Shea is so heavenly that St. Peter rips your tickets as you enter.
It’s no secret that Sports Illustrated is a football rag. I think baseball appears on the cover of Popular Mechanics more than it does of SI. And its stable of Yankee-apologist hacks like Tom Verducci ensures that the Mets will get bashed in the rare times they get mentioned at all.
So I wasn’t shocked that the magazine ranked that slice of God’s Country called Shea Stadium as the very worst ballpark in the Major Leagues.
My man Metstradamus posted this nonsense on his awesome site, knowing that all our goats would be gotten. So I mobilized the Thruth Squad to set the record straight with real rankings.
First a couple things to get out of the way. The SI piece ranks ballparks on stuff like food selection, neighborhoods, and the number of toilets. All of that is nonsense.
Hey, if you are going to a stadium for a fine dining, then you’re going to the wrong place. My criteria for ballpark food: Fill my stomach until I can hit the White Castle drive-through on the way home. Or, in the case of a Lemon Chill, occupy my kids when they get a little restless. Those wooden scrapers, er, spoons, keep them busy.
As for neighborhoods, if I want to hang out in some trendy sports bar, I can do it without going to the stadium first. Restrooms? I might care a little more if I was in the other gender, but it’s not like guys require a lot here. I plan to spend as little time in them as possible.
So here is how the stadiums should have been ranked, at least the ones that I have visited.
1) Shea Stadium: The Mets play here. That negates any kind of shortcoming. Really, what else could you want? The skyline atop the scoreboard is a fine tribute to New York. The apple in the cap is a far better decoration for centerfield than some plaques with dead Yankees on them. And it’s so convenient to have that nice airport across the street, allowing visiting teams to quickly depart the fair city with their tails between their legs. I pretty much go to a ballpark to see a game, and if that game includes the Mets, then everything else doesn’t really matter.
Details like giant baseball cards make PNC a fun place to see a bad team.
2) PNC Park: I was ready to pledge allegiance to this fine yard until I had to pay about $5 for a Diet Coke. Other than that, this is a magnificent ballpark. The view is awesome, our upper deck seats were not ridiculously high and the Bucs do a fine job of celebrating their tradition and history.
3) Fenway Park: Fenway is Wrigley without the idiots. You're never going to get closer to the players. The Green Monster is a cool quirk, the Citgo sign is a classic and the rest of the place was like a museum until they started putting seats atop the wall.
Busch looked cool even before they added real grass.
4) Busch Stadium:I'm a sucker for landmarks, and the view of the Arch from the first base side is just perfect. Add baseball's second-best fans and you have a multi-purpose bowl that still seems like a great night at the ballpark. Sadly, you have less than a month to see Busch, at least this version of it.
I didn't see a game, but they let me take photos.
5) Dodger Stadium: I’ve never seen a game here, but the team allowed me to hit a gift shop and walk around the upper deck one morning when I was attending a conference in Los Angeles. The place was beautiful. I was amazed that at a point I could see the ocean, the Hollywood sign and the mountains. It was also cool that it’s built right into a mountain. I parked and walked right into the upper deck.
6) Miller Park: I took in a game at Miller last year, and was greeted by the commissioner of baseball. True story. We had a fun time and the brats with secret sauce actually made me care about stadium food. The roof opened and closed during the game, which was neat, and a massive gift shop was well-stocked with retor cap-and-glovev logo merchandise. And check out the Little League field on the site of old County Stadium.
7) Coors Field: One of the first of the retro stadiums, Coors is bricks and steel, pine trees in the bullpens and a line of purple seats at the mile-high mark. And it made Mike Hampton pay for leaving the Mets in 2001 -- though the schools in Denver are really good. Sure, Mike.
8) Jacobs Field: They passed on the bricks to come up with a modern ballpark that has some of the touches of the retro yards, just not as nice looking from the outside. But this is still a fine ballpark. Execpt, of course, for whatever spell it cast on Roberto Alomar to make him suck as soon as he left it's diamond.
Pay homge to my friend Kelly Gruber at the dome.
9) SkyDome: I'm not calling it the Rogers Centre or whatever the heck they tacked on the sign outside. People whine about this place, but I think it's fun. Not saying I'd want to see every game there, but it's like baseball in a pinball machine. Embrace the Canadian aspects, despite the new owners' attempts to Americanize the place. And the "OK, Blue Jays" song is pretty cool. And it's hard to not keep looking up at the CN Tower.
10) Kauffman Stadium: I went to college in Missouri, but never had the chance to see this heralded yard. But in 1995 I had two hours to kill before a flight out of Kansas City made it a mission to see the stadium. The folks inside were kind enough to open a gift shop and let we wander around taking photos.
