Several years ago my dad and I decided to embark on a mission: to go to a game at every baseball stadium in the MLB, seeing the White Sox play whenever possible. At each stadium we get a team min-bat to commemorate the game, all of which now sit in a 2005 White Sox World Series Champions garbage can (I ended up with a lot of random World Series memorabilia) in my apartment. So far we’ve been to 14 stadiums, and this week I wanted to go through my rankings of them.
I should note that while I try my best to explain the pros and cons of the rankings are fairly subjective and largely based on my experience at the games I’ve attended.
So from worst to best, here’s my list:
14. Tropicana Field
Tampa Bay Rays
There are buildings that weren’t meant for baseball and then there is Tropicana Field. The grey, nondescript dome was originally built in 1990 without having a permanent tenant. It was used by the Tampa Bay Lightning for a few years in the 90s before they got the hell out of there and was a rumored destination for a handful of MLB teams including the Mariners, Giants, and (shudder) White Sox after Tampa/St Pete lost out to Miami and Denver as sites for MLB expansion in the 90s. The building is just really ugly, and baseball shouldn’t be played on carpet (a theme of the first few entries on this list). While it looks like some improvements have been made since I was there several years ago, it’s mere continued existence keeps it at the bottom of this list. The ceiling is too easy to hit, as is the back wall. Tropicana is also kind of in the middle of nowhere. It’s not adjacent to downtown St. Pete or Tampa, sitting awkwardly in the middle. Maybe someday I’ll go to another Rays game, but it won’t be in that building.
13. Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Much like Tropicana Field, this place was not intended for baseball. The right field wall was just a wall of folded-up bleachers used for Vikings games and, like Tropicana, the field was astroturf. The foul poles weren’t poles, but fabric hung from the ceiling, and many of the seats didn’t face the field (baseball in a rectangle doesn’t really work). They tried to make it look more baseball-shaped by covering the seats in the upper deck in center field with a display that depicted the players whose numbers had been retired, but a more cynical view would be that they didn’t think they could fill all of the seats. Something Minneapolis/St. Paul has that Tampa/St. Pete doesn’t is a passionate fanbase. The Twins were a good team for a large stretch of their time in the Metrodome and built a strong following in spite of the building they played in. The Twins no longer play in the Metrodome and got out just in time, as the winter after they moved to Target Field (which I have not been to but have heard good things about) the Metrodome’s roof collapsed under the weight of 17 inches of snow.
12. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (O.co Coliseum)
What do you get when you build a stadium designed for both football and baseball? A stadium that’s bad at both. Many seats are really far from the field depending on which sport is being played, and for baseball this is mostly the outfield, where the seats are high above the field and split into several small sections. Seating near the infield is also far from play due to the curved shape of the stands. The seating layout is made more awkward by how many seats are covered in tarps, including on occasion the entire upper deck even around the infield. The result is what feels like a minor league stadium with a lot of extra concrete heaped on top. Little effort has been put into the aesthetics of the building in general, with the concourses being mostly exposed, unpainted concrete. It’s also not in a great location; it’s next to the Oracle Arena but not much else, as it’s on the outskirts of Oakland. The A’s have tried to move to San Jose, but a really dumb agreement that says the Giants “own” San Jose as part of their territory has prevented that. This is made even sillier by the fact that the Raiders are leaving next year for Vegas and the Warriors are moving to San Francisco the following year. No team should be playing in this stadium, and hopefully the A’s won’t have to much longer.
11. Rogers Center
Toronto Blue Jays
While also built as a dual football/baseball stadium, Roger Centre feels much more like a ballpark than the previous three stadiums. The field is turf, but given that it has a (retractable) roof and is in Canada I’ll cut them some slack. It’s in a pretty cool location, on the lakefront next to the CN Tower in downtown Toronto, which provides a unique view. That being said, it’s a really average baseball stadium. It suffers from similar seat-proximity issues to Oakland due to being built to accommodate football, most notably how far away the outfield seats are from the field. I think of it as being a nicer version of Tropicana (which isn’t saying much). It also has the weird feature of one side of a hotel being inside the stadium, which has exposed Blue Jays fans to some, shall we say, ‘intimate’ activities of hotel guests on at least 3 occasions.
