Play Ball!

From Wrigley Field to Fenway Park, baseball stadiums are often more legendary than the men who take their fields. By joining in the chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” tasting a juicy hot dog smothered in ketchup, and feeling the electricity as the wave circles the stadium, the memories made at these concrete castles last a lifetime. Grab some peanuts and crackerjacks and enjoy the journey as I chronicle my experiences at these majestic ballparks steeped in tradition. Let’s play ball.

The House that Jeter Built

To wrap up this summer, my family planned a spur of the moment weekend trip to New York to see New Yankee Stadium. That trip will go down in history as one of my favorite stadium visits of all time.

The atmosphere at Yankee Stadium couldn’t be comparable to anything I had ever witnessed. Even with a subpar team on the field, the stadium was packed with passionate New Yorkers cheering at every opportunity possible. Although Yankees fans are always known as being some of the most intense fans in the league, a major factor contributing to the atmosphere was Derek Jeter’s final season.

Farewell Captain

Derek Jeter before one of his at-bats during the game

Derek Jeter before one of his at-bats during the game

No matter your favorite team, you can’t argue with the legacy left by Derek Jeter. I might cringe a little inside every time I hear his name, but I have the utmost respect for Jeter as a person and as a baseball player. The reception Jeter received at the game was unrivaled by any other. During the game, Jeter recorded his 3,431st hit. With that hit, he moved to sixth place on the all-time hits list, passing the great  Honus Wagner. This was truly a moment that I will remember forever. The stadium erupted as if the Yankees had just won the World Series and chants of “Der-ek Jet-ter” rained down for what seemed like an eternity. Although I of course was rooting for the Indians that day, I couldn’t help but smile at the excitement and the little part of history I was a part of. Derek Jeter is one of the all-time greats of baseball and just to be able to watch him play was an amazing experience. This holds an especially big significance for my generation. Jeter was that household name that you could ask any kid about and they would know who you were talking about. Everyone wanted to be just like Derek Jeter. It is crazy to think that he will not be playing another season, but it is also a great honor to have witnessed his talents for my whole childhood.

Here is a video I took after Jeter’s 3,431st hit. You can still hear the remnants of the cheering even as the next batter steps into the box.

Now that I got that sappy moment all taken care of, let’s take a closer look at the other aspects that make Yankee Stadium unique and memorable.

 The Bleacher Creatures

Anther facet of Yankee Stadium that makes it a must-see is the crazy, devoted, rambunctious, section of the stadium referred to as “The Bleacher Creatures”. In old Yankee Stadium, the Creatures’ home was section 37 and 39. Now in the new stadium, they occupy section 203 in the right-field bleachers. The origin of this passionate group is said to be traced back to the 1980′s and 1990′s when a fan named Ali Ramirez would show up to games ringing a cowbell. Around this time, fans in the bleachers would begin to chant the names of Yankees players. During a game in the early 90′s, the Creatures were chanting the name of Tino Martinez, the Yankees first baseman. Martinez turned around and waved to the fans. This began the first inning ritual of going around the field chanting the names of the players. Some players wave while others have unique gestures. It was such a cool thing to witness. The name “Bleacher Creatures” were given to the group by Filip Bondy, a columnist for the New York Daily News. Bondy spent a whole season with the section gaining research for his book titled Bleeding Pinstripes: A Season with the Bleacher Creatures of Yankee Stadium.  Seeing grown men with so much excitement about baseball just has a way of warming the heart. How organized and united the group was blew my mind.  Along with supporting their own team with different chants throughout the game, the group also has a tradition of heckling the opposing team’s right fielder. This sometimes has gotten the group in trouble for some offensive things they have said, but overall the tradition of the Creatures is one for the ages. You can hear stories about this group, but the stories can’t do justice to seeing this spectacle in person.

