The Ghosts of Stadiums Past


I woke up this morning at 8 a.m. to the soothing sounds of new shingles being nailed onto my roof (seriously, guys, on a Saturday?). Every building in my neighborhood is being re-shingled this year since they are all close to 15 years old. This, of course, made me think about baseball.

Cal and Bill Ripken at Memorial Stadium, 1989Ballparks, to be exact. Sure, everyone loves a shiny new ballpark, but what happens to the ballparks that were once near and dear to our hearts? Why do some survive the ages, while others are refurbished, and yet others are unceremoniously blown to pieces? Is it really just about money and winning, or is there more to it? Unfortunately, The Baseball Sociologist does not have a handy answer for this one. (I’d do some research, but, as I mentioned before, the roofer guys kind of woke me up too early.)

However, as a sociologist, I have noticed that baseball fans have a great appreciation of history. Some of our stadiums may be gone, but they are not forgotten. I know I am not the only one out there who has made a pilgrimage to an old ball park, nor am I the only one who mourns the passing of a beloved stadium. Is this phenomenon unique only to baseball, or the United States? Maybe, maybe not.

~ baseballrebecca

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87 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Stadiums Past

    1. I got to Fenway for the first time in 2008. It was fantastic! Waited in line for 2 hours for tickets, but totally worth it!
      Thanks for being the first to comment on my blog! ~ baseballrebecca

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    2. There’s nothing like Fenway, but even as a lifelong diehard Sox fan, I’m getting sick of the place. Maybe it’s all the pinkhats who arrived post-2004, I don’t know. I digress… Fenway is awesome.

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  1. I think the early impressions one makes with a sport or trip or activity determine the level of affinity one has in later life. Being a West Coast girl, I have such vivid emotional and olfactory memories of making a journey to the Big A when I was 5 years old, snuggling under a stadium blanket in an uncomfortable chair and watching a team I couldn’t have cared less about.

    But the memories are all happy, and they remain to this day.

    A ballpark is part of that nostalgia. The setting, the smells, the types of seats — it all works together to form that amazing memory, whether you’re a fan or not.

    Case in point: I haven’t returned to the Big A since. But I remember it fondly (and still sometimes root for the Angels…as long as no one’s looking)!

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  2. I had a friend who went to Pitt Law School, much of which is on the site of Forbes Field. The home plate from Forbes is still in place in one of the buildings, and he made it a point to cross the plate on a daily basis.

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  3. Thirty years ago my husband who is now dead took me to spring training in Dunedin, Florida. I believe the Jays were there but i forget now. Small ballpark and so much atmosphere. Loved it.
    Thanks!

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    1. There’s something ultra-special about Spring Training and the small, cozy ballparks. I’ll have to check out Dunedin next time I go!

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  4. I loved this post.. and your gonna think I’m pretentious…but I think you’d really like the newest post (actually, you’d probably not like it now that I think of it) on my blog.. It’s called Criss- Cross Applesauce and its about Babe Ruth (I hate to give it away, but oh well).

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  5. I would assume that it must happened everywhere. It hasn’t happened here to my knowledge but perhaps, if it has, then it was before my time. We have had some refurbishments. It’d be great to see it passed down though and used for some kind of community project rather than just being blown to pieces or left to rot. I suppose they must have their reasons!

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    1. It does make me feel better when they at least use the site for a community project. The Memorial Stadium site now has a youth baseball field, courtesy of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation!

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  6. I think it is a real shame that there are fewer and fewer old stadiums left. They are a real, tangible link to the sport’s past. However, I do appreciate that commerce and keeping the fan happy are important to clubs, and that old premises don’t necessarily help, with their quirks and faults.

    It seems like from Camden Yards onwards that stadium design has been reasonably sympathetic, but I also think it takes time for a stadium to gain a sense of character. Fans don’t become attached to a stadium overnight. And sometimes those quirks and faults are what makes a stadium loveable and part of the club’s forklore, rather than just a venue for consuming sport.

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    1. Great points! I definitely miss the history surrounding old stadiums, but its good to introduce new fans to baseball by giving them a nice place to enjoy the game!

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  7. I speak for my baseball enthusiastic loving husband.

    Tearing down Yankee stadium was a travesty. He felt a part of his childhood went into the dumpster with that one. He has fond memories of going to the games back in the 60’s (I’m dating him here, aren’t I?)

    I see is as “where the hell are they going to put all that rubbish??”

