Tagged: Ballparks

Name that Ballpark, Part IV


By Glen Sparks

Test your ballpark knowledge with this quiz. You’ll find the answers at the bottom.

  1. No pitcher ever threw a no-hitter in any of the more than 4,700 games played at this ballpark, which opened in 1909.
  2. This ballpark, opened in 1912, replaced Palace of the Fans and was nicknamed The Old Boomerang due to its unusual V shape from behind home plate and down the lines.
  3. This memorable ballpark, long-since demolished, was built in an area of the city called Pigtown.
  4. Workers were still putting in extra seats to accommodate fans on opening day 1969 at this ballpark , a converted minor-league venue.
  5. This ballpark hosted a 26-inning marathon on May 1, 1926. The game ended in a 1-1 tie. … Some people called this park “The Bee Hive.”
  6. Willie Mays played his final game as a San Francisco Giant at this ballpark on May 9, 1972. He hit a single as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning.
  7. Motorcyclist Evel Knievel jumped over 13 cars two nights in a row at this ballpark in January of 1971. There was talk that he might even try a jump over the entire stadium.
  8. A 17-year-old Bob Feller struck out 17 batters in a game played at this ballpark on Sept. 13, 1936.
  9. Lou Gehrig smashed four consecutive home runs at this ballpark on June 3, 1932. The Yankees won 20-13.
  10. Carl Hubbell struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession at an All-Star game hosted by this ballpark in 1934.
  • Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.
  • Redland Field, later called Crosley Field, in Cincinnati.
  • Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.
  • Sick’s Stadium in Seattle.
  • Braves Field in Boston.
  • Jarry Park in Montreal.
  • The Astrodome in Houston.
  • League Park in Cleveland.
  • Shibe Park in Philadelphia.
  • The Polo Grounds in New York City.

There used to a ballpark where?

Just more than 6.700 fans attended the final Dodgers game at Ebbets Field, Sept. 24, 1957. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Just more than 6.700 fans attended the final Dodgers game at Ebbets Field, Sept. 24, 1957. (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

By Glen Sparks

Tim McCarver, the former catcher and long-time talkative baseball analyst, cleared his throat on a broadcast the other day and recited a few lines from the song “There Used to be a Ballpark.”

And the summer went so quickly this year.

Yes, there used to be a ballpark here.

Joe Raposo wrote this nostalgic ditty. (Raposo also composed the Kermit the Frog anthem “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green” and “C is for Cookie” for Sesame Street. He wrote the theme song to the 1970s sitcom Three’s Company and Halloween Is Grinch Night. Raposo, who died of died of cancer in 1989 at the age of 52, was a talented guy.)

Legendary crooner Frank Sinatra recorded “There Used to be a Ballpark” for his 1973 album Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back. The album soared nearly to the Top 10 on the Billboard chart.

Anyway, McCarver insisted that the song laments the demolition of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, home of the Dodgers, and the loss of baseball in that proud borough following the 1957 season. From what I’ve read, that seems to be a popular opinion. It fits in with the old-fashioned feelings of baseball, Brooklyn and the Bums. Producers of The Brooklyn Dodgers: Ghosts of Flatbush used “There Used to be a Ballpark” in that HBO documentary.

Supposedly, though, Raposo told retired yackmaster Larry King that the song is about the Polo Grounds, the old home of the New York Giants, located in upper Manhattan. The article that mentions this does not offer any sources, however. (This accompanying YouTube video takes a decided pro-Ebbets stance on this issue.)

Now the children try to find it.

And they can’t believe their eyes

‘Cause the the old team just isn’t playing,

And the new one hardly tries.

Ebbets Field hosted its final Dodgers home game on Sept. 24, 1957. The Dodgers knocked off the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 in front of 6,702 dedicated fans. Soon after, Brooklyn’s beloved team left for the sunshine of Los Angeles and the Memorial Coliseum.

A wrecking ball finally crashed—again and again–into Ebbets Field in the late winter of 1960. This most romanticized of ballparks, christened on April 9, 1913, sat in rubble. The Ebbets Field Apartments (later renamed the Jackie Robinson Apartments) opened in 1962.

Northwest of Brooklyn, up near famous Coogan’s Bluff in Washington Heights, sat the Polo Grounds. Built in 1890 as the third park named the Polo Grounds (and, yes, designed to play the game of polo), this oval-shaped stadium hosted Giants baseball and football games for decades.

The Polo Grounds opened in 1890 as a site for polo pony matches.

The Polo Grounds opened in 1890 as a site for polo pony matches.

