Ball Parks I have known
By John Ring
The Zephyr, Galesburg
While taking a riverboat down the Ohio River, a parking lot and a seldom-visited museum sits where Riverfront Stadium once stood. Built in 1970, the Reds moved to Riverfront from Crosley Field. And after Riverfront was demolished, its successor--- Great American Ball Park—was built just to the east.
Cincinnati and PeoriaÕs riverfronts are identical; thereÕs been lots of talk about developing it over the years but nothing has ever been done. Instead, East Peoria and Kentucky towns like Covington and Newport have spurred growth (and tax dollars) with new restaurants, hotels, a riverboat and shops.
Peoria has done little or nothing. Cincinnati built an Underground Railroad Museum, a decision that was met with much skepticism by Hamilton County taxpayers who now subsidize it because of dismal attendance and little interest. ItÕs been a bust, a colossal failure and is symbolic of how bad the riverfront is in Cincinnati.
IÕve been to about a dozen games at the new ballpark. Funny thing is, I canÕt recall one memorable thing about any of them. ThatÕs partly because the Reds have been so bad the last few years. Their performance rivals the peak of bad teams they had back in the 1930s.
But Riverfront Stadium was different.
That was where I saw Hank Aaron hit a home run and Nolan Ryan register his 3000th strikeout.
That was where I saw Mario Soto pitch and Johnny Bench catch.
That was where I met Marty Brennaman and Marge Schott. ItÕs where I talked to Joe Nuxhall, Tom Browning and Eric Davis.
Riverfront is just one of 17 baseball parks IÕve been to; some have been torn down, others are antiquated and some are new. But most of them provide some special memories for me, and as well for most of you.
The park may not have changed over the years but the fans have. The first few times I went to Wrigley, fans were mostly middle-class and blue collar workers. Tickets were easy to get. When Ernie Banks hit his 500th career home run on May 12, 1970 against the Atlanta Braves it was witnessed by a total of 5,243 fans. In the 1980s, it became the venue of jet-setters with cell phones and in business suits. ItÕs now fashionable to be a Cubs fan and adore Wrigley Field and its horse-trough urinals, $25 parking fees and steel girders that obstruct your view. The Bleacher Bums are long gone.
The Õ69 Cubs and Ron Santo. Watching the 2003 playoffs against the Braves and Marlins. A Willie Stargell home run that must have landed somewhere in Wisconsin off Dennis Lamp. Shawon Dunston striking out at pitches in the dirt. The smooth batting stroke of Mark Grace. Rude ushers. Lots of good looking girls.
Busch Stadium I
This used to be my favorite ballpark. You could get a box seat for six bucks. I had a front row seat by the visiting bullpen one game and the bullpen phone rang constantly; the Cardinals beat the Astros 11-1. I gave words of encouragement to each Houston pitcher that went in and then they got shelled.
And while not a Cardinal fan, the good times included--- watching Bob Gibson pitch, Lou Brock steal bases, Ozzie taking the field at shortstop, Whitey Herzog physically grabbing Garry Templeton off the field after failing to run out a ground ball and a Pete Rose hit ball that bounced off my wrist. Meeting Jack Buck and Bob Costas. (Costas is a little guy but not a midget. I donÕt care what Barry Bonds says. Plus, heÕs a nice guy). I watched Gibson get his 3000th strikeout, the victim was Reds centerfielder Caesar Geronimo. He was also RyanÕs 3000th victim. Clearly, Geronimo was in the right place at the right time.
Another one of my favorites. This was more like going into a neighborhood bar. No suits here. I donÕt care for The Cell and long for Comiskey. I went to lots of games when Harry Carey broadcasted there with Jimmie Piersall. The Sox didnÕt have great teams but they were always entertaining. Seats were easy to get and you were close to the field.
South Side girls had nothing on the Wrigley set. Going to Comiskey was a good time, plain and simple. It was a night out with the guys.
The Astrodome: J.R. Richard. Bad uniforms. Astro Turf. The best pitchers dual I ever saw was when Richard and Tom Seaver went at it in a 2-1 Cincinnati win over the Astros.
Royals Stadium: Brett, Saberhagen and McRae. Don Denkinger. Jim Sundberg winning a World Series. Water fountains. A clean, sterile park. You felt guilty messing it up with peanut shells.
The Metrodome: Kirby Puckett, before his image was tarnished. Hankies. Teflon. Padded walls. Hubert Humphrey.
Yankee Stadium: Money. Pricey beer. History. Rowdy fans. Tough fans. Demanding fans.
Dodger Stadium: Dodger Dogs and Vin Scully. Quiet crowds. Subdued crowds. Laid back crowds. Steve Sax almost hit for the cycle one of the nights I was there. Bulldog pitched a game the other night I was there.
Tiger Stadium: Bad neighborhood. The Tiger uniforms. Ernie Harwell. Meeting Sparky Anderson and chatting for about 20 minutes. Whitaker and Trammel.
County Stadium (Milwaukee): The brats. Smell of the brats. Bud Selig. Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Where Sundberg played.