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    1. Its great that you understand! Yes, perhaps its the memories and the nostalgia that helps us form the bonds with our stadiums.

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  8. Those memories of watching a game at a favorite ball park lasts forever.As they say…. You can take a girl out of the ball park, but you can’t take the ball park out of the girl. They do say that don’t they?

    Blessings,

    Ava
    xox

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  9. I worked on an independent film production last summer where I spent a lot of time in Geogia at an old industrial league baseball field. Unlike many others of its kind, it had managed to survive. A simple sort of field, yet being able to bring it back to life for the film was awesome.

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  10. the los angeles memorial coliseum and sitting behind the short left field screen. wally moon and his “moon shots” over that screen. Better yet, batting practice and everyone’s “moon shots’ over the screen. willie mays, roberto clemente, pete rose rookie year, etal. the stuff of youth.

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  11. Cool site! I love baseball and am one of those history lovers. Actually, I’m a social scientist too if you want to get technical. Nothing like a ballpark on a warm day to generate nostalgia.

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  12. I lived in Evansville, IN for a year and had the honor of attending an Otters game in historic Bosse Field. Evansville natives proudly told me it was a shooting location for “A League of Their Own,” and I can see why. I couldn’t focus on the game because I was too busy taking pictures of the wood, bricks, and iron of the stadium!

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    1. How very cool! The architecture of different eras, parts of the country, and the cities themselves are also reflected in stadium architecture. Maybe that’s why I find every different stadium I see so fascinating!

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  13. As a San Francisco Giants fan I don’t miss Candlestick Park one bit. It was a piece of crap stadium from the first game I saw there back in about 1974/75. The only thing it had going for it was that the opposing teams hated playing there more than the Giants did. So it had THAT mystique. If you could call it that.

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    1. That was kind of lure for baseball tourists like me! So many people complained about the field, the wind, etc., I just had to see it!

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  14. I remember as a kid going to the Los Angeles Coliseum in LA and watching Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Maury Wills and Wally Moon, before Chavez Ravine was opened back in the early 60s. “Those were the days my friend you thought they would never end.” Great Post

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  15. I miss going to a good AAA game, or even an MLB game. Been trapped on Oahu for the past five years, but I will be liberated in August thank the Ra…..

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  16. Simply put, baseball is American history. And there has been no greater equalizer- accessible to all (at least until the ticket prices got out of control in recent years) and what poor showmaker can’t talk baseball on an equal footing with a rich banker?

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  17. I haven’t been to any baseball games – not American. I found your article interesting though. Here we are mad about AFl. If the stadiums of any footy matches were torn down, thee would be riots most likely.

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  18. Nice post, brief, but spot on. Baseball my second, or tied for second most passionate thing in life.

    There was an old website many years ago I liked, it had good pictures of old now defunct ball yards. No doubt there’s many out there. I’ll still see if I can find it..

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  19. Great post!
    I don’t think it’s just an American thing to mourn the end of a great stadium, we definitely feel those losses up in Canada. Though we only have one team up here and one with a massive indoor ball park, I can surely appreciate the loss of America’s great fields.

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    1. About 10 years ago I escaped from grad school one day and drove about 7 hours to the stadium formerly known as SkyDome (Rogers Centre now?) to see my beloved Orioles. It was so exciting. I don’t even remember who won…

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  20. I grew up in Cleveland and spent many years at “The Mistake on the Lake,” a.k.a. Municipal Stadium. Those cold April winds rolling in off Lake Erie didn’t make those 1960s and ‘early ’70s teams any easier to watch. An 8,000-person crowd (8K if we were lucky!) in a stadium that held upwards of 76,000 gave ticket holders a pretty lonely feeling, but it definitely reduced the competition for chasing foul balls. It was often so quiet in the stands that you could hear guys talking in the dugout. Back then the league kept track of attendance based on “the gate,” and one of my high school buddies got a job one summer spinning the turnstiles in order to boost the numbers! I also recall seeing a game where Senators LF Frank Howard (6-8, 250+ pounds) ran through the left field chain-link fence while chasing a fly ball.

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    1. I love, loved, loved Cleveland Municipal Stadium almost as much as I loved Memorial Stadium. Perhaps because by the time I started to go to games there (in the early 1990s), it was pretty much empty. Especially when the Orioles were there! Something about being the only one up in the upperdeck of at 76,000 seat stadium made me feel like they were playing just for me!

