The complete title of this book is: “Take Me Out To The Ballpark – an Illustrated Tour of Baseball Parks Past and Present” It was written by Josh Leventhal (with additional sections by Jessica MacMurray). It was published in 2000, 2003 & 2006.
This book features factual, anecdotal and photographic tours of every Major League Park, plus Minor League and Negro League Parks.
The first thing I noticed about this book is that it’s BIG. Eventually I noticed the second thing about this book: it’s shaped like a baseball diamond. How big is it? Well, it’s about 14 inches from 1st base to 3rd base, and about 16 inches from home plate to the outfield grass behind 2nd base. That’s BIG!
One of the first things the author elaborates for us are the attendance figures associated with teams that moved from one city to another. For instance, the Boston Braves increased their attendance by a factor of 6.5 in moving from Boston (1952) to Milwaukee (1953): from 281,278 to 1,826,397. Now I understand why teams move.
In discussing the “Dark Age of Cookie Cutter” stadiums (the 60′s and 70′s), the author quotes Richie Hebner: “I stand at the plate in the Vet and I don’t honestly know whether I’m in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis or Philly. They all look alike.”
Speaking of the closing of ballparks built in the early part of the century (ie. Shibe Park, Forbes Field, Crosley Field, Ebbets Field, Sportsman’s Park, the Polo Grounds, etc.), the author states: “They weren’t stadiums; they were ballparks, a community center, a home away from home.”
In a discussion of Domes and Semi-Domes the author observes: “The first covered ballfield in professional baseball was actually used by the New York Cubans of the Negro National League in the 1930s. They played many games on a field underneath the 59th Street Bridge in Manhattan.”
We learn that the Astros bragged in their program for Opening Day 1965: The searing Texas sun will still beat down, the angry Gulf winds will still howl, and the tropical rains will still fall, but not on the spectators in the Astrodome. They will sit in almost regal splendor.”
Rockies owner Jerry McMorris explains the sentiment of building a well-designed baseball facility in the downtown city core: “We made the ballpark look old, but with all the latest technology and modern conveniences.
We learn the following about Fenway Park: “Even with the expansion, the park’s 36,298 capacity ranks as the lowest in the Majors.
Additional facts about Fenway: “Sunday games were not allowed at Fenway Park until 1932”, and, “The foul territory is smaller than at any other Major League ballpark.”
The Cubs Public Address Announcer Pat Pieper ”started with a megaphone in 1916 and remained with the Cubs until his death in 1974, at the age =f 88.”
In the discussion about the Polo Grounds, we learn that “The Giants had to forfeit the opening game of the 1907 season to the Phillies when a snowball fight broke out amongst rowdy fans.”
Speaking of Shibe Park (aka Connie Mack Stadium), Richie Ashburn remarked: “It looked like a ballpark. It smelled like a ballpark. It had a feeling and a heartbeat, a personality that was all baseball….”
At Coors Field in Denver, “there is a bleacher section in left, while the ‘Rockpile’ beyond center field offers seats for $4, and kids and seniors can sit there for only a buck.”
At Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, “An 8,000-ton cooling system pumps out 1.2 million cubic feet of air per minute, and can lower the temperature by 30 degrees in just three hours.”
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
- “Beer was never sold within the confines of Forbes Field, althouh until the 1950s fans were allowed to bring their own beers to the game.
- “It has been said that, at Great American Ball Park, the cheaper the seat, the better the view.”
After completing the illustrated tour of ballyards in this book, I have come up with a list of minor league ballparks that I would really like to get to in the not too distant future. They include:
In the Midwest:
- Bosse Field, Evansville, Indiana (Independent)
- John O’Donnell Stadium, Davenport, Iowa (Cardinals “AAA” )
- Principal Park, Des Moines, Iowa (Cubs “AAA”)
- Victory Field, Indianapolis, Indiana (Pirates “AAA”)
In the South:
- Jackie Robinson Ballpark, Daytona Beach, Florida (Cubs “A”)
- AutoZone Park, Memphis, Tennessee (Cardinals “AAA”)
In the West:
- Municipal Stadium, San Jose, California (Giants “A”)
- Security Service Field, Colorado Springs, Colorado (Rockies “AAA”)
- Dell Diamond, Round Rock (Austin), Texas (Astros “AAA”)
Did I leave out any good ones?
I enjoyed reading “Take Me Out To The Ballpark” and I recommend it highly to anyone with any interest at all in the places where baseball is (and has been) played.