Munsey on Ballparks

Baseball tradition

by Paul Munsey (archive)

March 26, 2005

The Cubs finally reached an agreement with the city and announced that they are updating Wrigley Field. So, the old ballpark should be around for many years to come. This week, the Red Sox announced their intentions to stay at Fenway Park with "no strings attached." They will also be making some major renovations to their old ballpark. Meanwhile, it appears that baseball will finally have to address the steroids situation. It has been a good month for baseball tradition.

It has been a long time, but one of baseball's traditions was the President throwing out the first pitch to start the season at the ballpark in Washington, DC. That tradition will be reestablished at RFK Stadium in our nation's Capitol in just a couple more weeks. President Bush will be the first president since Richard Nixon to throw out the first pitch in Washington, DC.

Speaking of RFK Stadium, I understand that the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission is seeking a sponsor for the stadium. In other words, they want to sell the naming rights to the place. Apparently, the plan is to place a corporation's name in front of the words "Field at RFK Stadium."

Here we go again. How many times are we going to fall for that ploy? I wonder how many people in Texas are calling the Rangers' ballpark "Ameriquest Field in Arlington. Is anyone in California referring to the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" or their ballpark, "Angel Stadium at Anaheim?"

I'm not Robert Kennedy's biggest fan, but it seems to me that when you name something after someone in our nation's Capitol it should last more than thirty six years. It's not that much of a stretch to imagine a day when we will be referring to the Microsoft Tower at Washington Monument. How about the General Electric pavilion at Lincoln Memorial? I suppose there are those who think that selling the naming rights to the Capitol and the White House would simply be acknowledging the obvious.

It is amazing to see fans buying up tickets to watch games at a stadium that I thought would never host baseball again. It looks like a sure thing that RFK Stadium will host many sold out games this season. It reminds me of Mile High Stadium in Denver during the Rockies' first two years. They would routinely sell out that big, ugly football stadium. So popular were the games at Mile High Stadium, that the Rockies changed their plans for Coors Field to include more seats.

Many people don't realize this, but RFK Stadium was the original "cookie cutter" stadium. Utilizing the architecture of the International Style, multi-purpose stadiums popped up in cities all over America during the 1960s and 1970s. They replaced famous old "band boxes" like Forbes Field, Griffith Stadium and Sportsman's Park. That stadium revolution was very similar to the one we've been experiencing since the early 1990s.

One by one, those 1960s-era multipurpose stadiums have been razed in favor of new baseball-only ballparks and football-only stadiums. Meanwhile, RFK Stadium has stood there, just a few miles east of the Capitol, waiting for the day when it would be used again. That day is about to arrive.

Someday, we will look back with nostalgia on those multi-purpose stadiums that are so reviled now. There aren't many left. Bush Stadium in St. Louis is in its final season, the Mets want to replace Shea Stadium and the A's are looking to leave the Coliseum. The Astrodome hasn't been used for years and, one way or another, will cease to exist as a sports facility in the near future. Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego isn't long for this world either. The Padres moved out last year and the Chargers want a new stadium.


A great Web site for those interested in old-time ballparks is Where's Crosley Now? Chuck Foertmeyer is a prolific writer who has amassed information on the old Reds ballpark that is unmatched anywhere else.


I learned this week that I will soon be headed to Atlanta, where I will most likely be spending the next few months. Having only been there a couple of times, I'm looking forward to exploring this big, modern city. There are also many great baseball towns nearby, so I anticipate a few road trips. The downside is that I won't be living in Boston during the baseball season. However, I think I'm good for at least one trip up the eastern seaboard this summer.

Paul Munsey is the editor of

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Munsey on Ballparks © 2005 by Paul Munsey.

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