Blending the Old and New

When the plans to build a new Yankee Stadium were released in 2005, they were met with a wide spectrum of emotions. Some diehard fans felt it was a crime to demolish the old stadium with all the years of tradition it contained. Others were upset about the financial side of the new plans with it’s tax-exempt financing, while yet others disliked the fact it would be built overtop of two city parks. Still others felt blindsided by the announcement because the plans were approved without public consent. And then there were fans who were excited about the new stadium and the potential for new memories to be created. Even with opposition the plans went through, and the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new stadium took place on August 16, 2006, the 58th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s death. The construction lasted through the 2007 and 2008 seasons, with 2009 being the stadium’s inaugural season.

The frieze and teams flags lining the top of the stadium, modeled after that of the old stadium

The frieze and teams flags lining the top of the stadium, modeled after that of the old stadium

A part of the exterior to New Yankee Stadium, replicated after the old stadium

A closeup of the exterior of New Yankee Stadium, replicated after the old stadium

Built across the street from the old stadium, New Yankee Stadium, incorporates many of the old design elements in an attempt to preserve the history. The exterior was modeled after the old stadium’s exterior and also, some of the seating layout was planned to mimic that of the old. One of the most iconic features of Old Yankee Stadium was the frieze along the roof with the different flags of the MLB teams. The replica of that frieze is one of the first elements that you notice in New Yankee stadium. That frieze will always be synonymous with the Yankee pinstripes in my mind. Overall, the stadium has a very clean, fresh look while drawing in legendary components from the past.

Looking out at a portion of Heritage Field. You can see the portion of original frieze that was preserved

Looking out at a part of Heritage Field. You can see the portion of original frieze that was preserved

With the old stadium demolition, a baseball field and park now stand in it’s place. Called Heritage Field, this park is intended to pay homage to Yankee greats and historic moments from the old stadium, while also returning parkland to the residents of that area. My family took the subway to the stadium, so we walked right through the park. On the walkway, there are pavement stones engraved with historic dates and moments in Yankee history. The field is made up of three baseball fields that teams have to apply to play on. One of the fields sits on the spot of the Old Yankee Stadium field. Also, a 12-ton portion of the old stadium frieze remains on the site. It is neat to see how the city worked to preserve some of Yankee history in the park design.

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field, nicknamed The Friendly Confines, is a “must see” when it comes to baseball stadiums. The ballpark oozes with history and tradition while the surrounding town radiates class and sophistication. Sporting unique features like an ivy wall, manually operated scoreboard, and rooftop seating, Wrigley Field immerses the spectator in an unparalleled experience, uniting the past and present.

Creating a Relic

Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field

Originally named Weeghman Park, Wrigley Field was built in 1914 to house the Chicago Whales, a baseball team belonging to the Federal Baseball League. The stadium at the time cost $250,000 to build. When the Federal League folded two years later, Charles Weeghman, the former Whales owner, joined William Wrigley Jr. and others to purchase the Chicago Cubs. He then immediately moved the team to the young ballpark. The first game played by the Cubs in Weegham Park was on April 20, 1916. After Wrigley purchased the team from Weegham in 1920, the stadium was renamed Cubs Park, and then in 1926 it was given the name Wrigley Field in honor of William Wrigley.

Iconic Images

The legendary marquee sign outside Wrigley Field

The legendary marquee sign outside Wrigley Field

When you think of Wrigley Field, what comes to mind? The Cubbies, Wrigleyville, maybe some specific memory? For me it boils down to five things, the marquee sign outside the stadium, the surrounding rooftop seating, the manually operated scoreboard, the ivy, and most importantly, the loyalty of fans. All the unique features of the stadium help to enhance a fan’s visit, but the experience is truly made by the passionate fans supporting their team.

A portion of the rooftop seating out in right field

A portion of the rooftop seating out in right field

The surrounding rooftop seating adds to the friendly, relaxed atmosphere of the stadium. It is an awesome idea and serves as a representation of how the community supports and interacts with the Cubs organization. The rooftops are such a cute addition to the stadium and the people on them looked like they have an amazing time. Getting seats on one of the rooftops is definitely on my bucket list!