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  21. I know it was a dump of a park, but I’ll always miss goings to Twins games at the old Metrodome with my dad when I was a kid. There was just something about that being the place I learned to love the game of baseball, that even though it was a horrible stadium, I’ll always remember it fondly. I also have to give credit to parks like that, the simplicity of everything, and lack of external excitement meant that going to a game there actually required 100% attention on the game. Unlike some of these new parks where it’s so easy for a kid to be distracted, and not pay attention to the game.

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    1. I moved to the Twin Cities in 1974, and in 1981 I bought a house in Bloomington less than two miles from the OLD Metropolitan Stadium. [NOTE: For those who don’t know, it’s now the site of the humongous Mall of America, and I believe the original location of home plate is commemorated inside one of the concourses.] I loved watching the Twins play outdoors, and it was fun to sit in the stands and gaze across the diamond to the two or three specially painted upper-deck seats in left field where Harmon Killebrew had hit some massive home runs. I left for Denver the year the MetroDump opened and only went to a couple of games there. Indoor baseball is an abomination!

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  22. Hey, a crazy thing just happened.

    I’m a Minor League baseball player, keeping a blog called The Inside Fastball. I was about to publish a post that I titled, “The Sociology of Baseball?” when I saw your post on wordpress.com. I clicked to your blog and am amazed by the timing of my linking to a blog called The Baseball Sociologist.

    I love your title and the subject that you are exploring. I just wanted to alert you to the crazy coincidence that I just encountered. Feel free to check out my recent post and compare it to your understanding thus far of the sociology of baseball.

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      1. I will echo HOBTH and the kudos for female baseball fans. I was lucky enough to marry a woman who shares my love of baseball AND opera. How rare is that? She grew up a Cubs fan in north suburban Chicago, so naturally I had to adopt them as my favorite NL team (although I always loved watching Jack Brickhouse call the games on TV). On our first date we discovered we’d both shared the same paradox that previous summer — whether to watch a Cubs-Mets night game on WGN or a Great Performances broadcast of Verdi’s “Aida.” It turns out we each ended up doing the same thing: flipping over to the opera between innings!

        Our only worry down through the years involves who to root for in the event of a Cubs-Indians World Series — but the likelihood of that happening during either of our lifetimes truly doesn’t make it much of a concern.

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  23. Same with football (Soccer!) old grounds are fondly remembered. A lot of people even say that old grounds have a better atmosphere; often spectators would be right against the pitch wheras with new grounds they are at least several metres back.

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  24. Baseball Rebecca,

    No American baseball is not alone. In Britain, football (soccer) stadia have undergone huge transformations over the last 20 years, following the Hillsborough Disaster of 1989. Billions of pounds have been invested in new stadia to replace old and ageing infrastructure. Even the famous Wembley Stadium and its ‘twin towers’ was completely demolished and replaced by a new stadium that took seven years to build at a cost of over £1 billion (approximately $1.4 billion)!

    If you want to find out more, Google info for old relics like Manchester City’s Maine Road, Bolton Wanderer’s Burnden Park, Middlesbrough’s Ayresome Park, Arsenal’s Highbury, Derby’s Baseball Ground (never an actual baseball stadium!), and Southampton’s The Dell.

    Richard, Manchester, England.

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  25. Yeah, stadiums are definitely disappearing. It’s about money. It always is. What I’m curious about is how many stadiums–how many of our beloved institutions–are being replaced by digital copies. No field to play on? Well, why do you need one when you have a Wii? Why go outside to play soccer when you can mimic playing soccer in your living room?!

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  26. Still very sentimental about Memorial Stadium. Miss the old place. Then again, I miss when my O’s had good ownership.

    The old park in Durham was great too. They tried to reproduce it, but you cant reproduce soul, can you?

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  27. While I know your musing about the old ballparks was, just that, a passing moment of thought about baseball’s changing landscape…I thought I would add a bit to what the changes say….at least to me.

    Baseball, as alluded to in the movie “Field of Dreams” has always been able to reflect the times in which we live. And, the stadiums have been the flower or the wart of those moments. This is why Wrigley and Fenway remain the constant heartbeat and home from which the others cities left to build the “cookie cutter” stadiums in the 1970’s (3-rivers and riverfront) and back to the fan friendly jewels most seem to be today.

    Baseball will always be aboout leaving home on a journey and returning home to talk about the trip.

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