Baseball attendance at the cavernous Polo Grounds (The Grounds expanded to 55,000 seats by 1923.) rarely met the expectations of ambitious owners. In 1947, average attendance topped 20,000 fans (just barely at 20,790) for the first and only time. By 1956, yearly attendance slipped to 629,179 (8,171 fans per game). Owner Horace Stoneham decided to follow Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley to California. His team also left after the 1957 campaign, bound for windy, cosmopolitan San Francisco.

So, which stadium was it? Ebbets or the Polo Grounds? The song may offer a few clues. Some lyrics remain ambiguous, though, perhaps purposely so. These words, for instance, probably describe any fun day at the ballpark of your choice:

And the people watched in wonder

How they’d laugh and how they’d cheer.

But what about these aforementioned lyrics?

‘Cause the the old team just isn’t playing,

And the new one hardly tries.

The old team just isn’t playing. Neither team was playing at its old park by time Sinatra sang Ramposo’s song. And the new one hardly tries. Well, this is interesting. The Polo Grounds sat mostly vacant for the first few years following the Giants’ flight to the west coast. (The NFL’s Giants took their football and exited for Yankee Stadium in 1956.) The expansion-club New York Mets moved in for the 1962 season and promptly became a 40-120 laughingstock. And the new one hardly tries.

In 1964, workers gathered at the Polo Grounds. They brought the same wrecking ball that pummeled Ebbets Field. Painted to look like a baseball, this instrument made a quick wreck out of the Polo Grounds.

Yes, there used to be a ballpark here.

Maybe the song really is about the Polo Grounds. Or, yes, Ebbets Field. Maybe it is simply about that sense of nostalgia that we all carry. Maybe it is about every long-ago, long-lamented field of play.

Name that ballpark, Part III

This is the answer to No. 9.

This is the answer to No. 9.

By Glen Sparks

Test your ballpark knowledge with this quiz. You’ll find the answers at the bottom.

  1. The Baltimore Orioles’ Jim Gentile smashed grand-slam home runs in consecutive innings at this ballpark on May 9, 1961.
  2. This remodeled stadium opened April 15, 1976.
  3. New York Yankees second baseman Tony Lazzeri drove in 11 runs on May 24, 1936, at this ballpark.
  4. The new owner grabbed the public address system mic at this ballpark in 1974 and told fans: “This is the most stupid ball playing I’ve ever seen.”
  5. St. Louis Cardinals great Stan Musial doubled for his 3,000th career hit on May 13, 1958, at this ballpark.
  6. Lenny Randle blew a soft grounder into foul territory at this ballpark on May 27, 1981.
  7. Johnny Vander Meer recorded his second straight no-hitter while pitching at this ballpark on June 15, 1938.
  8. A game at this ballpark lasted 21 innings on July 17, 1914, and both starting pitchers—Rube Marquard and Charles “Babe” Adams—went the distance.
  9. This ballpark opened at the intersection of Findlay Street and Western Avenue on April 11, 1912.
  10. Detroit Tigers first baseman Walt Dropo recorded seven straight hits at this ballpark in 1952.
  • Metropolitan Stadium in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Gentile, also known as “Diamond Jim,” belted 179 home runs over his nine-year career. The first baseman enjoyed his best season in 1961. He set career highs in most categories, including home runs (46), RBI (a league-leading 141), batting average (.302), on-base percentage (.423) and slugging percentage (.646). The lefty hitter also hit five grand slams that season. On May 9, 1961, against the Minnesota Twins, Gentile blasted slams off Pedro Ramos and Paul Giel, one in the first inning and one in the second. The Orioles won 13-5. Gentile drove in nine runs total.
  • Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Yankee Stadium, the famous House that Ruth built, opened April 18, 1923. By the early 1970s, things were getting a bit old and creaky. New York played the 1974 and ’75 seasons at Shea Stadium, home of the Mets, as workers completed $160 million in renovations to the old House.  The remodeled park opened in time for the 1976 season, the year the Yankees won their first pennant since 1964.
  • Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Tony Lazzeri batted .292 and hit 178 home runs during a 14-year career. He enjoyed his greatest day as a player on May 24, 1936. The Yanks pummeled the A’s 25-2. Lazzeri, batting eighth, went 4-for-5 with a homer, a triple and two singles. The Veteran’s Committee elected Lazzeri to the Hall of Fame in 1991.
  • San Diego Stadium. Ray Kroc built McDonald’s into a fast-food empire. The multi-millionaire retired from the hamburger business in 1974 and bought the San Diego Padres, which began as an expansion squad in 1969. Kroc rescued the team but could do little to stop the sloppy play.
  • Wrigley Field in Chicago. Musial knocked a pinch-hit off the Cubs’ Moe Drabowsky for his 3,000th career hit. He became the eighth player in big league history to reach that mark and the first since Paul Waner in 1941. Stan the Man retired with 3,630 hits–1,815 at home and 1,815 on the road.
  • The Kingdome in Seattle. Kansas City Royals outfielder Amos Otis hit a slow roller down the third-base line in the sixth inning. Randle, playing at third for the Mariners, huffed and puffed and blew the ball foul. Plate umpire Larry McCoy initially ruled the ball foul. Following an argument from Kansas City manager Jim Frey, McCoy reversed his call and awarded Otis first base.
  • Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Vander Meer, a wild-armed young lefty out of New Jersey, hurled a no-hitter on June 11, 1938, against the Boston Braves at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. He struck out four and walked three. Four days later, he walked eight, struck out seven and no-hit the Dodgers in the first night game ever played at Ebbets Field. The four-time All-Star pitched 13 seasons in the majors and compiled a 119-121 career mark.
  • Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Pitchers back in the day were famous for their rubber arms. Even so, this game at Forbes Field was one for the ages. Marquard, starting for the Giants, gave up 15 hits but just one run over his 21 innings. He walked two and struck out two. Adams, starting for the Pirates, gave up three runs. He scattered 12 hits, didn’t walk a batter and fanned six.
  • Crosley Field in Cincinnati. League Park opened at Findlay and Western in 1884 and hosted ballgames until it burned down in 1900. A new park, also known as League Park (a.k.a., Palace of the Fans) opened soon after that. Crosley, a park made of concrete and steel, debuted for the 1912 season and lasted nearly 60 years. The last major league game was played there on June 23, 1970. Riverfront Stadium opened June 30.
  • Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Dropo went 4-for-4 in the first game of a doubleheader on July 15 at Griffith Stadium. He recorded hits in his first three at-bats of Game 2 and went 4-for-5. “Moose” Dropo did all that after getting five hits in five at-bats on July 14 at Yankee Stadium.


