd.  They would not be invited back for a second show as the deep south reacted strongly against Lennon's misunderstood comments.

Regardless, the Braves started play in Fulton County Stadium in 1966. In September of that year the Atlanta Falcons joined the NFL and the two would share the stadium. Neither had much opportunity for post season play.  In the first year of division play the Braves won the NL West but were swept out of the post season by the Miracle Mets.  Fulton County Stadium would not see post season baseball again until 1982 when the Braves would be swept out of the NLCS by the World Champion Cardinals.  The lack of playoffs would change dramatically as the 1990's dawned.

The Braves would become the dominant team starting with 1991. Beginning with the Braves worst to first 1991 season, Fulton County Stadium would see meaningful October baseball every year up until the last season in 1996.  In 1995 Fulton County Stadium saw the Braves win their first World Series since Milwaukee.

For the 1997 season the Braves moved into their new stadium named after the man who rebuilt the franchise into a success, Ted Turner.  Turner Field saw the team continue their National League dominance and the Braves have made the playoffs in 12 of the 17 seasons they have played here.

Miami Marlins
The Florida Marlins joined the league in 1993 and were fortunate that Joe Robbie, the Dolphins owner, thought ahead.  When planning to build a football stadium for his Dolphins in the late 1980's Robbie foresaw Major League Baseball coming into the city so he built the stadium with this in mind.  When the Marlins arrived a few years later the stadium was slightly rennovated to accomodate the Marlins.  In just a few short years the team experienced two World Series wins in this stadium but the stadium itself was a bit of a mess for baseball.

Although the facility never moved the name changed almost as quickly as the Southern Florida weather.  It was Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, Land Shark Stadium and finally Sun Life Stadium.

The Marlins opened a brand new stadium called Marlin Park in 2012.  The description on the Marlins website says "it's time to experience baseball in Miami as it was meant to be experienced."  We will have to hope that they wrote that in 2003 because the way the fish have played in their first two years in the stadium has not been what they had in mind.  The new stadium has a retractable roof, perfect for the climate.  It also features two giant aquariums and an over the top light, water and mechanical fish and flamingo display when a Marlins batter hits a Home Run.

New York Mets
The 1962 Mets are notorious for their poor play.  One of the worst teams in history played their first two years at the abandoned Polo Grounds, left empty since the Giants moved to San Francisco.  After two truly terrible years the Mets moved into Shea Stadium.  On April 14 the Mets fulfilled everyone's expectations and lost the opening game in the stadium.  They continued by losing three of the first four.

Shea Stadium was built on the land that Walter O'Malley rejected years before when he finally decided to move to Los Angeles.  The stadium was named after William Shea, the man who fought to bring National League back into New York.  He originally tried to lure the Phillies, Pirates or Reds but failed.  When the league decided to expand Shea was successful in getting New York back into the NL. The first few years made some fans wish the NL would have gone elsewhere but the pain and suffering would be rewarded when the Mets won the World Series in 1969.  Along with the great moments of that magic year Mets fans saw some amazing moments.

Shea Stadium was the site of a historic Beatles concert in 1965, played host to the New York Jets from 1963-1983 and also served as home for the Yankees while Yankee Stadium was rennovated.  The stadium also saw some great Mets moments as the Mets reached the World Series in 1973, 1986 and 2000.  In the last great moment at Shea the Mets made the 2006 NLCS.  The more prominent features of the stadium included a big red apple that would be raised in Centerfield after a Mets Home Run as well as the distracting noise of planes overhead, as the stadium was directly beneath the flight patterns of LaGuardia airport.

In 2009 the Mets opened Citi Field in New York to replace Shea Stadium.  The brand new facility has seen little for Mets fans to cheer about yet but it did host the All Star Game in 2013.

Philadelphia Phillies
The land used by the Phillies for their first stadium had a long history that dated back to the summer of 1860.  James Buchanan was still president (though it was obvious he would be out of office as the election neared) and the country inched closer to civil war.  On June 16, at Recreation Park in Philadelphia, the first baseball game ever played in the state of Pennsylvania took place.  Recreation Park would be rennovated by 1883 but the site bordered by 24th Street, Ridge Avenue, 25th Street and Columbia Avenue would be the home of the Philadelphia Quakers when they entered the National League in 1883.

