Now that (I think) I’m done with my baseball stadium tour for the year, it’s time to give my personal rankings of the six stadiums I visited. And just for fun, I gave “half-point” rankings to the two stadiums I’ve visited in previous seasons.
6. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome; Minneapolis, MN (Minnesota Twins) — Okay, I know this is the stadium I grew up visiting and I have fond memories of watching Kirby Puckett, Gary Gaetti, and Kent Hrbek win World Series here. Heck, I’ve even imitated Kirby in the outfield my self, leaping into the centerfield wall on a tour in fifth grade. I got to play with my high school’s marching band here during a Gopher football game on “Band Day.” I was there when the roof caved in in the early 80s. I can’t deny the sentimental memories. But it’s an awful baseball stadium. Period. This has nothing to do with my beloved Twins — baseball was just never meant to be played indoors on plastic grass. Thankfully, my father had the sense to take us to Milwaukee every summer, just to be certain that we knew what we were missing.
5.5. Skydome (now Rogers Centre); Toronto, ON (Toronto Bluejays) — I went to a game here in the summer of 1999 during my tour of potential colleges. I don’t remember that much of it — I think David Wells was pitching for the Jays. We were fortunate enough to go on a day in which it started to rain, which meant that we got to see the retractable roof first hand. Still, my aversion to indoor baseball still stands, even it’s only for part of the game. Oh, and there’s a Hard Rock Cafe in the outfield.
5. The Coliseum; Oakland, CA (Oakland Athletics) — It was big and cavernous. And on the day I went, relatively empty. As the name implies, it’s coliseum style and basically a big, high circle of seats around a baseball field. Mostly, it just lacked atmosphere and character. To it’s credit, it was the cheapest game I went to all season. And it had no roof.
4. The Great American Ballpark; Cincinnati, OH (Cincinnati Reds) — There’s a big gap between the bottom three stadiums and the top five. This was a nice solid outdoor park, but nothing in particular stands out about it to bump it into the top four. Except for the fact that it’s the only major league stadium where you can eat Skyline Chili dogs. Mmm… Skyline chili.
3. SBC Park; San Francisco, CA (SF Giants) — This place gets bonus points for being full. There’s something about a large crowd that makes a game that much better. Plus, I liked being able to look out at the boats in McCovey cove, just behind right field.
2. Comerica Park; Detroit, MI (Detroit Tigers) — I like this stadium a lot. It’s also the stadium I saw the most games at (3) this year. There’s a lot of cool bas relief of Tigers around the outside and giant Tiger statues on top of the scoreboard. The bronze statues of legendary Tigers in the outfield gives you a better sense of the history of the team than the usual stickers with numbers on them. I have mixed feelings about the ferris wheel and carousel — they’re designed with baseball and Tigers in mind and add to the atmosphere, but I’m there to see a baseball game and I don’t want to be distracted.
1.5. County Stadium (demolished in 2001); Milwaukee, WI (Milwaukee Brewers) — This is the only stadium I’ve been to that’s no longer around. Sentimentality is probably the reason I rank it so high. It was the stadium that taught me what a baseball game is supposed to feel like. We’d get there early and tailgate, grilling brats and hotdogs in the parking lot — the only stadium I’ve ever done that at.* I watched the Twins beat the Brewers 15-1 while sitting 20 feet from third base. A friend and I stood up to the drunken Brewers fans who dared to jeer our beloved Kirby Puckett. (They only hated him because he got 11 hits in two consecutive games there, which I believe is still a major league record.) While it’s the Brewers stadium, I don’t think I ever saw a game there that wasn’t against the Twins and thus, it became my adopted home stadium. Besides, how can you not a like a stadium where the mascot slides into a giant mug of beer everytime the home team hits a homer? Oh, and the great sausage race (done at the sausage’s own risk).
1. Fenway Park; Boston, MA (Boston Red Sox) — This place smells like baseball. I can’t really explain it. But somehow, when you walk through the doors, you can tell that it’s a place where baseball has been played for over ninety years. It has history and character and charm. It’s small size means that it’s always sold out, always filled with fans. And it’s only ever been baseball — no football, no amusement park rides to remind you to have fun.
Now that I’m starting the school year, I don’t think I have the time for more roadtrips. But next season… perhaps Cleveland, Toronto, Chicago, and maybe Milwaukee.
* Tailgating is also allowed at the Coliseum. But Anand was being adventurous enough by going in the first place and so I didn’t want to push it. Not to mention that we took public transportation there.