Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Baseball Place No. 31: Monument Park, Legends Field; and, Alternative spot No. 31A) Comerica Park statues

Why, Josh? Why?

I understand that 101 places is a lot, and some places might not be as glorious as others.

And while I personally might not want to go there, I can understand why you would include Monument Park in the Bronx.

But I’m calling foul on place No. 31: Monument Park at Legends Field in Tampa.

From what I can tell, these aren’t even monuments. They’re circles with the retired numbers with a description of the player, the same that fills the space in front of the bullpens in the Bronx.

The Tampa version isn’t even in the stadium, but on some grass near the parking lot.

Josh. My friend. Plywood tributes to over-rated Yankees might be an adequate lawn art and squirrel obstacles on the buffer between the Toyotas and trash cans at some cheesy spring training site.

But they do not qualify as one of the “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

I haven’t been there. And I don’t plan to go there. But I do know of another major league team with a flawed tribute to its greats and near-greats, but without the ick-factor that clings to anything Yankee.

Alternative Place No. 31A: Comerica Park statues

Willie Horton and other Tigers greats are depicted in action.

I give the Tigers points for the attempt.

Moving from their historic yard to the bland Comerica Park in 2000, the team wanted to salute some of their all-time greats. And to be sure, when the conversation about the best player of all time includes someone who wore your uniform, you get to make a big deal about it.

That’s why I want the Mets to do something more with Willie Mays, but I digress.

The Tigers created statues of six players -- Ty Cobb, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Willie Horton, Al Kaline and Hal Newhouser – stretching between left field to center.

Old habits are hard to break. Ty Cobb spiked my friend Steve.

There are some people who grumble about Horton, but he’s been active in the Detroit community for years and is pretty much beloved. Outsiders don’t get it, but they don’t have to.

So the statues are a nice idea. But they goofed.

I suspect the idea was to place them close to the field, so the greats of old overlook the Tigers of today.

The statues face the field, and there isn’t much space between the pedestals and the railing that separates the seats from the walkway.

Prince Hal was cool. But I don't want to pose next to his butt.

Quick: What’s the one thing people do with statues at a ballpark? Take photos of them!

And more often than not, they pose with the statues.

But the way the Tigers have the statues arranged, there’s no way to get a nice photo from the front. You’d have to go down into the seats, and they the angle is off.

So then you have a lot of people taking photos of the backs or sides of the statues. It just doesn’t work. They should move them back about 10 feet.

There's no good way to get a shot of the front of this otherwise great Kaline statue.

Then, the team decided to go one step further, and paint the players’ names and numbers on the brick wall below the statues.

Now, what’s the usual way you see names and numbers? Name on top, number on the bottom, like on the jerseys.

Except the Tigers decided to have the number on top, and the name on the bottom. The big problem is that Ty Cobb didn’t have a number, so you have this big blank space between the top of the wall and the name.

I can only guess, but I suspect the team put the numbers on there first, realized it looked odd to have the blank space under Cobb, then added the names.
If the names were on top, Cobb not having a number wouldn't look so awkward.

The Tigers need to know that people would be able to identify their iconic players from a distance without throwing their names up there on the wall.

The Mets, for example, are throwing mere silhouettes of famous players above the gates at Citi Field, and we were able to identify all the players before the things were even installed.

So, Josh gets a swing and a miss for thinking Yankee plywood is important, and the Tigers get a check-swing strike for bad planning.

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