The hand-operated scoreboard at Wrigley Field

The hand-operated scoreboard at Wrigley Field

The manually operated scoreboard is one of the last remaining of its kind in baseball. Mounted above the bleachers in centerfield, it has never been hit by a baseball. The scoreboard was installed in 1937 when the bleachers were added. It has thus far stood the test of time, only undergoing minor additions. In 1941, the clock was added above the scoreboard, and then more lines for scores, and a small electronic message board followed suit in years to come. Scores are sent in to the scoreboard operator who is stationed in the scoreboard. That person then by hand replaces the numbers to update scores. It is awesome to watch and a very refreshing reminder of the “old days.” Above the scoreboard are three flagpoles, one for each division in the National League. On the poles are 15 flags, representing each of the teams. Their order reflects the current standings of the teams in each division. There have recently been talks about possibly demolishing the scoreboard and adding a jumbotron. Only time will tell the fate of this historic landmark.

Beautification in Baseball

Part of the famous ivy covering the outfield wall at Wrigley Field

Part of the famous ivy covering the outfield wall at Wrigley Field

You all have probably seen the commercial for State Farm Insurance last year where Kerry Wood pulls Andre Dawson from the ivy covering Wrigley’s home-run walls. That ivy is a staple of the stadium. You might have noticed during the first couple weeks of the baseball season that the ivy looked dead. No need to worry, it appears that way until further into spring when the leaves have a chance to grow out. The ivy, a mixture of Boston Ivy and Japanese Bittersweet, was planted in 1937 by the General Manager of the Cubs at the time Bill Veeck. The ivy, an idea modeled off of Perry Stadium in Indianapolis, was meant to “beautify” the bleachers that had been rebuilt that year. Wrigley Field is the only current professional baseball park with ivy-covered outfield walls.

Jack-of-all-Trades

While Wrigley Field serves as the setting and star of baseball games on afternoons in the summer, it also has played an important role in many well-known movies and tv shows. In addition to baseball and the big screen, Wrigley Field has housed football games, soccer matches, the hockey Winter Classic, and many concerts. It has been a witness to some of the biggest feats in the game of baseball. One of the most popular moments happened in game 3 of the 1932 World Series. The Colossus of Clout, The Sultan of Swat, The King of Clash, The Great Bambino, yes….Babe Ruth was up to bat. The story says that Ruth pointed to the outfield and on the next pitch, launched a home run to that same spot. Although in reality it is unknown where and what Ruth was actually pointing at, “calling your shot” is credited to this monumental statement.

As a baseball fan, it is a wonderful opportunity to visit the stadium and take part in such a rich tradition. Wrigley Field should be near the top of every baseball enthusiast’s list of stadiums to visit.

Kauffman Stadium: A Truly Royal Experience

The Crown Jewel

Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals, is known as one of the most beautiful stadiums in all of Major League Baseball. While being visually alluring, the stadium also boasts a rich tradition, standing as the sixth oldest active stadium.

Building a Castle

The plan for Kauffman Stadium began in 1967 when Jackson County approved the building of a baseball stadium for the Kansas City Athletics and a football stadium for the Kansas City Chiefs. It was unusual in that time period to build two separate stadiums and Stadium Factsmany critics believed that two stadiums could not be supported. Then before the 1968 season, the Athletics were moved to Oakland. Responding to outrage in the Kansas City area, the MLB granted expansion franchises to multiple cities including a Kansas City team, owned by Ewing Kauffman. These teams were set to begin play in 1971, but the starting season was moved up to 1969 due to pressure from the cities.

