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December 1, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Arlington Stadium update

Arlington Stadium

After a tip from Terry Wallace about there being bullpen dugouts at Arlington Stadium (as opposed to mere benches which aren't worth rendering), I made some discoveries from some long-neglected photos and guess what? I ended up having to update the entire set of Arlington Stadium diagrams! (Familiar story?) It turns out that the bleachers built for football games extending along the first base line toward the right field corner remained there for most if not all of the 1972 season, when the Rangers first played there. Previously I had thought that they were replaced by permanent grandstand seating at the same time that the giant semi-circular bleachers stretching from foul pole to foul pole were built. In fact it might have been later than 1973 that the grandstand was upgraded. So, besides adding details to the bullpen areas, I made corrections to the positions of the scoreboard, some of the light towers, and some of the peripheral buildings, especially those on the northwest side behind home plate. (There were very few changes to the last diagram in that set, 1985.) There is also a new "the site today" diagram showing AT&T Way which passes straight through where Arlington Stadium once stood, on the way to AT&T Stadium, home of the Cowboys. It is the second such diagram for stadiums that no longer exist, the first being Riverfront Stadium. I had a rough idea of Arlington Stadium's location when I visited Globe Life Park in June 2014, but I came no closer than a couple blocks away from it when I took this photo:

Arlington pond, Convention Center

A pond (dammed-up stream, actually) next to Arlington Convention Center, taken from the north side of Globe Life Park on June 24, 2014. The Arlington Stadium bleachers would have been where that empty parking lot in back on the left is.

Anyway, Terry related a story from a friend that the bullpen dugouts were so deep that when Sparky Lyle was with the Rangers, he declared it a "submarine" and said he was the "captain." Tiger Stadium is another example of such bullpen dugouts, which minimize the sight obstruction to front-row fans near bullpens located along foul lines. It also prevents fans from bothering the relief pitchers. Wrigley Field used to have such bullpens without such dugouts, and AT&T Park still does. (Seats for the relief pitchers are behind an enclosure at ground level there.)

Athletics announce new ballpark!

It's not a 100% done deal, but it's a lot closer than any of the Oakland team's previous stadium schemes, such as in [Fremont] or San Jose. The Athletics announced on Friday that they plan to build a new ballpark on the Oakland waterfront at Howard Terminal near Jack London square. Two enormous (200+ feet tall) shipping cranes would be visible beyond right-center field, with the field being oriented toward the southeast. Best of all, the stadium would be funded entirely from private capital, only needing government support for infrastructure improvements such as a proposed gondola to carry fans across the railroad tracks to the nearby BART commuter rail station. Many details remain up in the air, of course. See MLB.com. Hat tip to Mike Zurawski. The team's new slogan "Rooted In Oakland" aims to make the commitment rock-solid. Apparently, a big part of the change in fortune was due to the office of the mayor of Oakland, Elizabeth "Libby" Schaaf. Evidently, she had to make a choice between trusting the NFL Raiders or the MLB Athletics as a long-term civic partner, and went with the latter. Hence, the Raiders' awkward departure to Las Vegas in the next couple years or so...

The design of the proposed stadium bears certain similarities to the home of the A's from 1909 until 1954, Shibe Park. But it has many unique features such as a rooftop park full of shrubs and small trees, which will supposedly be open to the public! It was designed by European architects who have no previous experience in designing baseball stadiums. Hmmm... See sfchronicle.com

For the record, the big capacity increase at Oakland Coliseum this year which I cited on Oct. 3 actually took place in April of 2017, just a few weeks after Opening Day. That's when they removed the tarps from the upper deck, and started selling cheap ($15) tickets to expand the fan base. It was evidently a goodwill gesture that played a part in getting help from the city government in overcoming obstacles to the unusual stadium deal at Howard Terminal. See mercurynews.com. The capacity figures I rely upon (Washington Post box scores) are evidently from the beginning of each season.

Angels opt out of lease?

While the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, and Seattle Mariners have all extended their stadium leases (see Oct. 25), the Los Angeles Angels opted out of their lease at Angels (Anaheim) Stadium in October. So, what, are they going to move back into Dodger Stadium as tenants again? No, they are obligated to remain there at least through next season. The lease terms specify that the Angels either opted out this year or wait ten more years (2028) for another such opportunity. One thing in the Angels' favor is their success at selling tickets: "Since 2003, the first season of Arte Moreno's ownership, the Angels and New York Yankees are the only major league teams to sell 3 million tickets every year." See latimes.com Outgoing mayor of Anaheim Tom Tait was against a deal to renovate Angel Stadium, but the mayor who was just elected seems more amenable to compromise. Thanks to Mike Zurawski for that news item as well.

Nats get Yan Gomes in trade

When the Washington Nationals acquired Kurt Suzuki last month, the question was whether he would serve as the Nats' "front-line" catcher, as Tom Boswell put it. Apparently not. The Nats made a trade with the Cleveland Indians to get catcher Yan Gomes, who is solid defensively and has a good bat. He hit 16 home runs and made the All Star roster this year. In return, the Nats gave up minor league outfielder Daniel Johnson and Jefry Rodriguez, who showed some promise as a starting pitcher in a few late-season games this year. See MLB.com and/or Washington Post. It's a very encouraging move, made perhaps more urgent by the fact that the Atlanta Braves just signed a contract with slugger Josh Donaldson. They seem intent on repeating as NL East champs.

