I’ve always loved Dodger Stadium. Maybe its because its one of the three oldest MLB stadiums still in use. Maybe its because its all the way across the country in the Golden State, the land of stars, the land of milk and honey. Or, perhaps, its the the lure and lore of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Whatever the reason, there’s just something about Dodger Stadium and the Los Angeles Dodgers that always draws me in.
So, when I found myself in Los Angeles recently for a business trip, I had to visit Dodger Stadium. It didn’t matter that I’d been there before, or that it was the off season, or that I was with non-baseball fan coworkers. I had to make the pilgrimage.
What many folks might not know is that Dodger Stadium is open on days there are no games – even during the off-season. You simply enter at Gate A (Sunset Gate) at the corner of Vin Scully Avenue and Stadium Way. Inform the person at the gate that you want to visit the gift shop and follow his or her directions to get to Lot P (i.e., “follow the blue line”). Eventually you’ll end up at the top level of the stadium and can go right into the gift shop.
Just outside the gates is the retired numbers plaza, where you’ll see giant statues of the Dodgers’ retired numbers – chief among them is no. 42. To the left you’ll see a staircase that will take you down to the Left Field Reserve Level, where you’ll find the recently installed Jackie Robinson statue (more on that tomorrow). After visiting the gift shop, you can enter the stadium. An existential, life-affirming feeling will take hold of you as you soak it all in. You will be one with the baseball gods.
The Dodgers offer a variety of stadium tours and for select dates through March 4 have a pop-up museum commemorating their 60 years in Los Angeles.
On January 3, 1962, ground was broken to begin construction of the Harris County Domed Stadium, later called the Houston Astrodome. The “Eighth Wonder of the World” opened three years later on Opening Day.
Unfortunately, today the Astrodome remains empty nearly 10 years after being closed because of code violations. The National Trust for Historic Preservation continues to work with Harris County, TX, to find alternative uses for this historic stadium.
So, how many games have you been to this season? Generally, by this time, I’ve been to at least a few. So far, however, its only been one. Of course, that didn’t stop me from simultaneously watching three on TV on Saturday. But, still. I feel like I need to improve my game.
With so much going on last week with Jackie Robinson Day, I never had time to share my thoughts on my first baseball adventure of the season – the Norfolk Tides at the Charlotte Knights. I’ll be posting more on that when I have time to think a little more sociologically about it. So watch this space!
This week I have plans to see games in California and New Hampshire. Comparing games from one community to another on different sides of the country is right up the alley for this Baseball Sociologist. So, stay tuned for updates on the Travels of the Baseball Sociologist!
In the meantime – feel free to share your baseball adventures so far this season in the comments section below!
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these photographs of baseball stadiums tell us a lot about changes to the game, the impact of baseball on the community, and the social context and historical time in which the game is played. This is the point of visual sociology, a field that uses visual images to study culture and society.
How do these pictures make you feel? What do they say about the cities they depict? (Hint: If they give you goosebumps or the chills or make you feel good inside, you are likely a baseball fan.) For me, seeing where baseball was once played, where Jackie Robinson made his debut, and how the game fits into the local landscape, tells me a lot about the game, the fans, and the players. It makes me feel that I am part of a tradition, linked with the past, present, and future of baseball.
So take a few minutes to look at some old baseball pics – they tell a thousand stories. What do they tell you?
Last night I reached a major milestone. I have now seen a game at 16 Major League Baseball stadiums – meaning I’m more than halfway toward reaching my goal of seeing a game at every MLB ballpark. My most recent accomplishment: seeing a game at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. All I need now are the ballparks of the Yankees, Mets, Rays, Tigers, White Sox, Twins, Rangers, Mariners, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, Giants, and Padres.
Of course, if they’d stop building new stadiums, my record would be at 18. But San Francisco and Seattle decided to build new stadiums after I’d already been there. In fact, my record is actually better than would appear, since I’ve seen games at other stadiums that no longer exist, such as my beloved Memorial Stadium and Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Fortunately, a few old stadiums are still standing, so I have been able to at least see the Astrodome and Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, though, sadly, I will never see games played at those stadiums.
When I mention my goal to see every MLB ballpark, some people look at me oddly, or say, “well, that’s a different kind of goal.” I do have other goals. But I have to admit this one is probably a little realistic for me than the others, like saving the world or losing 30 pounds. Sometimes you just have to go with what you’re good at.
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.
Ballparks, 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.