Jackson County continued planning the new park, and Royals Stadium opened on April 10, 1973. This provided a new home for the Kansas City Royals who had played the franchises’ first four seasons at Kansas City Municipal Stadium. In a ceremony on July 2, 1993 the ballpark was officially renamed Kauffman Stadium in honor of Ewing Kauffman. The stadium remained relatively unchanged for years until 1900 when a jumbo-tron video screen was installed. Then, before the 1998 season, the astroturf was removed and the field was resurfaced with grass. By 2000 blue seats were installed in the stadium, replacing the original orange ones. Lastly, in 2007 a $250 million two-year renovation plan was unveiled, making vast improvements to the stadium.

Did you Say Free Donuts??

I visited Kauffman Stadium in 2003 with my family during a visit to my dad’s cousins. I fell in love with the stadium’s design. It had an elegant look, but the atmosphere was relaxed and fun-loving. The fountain and waterfall display behind the home run fence was the coolest thing I had seen in a baseball stadium. Also, the crown scoreboard, from my perspective as a young girl, was absolutely breathtaking. While the architecture was quite magnificent, my favorite part of Kauffman Stadium was the donut promotion. The Kansas City Royals began a Krispy Kreme Donut promotion in 2003. If the Royals recorded 12 hits, each ticket for that game could be redeemed for a dozen Krispy Kreme Donuts. That’s right, each fan could receive a donut per hit if the 12 hit mark was reached. It seems crazy, but this promotion lasted through the 2006 season. At the game we attended, it just so happened that the Royals recorded 12 hits.  Never have donuts been more delicious than those free ones.

Ruling Through the Decades

This is a picture taken from the front of Kauffman Stadium.

This is a picture taken from the front of Kauffman Stadium.

This year, Kauffman Stadium celebrates its 40th season. Since 1973, The K has hosted over 70,638,469 fans, two all-star games,  three no-hitters, playoff games in seven seasons, and two World Series. Those statistics don’t even begin to describe the countless pitches thrown, hits recorded, or hours of baseball played. Most importantly, those numbers can’t account for the priceless experiences had at the stadium. Kauffman Stadium has thus far stood the test of time, making an impact on anyone entering the gates.

On the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

From the Eyes of a Young Girl

Indians tickets I saved from some of the games I attended.

Indians tickets I saved from some of the games I attended.

Progressive Field, formerly known as Jacob’s Field will always be my favorite major league baseball stadium. Yes, I am a tad biased, but the ballpark contains many memories from my childhood. There was the time when I attended a game and received a home run ball hit by Jim Thome, from an amazing usher who works with my dad. Better yet, CC Sabathia signed that ball for me after the game. I will never forget the feeling of pure elation as CC took the ball from my tiny hands and signed it. It was a surreal experience, cementing my love for CC Sabathia. Or there was the time when that same usher took me down to the front row of the stadium, right behind the on-deck circle. Needless to say, I had the best view available!!! And then adding to my memories are the countless hotdogs consumed during dollar dog nights, the numerous bobblehead afternoons, summer night fireworks, rain delays, and opening days. There will never be a baseball stadium that replaces Cleveland’s stadium in my eyes.

We Walk to the Beat of our Own Drum

The John Adams bobblehead distributed at an Indians game

The John Adams bobblehead distributed at an Indians game

When hearing the name John Adams, most of America instantly thinks of the second president of the US. In Northeast Ohio, the name John Adams has a whole different meaning. Since 1973, John Adams, a dedicated Indians fan, has been attending  practically every home Indians game. Not only does he attend every game, but he also brings along a bass drum and sits out in the bleachers playing it throughout the game.  For first-time visitors to the stadium, it is always customary to point out Mr. Adams, right below the Roadrunner advertisement sign in the bleachers. Adams has now become a household name for Cleveland fans and has taken his drum to over 3,000 games. A staple of Tribe games, he was even honored with a bobblehead doll handed out at a game. Having a personal drummer is one of my favorite aspects of Progressive Field.

