As promised, I said I would try to give a little breakdown of the three baseball stadiums I saw games at over my vacation last week. Here we go:
Miller Park – Milwaukee
Pretty spectacular ballpark. As I mentioned, I don’t really understand why the roof was shut on an otherwise gorgeous evening in Milwaukee. Miller Park is somewhat typical of the retractable roof ballparks in that it’s HUGE, so it kind of lacks the quote-unquote intimate feel of some newer parks. But nevertheless, this was a newer stadium done right. And it always helps to go to games where the fans have really embraced the team. With young stars like Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, the Brewers are an easy team to like.
U.S. Cellular Field – Chicago
This park was a bit of a pleasant surprise. Yeah, it lacks the bells and whistles that you see with a lot of newer parks, but I kind of liked it. The concourse was cool. The walls inside were covered with murals throughout the deck we were sitting at, honoring the Chicago White Sox’s long history in professional baseball. Food was good too. Really enjoyed the Comiskey Dog. Parking was $23, which I think is outrageous. But the tickets we got were only $19 apiece, so that’s not bad. Seats were pretty far from home plate, but it was OK.
Wrigley Field – Chicago
Watching the Twins at Wrigley Field was the highlight of the trip. Wrigley is everything you’d expect it to be. Much like Fenway Park, there’s a lot of congestion and hoopla before and after the games. The guts of the stadium are exposed. The lines for concessions are long and for the bathrooms even longer. But it’s hard not to love it anyway. What a special place. Ernie Banks. Babe Ruth‘s Called Shot. Rooftop seats. The ivy. And having grown up watching Cubs afternoon baseball games on WGN back when I was kid – with Harry Caray and Steve Stone at the mic – it was pretty cool to finally get there.
On the way home, I was asked whether or not I thought Wrigley was better than Fenway or vice versa. That’s really tough to say. If I had to pick one or the other, I would take Fenway. But I just really liked the town of Boston, and it would have more to do with that than it would with the parks.
The one conclusion I can draw pretty easily is that Fenway and Wrigley – two parks that are each nearly 100 years old – provide something that other parks nowadays just can’t. These are parks surrounded by people congestion, not traffic congestion. Instead of parking lots and freeways, there are souvenir stands and bars. There is housing and apartment buildings.
Approaching these parks gets your mind wandering to another time. Think about how different the world was when Fenway (opened 1912) and Wrigley (opened 1914) were being built. Fenway opened within a week of the Titanic hitting an iceberg. William Howard Taft was President. Tris Speaker was leading the Sox onto the field on Opening Day.
There’s just something about walking into Fenway and Wrigley that gave me goosebumps. Owners can use millions and millions of taxpayer dollars to build colossal parks with great views of city skylines, but they simply can’t replicate what Fenway and Wrigley provide. Stadiums can’t be built that way anymore, and that’s just the way it is.