by Phillip J. Lowry (1986)
There is a large group of baseball fanatics who called themselves SABR, which stands for The Society of American Baseball Research. This group of historians, writers, statisticians, and just plain baseball fans have influenced most of the writing and thinking of baseball over the past 30 years. Perhaps the best aspect of this group are the publications which are released through them. This book is one of the most famous of those, and perhaps the most entertaining of their books, which can often get lost in a sea of theories and statistics.
This book was written during a time of great debate in baseball over the construction of ballparks. At the time there was a trend towards building garish ballparks at the cost of demolishing cherished institutions which the baseball public had held dear to their hearts. A perfect example was Detroit, where a grassroots movement had tried to save Tiger Stadium to little avail. This book doesn’t take a direct stand on such issues, but instead tries to instill nostalgia for the old parks of all major leagues since 1871, the Negro Leagues, and some selected well-known minor league parks.
Each ballpark is rated by style, occupant, location, former and current uses, unique ground rules, and unusual phenomena that has happened there. The phenomena sections on each park make for interesting reading, including such tidbits as these:
-Tom and Jean Yawkey’s full initials appearing in Morse Code in two vertical stripes on the left field scoreboard in Fenway Park
-Ebbets Field had 289 different angles for the outfield walls
-Buffalo’s Riverside Park was the scene of the lowest attendance in major league history when 12 fans paid to see a game versus the Providence Greys on October 7th, 1885
-the handywork of the Bossard clan in Comiskey Park, who doctored the field with water, clay, and gasoline to help the White Sox
-a sign in the Visitor’s Clubhouse at Tiger Stadium that says "No Visitors Allowed"
-Metropolitan Stadium in Minnesota was the second ballpark built on a cornfield, with the first one built in Keokuk, Iowa in 1875 for the National Association team.
-the full story of Bill Veeck’s temporary outfield chain link fence in Milwaukee, which was used for one minor league game. The fence could be rolled out when the opposing team was at the plate, and rolled back when the home team was up. It was used for one game only as the league passed a law prohibiting it the next day.
-Mike Tiernan of the New York Giants of the National League hit a homerun that landed into the adjoining ballpark that hosted the Player’s League New York team in 1890, causing fans of both ballparks to give him an illustrious cheer.
-Casey Stengel of the Yankees once watched a long drive bounce around behind the monuments in center field in Yankee Stadium, and after his outfielder fumbled for the ball, yelled, "Ruth, Gehrig, Huggins....someone throw the ball!"
-Pete Ventura can take comfort in the fact that no no-hitters were ever tossed at Forbes Field
-the Agricultural Society Fair Grounds in Rockford, Illinois hosted the National Association Rockford Forest Cities in 1871, and was the most unusual ballpark of all time. The trees surrounding the foul lines and behind home plate made for a small foul territory, and home plate was at the bottom of a depression, allowing the runner from third base a downhill run all of the way.
Also included in the book are some pictures of the fabled ballparks of the past, sections with the outfield dimensions of ballparks, and listings of the largest and smallest attendance recorded for baseball games. For those of you in Replay who enjoy the Ballpark Effects cards, this book provides a great companion piece to go along with that game factor. It’s worth the effort to beg, borrow, buy, or steal this book. --Al Arthurs