The Sporting News: Take Me Out to the Ballpark

Lost Ballparks

Name that ballpark, Part II


By Glen Sparks

Test your ballpark knowledge with this quiz. You’ll find the answers at the bottom.

  1. Fifteen-year-old Joe Nuxhall made his major league debut at this ballpark on June 10, 1944.
  2. Bob Cain and Bob Feller hurled one-hitters on April 23, 1952, in a pitching duel for the ages at this ballpark.
  3. The new owner addressed the crowd over the p.a. system at this ballpark on April 9, 1974. He said, “That is the most stupid ball playing I’ve ever seen.”
  4. A gust of wind blew Stu Miller off the mound during the 1961 All-Star game at this ballpark.
  5. The Washington Senators’ Tom Cheney struck out 21 opposing batters in a 16-inning game played at this ballpark on Sept. 12, 1962.
  6. Wally Berger hit a grand-slam home run at this ballpark on the final day of the 1933 season.
  7. Vic Power stole home twice during a game played Aug. 14, 1958, at this ballpark.
  8. Willie Stargell blasted a home run estimated at 535 feet during a game at this ballpark on May 20, 1978.
  9. Carl Hubbell tossed a 1-0 shutout in an 18-game played at this ballpark on July 2, 1933.
  10. Two baseballs were in play at the same time at this ballpark on June 30, 1959.

Crosley Field in Cincinnati. Nuxhall, a left-hander from Hamilton, Ohio, pitched in that one lone game in 1944. He went 2/3 of an inning against the St. Louis and gave up five runs, all earned. That was it until 1952, when he came back for the Reds. Nuxhall spent 16 seasons in the majors. He compiled a 135-117 career won-loss record and made two All-Star teams. The Ol’ Left-hander, as some called him, later worked as a beloved Reds broadcaster.

Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Cain, a journeyman pitcher for the Browns and other teams, actually got the better of future Hall of Famer Feller in this game. Cain’s Browns beat the Cleveland Indians 1-0. Cain struck out seven, while Feller fanned five

San Diego Stadium. Ray Kroc retired as CEO of the McDonald’s hamburger chain and bought the San Diego Padres in 1974. A stadium crowd of 39,083 supposedly cheered the new owner’s brassy words. The Padres lost that game 9-5 to the Houston Astros and finished in last place in ’74, going 60-102.

Candlestick Park in San Francisco. The ‘stick, since demolished, was famous for its cold winds that whipped up in the evening off San Francisco Bay. Miller, 5-feet-11 and a slender 165 pounds, was called for balk in the ninth inning following the harsh breeze.

Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. Cheney only topped the 100-strikeout mark once time, fanning 147 in 1962. He retired with a 19-29 won-loss record over nine seasons with the Senators and other clubs. The right-hander from Georgia tossed the game of his life on Sept. 12, 1962. He beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-1. No one, before or since, has struck out 21 batters in a major league game.

Braves Field in Boston. Berger, a centerfielder, slugged 242 home runs in 11 seasons and led the American League with 34 in 1935. His grand slam for the Braves on Sept. 30, 1932, against the Philadelphia Phillies, clinched fourth place for Boston, the team’s first finish in the first division since 1921.

Municipal Stadium in Cleveland. Power, one of the early star players from Puerto Rico, played for the Indians from 1958-61. Known as a solid hitter and fancy fielder at first base, Power enjoyed a 12-year career in the majors. He only stole 45 bases in his career and was caught 35 times. On Aug. 14, 1958, Power took his lead off third base in the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers. He sprinted home and was safe easily. He made his second steal of home in the 10th inning. This time, he slid under catcher Charlie Lau to score the winning run.

Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Stargell belted 475 home runs in his Hall of Fame career, all of it spent with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit many titanic shots, including two onto the Dodger Stadium parking lot. His clout in Montreal is considered the longest homer ever hit at Olympic Stadium.

The Polo Grounds in New York. Hubbell, nicknamed The Meal Ticket, won 253 games for the Giants. The left-hander threw a screwball for the Giants and made nine All-Star teams en route to the Hall of Fame. On July 2, 1933, Hubbell essentially pitched two ballgames and beat the St. Louis Cardinals. Hubbell gave up six hits, struck out 12 and didn’t allow a walk. Tex Carleton went 16 innings for the Red Birds. Jesse Haines came on in relief and took the loss.

Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Cardinals and Cubs have played some crazy games through the years, including this one on June 30, 1959. Stan Musial stood at the plate with a 3-1 count. The next pitch evaded Cubs catcher Sammy Taylor and slipped to the backstop. Home plate umpire Vic Delmore called the pitch ball four. The Cubs, though, argued that Musial had foul tipped it. While the argument carried on, an alert Musial dashed for second. Cubs third baseman Alvin Dark grabbed the ball, which by then was in the hands of field announcer Pat Pieper. Umpire Delmore, though, flipped a new ball to catcher Taylor. Pitcher Bob Anderson grabbed the newest baseball and threw it to second base in a failed attempt to get out Musial. That throw ended up in centerfield. Dark, meanwhile, threw the original ball to Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks. By then, Musial was sprinting to third, unaware that Banks had a ball in his hand. The shortstop tagged out Stan. An inevitable delay followed. Finally, Musial was declared out. Not surprisingly, each team played the game under protest. The Cardinals quickly dropped theirs after winning 4-1. Nothing ever came of the Cubs’ protest. Just another day at the old ballpark.

Name that ballpark

This is the answer to No. 6.

This is the answer to No. 7.

By Glen Sparks

Test your ballpark knowledge with this quiz. You’ll find the answers at the bottom.

  1. The Cincinnati Reds’ Johnny Vander Meer tossed his second consecutive no-hitter at this ballpark on June 15, 1938.
  2. A game at this ballpark was called on account of rain June 15, 1976.
  3. A lone red seat in the right-field bleachers stands out at this ballpark.
  4. Bill Wambsganss pulled off the only unassisted triple play in World Series history at this ballpark.
  5. Just 80,922 fans attended games at this ballpark in 1935, the lowest mark for any MLB team in the 20th century.
  6. The last game at this ballpark was played Sept. 20, 1959. The home team lost 8-2 to its archrival.
  7. The Cleveland Indians’ Earl Averill ripped a line drive that hit St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean in the toe during the 1937 All-Star game at this ballpark.
  8. Washington Senators pitcher Tom Cheney struck out 21 batters in 16 innings at this ballpark on Sept. 12, 1962.
  9. Only 17,000 seats were in place for opening day at this ballpark in 1969.
  10. Four players have hit home runs completely out of this ballpark.
  • Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Vander Meer threw his first no-hitter on June 11 at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, against the Boston Braves.
  • The Astrodome in Houston. Heavy rain and flooding in the area prompted  cancellation of the Astros vs. Pittsburgh Pirates match-up.
  • Fenway Park in Boston. Ted Williams belted a home run that reached this seat (Section 42, Row 37, Seat 22) on June 9, 1946. The ball landed 502 feet from home plate, the longest homer in Fenway history, prompting the paint job.
  • League Park in Cleveland. Wambsganss played second base for the Indians/Naps. In Game 5 of the 1920 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, he caught Clarence Mitchell’s line drive for out No. 1, stepped on second base to retire Pete Kilduff for out No. 2 and tagged out Otto Miller for out No. 3.
  • Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. The Browns averaged a “crowd” of 1,051 fans per game for 77 home dates.
  • Seals Stadium in San Francisco. Opened in the city’s Mission District in 1931, the park hosted Pacific Coast League (PCL) action for most of its existence. The DiMaggio brothers, “Lefty” Gomez, Joe Cronin and many others future major leaguers played for the Seals. The stadium hosted Giants games in 1958 and ’59. Workers demolished Seals Stadium in November 1959.
  • Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. The smash broke Dean’s toe. The talented and eccentric hurler tried pitching again before the toe was healed and altered his pitching motion, doing permanent damage to his arm.
  • Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. The Senators beat the Orioles 2-1. Cheney supposedly threw 228 pitches. Cheney pitched eight seasons in the majors and went 19-29 lifetime.
  • Sick’s Stadium in Seattle. The long-time minor-league park hosted the Seattle Pilots for the team’s one and only season. Many fans had to wait on opening day as more seats were added to Sick’s. In 1970, the Pilots moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers.
  • Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Willie Stargell mashed the first ball out of Dodger Stadium, Aug. 6, 1969. The Pittsburgh Pirates slugger did it again on My 8, 1973. Mike Piazza, the only Dodgers player to ever clear the stadium, blasted his long ball Sept. 21, 1997. Mark McGwire launched one for the St. Louis Cardinals on May 22, 1999. Most recently, Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins hit a ball onto the parking lot May 12, 2015.