In 1887 the Quakers moved into what was officially called Philadelphia Baseball Grounds and often referred to as Philadelphia Park.  The name of the grounds were as uninspired as the baseball that was played there as the Quakers/Phillies were rarely competitive despite players like Harry Wolverton, Nap LaJoie and Ed Delahanty.  The park was small in the outfield but had gigantic amounts of foul territory (60 feet of foul territory on each outfield line) but the outfield distances were amazingly small, only 280 feet to right field.

The Phillies were known to be a cheap team, always interested in cutting costs so rather than rennovate the stadium they decided to put a wall in right field to make it more pitcher friendly.  So first they put up a tin wall.  That wasn't tall enough so again to cut corners the team added to the wall instead of starting over.  Then they did it again and again.  The result was a 60 foot wall made of a combination of wood, aluminum, tin, steel and god knows what else.  The wall was named Baker's Wall and the stadium was renamed the Baker Bowl after the owner of the Phillies.  For years the Baker wall featured an advertisement for Life Buoy soap that said "the Phillies use Life Buoy".  Some intelligent fan, realizing the Phillies lost 100 games 8 times and lost 90 or more six other years, added his own line to the ad so that it now read "The Phillies use Life Buoy...and they still stink."  The tin wall also gave birth to one of the great nicknames in baseball history as Freddie Beck, the Phillies pitcher, became known as Boom Boom.  The first boom was the ball against the bat.  The second was the ball hitting the Baker Wall.  Baker Bowl also served as the home of the Eagles for a few years.

As seen by the gradual patch work Baker Bowl, improvements and upkeep were not the top priority of the ownership.  This led to one of the famous tragedies in Philadelphia sports history.  In August 1903 a fight broke out on the streets outside the stadium.  With the Phillies in 8th place, 29 games out of first, the fight on the street was more entertaining than the game on the field and as a large group of fans rushed to watch the spectacle the grand stands collapsed when the rotted support timbers cracked in half.  Twelve people were killed and 200 plus others were injured.  This was not the only tragedy as 1928 saw a similar accident.  As rain soaked fans hudled for cover the bleachers collapsed injuring 50.  In both instances the Phillies borrowed Shibe Park from the A's until rennovations were completed.

The Phillies moved into Shibe Park (known better as Connie Mack Stadium) which was detailed in the American League Stadium under the A's.  They played at the historic stadium from 1938-1970.  Following the 1970 season the Phillies moved into what was intended as an ideal football/baseball combination stadium but in reality became a nightmare for both the Phillies and Eagles.  Often described as being a parking lot it was carpet on top of concrete.  Philadelphia Veteran's Stadium became known as the Vet and despite it being "state of the art" it quickly became hated by the Phillies and their visitors.  The Vet saw the Phillies first ever World Series win but was demolished with a sigh of relief from the local fans.

The Phillies opened Citizen's Bank Ballpark in 2004 and almost immediately the Golden Age of Phillies baseball came about. After having made the post season only nine times in the first 110 years of existence, the Phillies reached the playoffs in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and winning one World Series.

Washington Nationals
The Nationals began as the Montreal Expos who began play at Jarry Park.  The stadium was small, poorly constructed and was nearly not ready for opening day 1969.  Beyond the right field wall was a public swimming pool whose swimmers were in danger of being hit by long home runs.  Willie McCovey once landed a Home Run ball into the pool.  The Expos played here until 1976.  The team  moved into new surroundings for 1976.

The city of Montreal played host to the Olympics in 1976 and the city had to build facilities to accomodate the games.  They created Olympic Stadium and the Expos moved in when the Olympic Games left.  The stadium had routine problems with the stadium crumbling.  The stadium was originally intended as a dome but the roof was not completed until 1987, though complete is a poor choice of words.  The roof caused problems on several occassions and a part of a tower structure in the stadium once fell on the field during a game.

The Expos played all home games here (at least while they were in Montreal) until they moved to Washington.  In 2003 and 2004, while trying to find a new home the Expos played 22 games each year at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Bithorn was the first ever Major League Player of Puret Rican decent.  He played parts of four seasons with the Cubs and White Sox (1942, 1943, 1946 and 1947) and finished his career with a 34-31 record.  The stadium was never intended as a final home for the Expos.  They were looking for a permanent home.