Due to them being Canada’s only MLB team there is national pride and fandom attached to the Blue Jays which is something no other team has.
10. Yankee Stadium
New York Yankees
Yes, it’s old and very historic. Yes, it has witnessed some of the greatest teams and moments in baseball history. Yes, it was home to the most successful franchise of all time. Yes, Monument Park is pretty cool. None of that changes that this place was kind of a dump. The fact that it underwent such a big renovation in the 70s actually does it a disservice, as you would never know you were in a stadium that was almost 100 years old as you do at Wrigley and Fenway. Rather than feeling like you’re in one of the most storied parks in baseball you feels as if you’re in a tired building in need of a makeover. Apparently I’m not the only one who felt that way because within a couple years of my being there it was knocked to the ground and replaced by what was essentially a modernized replica. There was something a bit larger-than-life about it with the white facade and fencing along the top; that’s the feeling George Steinbrenner wanted you to have when you came there, both as a player and fan. I’ve heard good things about the new Yankee Stadium and look forward to going back. As far as New York baseball stadiums go at least I waited until Shea Stadium was gone.
9. Progressive Field (Jacobs Field)
At this point, we’ve gotten past all of the stadiums I disliked. Progressive Field is a solid baseball stadium. Like many stadiums built in the early 90s, it’s been improved by being renovated in the last decade (this unfortunately came with the name being changed from the original Jacobs Field). I like the asymmetric design of the outfield seating, but I’m not a huge fan of really tall scoreboards like this one. A feature I do like is the group of trees planted behind the wall in center field to serve as the batter’s-eye, as opposed to the unused, empty space that serves this function at all the previous parks on this list. The stadium is adjacent to a restaurant and bar district that’s been built up in recent years to serve Progressive Field as well as Quicken Loans Arena next door. I don’t really have a whole lot to say against this stadium, for or against. It’s similar in a lot of ways to the next few parks on the list, all of which stand out in some way.
8. Guaranteed Rate field (US Cellular Field, Comiskey Park)
Chicago White Sox
Of all the baseball games I have ever been to, 95% have been in this stadium. I grew up going to White Sox games and know this place like the back of my hand. As a sports fan, the two buildings that feel like home are Comiskey (as it should still be named) and Notre Dame Stadium. Like Progressive Field, it was greatly improved by a renovation a few years ago although I’ll never understand the greenish/grey color they decided on for the seats. The one design aspect that I’ve always found lacking is the facade behind home plate where all the media are located. I’ve always liked the intimate feel created by having the back of the stadium closed in, and this is another example of what I think is just a solid baseball stadium; that said, even I as a home fan can admit it isn’t spectacular. One particular thing that I think has made me biased to it is that it’s the only place I’ve ever found the greatest of all ballpark food: churros.
7. Comerica Park
While I like the intimate feel that closed-in parks have, what’s better is having an open stadium with a great view. Now I know that downtown Detroit isn’t the greatest-looking city in the world but the view of the Detroit skyline from inside the stadium is really cool. That said, the most important part of Comerica is that it has the best in-stadium food court of any stadium I’ve been to: a circular, open air area off of the main concourse on the first base side. Rather than having to do a lap around the stadium hoping to find something good or unique t it’s all in one place. It’s a really nice stadium, but I’ve always found the field dimensions unnecessarily large with it being around 20 feet larger than the average park all the way around. I’m also not a fan of the giant scoreboard in left field that is mostly just ad boards.