Comiskey Park–What a Dump

Vomiskey Park, opened on this date in 1901, served as home of the White Sox until 1991.

Comiskey Park, opened on this date in 1901, served as home of the White Sox until 1991./Johnmaxmena photo

By Glen Sparks

Luke Appling, the great Chicago White Sox shortstop, thought he felt a rock underneath his feet at Comiskey Park, circa 1935.

He kicked at the dirt a few times. What was it? Well, it wasn’t a rock. It was an antique. Appling saw the top of an old black-and-white teakettle, buried in the infield dirt.

Appling called timeout and reported the problem. Grounds crew workers ran onto the field, uncovered the kettle and filled in the hole. Play resumed.

What was up? Well, Charles Comiskey, the club’s owner, had purchased an old city dump in 1909. On that site, he would build a ballpark, he promised, a new home for the White Sox. The park would be a concrete-and-steel structure, meant to replace the rickety and wooden South Side Park, less than a decade old but already past its prime (located at 39th Street—now Pershing Road–between South Wentworth and Princeton avenues).

Comiskey, a parsimonious sort, set up a speedy construction schedule. He wanted his White Sox out of South Side Park as quickly as possible. South Side only held 15,000 fans, not nearly enough, Comiskey thought, for a team as talented as Chicago. The White Sox won the American League pennant in 1901 and 1906 and almost always battled for first place.

Maybe, though, Comiskey set a schedule that was a bit too ambitious. Workers didn’t spend enough time clearing all the odds and ends—including black-and-white teakettles—from the site.

Anyway, White Sox Park opened on July 1, 1910, at 324 W. 35th St. The park, renamed for Comiskey a few years later, sat 32,000 fans. Patrons enjoyed a double-decked grandstand and two roofed single-deck pavilions to go along with 7,000 wooden bleachers in right field and left field. Both foul lines ran 362 feet from home plate; the center-field fence stood 420 feet from home. It was a big park, built for pitchers.

The White Sox lost that first game 2-0 to the St. Louis. They struggled to 68-85 in 1910 under Manager High Duffy, 10 games worse than in 1909. It was the team’s worst finish since 1903 (60-77). First baseman Chick Gandil, a decade away from infamy as a leader in the 1919 Black Sox scandal, led the team with two home runs;  outfielder Patsy Dougherty drove in a team-high 43. On the mound,  spitballer Ed Walsh won 18, but lost 20. He sported a nifty AL-leading ERA of 1.27 (ERA+ 189).

Comiskey Park lasted as the home of the White Sox for nearly 81 years. Capacity increased to 52,000 in 1927 and was then lowered several times throughout the years, eventually to less than 44,000. The park hosted four World Series, some All-Star games, the Beetles on Aug. 20, 1965, and Disco Demolition Night on July 12, 1979. New Comiskey Park, built across the street from the old yard, opened in 1991 and was renamed U.S. Cellular Field in 2003.