The Expos moved to D.C. in 2005 and moved into R.F.K. Memorial Stadium.  This will be detailed more thoroughly in the Texas Rangers stadium history.  It was originally called District of Columbia Stadium.  It was only intended as a temporary home as the team waited for their new stadium to open.  Nationals Park opened in 2008.

National League Central
Chicago Cubs
Amazingly, considering the Cubs have been in the same stadium for nearly 100 years, their first days in Chicago were almost vagabond like.  They started out on the 23rd Street Grounds for 1876 and  1877. In 1878 they moved into Lakeside Park and played here until 1884 when they moved into the West Side Park.

As much as Cubs fans associate Wrigley Field with the glory days of the Cubs, the only World Series titles (1907 and 1908) the team has ever won took place at West Side Park.  While the Cubs dynasty was starting to crumble in the early 1910's, they faced competition from the White Sox and from the newly formed Federal League.  The Chicago Whales of the Federal League built a glamorous stadium when they entered the league and named it Weeghmam Park after the owner of the team.  Unfortunatley for Weeghman the Federal League didn't last long and he was stuck with a beautiful stadium but no team.  He was able to buy the Cubs and moved them into the park abandoned by the Whales.

In 1920 minority owner William Wrigley bought the majority of the ownership and from 1920-1926 the stadium was known as Cubs Stadium.  In 1927 the name officially became Wrigley Field and has been ever since.  There have been few major rennovations since then although the big change was the addition of lights in 1988.  One story has said that the Cubs were told that they would need to add lights to allow for night baseball or Wrigley would not be permitted to host post season games.  According to this story the Cubs would have been forced to play all playoff home games in St. Louis at the home of the rival Cardinals.  Nothing changes the mind of a Cubs fan like hatred of the Cardinals.  The Cubs decided instead to add lights.  The next year the stadium hosted it's first ever night playoff game when the Cubs took on the Giants in the 1989 NLCS.

Cincinnati Reds
In 1882 the Cincinnati Red Stockings played their first game as part of the American Association at the Bank Street Grounds.  The park lasted only two years and in 1884 they were splitting time between League Park and Washington Park.  League Park was considered lavish with several sections including leather covered seats.  Washington Park has been referenced as a venue on Baseball, however, I have been unable to locate any details of the park and it is not listed on the Reds history of ballparks.  Regardless, starting in 1885 League Park was their home and remained so until 1901.

League Park suffered a severe fire (you can probably see the theme from early ballparks) and was rebuilt for the 1902 season.  The newly rennovated stadium was named the Palace of the Fans.  The details of the park were beautiful with hand carved pillars, early versions of luxury suites (they have been compared to opera boxes) and allowed for standing room at field level.

The only problem was the seating capacity was small compared to the needs of the team so in 1912 the team built a new stadium and moved into Redland Field, later known as Crosley Field.  In tradition with the great Reds parks prior, Crosley Field was considered a modern marvel and a great place to play.  The team's first World Series winners (the infamous 1919 team) played here and some of the most famous players in Reds history spent their careers here.  The stadium also made history when it hosted the first ever night game.

At the time of the move into the new Riverfront Stadium fans were excited to move into the new multi purpose facility that would host both the Reds and Bengals but as the reality of the cement fields (nearly identical to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) became more clear fans missed the old ballpark feel of Crosley.  While at Riverfront the team became the Big Red Machine and won two World Series.

After the failed experiment with multi purpose parks the Reds opened the Great American Ballpark in 2003.  The ballpark houses a Reds Museum and Reds Hall of Fame and is considered one of the great places to watch a game.

Milwaukee Brewers
The Seattle Pilots were a disaster.  Plain and simple.  The organization had problems from day one and did not have time (or capabilities) to recover.  The doomed organization played in a stadium built in 1938 for the minor league Seattle Rainiers and named Sick's Stadium after the teams owner.   It was agreed that they would play there for a few years until a domed stadium could be completed.  Sicks Stadium had too many problems starting with capacity.  It was supposed to seat 30,000 fans by opening day but when the Pilots started play the seating capacity was 17,000.  The team didn't have the time to wait for the domed stadium.  They moved to Milwaukee.

