Stadiums. Every team has one, but some are definitely better to visit than others. Kauffman Stadium is a jewel by most objective measures, but to me, of course, it is the best stadium in baseball. I cannot objectively rank the place where I attended my first Major League game, where formative memories of my childhood happened, where I hugged my dad after the most thrilling Wild Card game in history, and where I took my son to see his first World Series game.
I can, however, pass judgment on the rest of the ballparks I have visited. Here is my personal ranking of stadiums I have visited over the years. How many have you seen?
Major League Baseball stadiums I have visited
1. AT&T Field, San Francisco, California
The stadium lived up to the hype as a fun venue in a wonderful location nestled up to the bay. AT&T Field (known as Pac Bell Park when we visited back in 2002, which just happened to be this historic night) was one of the first stadiums I visited that allowed you to walk all the way around the stadium with several diversions to baseball beyond the outfield seating. There are playgrounds for the kids, and the view of McCovey Cove, but what got us was the assortment of foods offered. Forget peanuts and cracker jack, buy me some shrimp rolls and bento box.
2. Wrigley Field, Chicago, Illinois
The first time I went to Wrigley, there was a very old man wearing a "STEVENS" Cubs jersey who was kinda holding us up as people kept stopping to greet him. I thought it was odd that he had chosen one-time Cubs middle reliever Dave Stevens as his jersey of choice, but hey, its a free country. Later on, the Wrigley Field PA announcer welcomed Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, and the old man who had held us up waved from his suite. It occurred to me how sad it is that one of the nine people that determine the legality of our laws and uphold our rights is less recognizable to me than a reliever with a career 6.02 ERA, but it probably explains why I finished in the bottom half of my class in law school.
3. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland
Before D.C. had a team, I drove up to Baltimore for a few games when I lived in the area. The stadium was showing some age but had held up reasonable well and was actually a bit of a pleasant surprise. The crabcakes there were terrible (great elsewhere in Baltimore), but the Esskay hot dogs were probably the best ballpark dogs I've had.
4. Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan
When people talk about scary ol' Detroit, they don't mean the area around Comerica Park, which is actually quite nice and includes NFL stadium Ford Field, the Detroit Opera House, and the historic Fox Theater, as well as a number of good sports bars. Comerica Park also features a nice skyline of downtown Detroit including the GM Building. However, despite being just fifteen years old, the stadium is already showing its age, much like the team itself.
5. Citizens Bank Ballpark, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I was surprised to find out that the Phillies play in a semi-suburban sports complex that also houses an NFL stadium, much like the Truman Sports Complex. The ballpark was shiny and new when I visited a decade ago, but it also felt rather antiseptic and character-less. I'm sure it is a huge upgrade over miserable old Veterans Stadium, but there is absolutely nothing memorable about it. It is the Vincente Padilla of stadiums.
6. New Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
It is another fairly antiseptic stadium. They do have "Big Mac Land" in the upper deck, originally a nod to slugger Mark McGwire and a marketing ploy for McDonald's, but now it serves as a reminder that Mark McGwire was a cheating cheater who cheated. The skyline of downtown St. Louis is nice, but the rest of the stadium is rather forgettable. To be fair, if you think provel cheese tastes good on pizza, no one will accuse you of having quality aesthetics.
Major League Baseball stadiums I would most like to visit
1. PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This seems to top most lists, and the ballpark that sits on Pittsburgh's North Shore certainly look gorgeous on television. The Royals have not visited Pittsburgh since 2012, and if they return I would like to make a trip out of it, if nothing more than to visit Primanti Brothers for their stuffed sandwiches. In college, there was a place down the street from my apartment that ripped off the recipe and it was DA BOMB (that's what we said in central Ohio in the 90s).
2. Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts
My brother-in-law is from Boston and is a huge Red Sox fans so I imagine we'll take the kids and go with him some time once he stop sending me videos about how the NFL conspires against the New England Patriots.
3. Petco Park, San Diego, California
I feel like this is one of the more underrated parks in baseball. I love how they weren't allowed to bulldoze the Western Metal Building because it was on the register of Historic Buildings, so they said "screw it, we'll incorporate it as part of our stadium." We need more of that attitude in America today. MAKE BALLPARKS GREAT AGAIN.
4. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
Dodger Stadium is coming up on its 64th season of hosting Major League action, yet it doesn't seem to get the reverence other old stadiums get. I suppose everything in California seems kinda newish, but Dodger Stadium is actually the third-oldest stadium in the league behind only Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. It is in a weird location in Chavez Ravine, and isn't all that unique or architecturally marvelous, but it has hosted some of the most iconic moments in baseball from Sandy Koufax's perfect game to Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit World Series home run.
5. Marlins Park, Miami, Florida
Really, I just want to see that home run machine do its thing. WHEEEEEE!
Obsolete Major League Baseball Stadiums I have visited
1. Old Yankee Stadium, New York, New York
There is a reason they tore all these stadiums down, and its because they stunk. Like Yankee Stadium literally stunk, it smelled of years of urine caked onto the mystique and aura of 27 championships. There was a ton of history there, but its okay to wash history once in awhile, you know, keep it sanitary?
2. Old Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
For being a former NFL stadium, they didn't do a bad job retro-fitting it to baseball. However, when it comes down to it, it was still a multi-purpose stadium in St. Louis with barbed wire surrounding it.
3. RFK Stadium, Washington, DC
I lived in Washington for the inaugural season of Washington Nationals baseball. The Expos relocated to play in old RFK Stadium, a then-40 year old stadium that hadn't hosted a Major League season in over three decades. The Nationals seemed poorly-prepared to handle millions of baseball fans that year. Trying to find a concession booth with hot dogs and beer was a quest worthy of Indiana Jones. The old stadium was considered "quaint" because the lower stands would literally shake when fans jumped up and down. "YEAAAAH! WE ARE CAUSING A MAJOR SAFETY HAZARD AND WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE IN A HORRIBLE ACCIDENT! GO NATS!" But at least it was outdoors and you could get some fresh air, which leads us to....
4. The Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Imagine if someone took the ambiance of a dead shopping mall, combined it with the pace of 90s-era baseball, and shifted everyone's seat 45 degrees to the left so that they are facing the outfield instead of home plate, because FOOTBALL. That was the Metrodome experience. The Humbert H. Humphrey Metrodome is the only stadium that has hosted a World Series, Super Bowl, MLB All-Star Game and Final Four, and yet it was a monstrosity in every way. The stadium was as bland as the imagination necessary to name the place.
"We have a multipurpose stadium in Minnesota. What distinguishing aspect of our community should we name it after?"
"It is in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Let us name it the 'Metrodome."
"Here is your check for a lot of money. Thank you, marketing team."