South Side Park began hosting the Chicago American Giants of the Negro Leagues in 1911. Rube Foster, one of the giants of Negro League ball, renamed the park for his business partner John Schorling. The American Giants won the league championship in 1920-22 and 1926-27. Schorling Park went up in flames on Christmas Day 1940.

(Thank you to Lost Ballparks: A Celebration of Baseball’s Legendary Fields by Lawrence S. Ritter for details about South Side Park and Comiskey Park.)

Thank you to Johnmaxmena for taking the photo of Comiskey Park.

Miami’s Stanton Goes Way, Way Out of Dodger Stadium

Frederick Dennstedt photo/Only five home runs have ever been hit out of Dodger Stadium.  Giancarlo Stanton hit the most recent, Tuesday night.

Frederick Dennstedt photo/Only five home runs have ever been hit out of Dodger Stadium. Giancarlo Stanton hit the most recent, Tuesday night.

By Glen Sparks

Giancarlo Stanton blasted a pitch nearly to Silver Lake on Tuesday evening at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Stanton, a 6-foot-6-inch, 240-pound slugger for the Miami Marlins, belted an 85-mph cutter thrown by Dodger starter Mike Belsinger. The ball traveled 475 feet before landing beyond the stadium’s left-field pavilion, if it did in fact land at all.

Stanton, a hometown guy who graduated from Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks and who was recruited to play football by UCLA, joined a select group of players who have hit balls completely out of 53-year-old Chavez Ravine. Willie Stargell did it twice for the Pittsburgh Pirates, in 1969 and 1973. Mark McGwire did it once while playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1999. Mike Piazza did it the only time for the home team. He belted out a ball during his Dodger days, in 1997.

Incredibly, Stanton’s homer ranks just No. 3 on the 2015 tape-measure list. Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners hit a ball that went about eight feet farther. Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays hit one that beat Stanton’s homer by six feet. Stanton, meanwhile, once rocketed a baseball 494 feet, in the high-altitude of Denver’s Coors Field on Aug. 17, 2012. Last year, at sea level in Miami, he sent a baseball on a 484-foot ride.

Here is the question, though: How do the stats guys know just how far a home-run ball travels? I wrote a post April 17 about Mickey Mantle’s epic 1953 home run that he hit at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. Supposedly, the ball stopped 565 feet from home plate. Supposedly, the guy who relayed that figure to reporters used a tape measure to calculate the exact distance. Turns out, he didn’t.

Not surprisingly, stats guys these days use some high-tech gadgetry to measure homers. One system is known as “tale of the tape.” This estimates how far a ball would have gone had it not hit a seat or other obstruction. “Tale” requires using a detailed rendering of the stadium, one that includes measurements from a host of angles. The spotter marks the exact location of the landing point and also checks the elevation of that stadium section. He then must decide if the hit is a line drive (1.2), a normal fly (0.8) or a high fly (0.6) based up the arc of the ball.

The numbers help determine how many feet the ball would have traveled horizontally for each foot in elevation that the ball was hit above ground. So, let’s say the ball stops 410 feet from home plate. The formula is: (410 + {58 X .08}) = 456.4 feet.

The second measurement is known as “True Track.” With this, two camera follow the ball as it flies through the air. By using a virtual 3D grid of the ballpark, the cameras can calculate where the ball is in relation to the grid. Then, it’s a matter of calculating the position of the ball and the position of home plate on the grid. ESPN uses True Track, which like Tale of the Tape, estimates how far a ball would go if nothing had gotten into the way.

Stanton’s solo crush job (in an 11-1 loss) was his eighth home run of the season. He led the National League last year with 37 round-trippers despite missing the last few weeks of the season after getting hit in the face with a pitch. He has 162 home runs in his career and is only 25 years old. The odds seem good for Stanton to once again hit a pitch or two out of Dodger Stadium.

Indians Made Sure They Wouldn’t Get Burned

The wall in right-field at the new League Park stood 40 feet higher, taller than the Green Monster at Boston's Fenway Park.

The wall in right-field at the new League Park stood 40 feet higher, taller than the Green Monster at Boston’s Fenway Park.

By Glen Sparks

Ballparks made of wood posed at least one big problem. They didn’t take well to matches.

More than a few old wooden parks turned into kindling overnight. National League Park in Philadelphia burned to the ground in 1894. Fire broke out at Brooklyn’s Washington Park in 1889 and Cincinnati’s League Park in 1901. Several other parks, major league and minor, also went up in flames during this time.

Frank DeHaas Robinson, owner of the Cleveland Indians, didn’t take any chances. He upgraded League Park before the start of the 1910 season. Workers took out the wooden grandstand and installed a double-decked steel-and-concrete one.