As mentioned in the Braves stadiums section, Milwaukee County Stadium was built with the Braves in mind but when the team  moved to Atlanta it was a big stadium built for baseball with no baseball team.  The White Sox played a few home games in Milwaukee during the 1968-1969 season but in 1970 it was the Brewers who moved in from Seattle.  The facility hosted the 1975 All Star Game and was also the site of the Brewers only World Series appearance in 1982.

Milwaukee County Stadium became obsolete and as teams were building new stadiums the Brewers needed to keep up.  Unable to put a competitive team on the field for many years they needed to find some way to bring fans out to see the team.  Miller Park did that.  The team was able to use the rich history of the Milwaukee area and create fun quirks unique to the stadium and build a great ballpark.  One of the great features is the sausage races representing the great cuisine of the Milwaukee region.  The two playoff appearances since moving in haven't hurt attendance either.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Oddly the Pittsburgh Allegheneys played at Exposition Park in 1882 which was officially located in Allegheney, PA which would later be incorporated into Pittsburgh.  So to break that sentence down:  the Pittsburgh Allegheneys played in Allegheney which would later be Pittsburgh.  The park only existed for one year because it suffered from (another) ball park fire and when the river flooded the field was destroyed.  Knowing that the field had been destroyed partially because of flooding a new location would probably have been a great idea.  So they found a new place for Exposition Park II which opened in 1883.  They moved it closer to the river and played there for 1883 and 1884.

For 1885 the team moved into Recreation Park.  It was a modest stadium that hosted the Allegheneys through 1890.  Similar to Exposition Park it was officially located in Allegheney though the team claimed Pittsburgh as it's home.  The stadium hosted the first ever professional football game and in one game against the Cleveland Spiders in April of 1890 was host to a total of six fans.

Exposition Park Volume III was built for the minor league Pittsburgh Burghers at the site of the first two locations.  When the Burghers went out of business the Allegheneys pirated the land and called it home.  1891, coincidently, was the year they became the Pirates.  Exposition Park was the home of the Pirates until 1908 and parts of 1909.  It was host to the first ever World Series.  Near the river as well as the industrial center of Pittsburgh it often saw flooding and was often enveloped in steam, smoke and ash from the nearby factories.

In 1909 the Pirates moved into the stadium that would see the organization's greatest period of success: Forbes Field.  Pirates legend Fred Clarke said at the time the stadium opened that people in other parts of the country "have no adequate conception until they come here and see it."  By the end of the existence of the park it had been surpassed by many fields but it also saw Honus Wagner, Pie Traynor, Harvey Haddix, Paul and Lloyd Waner, Hank Greenberg, Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski wear the black and gold.

The Pirates played in their next home for 30 years but after a few years they were homesick for the old place.  The cookie cutter cement pit of Three Rivers Stadium, which looked identical to Riverfront and Veterans Stadium got its name from the three rivers (Monongahela, Ohio and Allegheney) that converged nearby.  In the 30 years the team spent in the stadium they made numerous playoff appearances and won the 1971 and 1979 World Series (both over the Orioles and both in 7 games).

The Pirates moved into a new stadium in 2001 when PNC Park opened.  Although the Pirates have been a struggling franchise in recent years the team improved over the last few years and was able to bring the first postseason games to PNC Park in 2013.

St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals started play in the National League in 1882 at Sportsman's Park.  Sportsman's Park was remade, remodeled and rennovated many times over the years and was often known for the poor conditions of the infield.  Sportsman's Park remained until 1966, although after the Anheuser-Busch, Inc took control of the Cardinals in the 1950's it was named Busch Stadium.  In the Cardinals time in Sportsman's Park the team won 10 National League pennants and 7 World Series titles.

In 1966 the Cardinals opened a new stadium called Busch Memorial Stadium and the succcess continued.  Between 1966 and 2005 at this stadium the Cardinals reached 10 postseasons, won five National League pennants and won 2 World Series.  The stadium honored the history of the team and featured bronze statues of many Caridnal legends including Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean, Enos Slaughter, Rogers Hornsby, Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, George Sisler, Jack Buck and Ozzie Smith.