Buy your cheese steak sandwich at Pat's, then go to the game.
11) Citizens Bank Park: From outside this must be the most confusing stadium I've ever seen. It looks like a big pile of stuff in the middle of the parking lot. Inside's a different story, a fine yard. And the giant, light-up Liberty Bell that bongs after each home run is a classic.
"Hey kids, I caught a home run ball today!" "Cool! let's see it!" "Ah, some drunks told me to throw it back on the field."
12) Wrigley Field: Wrigley in romantic theory is much better than Wrigley in reality. In theory, it’s got bleachers full of knowledgeable baseball diehards who live for the ups and downs — mostly downs — of their beloved Cubbies. In reality, the bleachers are packed with drunk posers who think throwing home run balls back on the field is a good idea. In theory, residents of the cute houses across the street climb on their roofs so they can peek the action. In reality, the rooftops are owned by corporations that rent them out for mega-bucks. In theory, fans spill out of the stadium to toss back an Old Style with fellow Cubbie devotees at a local watering hole. In reality, the watering holes are tourist traps. I know. I was one. I know, I know...ivy...Harry..the El. It’s just not real. It’s like people going there are following a script instead of stuff just happening.
My view of Charlie Hough throwing the first pitch in Marlins history -- to current Met Jose Offerman.
13: Dolphins Stadium: People wail on this place like it's some hell-pit, and I just don't get it. It's a lot better than some of the other multi-purpose stadiums, and there is some local latin flavor that the team is starting to recognize. Former owner Wayne Huizenga -- who owns the stadium -- seems to go out of his way to make the Marlins seem like second-class citizens in their own home, but I still enjoy going here.
14) Minute Maid Park: I've only been in the gift shop and walked around the building, but I could see they had the train that rides atop the left field wall decorated for Christmas. It looked like a pretty cool place, and I like the hill in centerfield. The statues of Bigs and Bags were OK. As a bonus treat, it was the scene of Roger "Bat-tosser" Clemens' complete All-Star game meltdown.
I drove my rental car right under the Big A!
15) Angels Stadium: This time team let me in the gift shop but would not let me inside to take photos. Disney did wonders by making this a baseball-only stadium again, though I have no idea what's going on with the rocks in centerfield. I like the giant caps and Hollywood-style hands in cement near the entrance. And the former "Big A" scoreboard is a landmark.
This yard should always be called Comiskey Park.
16) U.S. Cellular Field: I don’t care if they lop off a couple rows and add a roof, the upper deck is just plain disasterous. It’s as steep as everyone says — you’re afraid to lean forward — and three, count ‘em, three levels of luxury boxes make it seem so high that the observation deck of the Sears Tower is anticlimactic. The lower level is a different story, and the Sox have enough side attractions and promotions to add to the fun. The team gouges on the parking, knowing that no sane person would park in the projects and walk to the yard. I still have no clue why they painted everything black, but the exploding scoreboard is a treat.
17) The Metrodome: We already know that security at the dome is lax. (Read about it here) It's plastic and ugly, but still a step up from where the Twins used to play.
A tiger choking on a baseball is not the image you want to project.
18) Comerica Park: I took my kids to see a game there in the stadium's first year. I asked for three tickets, and the seller said all he had were upper deck seats for $50. "Three upper deck seats are $50? You gotta be kidding me!" Then the guys said, "No, they're $50 EACH." That made me kind of bitter about Comerica. They've lowered the prices, but I still only go once a year. And if you need a Ferris wheel to keep fans amused, your team must really suck.
19 - 29) Bank One Ballpark, Great American Ballpark, Petco Field, Safeco Field, SBC Park, Newtork Associates Coliseum, Tropicana Dome, Ameriquest Field, Turner Stadium, RFK Stadium, Camden yards: I have not been to these stadiums, though I got a hard hat tour of Camden while it was under construction. So it would be unfair to rank them. Except for one thing -- I can assure you they are better than this dump:
30) Yankee Stadium: Otherwise known as “The House of Shame.” A vile hell hole that serves as a tribute to self-glorification with all the beauty and splendor of the South Bronx. The fact that Steinbrenner periodically threatens to move the team to New Jersey — New Jersey! — tells you all you need to know about this landfill. And no, Derek Freaking Jeter is not some stud because he can loft what would be a shallow fly in any other park into that short porch in left. And is there anything stupider that that "roll call" cheer? It makes "the wave" look intelligent. Watch the ballgame and leave the players alone, darn it! Fans, this is where SI got it so wrong.
Phew, I feel better now.