Chicago and Cleveland. Two Great Lakes cities. It’s been 60-plus years since the Indians won a World Series; it’s been 108 years since the Cubs did it. Neither team’s current ballpark existed when they last raised the world championship pennant, yet both venues have provided a template for the most recent generation of ballparks.
What’s wrong with just watching a baseball game? Yankee Stadium is preparing to become the ultimate hangout in the Bronx for adults and children alike. The Yankees announced that the Stadium will undergo its first series of major design enhancements since the ballpark opened in 2009, adding seven new social gathering spaces as well as additional food and beverage areas. Construction will begin this week with the anticipated debut coming prior to the start of the 2017 season.
The Cubs against the Dodgers. Chicago versus Los Angeles. Carl Sandburg’s “city of the big shoulders” — “stormy, husky, brawling” — taking on the blue-skied, freeway-laced city of the future. A dense tangle of ivy on the outfield walls in one stadium and the clean lines of mid-century architecture in the other. Baseball’s National League Championship Series, which begins Saturday night in Chicago, would seem to be a classic matchup of architectural and even civic opposites.
It’s really happening. Tal’s Hill isn’t long for this world. The Astros held a ceremonial ground-breaking of their center field renovation project Monday at Minute Maid Park. Although’s Monday’s ceremony involved a simple pile of dirt, five shovels and some Astros execs decked out in suits instead of construction duds, the day still symbolized the beginning of the end for Tal’s Hill.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expects news within a year regarding potential plans for the Athletics to build a new ballpark in Oakland. MLB is monitoring weekly calls the A’s are holding to plan for a new stadium, and the low-budget franchise is exploring several potential locations. “I have spent more time with the A’s, on their stadium situation, than I have spent with any other franchise over the last two years,” Manfred said Monday.
Turner Field may have played host to its final Major League Baseball game, but the stadium lives on as a functional sports facility. In a testament to sustainability, the 20-year-old stadium, originally built for the 1996 Summer Olympics before it was converted to a ballpark for the Atlanta Braves, will now be turned into a college football venue for Georgia State University.
Walter Banks posed for pictures, caught up with old friends and turned a bit wistful as he remembered all the good times as an Atlanta Braves usher. It was time to say goodbye. Again. The Braves played their final game at Turner Field on Sunday, ending a run that lasted a mere 20 seasons with a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. They’ll be moving to a new stadium in the suburbs next season.
There’s a strange vibe at Turner Field these days that has nothing to do with the baseball-like product that the Braves are playing. The team’s touting a countdown of the final days at its perfectly serviceable stadium while pumping up the hope and promise of next year’s home, the still-unfinished SunTrust Park, and it’s … unsettling. The most charitable view is that it’s like a high school senior walking through the halls crowing how much more awesome next year’s gonna be at college. At its worst, it’s the awkward tone-deafness of a guy singing the praises of his new girlfriend while the old one’s still in the apartment they shared for years. Either way, the Turner Field story isn’t so much a story of what was, but what could have been.
As he exited Major League Baseball in 2014, former commissioner Bud Selig proudly pointed to the 20 new ballparks that opened during his 22-year tenure as a major part of his legacy. He probably figured they would last quite a bit longer, though. As one team bids farewell to a stadium only two decades old, another facility in the same age range is on the endangered list and a third one — younger than the other two — could be abandoned as well. At this rate, much of Selig’s ballpark legacy could be obliterated in a matter of years.
The bases are loaded, and David Ortiz spits into his hands, claps twice, and digs in against the hated Yankees. New York left fielder Brett Gardner inches back to the warning track. Not 10 feet behind him, Christian Elias, the Green Monster scoreboard operator, peers over Gardner’s shoulder. Elias is actually in the spot where the left fielder would be standing in most every ballpark but Fenway Park. For a quarter of a century, he has had the best seat in the house. He has operated the scoreboard for more than 1,800 games.