In 2005 the Cardinals opened a third stadium going by the Busch name.  The new Busch Stadium brought the statues from the old stadium and apparently brought the success as well.  In just a few short years the Cardinals have already reached three World Series and won one World Title.

National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks joined the league in 1998 and have played in the same stadium though it has changed names.  The most distinguishing features of the park are the retractable roof, the pool in right field and the strip of dirt leading from home plate to the pitchers mound.  Last year the pool became a source of controversy as the Dodgers celebrated in the pool after clinching the divsion title.  The Diamondbacks stadium was originally known as Bank One Ballpark (nicknamed the BOB).  In 2006 the name was changed to the current Chase Field.

Colorado Rockies
The Rockies joined the National League in 1993 and shared a stadium with the Denver Broncos.  The Broncos had already made Mile High Stadium one of the most famous football facilities in the world and the Rockies would need to find a way to carve their own niche in the Broncos hold on the Denver sports world.  They shared the facility for the first two years and moved into their own home at Coors Field for the 1995 season.  In their first year in the new stadium they made their organization's first playoff appearance.  They made two more playoff appearances (2007 and 2009) including a 2007  World Series appearance.

Los Angeles Dodgers
In 1884 the Brooklyn organization joined the American Association and played their home games at Washington Park in Brooklyn.  Why was it called Washington Park?  Because during the battle of Brooklyn in the American Revolution General Washington used the site for his headquarters.  The team played here  until 1891.

The team moved to Eastern Park to start the 1892 season.  The location was farther outside the city and in some ways strained the fans' loyalty as the fans needed to travel farther to get to the games.  They needed to take several trolleys to get there.  The team played there until 1897 when they moved back into a rebuilt version of Washington Park.  The team remained here until 1913.

Charles Ebbetts, smart enough to move the team closer to the fan base in Washington Park, was also smart enough to know that they needed a home of their own.  He started buying up low priced land in a neighborhood known as Pig Town.  The stadium was built here and would be the last home of the Dodgers in Brooklyn.  Ebbetts Field would be the home stadium of Dodgers favorites known as Cookie, Boit, Oisk, Duke, Campy, Pee Wee, the Reading Rifle and Jackie.  The legend of the Dodgers was built in this stadium but as the neighborhood surrounding the stadium crumbled the Dodgers looked to upgrade.

Walter O'Malley wanted nothing more than to build a new stadium in New York, hopefully still in Brooklyn, and improve the team's standing.  Every time he tried to work with the city a road block was thrown in his way.  Robert Moses had land in mind but it was land that O'Malley found unacceptable.  When the Dodgers tried to use the city of Los Angeles as a pawn to scare Moses into working with them O'Malley found a nice surprise.  While Moses was not willing to bend, Los Angeles was ready to bow.  Los Angeles offered O'Malley anything he wanted, all he had to do was ask. So he did and then he made the last decision he wanted to make...he moved the Dodgers out of Brooklyn.

Landing in Los Angeles the Dodgers played their first few years at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum while their palace was created.  The Coliseum  was an odd configuration for baseball and the adjustment in the first year was awful but by 1959 the Dodgers won their first west coast World Series.

In 1962 the Dodgers moved into the beautiful Dodgers Stadium.  It offers some of the best that Los Angeles has to offer.  Visitors to the game can witness the beautiful sunset, the mountains and the plam trees.  The Dodgers have become one of the most successful organizations in sports and have won three world championships in Los Angeles.

San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres played the first 30+ years in the same stadium, though, similar to many other stadiums we have seen, the name changed routinely.  Originally called San Diego Stadium it was then called Jack Murphy Stadium from 1980-1997.  Murphy was a sportswriter who had worked hard to bring a stadium to San Diego that would draw major sports and following his death the stadium he worked so hard for was renamed in his honor.  During this period the Padres reached their first World Series in 1984.  The stadium was renamed Qualcomm Stadium in 1997, named after a semi conductor company.

The Padres finally got their own facilities in 2004 when they moved into Petco Park.  The Padres website says that Petco Park provides "breathtaking views of San Diego" and "celebrates the sea, the sky, the natural beauty, cultural diversity and unique spirit" of the area.