Have Some Fun on a Bun

All stadiums have some sort of quirky tradition. For instance, the Washington Nationals have a race of costumed characters meant to be US presidents and the Pittsburgh Pirates have a pierogi race. Progressive Field is home to the famous Sugardale Hot Dog Derby. At the end of the 5th inning, two doors in the outfield wall open and three hotdogs race around the field. The fans get involved cheering for either Ketchup, a prankster, Onion, a diva, or Mustard, an all-american boy. The race always gives the fan a nice chuckle and welcomed escape from the tension of the baseball game.

455 The Fans

My Dad's ticket from the grand opening of Jacob's Field

My dad’s ticket from the grand opening of Jacob’s Field

I was born in 1994, the same year Jacob’s Field opened, replacing Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The new stadium breathed life into Cleveland and from June 12, 1995, through April 4, 2001, Jacob’s Field sold out 455 consecutive regular-season games. To remember the amazing sell-out streak, “455 The Fans” is printed in large red letters on a pillar behind the right field seats. This is just one of many rich historical stories of Progressive Field.

A view from the bleachers at Progressive Field

A view from the bleachers at Progressive Field

While the name of the stadium has changed to Progressive Field, it is still remembered as the Jake by many Cleveland fans. Putting the name aside, this ballpark will always be like a second home to me. There is just a comforting beauty about the field and the view of the Cleveland skyline. Whenever I spot the Bob Feller statue outside the stadium, or look up at the banners of different players, memories come rushing back. Memories of jubilation and also those of agonizing defeat.

My 3 Favorite Blogs

Blogging about baseball stadiums is an unexplored territory. Stadiums are timeless classics rich with history, not hot new trends people flock to. They become lost on the internet and seldom talked about. When searching for blogs on ballparks, I couldn’t find current ones that I liked. So instead of pointing out bad, discontinued baseball stadium blogs, I decided to focus on wonderful blogs dealing with the larger topic of sports in general.

1. Clevelanders Have Hope

My favorite blog to look at is Waiting For Next Year. As the about section states, this blog serves as a wealth of knowledge on Cleveland sports. Being a Cleveland fan my whole life, I’m like a kid at Christmas when perusing the stories. One of the things I love the most about the blog is its name. I think Waiting For Next Year is the cleverest name a Cleveland sports blog could have. If you don’t get what I’m saying, just stop and think for a moment. When’s the last time a Cleveland sports team won a championship….oh right the Browns in 1964, it’s been 48 years!! The classic thing to say in Cleveland is “just wait ’til next year.” I know I have been waiting my whole lifetime.

While hitting the witty jackpot on the name, Waiting For Next Year is also very user friendly and updated over a dozen times a day. It is easy to navigate and the stories are usually short and concise. I enjoy the fact that it has a podcast that you can listen to. If you want to know anything about the plight of Cleveland sports fans, waiting For Next Year should be your one stop destination.

2. For You Tribe Fans

Another impressive blog to check out is Let’s Go Tribe. This blog covers all stories Cleveland Indians related. With opening day just a few weeks away, this blog is the place to go in preparation. The site has great usability with tabs clearly labeled anywhere from news stories to buying tickets. Let’s Go Tribe also has a page dedicated to other Cleveland Indian Blogs. This is a wonderful resource to use whether you are a diehard Tribe fan or just looking to check out the team’s composition for this season.

3. For Sports Nuts In General

Not a Cleveland fan, but still a sports fanatic? The last of my favorite blogs Bleacher Report is just for you.  It has all the news you could imagine about sports. This blog makes it extremely easy to find the exact stories suited to your interests. Everything from NASCAR to UFC is included on the navigation bar. If you’re catching that baseball fever, just one click will get you to the page specifically for the MLB. I also, love how the website incorporates Twitter. Just below the navigation bar on the homepage are all the trending sports related topics. I bet all you Twitterers out there find that quite useful. Lastly, I think Bleacher Report has a strong identity. They know their niche and are able to thrive in that field.

These blogs are all very similar, which I think is what makes them attractive to me. Definitely check them out. You will get more than your share of sports for the day.

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