By: James Smith
Last week, the Boston Red Sox celebrated the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park, the oldest pro ball stadium still in use in the major. In honor of that, the Daily Lounge takes you around the Majors to some of the best spots to catch a ball game.
Fenway Park - Boston, MA
History: What, you thought we were going to start with somewhere else? Baseball is a great game, but it’s also tied up with history and nostalgia in a way that other sports simply aren’t. Nowhere can that be felt more strongly than at Fenway, which has been the home of one of baseball’s most notable franchises for a century. It opened the day that the Titanic sank, and saw greats like Ted Williams, Lefty Grove, and Carl Yazstremski try (and fail) to win championships. Though tiny and cramped, with numerous seats obstructed by support poles, it remains an unfailingly popular destination, having sold out every game since May 2003 -- the longest such streak in baseball history by far, and the third-longest in the history of American professional sports.
Signature Elements: Supposedly, the tall left-field wall, known in Boston as the "Green Monster," is the most famous wall in the world outside of China. (Berliners may want to argue that point.) Also of note is the single red-painted seat in the right-field bleachers, symbolizing the longest home run ever hit at the park: a 502-foot bomb by the legendary Ted Williams.
AT&T Park - San Francisco, CA
History: The Giants have played in a number of famous parks, residing for the entirety of their New York existence in the Polo Grounds in upper Manhattan and then at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park for most of their time in California. Historic as they were, however, neither of those parks could meet the standard of AT&T Park, the Giants’ home since 2000 and one of the most beautiful venues in Major League Baseball. Its success helped usher in an era of new ballparks in many cities, culminating with the new parks for both the Yankees and the Mets in New York City last year. And it’s already seen its share of history: the Giants won the World Series -- the first for the franchise in its West Coast years -- in 2010, and AT&T was the site of MLB persona non grata Barry Bonds’s chase of the home run record.
Signature Elements: The best feature of AT&T isn’t really a part of the park. The stadium’s right field fence is built right up against San Francisco Bay, and Giants fans affectionately named the section of the Bay beyond as "McCovey Cove," after Giants great Willie McCovey. Home run balls hit over the right field wall are usually picked up by kayakers who troll the cove for just that purpose.
PNC Park - Pittsburgh, PA
History: Another new park, PNC was opened in time for the 2001 season to begin, and is the surprise winner among people who know these things for the title of "best ballpark in Major League Baseball," with a beautiful setting on the Allegheny River and architecture meant to emulate classic parks like Fenway, Ebbets Field, and Wrigley combined with modern amenities. The only downside is that it hasn’t had a coming out moment on account of its housing one of the worst teams in baseball: the Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992.
Signature Elements: The single most outstanding feature of PNC is in its eating options: it has available for purchase a Pittsburgh local specialty in its Primanti Brothers sandwiches, "which consist of grilled meat, an Italian dressing-based cole slaw, tomato slices, and French fries between two pieces of Italian bread."
Wrigley Field - Chicago, IL
History: We began at Fenway and end at Wrigley, the other of the two remaining classic ballparks in the Majors. Wrigley Field, home of the Cubs, opened for the 1914 season and has been in service ever since, first as Weeghman Park for the Chicago Whales of the long-defunct Federal League and then as the home of the Cubs starting in 1916. It’s luck has been even worse than Fenway’s, as the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 and have been doormats for much of recent memory. But Wrigley has still seen its share of history. Ernie Banks, Ferguson Jenkins, and Billy Williams all played there, and it was one of the primary theaters of 1998’s Home Run Race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.
Signature Elements: More than anything else, the most recognizable feature of Wrigley is its ivy-covered walls, which grow thicker over the course of the season. It also, like Fenway, has a distinctive hand-operated scoreboard.
[pic via Flickr - charliekwalker]