San Francisco Giants
Here is something that may blow your mind.  One of the original National League teams, the Giants, who entered the league in 1883 have played in fewer stadiums than the Expos/Nationals organization and that is despite having played in two cities.  The Giants, known as the Gothams, moved into the Polo Grounds in New York when they joined the league.  The facilty was originally constructed (obviously) for polo matches.  The stadium under went large rennovations over the year, the final in 1911 after a stray cigar butt thrown carelessly from an elevated train set fire to the stadium while the Giants were away.  The Giants used Hilltop Park, the one they had fought so hard to prevent, while the Polo Grounds were repaired.

The best days of the Giants were in this park.  Mathewson, McGraw, Mays, Hubbell, Terry, Ott, Mize and Mays all played here.  When O'Malley moved the Dodgers west the Giants followed. Just as the Dodgers had to wait to move into their palace, the Giants had to wait to move into their wind tunnel.  They used the minor league facility Seal Stadium for the first two years.  It was a facility used by the minor league  San Francisco Seals but was not ready for prime time.

The Giants moved into their own stadium, Candlestick Park, in 1960 but it was a disaster from the beginning.  Winds from the bay made a pop up a Home Run and turned a foul ball headed 35 rows deep into a double.  The damp, cold weather, the dust storms  kicked up by the wind and the fog off the water made conditions miserable at times but the Giants stuck it out for years.  They had a lease so they had no choice.  The stadium, named originally after the Candlestick Point section, changed names to 3com Park in 1995 but the results were the same.  That being said, as bad as the conditions were (and made worse by sharing the field with the 49'ers) the Giants managed to make the playoffs several times and even made the World Series in 1962 and 1989.

In 2000 the Giants started the new millenium in the type of park they had imagined when they abandoned the Polo Grounds.  Pacific Bell Park opened April 11, 2000 and saw the Giants swept by the Dodgers.  It didn't matter. A new age of Giants baseball had dawned and the new palace paid homage to the Giant legends, specifically one who is most often forgotten, Willie McCovey.  McCovey Cove, in right field, is the most famous part of the park.  Right up against the water, players launching long Home Runs can splash a ball in the water.

The stadium was renamed SBC Park for 2004 and 2005 and has been called AT&T Park since. The park has many references to the history of the Giants organization including statues dedicated to Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and the San Francisco Seals, the cities entry into the Pacific Coast League and the predecessors to the Giants.

Forbes Field in Pittsburgh was demolished in 1971.  Only two pieces of the field remain.  What are these two pieces?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
Congratulations to TJD for answering last week's trivia question correctly.
The Seattle Pilots finished the 1969 season in Seattle.  It was a bad situation and the league was unhappy with the ownership's business plan.  Still, the Seattle Pilots showed up to spring training in Florida and began preparing for the 1970 season.  The players posed for their Topps trading cards in their Pilots uniforms.  They played Spring Training games in Pilots uniforms.  On March 31 they arrived in the locker rooms to wrap up spring training and saw the same yellow and blue colors but the uniforms were different, drastically different.  Instead of Seattle they said Milwaukee and instead of Pilots they said Brewers.  Overnight, just a week before opening day, the team was sold.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The origin of team names: National League

Last week we reviewed the origin of American League team names and you found out what happened to the Senators, Browns and even the New York Highlanders.  This week you'll find out who the Boston Doves, Brooklyn Bridegrooms and Chicago Orphans became.

National League East:

Atlanta Braves: 
The Braves organization started in the National League way back in 1876 making them one of the oldest existing franchises in the game.  The team played in Boston from 1876-1952 and in that time had moderate success but a lot of different names.  They have been known as the Boston Red Stockings (1876-1882), Boston Beaneaters (1883-1906), Boston Doves (1907-1910), Boston Rustlers (1911), Boston Braves (1912-1935 and 1940-1952) and the Boston Bees (1936-1940).  The team moved to Milwaukee in 1953, retaining the name Braves and moved again to Atlanta for the 1966 season still holding on to the Braves name.

