When my son was younger, we embarked on many baseball trips, certainly on the West Coast, and often beyond. The new Washington Nationals ballpark here in DC brings back many of those cherished memories. We would get to a city, check out the schedule, and hope for a home game by the home team. Often, we bought tickets beforehand, planning the entire trip around the games, usually with the Giants as the visiting team.
Of course, the two Bay Area ballparks have nothing in common. The San Francisco Giants reside at the nicest ballpark in baseball, ATT Park down in China Basin. Prior to that, we endured the old Seals Stadium, once housing the old San Francisco Seals, and the DiMaggio brothers. I saw my very first professional game at Seals Stadium when Willie Mac was a rookie! Then came the windy, cold, and downright poorly designed Candlestink Park out near Hunter’s Point. Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s stayed in the Oakland Coliseum, far longer than anyone ever realized. But I did see five different World Series there.
We visited a few minor league ball parks too. In fact, I also played in many of them. Euless Park in Fresno was the old home of the Fresno Giants when they were a Single A team. This was the site of my first home run over a real fence! Salinas has a cute minor league park, but not too exciting. The San Jose Giants ballpark down near San Jose State is great fun on giveaway nights, and their BBQ is primo. I played baseball one summer in Lodi, where the minor league park was also our home field. I also went to minor league games in Modesto, Stockton, Visalia, and another in Portland.
On the west coast, and in California, Dodger Stadium was once the gold standard. I never got to play there, but did get to play in the old Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. It was a replica of Chicago’s Wrigley Field, and site of the old black and white TV series, “Home Run Derby”. I saw the Angels play there, as well as in Dodger Stadium, before they moved to Anaheim. My son and I saw the All Star Game in Anaheim back in 1989.
By the time I got there, the bleachers were gone. Our family and fans had to go out and buy cheap lawn chairs at a nearby K Mart as I recall. But for most of us, the dream of playing in a (former and temporary) major league ballpark was a great thrill. We had to walk out beyond the outfield fence to use the porta-potty, as the dressing rooms by the dugouts were flooded and stinky.
The Dodgers also played at the Los Angeles Coliseum, home of the USC Trojans football team, and site of the 1984 Olympics. The left field fence was not more than 250 feet from home plate. A large screen was erected to keep ordinary pop-ups from leaving the field as home runs. It was a joke of a baseball field.
Of course, I was able to see baseball at its very finest, with Chicago’s Wrigley Field at the top, followed closely by Fenway Park in Boston, and the new Yankee Stadium in New York. I would rate ATT Park in San Francisco at the very top of the new ballparks, with Coors Field in Denver second, and Chase Field in Phoenix a close third. I have been fortunate enough to see all three.
A few stadiums have since been replaced since I crossed them off of my list. These would be the old Seattle Kingdome (previous home of the Seattle Mariners), Denver’s Mile High Stadium (previous home of the Colorado Rockies), and old Busch Stadium in St. Louis, home of the World Champion Cardinals. All three have been imploded, and perhaps rightly so.
A few other baseball venues I have been to are: The Superdome in New Orleans, home to college baseball (Tulane and Xavier), Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, since replaced by Petco Park. I plan to see Petco Park in June when the Giants visit. College games are fun to watch, the stadiums so small, the coeds so tanned, but no beer for sale!
One of the cutest little baseball only parks in the US is in Honolulu, at the University of Hawaii. My son and I saw many Rainbow games there over the years. They tend to cheer there, just like regular college football games!
At this point in my life, and with my son moving on to bigger and better things, I will probably just leave the ball park “water pail list” to chance. But if you get bored, and want to visit some out-of-the-way place, like Milwaukee, Cincinnati, or the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, give me a call!