6. Great American Ballpark
There’s one word that best describes this stadium: red. That makes some sense given that it’s the home of the Reds, but when I say the stadium is red I mean everything is red. This is only made more obvious by the fact that the only other color of anything in the stadium is white, but I digress. It’s a really solid stadium right in the heart of downtown Cincinnati overlooking the Ohio River. It’s most unique design feature is probably “The Gap” which is a small break in the stands between home and third that faces one of the main streets in Cincinnati so that if you’re driving/walking downhill toward the stadium you can see inside. I also appreciate any fanbase who isn’t (overly) deterred by how bad their team has been for so long (they had better attendance last year than the cross-state Indians who almost won the World Series). Also, as I mentioned, I like stadiums that aren’t just perfectly symmetric and get creative with seating design. Also, the food is really good (especially if you’re into Skyline Chili), which is a key aspect of any ballpark.
5. Wrigley Field
Cub fans are going to be mad that Wrigley isn’t ranked higher (they’ll also hate my top 3) but hear me out; two words: obstructed views. The sight lines of this stadium are just really bad, which is more or less a by-product of it’s age. Old Yankee Stadium was able to eliminate the poles in the lower deck, but they did so at the expense of the integrity of the building, which to Wrigley’s credit its updates have not done. That said, as someone who’s had the pleasure of having a seat directly behind a pole once at Wrigley it’s pretty annoying. Another negative, again a product of the age, is that waiting in line for anything takes at least a full inning maybe longer, be that food, beer or the bathroom. But enough negatives. Of the older parks I have been to that underwent a renovation Wrigley has probably done the best job. They maintained the history of the park while adding some much needed improvements, such as a jumbotron while keeping the manual scoreboard as well as expanding the outfield bleachers (although the completely hidden bullpen is weird). Wrigley is also in one of the best neighborhoods of any ballpark, with more bars and restaurants in walking distance than you could count. It’s old but it’s classic, and an afternoon spent in the Wrigley bleachers is hard to beat as a baseball experience.
4. Fenway Park
Boston Red Sox
Fenway just edges out Wrigley on the historic factor in my mind. It also has the issue of poles obstructing views in the lower deck so we’ll call that a wash. Fenway is such a unique stadium and more so than Wrigley feels like it’s from another era. It has not undergone the same extent of renovations in recent years and doesn’t feel like it needs to (although Fenway adopted modern advancements such as video boards and nighttime baseball long before Wrigley did). Maybe it’s the red brick on the outside, maybe it’s all the history that’s taken place there but if baseball has a cathedral it’s Fenway. White St. Louis (more on them later) claims to have the “best fans in baseball” I haven’t seen a more passionate fanbase than those in Boston. The love for and importance of the team to its fans is almost palpable in the stadium, and for what it’s worth I found them much more welcoming than Yankees fans (although as incidences such as that earlier this season with Adam Jones indicate I can certainly understand there being disagreement on that).
3. Miller Park
If done right, retractable roof stadiums can be awesome and this one is. The roof also provides some cool architecture with the arches that define the roof being enormous windows. Also an architectural note, I’m a big fan of red brick as a stadium exterior. This stadium provides a really intimate fan experience. The closed-in design makes it feel as if everyone is close to the action; and they are. Rather than 2 or 3 decks of seats, Miller Park has 4 which are all “pushed forward” closer to the action. I’ve sat at the top of the upper deck and you don’t feel that you’re far away at all. It’s been awhile since I’ve been there so while I don’t remember all of the details what I do remember is thinking it was just a phenomenal place to see a game. One improvement would be if it was closer to downtown Milwaukee, it’s kind of off by itself.