Robinson, a street-car tycoon, built the original League Park in 1891. He put it at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 66th Street, a spot conveniently served by two of his trolley lines. On May 1, 1891, Cleveland, behind the great Cy Young, defeated Cincinnati 12-3 in front of a sellout crowd of 9,000 fans at game No. 1.

League Park, both the old and new versions, had some funky dimensions. Like most parks, it was built into the neighborhood. One saloon owner and two homeowners ensured that the park would not be symmetrical. The three decided not to sell; League was built around those sites.

The left-field foul pole stood a distant 375 feet from home plate. The right-field foul pole, much to the delight of left-handed pull hitters and to the dismay of pitchers, loomed just 290 feet from the plate, inviting any number of cheap-shot round-trippers every season.

Ernest S. Barnard, president of the Indians, made the new League a bit more challenging for hitters and a bit safer for pitchers. He ordered the installation of a 40-foot-high wall in right. (By comparison, the fabled Green Monster in left field at Boston’s Fenway Park stands just taller than 37 feet.)

On this date in 1910, the Indians played their first game in the renovated League Park. The home team shut out the Detroit Tigers 5-0. League would serve as the Indians’ home until they moved to Municipal Stadium full-time in 1947. (The team began playing part of its schedule at Municipal in 1932.)

League stood as an impressive red brick building in the Hough neighborhood for decades. Much of the park was demolished in 1951, although the NFL’s Cleveland Browns still used it as a practice field for many years. Now, the site is a public park. The restored ticket house features a baseball heritage museum, while a new artificial turf field hosts youth baseball and softball games.

Babe Ruth walloped his 500th home run at League Park. Joe DiMaggio hit in his 56th consecutive game there. Bob Feller struck out 17 batters at League when he was 17 years old, and Johnny Burnett collected nine hits at League during an 18-ininng game on July 10, 1932.

Wes Ferrell, one of the all-time great Cleveland pitchers, remembered what it was like seeing League Park for the first time, as a 19-year-old in 1927.

“Biggest thing I ever saw in my life,” he said in the book Lost Ballparks by Lawrence Ritter. “They called this a ballpark? I couldn’t believe it. Then I heard a little noise in the back of my mind: major league.”

Fenway Park Celebrates a Birthday Today

Mr. Schultz photo/Fenway Park in Boston opened on this date in 1912.

Mr. Schultz photo/Fenway Park in Boston opened on this date in 1912.

By Glen Sparks

The RMS Titanic sank in the north Atlantic on April 14-15, 1912. Just a few days after an iceberg ripped into the great ship, Fenway Park opened in Boston. Unlike the Red Sox, the Titanic collapsed just once.

Boston’s American League club began play in 1901 as the Americans. In 1908, owner John I. Taylor changed the team name to the Red Sox. The club has won 13 pennants and eight World Series, but also has suffered through plenty of heartbreak (Bucky “Bleeping” Dent in 1978, Aaron “Bleeping” Boone in 2003, etc.).

The Red Sox played their first game at Fenway on this day in 1912. They beat their future arch-rival, the New York Highlanders (later, the Yankees), 7-6 in 11 innings.

Fenway Park has hosted not just more than a century of baseball games, but also pro football (the Bulldogs, Redskins, Shamrocks, Yanks and Patriots at various times), pro soccer (the Beacons) and an NHL game on Jan. 1, 2010.

Great baseball players like Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Roger Clemens, Luis Tiant, Manny Ramirez and more have worn the Red Sox uniform.

Below, you can read more about Fenway Park. Happy birthday!

  • Fenway Park cost $650,000 to build. That is nearly $16 million in 2015 dollars. (The new Yankee Stadium, completed in 2009, cost $2.3 billion.) The park is located in the marshy Fens neighborhood. (A “fen” is a type of wetland.)
  • The Red Sox moved to Fenway Park from the Huntington Avenue American League Base Ball Grounds, which opened May 8, 1901.
  • Boston Mayor John F. Fitzgerald, grandfather of the future President Kennedy, threw out the first pitch at the ballpark’s first game.
  • Fenway Park is nearly 2 years older than Wrigley Field (originally Weeghman Park), which opened on the north side of Chicago on April 23, 1914.
  • Fenway Park was originally located at 24 Jersey St. In 1977, that section of Jersey was renamed Yawkey Way in honor of former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. The ballpark’s exact address is 4 Yawkey Way.
  • The Green Monster, the famous wall in left field, stands 37.167 feet tall and lies about 315 feet from home plate. Made of wood, the Monster is covered with hard plastic. Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, has a similar, but shorter, wall.
  • Fenway has just one red seat, located in the right-field bleachers (Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21). The seat commemorates a home run hit by Red Sox great Ted Williams on June 9, 1946. The round-tripper was measured at 502 feet.
  • Pesky’s Pole is the right-field foul pole at Fenway. Officially, it is just 302 feet from home plate, but many players (pitchers, especially) insist it is even closer. It is named for the former light-hitting Boston shortstop Johnny Pesky, who wrapped a game-winning home run around the pole in 1948. Pesky hit just 17 homers in his career.
  • The scoreboard, added in 1934, is still operated by hand and is located at the bottom of the Green Monster in left field. Supposedly, large, scary rodents sometimes scurry about the place.
  • Seats were added above the Green Monster before the start of the 2003 season. Get your tickets early. That section, just like most sections at Fenway, sells out fast.

