June 24, 2017
Summary: This article summarizes a ranking of MLB ballparks in DRAFT magazine. The good news: Minute Maid Park and PNC Park (both designed by David Greusel) finished in the top 10.
How does Minute Maid Park stack up when compared with baseball’s other 29 ballparks? Not too badly, according to the July/August issue of DRAFT magazine. Here’s the magazine’s rundown and analysis:
1. Fenway Park: The Boston ballpark, shoe-horned into an existing industrial neighborhood in 1912, is the oldest in the majors. Fenway is famous for its enormous left-field wall that pitchers insist is much closer to home plate than its official distance. The Green Monster, which towers over a hand-operated scoreboard, stands 37 feet high but only 310 feet deep. Repeated renovations over the last four years have expanded capacity to 37,400. For many, the experience starts hours before game time when fans in Red Sox garb converge in a street bazaar between the ballpark and a row of souvenir shops.
2. Wrigley Field: Built for Chicago’s Federal League team in 1914, this venerable National League park hasn’t hosted a World Series since 1945 (the longest drought among the original 16 teams). Superstitious types insist that’s because of a curse applied when a local tavern owner was barred from bringing his pet goat in–even thought the goat had its own ticket. Bill Veech, who later became the owner of the White Sox, was a young executive when he built the 75-foot-wide, hand-operated scoreboard (1937) and planted the ivy that adorns the outfield walls (1937). Today, Cub fans complain that the club is in the 100th year of its rebuilding program (no championships since 1908).
3. PNC Park: Pittsburgh’s park is a lot prettier than its team. While the building is relatively small (seating 38,496) it offers big sightlines that include a bevy of bridges and the best downtown view of any park. Open since 2001, PNC sits directly across from the skyline beyond the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. Fans fed up with watching the low-payroll Pirates can take solace in the serenity of the passing riverboats and strollers on the gold-painted pedestrian bridge.
4. Yankee Stadium: The New York Yankees have won 39 pennants and 26 world championships since moving into their Bronx ballpark on April 18, 1923. Lights were added for night play in 1946 and a new scoreboard–the first that allowed messages to be changed–came along 13 years later. Because of a major renovation that forced the Yankees to share Shea Stadium with the Mets in the 1974-75 seasons, Yankee Stadium looks different form the ballpark Babe Ruth dominated during the ’20s. Spectators at the 2008 All-Star Game will have one last chance to gaze at Monument Park (where retired jersey hang), take a photo in front of the park’s iconic white faced, or watch a home run sail into Pennant Porch–next season, the Yankees move across the street to the new stadium.
5. Nationals Park: Too bad Washington’s Cherry Blossom Festival is so short-lived; the cherry trees planted in the pedestrian concourse of this park bloom only two weeks into the season. Perched on the bank of the Anacostia River, the new home of the Nationals offers yearlong views of the U.S. Capitol Building and Washington Monument from many of its 41,222 seats. Fans like it because the field is 24 feet below street level–saving spectators from climbing stairs or ramps. Players aren’t so lucky: They have to run up and down stairs to connect from clubhouse to dugout.
6. Oriole Park at Camden Yards: The first new stadium with a retro look has become one of Biltmore’s biggest attractions. Not to mention, the home where Babe Ruth was born is blocks away, while the Ruth family café stood at the current site of center field. A museum, relocated from the Ruth birthplace to Camden Yards, honors both the sluggers and the history of the Orioles. The park opened in 1992, three years before Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s mark for consecutive games played. The success of the retro look spawned a myriad of imitations, with those in Texas (1994), Denver (1995) and Cleveland (1997) among the most notable.
7. Minute Maid Park: Houston’s domed ballpark, which opened as Enron Field eight years ago, is almost a composite, borrowing Boston’s short left-field wall, the 80-odd outfield angles of Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field and even the old outfield incline from Cincinnati’s Crosley Field. The Crawford Boxes, 315 feet from home plate atop the left-field wall, are a tempting target for hitters.
8. Safeco Field: The freight trains that rumble and toot by this Seattle stadium entertain spectators as much as the elaborate scoreboard system comprised of 11 electronic displays and a blast from the past: a hand-operated scoreboard. The roof keeps the Mariners’ field dry but creates an outdoor feel because of the sides of the stadium stay open even when the top is closed. The park also has the best-named concession stand in the majors: Intentional Wok.
9. Coors Field: During their first two seasons in the football-friendly Mile High Stadium, Denver fans set records for single-game and single-season attendance. Designed strictly for baseball, Coors opened with 43,800 seats in 1995 but had to expand to 50,200 to meet the demand. Before the team introduced a humidor in 2002, fans spent years relishing slugfests while eying the snow-capped front range of the real Rockies By refrigerating baseballs at 70 degrees and 50 percent humidity-higher readings than typical natural conditions-scoring returned to reasonable levels and the Rockies reached the World Series for the first time in 2007.
10. Comerica Park: It takes a village: the eight-year-old home of the Detroit Tigers includes cafes, a carousel, a 50-foot Ferris wheel, a scoreboard hugged but giant tigers and a fountain that spring to life whenever a local hits a home run. The stadium also features statues of six Tiger greats, plus such open sightlines that during the 2005 All-Star Game, the riverfront Renaissance Center posted a visible sign indicating the “home run distance” from the ballpark to the top of the building at 4,612 feet.