2. AT&T Park
San Francisco Giants
I’ve seen this park top of a few lists of the best stadiums in baseball but it comes up one spot short for me. This place is a beautiful ballpark. The exterior is all red-brick, as is the right field wall. The boardwalk in right field is a feature unlike anything in another stadium, allowing fans a great view of both the game and San Francisco Bay. Not only is it on the water but it’s also located right in downtown San Francisco. The seating isn’t symmetric and neither is the field, and I like uniqueness. I think one reason I don’t have a ton to say about my favorite stadiums is that you just have to experience for yourself. It is also the only park where some fans watch from kayaks, and the culture of enjoying the water and hoping for a ball is very much a San Francisco thing. This park does have the bonus of being the place where I caught my first ball (despite being 18 years old and having gone to who knows how many White Sox games). For baseball fans this place is a can’t-miss.
1. Busch Stadium
St. Louis Cardinals
Cardinals fans claim they are the best fans in baseball. I would argue they have a much stronger claim on having the best stadium in baseball. It has a similar seating structure to Miller Park but with the added benefit of being fully outdoor. It has maybe my favorite exterior, red brick with a front dominated by high arches. It’s located in the middle of downtown St. Louis and is a fixture of the city. The criteria of a “baseball city” are hard to pin down but St. Louis certainly is one. Part of what helps make the stadium feel like it’s integrated into the city is that the main concourse is on ground level and there are exits in the outfield that lead right into downtown. Also, a great feature outside of the stadium is Ballpark Village, a building which contains several bars and restaurants around a giant open room/bar with a wall of TVs. It’s a great area for fans to gather and watch games, both home and away, as well as other marquee events. Finally, and maybe the stadium’s best feature, is the view from inside the park, the St. Louis skyline topped off by the Gateway Arch looming above right-center field. To top it all off, the game I attended there was between the Cardinals and Cubs and on an adjacent building was hung a sign: “Welcome White Sox Fans!” Well done St. Louis, well done indeed.
I’d love to hear feedback in the comments on my rankings as well as insights on any stadiums not on this list and where you feel they might fit in.
This Week In…
Trades, trades, and more trades bringing more and more prospects. The most recent and perhaps most significant since Chris Sale was dealt to Boston in the offseason was Melky Cabrera being sent to Kansas City in exchange for two pitching prospects. When the Sox acquired Melky it was thought as a move that could help the team contend. That never happen, and it’s sad that he won’t be around to watch the redevelopment of the team. The team is now 22 games under .500 and it’s going to get worse. #TrustTheProspects
The Blues finished up their preseason tour in Asia where they beat Arsenal (the only thing that really matters) and lost to both Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. The weakness that was exposed was that wing-backs Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses may not be good enough against top European teams, so hopefully the lack of depth there will be addressed before the end of the transfer window (the end of August). Also in the past week newly signed striker Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid joined the team, but midfielder Nemanja Matic, a vital part of the 2014/15 and 2016/17 championship seasons, departed for Manchester United. The final preparation for the season is next Sunday at Wembley Stadium where the Champions of England will again face Arsenal, the winners of the FA Cup. The Premier League is back a week from Friday and I plan to have an EPL preview blog next weekend.
The Fire have unfortunately lost back to back games and have returned to second place in the standings behind Toronto. Dax McCarty has returned from helping the USA win the Gold Cup (more on that in a second) and most of the team gets a few days off for the MLS All Star Game, which will feature 4 Fire players.
The USA beat Jamaica to win the Gold Cup, continuing the success of Bruce Arena’s second tenure as manager still having yet to lose a game since he replaced Jurgen Klinsmann. While they didn’t always look their best, the team achieved what it set out to do and can now focus on World Cup Qualifying which resumes in September.
The Bears opened training camp at Olivet Nazarene University this past week. As exciting as that is, I’m perfectly content to wait for the season to start because if the first 9 games on the schedule are any indication it isn’t going to be pretty. In other bad news, Pernell McPhee will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the second straight season.
LOTS of albums out this week, including from Arcade Fire (one of my favorite albums this year), Joywave, Coast Modern, Cage the Elephant (and album of acoustic covers of older CtE songs), Passion Pit, Manchester Orchestra, and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, in addition to a new single from the Killers’ upcoming album ‘Wonderful Wonderful’