December 29, 2010
Perhaps Mother Nature is dropping a hint that winter was not meant for outdoor sports. From coast to coast, blizzards, floods, and are wreaking havoc with football games.
Of course, the biggest problem was in Minneapolis earlier this month, when the roof at the Metrodome collapsed because of excessive snow on top. (You can watch a video of it at youtube.com.) The Minnesota Vikings had to play one "home" game in Detroit, and another such game at TCF Bank Stadium (on the nearby campus of the University of Minnesota) one week later. That required intensive digging and maintenance work to get the facility ready, because the Golden Gophers had already finished their season, and no more games were planned at the stadium. But still, the Vikings lost. Then this weekend the east coast was hit by a blizzard, forcing the Vikings-Eagles game in Philadelphia to be postponed for two days, while snow was removed from Lincoln Financial Field. It was the first time since 1946 that an NFL game was held on Tuesday! Lo and behold, the Vikings pulled out of their nosedive and beat the heavily favored home team, as injured veteran Brett Favre sat on the sidelines.
On the other side of the Keystone State, the NHL's annual outdoor "classic" is scheduled to take place on New Year's Day at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rain is in the forecast, however, and that would force a delay or postponement. Last year, Fenway Park hosted that outdoor hockey event.
In San Diego, torrential rains resulted in floods and landslides last week, and the field at QualComm Stadium was totally covered with at least a foot of water. The surrounding parking lots were one big lake. It was a minor miracle that they were able to play the Poinsettia Bowl as scheduled last Thursday evening. San Diego State beat Navy, 35-14. That was an appropriate matchup, since the U.S. Navy has a huge presence in San Diego harbor. Heck, they could have have used some of their hovercraft to cope with the flood waters at the stadium!
So what other stadiums are at risk of getting flooded out? During the 20th Century, Crosley Field and Milwaukee County Stadium both suffered such a fate, as well as Pittsburgh's Exposition Park in 1902. Right next door to that same spot on the banks of the Allegheny River sits the Pirates' gleaming new home, PNC Park, which is protected by a flood wall. Coincidentally, I recently posted a slightly revised diagram that includes detail on the peripheral buildings and other things, along with a new "super-sized" full-view version diagram. Enjoy!
Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller succumbed to illness just before Christmas, about a month after entering a hospice facility. See the Washington Post. Once the weather clears up, baseball fans passing through Iowa should make a point to stop at the Bob Feller Museum, which I visited in August 2004. It's in the town of Van Meter, west of Des Moines, just off Interstate 80.
As a reminder of that little-known ballpark where Feller's career got started, I have updated the League Park page, with two revised diagrams. Thanks to the research of ballpark expert Ron Selter, I learned that the diamond was rotated about two degrees counter-clockwise, which helps account for some nagging anomolies. Photos sent to me by Bruce Orser were also extremely useful in getting the details just right. For example, I am now almost certain that there were 17 rows (tightly packed) in the upper deck, which had unusually high entry tunnels. I also nailed down several puzzles about the early configuration of League Park, but I'm still not sure when they added the extra rows of box seats.
And speaking of Cleveland, anyone in need of a good laugh should read "The Greatest Letter Ever Printed On NFL Team Letterhead" at deadspin.com. As they say, "Brevity is the soul of wit." Hat tip to Facebook friend Bruce Bartlett.
Today the University of Maryland Terrapins football team beat Eastern Carolina in the Military Bowl, held at good old RFK Stadium in Our Nation's Capital. It was good to see a football gridiron on the field where the Redskins used to play.
Sports Illustrated recently had a great two-page panoramic photo of the Notre Dame-Army football game held in New Yankee Stadium on November 20. I noticed a few minor discrepancies with my diagram, so I have updated the New Yankee Stadium page. Speaking of which, the Kansas State Wildcats will face the Syracuse Orange in the inaugural "New Era Pinstripe Bowl."
Finally, speaking of The Bronx, some of you may have noticed that I put a "work in progress" diagram on the (original) Yankee Stadium page; it's the 1952 version. A recent conversation with John Pastier reminded me that my previous estimate of the upper deck slope (about 34 degrees) was not steep enough. After squinting at a variety of photos and drawings found on the Internet, I can tell it was actually more like 37 degrees. Furthermore, I have found that the upper decks in some other Classic Era ballparks were steeper than I had thought, most notably Shibe Park.
In the real world of baseball, earlier this month, the Washington Nationals decided to trade outfielder Josh Willingham to the Oakland Athletics, in exchange for outfielder Corey Brown and relief pitcher Henry Rodriguez. And thus ends the power-packed middle-lineup (Zimmerman, Dunn, Willingham) for the Nationals; only the Z-man is left of that trio. Nats general manager Mike Rizzo claims that money was not the issue, but I have my doubts. Willingham will become a free agent after next year, and his poor health this year further reduced his value, as the owners see things. He only played in 114 games this year, batting a disappointing .268 and hitting just 15 home runs. See .
Here's what the issue should be: building a solid cadre of players who perform top-notch and have a winning attitude, and keeping them together long enough to form a tight bond. I'm afraid the Lerner family which owns the Nationals may be following the misguided path of the Washington Redskins, whose wealthy owner Dan Snyder keeps spending gazillions of dollars on big-name players and coaches, dumping those who don't satisfy his expectations, and keeping the organization in perpetual chaos and uncertainty. I suppose the culture of Washington encourages throwing money at problems without thinking in practical terms how to achieve the goal, but that's no way to run a sports team!
More recently, the Nationals signed veteran outfielder (and former pitcher!) Rick Ankiel to a one-year contract. See MLB.com. It seems to be a low-risk move with a big potential payoff, rather like when the Nats signed Dmitri Young back in 2006, or Pudge Rodriguez last year. Ankiel hit a "splash" home run in AT&T Park to help the Braves beat the Giants in the NLDS (see Oct. 9), and even though his best days are probably behind him, he could still surprise us. He played with the Cardinals for almost his whole career, but difficulty in recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2003 caused him to miss all of 2005 and 2006, when the Cards won the World Series!), prior to his "resurrection" as a fine-hitting outfielder in 2007.
Also, Sean Burnett avoided arbitration by signing a two-year, $3.7 million extension contract with the Nats. He was a key part of the Nats' much-improved bullpen this year, and I'm glad he'll be returning in 2011.
Finally, I must apologize for the unusually long holiday hiatus, folks. Between end-of-semester grading chores and Christmas preparations, I have had almost no free time. Well, actually, I have been squeezing in a few hours here and there, burning the proverbial midnight oil with diagram updates. Some of those you'll be seeing very soon...