Miami Marlins:
The Marlins did not enter the National League until 1993. Their mascot name has remained the Marlins since their inception but they were originally called the Florida Marlins until 2012 when, in an attempt to rebuild their image of a losing ballclub, they changed their name to Miami Marlins.

New York Mets:
The Mets have had the same name in the same city since they entered the league in 1962.  When the Dodgers and Giants left for the west coast, the National League was left without a New York team.  The league expanded and the Mets were born.  One thing that many people may not know about the Mets is the reason for the uniform colors.  The team owners took the orange from the Giants uniforms and the blue from the Dodgers uniforms and combined them into the Mets orange and blue color scheme.

Philadelphia Phillies:
The Phillies are one of the few National League teams in the original city in which they started.  They joined the National League in 1883 as the Philadelphia Quakers and played  under that name until 1889 when they changed the name to the Phillies.  Their name has officially remained that way since then, although they did briefly play (unofficially) as the Live Wires (1910) and the Blue Jays (1943-1949)  for a few years.  Pictures from this time period show a uniform patch of a Blue Jay on the sleeve of Phillies' uniforms.

Washington Nationals:
The current Washington Nationals are the third attempt by Major League Baseball to have a successful team in the Nation's capital.  (See the Minnesota Twins and the Texas Rangers for the other two).  This Washington franchise was born as the Montreal Expos in the 1969 expansion.  They remained in Montreal (and had some very successful competitive seasons) until moving to Washington and becoming the Nationals for the 2005 season.  In the few years prior to moving to Washington the Expos actually played some of their home games in San Juan Puerto Rico, making them the Montreal/San Juan Expos. The most common question about the Expos is why the name Expos?  Montreal had held a world exposition in 1967 and the effect on the local economy was tremendous.  Because of the fond memories of the exposition the team became the Expos.

National League Central:

Chicago Cubs
The National League Chicago franchise is as old as the league itself.  Al Spalding, the original manager and owner of the Cubs , may sound familiar.  After he left the team he started a successful sporting goods company that still exists and is still closely associated with the game of baseball.  When Spalding's Chicago team entered the league they were called the White Stockings (1876-1889).  They then changed to the Chicago Colts from 1890-1897.  When their long time manager Cap Anson jumped teams they changed their name to the Chicago Orphans (1898-1902).  Based on their surplus of young players in their organization (players like Tinker, Evers, Chance, Johnny Kling and Three Finger Brown) the local papers started calling them the Cubs.  The name stuck and they have been the Cubs ever since.

Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds joined the American Association of Professional Baseball in 1882 as the Cincinnati Red Stockings.  Setting the tone for what has become one of the more successful National League teams, they finished first in a league of six in their first year.  They stayed there until 1889 .  In 1890 they moved to the National League and changed their names to the Reds.  The team name has remained the Reds consistently with the exception of 1954-1959 when they were known as the Redlegs to avoid any association with the term "red" relating to communism.

Milwaukee Brewers:
The Brewers are not generally considered one of the more successful teams in the history of Major League Baseball. All things considered they haven't done that badly.  This organization was created as part of the 1969 expansion that also welcomed the Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos (see Washington Nationals).  The Brewers actually spent the 1969 season as the Seattle Pilots but the ownership was a disaster and the team was bought by the Selig family, moved to Milwaukee and renamed the Brewers for the 1970 season.  Although they have been in the same city since 1970, they have actually moved more than any other team in the league.  The 1969 expansion coincided with the change to the division format and Seattle started the season in the American League West.  When the league's geographical landscape shifted (see Texas Rangers) the league realigned and dropped the Brewers into the American League East.  They remained there until the league went to a three division format in 1994.  When this format was adopted the team was moved to the American League Central.  When the Rays and Diamondbacks joined the majors in 1998 the league had a problem.  If they didn't shift a team to keep an even number of teams in each league they would need to have an inter league series every day.  The Brewers, owned by Bud Selig, made the sacrifice and jumped from the AL Central to the NL Central and have remained there ever since.

Pittsburgh Pirates:
Similar to the Reds, the Pirates entered the American Association in 1882  They were known as the Pittsburgh Allegheneys.  They remained with the American Association until 1886 and remained the Allegheneys, even after joining the National League for the 1887 season.  When the Philadelphia Phillies owner felt that the Allegheneys were too cut throat in pursuing available players he declared that the Pittsburgh team was pirating players and the name stuck.  The team officially became the Pirates for the 1891 season.  They have not changed their name since that time.