Cincinnati Built a Palace for Its Fans … Ted Played Two at Shibe Park in ‘41

The so-called Palace of the Fans in Cincinnati hosted Reds games from 1902-1911.

The so-called Palace of the Fans in Cincinnati hosted Reds games from 1902-1911.

By Glen Sparks

So, how did you do on this wintry edition of Which Old Ballpark? Check out the answers below. (I posted the quiz yesterday.)

1.  Braves Field in Boston. Owner James Gaffney purchased the old Allston Golf Course in early 1914. Several cave-ins plagued construction of Braves Field, including one during a game that sank the shortstop area by eight inches. The park opened Aug. 18, 1915, late in the season.

2.  Navin Field in Detroit. Tigers’ owner Frank Navin named the steel-and-concrete ballpark after himself. The park opened April 20, 1912. Walter Briggs later bought the team from Navin and subsequently re-named the park Briggs Stadium. Located at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull avenues, the park became Tiger Stadium in 1968 under the ownership of John Fetzer.

3.  West Side Park in Chicago (also called West Side Grounds). The park opened June 6, 1885. Thanks in part to the trio of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance, the Cubs (actually, the White Stockings until 1907) were one of the great teams in the early National League. West Side hosted games until the Cubs moved into Wrigley Field (first called “Weeghmann Park) in 1916.

4.  Palace of the Fans in Cincinnati. The Reds had been playing at Redland Field, which was destroyed by fire in 1901. After being rebuilt, the park was dubbed, boastfully, Palace of the Fans. It opened April 17, 1902. It may have been a palace, but it wasn’t fireproof. A blaze broke out in 1911, doing major damage. When the park re-opened in 1912, it was more humbly called again, Redland Field.

5.  Municipal Stadium in Cleveland. This cavernous ballpark replaced League Park. Workers completed the structure on July 1, 1931, taking just 370 days. The first sports event held at Municipal was a world heavyweight boxing match between Max Schmeling and Young Stribling on July 3, 1931. The German fighter Schmeling recorded a 15-round TKO over Stibling, who hailed from rural Georgia.

6.  Hilltop Park in New York City. They were the Hilltoppers before they were the Yankees. They also played in Manhattan, on Broadway between 165th and 168th streets, before they moved to the Bronx. Hilltop Park opened April 30, 1903. The team became the Yankees in 1913.

7.  Shibe Park in Philadelphia (also known as Connie Mack Stadium). The park opened April 12, 1909. Ted Williams went into the last day of the season batting .39955, which would have been rounded up to .400. Manager Joe Cronin asked Teddy Ballgame if he wanted to play, or risk having his average drop below .400. Heck, yeah, I want to play Williams said. He would not deserve the recognition for batting .400 if he sat out the games, he said.

8.  Recreation Park in Pittsburgh. Recreation Park was actually an up-to-date version of the old Union Park, an earlier home for Pittsburgh’s baseball team (then known as the Alleghenies). Recreation Park was located on the north side of the city and replaced Exposition Park, or Old Expo, as the Alleghenies’ home. The Alleghenies became the Pirates in 1912, three years after moving to Forbes Field.

9.  American League Park in Washington, D.C.   Located at 14th Street and Brandenburg Avenue NE, American League Park hosted the Senators for just two seasons. Present for the opening pitch, Adm. Dewey had led the destruction of the Spanish fleet in Manilla Bay during the Spanish-American War and is still famous for his command, “You may fire when ready, Gridley!” He is the only U.S. Navy officer to hold the title of Admiral of the Navy.

10.  Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Ebbets opened April 9, 1913, in the Crowns Heights neighborhood. Famous for its colorful signage, Ebbets also was known for its sym-phony, a group of off-key musicians who serenaded the fans and the home team.  If all went right, the sym-phony also drove the opposing team to distraction.

Dig the French Renaissance architecture at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.

Dig the French Renaissance architecture at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.