St. Louis Cardinals:
The Cardinals are the most successful team in the National League with 11 World Series wins and numerous additional NL Pennants.  They joined the American Association in 1882 (same as the Reds and Pirates) and were known as the Brown Stockings for their inaugural season.  That was shortened to just the Browns from 1883-1898 (it remained consistent when they joined the National League in 1892). For the 1899 season they were known as the St. Louis Perfectos (though a 5th place finish was far from perfecto).  For the 1900 season they renamed themselves the Cardinals. The name has not changed.  The logo of the bird perched on the bat did not come until the 1920's when General Manager Branch Rickey, the same man who signed Jackie Robinson, designed the logo for the team.

 National League West:

Arizona Diamondbacks:
This franchise is the baby brother of the National League.  They were created in 1998 as part of the most recent expansion.  Although they have been in the league for just 15 years they have been extremely successful.  They have reached the playoffs five times (and were in contention for most of 2013) including one World Series win.

Colorado Rockies:
The Rockies came to life in the 1993 expansion with the Miami Marlins.  Their first few years were surprisingly successful including a playoff appearance in 1995 and a World Series appearance in 2007.  The team has not changed names or locations during their time in the league.

Los Angeles Dodgers:
Most people realize that the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles but few people realize how long it took to reach the name Dodgers.  Brooklyn entered the American Association in 1884 as the Brooklyn Atlantics.  After one season they became the Brooklyn Grays.  That name lasted from 1885 to 1887 when they changed their name to the Bridegrooms for the 1888 season.  After three seasons as the Bridegrooms they spent five seasons as just the Grooms (1891-1895) before returning to the Bridegrooms for three seasons (1896-1898).  Finally giving up on the theme in 1899 they played as the Brooklyn Superbas from 1899-1910 before becoming the Dodgers for 1911 and 1912 then returning back to the Superbas for 1913.  When the team hired Wilbert Robinson as their manager for the 1914 season they adopted the name Brooklyn Robins in his honor and played under that name until 1931 when Robinson left the team.  They came back to the Dodgers name for 1932 and remained the Brooklyn Dodgers until moving to Los Angeles for the 1958 season.  The name Dodgers comes from the city run trolleys the fans had to dodge on the way to Ebbetts Field.  Although the trolleys were missing in Los Angeles, the name was so identifiable when they moved that the moniker remained.

San Diego Padres:
The Padres became an expansion team for the 1969 season.  From 1936 to 1968 the minor league Pacific Coast League had a San Diego Padres organization.  The final owner of that team won the bid for a Major League expansion franchise, closed down the minor league team and created the Major League Baseball version of the San Diego Padres.  The Pacific Coast League Padres featured some famous players on their way to the majors including Ted Williams and Tony Perez.  The name Padres comes from the Franciscan fathers who founded San Diego.  The Padres have remained in San Diego since entering the league and have played under only one team name.

San Francisco Giants:
The Giants are one of the teams that has kept the same name for the longest amount of time, but they were not always the Giants and they were not always from San Francisco.  They joined the National League in 1883 as the New York Gothams and played under that name for  two seasons.  They changed their name to the New York Giants for the 1885 season and did not alter it until their move to San Francisco for the 1958 season. They have played as the San Francisco Giants ever since.

The move of the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee to play as the Brewers was odd to say the least.  When did the Pilots become the Brewers?

The American League originally expanded in 1961 by adding the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators (now the Texas Rangers).  The Angels won their first World Series title in 2002 but the Rangers have yet to win it all.  1969 saw the second expansion with the Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers) and the Kansas City Royals.  The Pilots/Brewers have never won the World Series but the Royals won their first World Series in 1985.   Following 1969's expansion the Blue Jays and Mariners joined the league in 1977.  The Blue Jays have won two World Series titles (1992 and 1993) but the Mariners have never reached the World Series.  The final expansion in the American League saw the Tampa Bay Devil Rays join in 1998.  The Rays have never won the World Series.