The Nats are currently pursuing Diamondbacks pitcher Patrick Corbin. They also made tender offers to all their free agents (most notably, Anthony Rendon) and signed a one-year contract extension with Sammy Solis, who was a rather unreliable relief pitcher this year. That one puzzled me, as he seemed to exemplify the Nats' bullpen meltdown.


December 7, 2018 [LINK / comment]

State of the diagrams, 2018

"Rounding third and heading for home!" With a relentless force of will, I am approaching the end point of this Odyssean (!) endeavor of diagramming baseball stadiums. Well, at least an end point: completing the major league ballpark diagrams of the concrete-and-steel era, as opposed to ballparks built prior to 1909, or the various foreign, minor league, and college ballparks that I believe qualify for such treatment. In fact, I probably should have highlighted the fact that, with the updating of the Angel (Anaheim) Stadium diagrams on November 25, my diagrams for all 30 current MLB stadiums are essentially state-of-the-art! An unheralded landmark event. Some of them are lacking in details such as in the bullpens or the concourse areas, but I'm confident the stadiums and the fields are rendered with a satisfactorily high degree of accuracy. One possible question mark is Candlestick Park, which I last updated on the very last day of 2012. At the time, it was a huge leap forward, diagram-wise, and as far as I can tell, that set of diagrams has withstood the test of time.

Anyway, as this final stretch begins, I thought it would be fitting to review where the diagrams stand, following the example of five years ago, when I presented my own "state of the diagrams" assessment. My diagrams for each of the 76 MLB stadiums are ranked from "A" (superb), "B" (pretty good), "C" (marginally acceptable), and "D" (just plain lousy). This reflects only the diagrams themselves, in their current published state, and has nothing to do with the aesthetic appeal of the real-world stadiums. This list only includes major league stadiums, including short-term ones such as Sick's Stadium but not temporary ones such as Hiram Bithorn Stadium, minor league stadiums, or those in foreign countries. So here goes...

Baseball stadium diagrams, current status
Stadium name Team name Diagram status Last update
Baker Bowl * Philadelphia Phillies A 2016
Forbes Field Pittsburgh Pirates D 2005
Shibe Park * Philadelphia Athletics & Phillies A 2016
Sportsman's Park * St. Louis Browns & Cardinals A 2016
League Park * Cleveland Indians A 2016
Comiskey Park * Chicago White Sox A 2017
Polo Grounds New York Giants, (Yankees, & Mets) C 2007
Griffith Stadium * Washington Senators C 2008
Crosley Field * Cincinnati Reds D 2006
Tiger Stadium * * Detroit Tigers B 2009
Fenway Park Boston Red Sox (& Braves) A 2018
Ebbets Field Brooklyn Dodgers A 2018
Wrigley Field * Chicago Cubs (& Whales) A 2018
Braves Field * Boston Braves A 2014
Yankee Stadium New York Yankees C 2008
Cleveland Municipal Stadium * Cleveland Indians A 2016
Milwaukee County Stadium Milwaukee Braves & Brewers A 2015
Memorial Stadium Baltimore Orioles A 2013
(K.C.) Municipal Stadium * Kansas City Athletics & Royals A 2014
(L.A.) Memorial Coliseum Los Angeles Dodgers A 2016
Seals Stadium San Franciso Giants A 2015
Candlestick Park * San Franciso Giants A 2012
Wrigley Field (L.A.) Los Angeles Angels A 2015
Metropolitan Stadium Minnesota Twins B 2014
Dodger Stadium Los Angeles Dodgers (& Angels) A 2014
Colt Stadium Houston Colt 45s A 2013
Robert F. Kennedy Stadium * Washington Senators & Nationals A 2013
Shea Stadium New York Mets (& Yankees) A 2015
Astrodome Houston Astros A 2015
Angel Stadium of Anaheim * L.A. / Calif. / Anaheim Angels A 2018
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium * Atlanta Braves A 2016
Busch Stadium II St. Louis Cardinals A 2015
Oakland Coliseum * * Oakland Athletics A 2016
Jarry Park Montreal Expos A 2013
Sick's Stadium Seattle Pilots A 2015
Jack Murphy Stadium * * San Diego Padres A 2016
Riverfront Stadium * Cincinnati Reds A 2018
Three Rivers Stadium Pittsburgh Pirates A 2014
Veterans Stadium Philadelphia Phillies A 2016
Arlington Stadium Texas Rangers A 2018
Kauffman Stadium * Kansas City Royals A 2015
Olympic Stadium Montreal Expos B 2012
Kingdome Seattle Mariners A 2015
Exhibition Stadium Toronto Blue Jays A 2014
H.H.H. Metrodome Minnesota Twins A 2016
Rogers Centre * Toronto Blue Jays A 2016
Guaranteed Rate (U.S. Cellular) Field * * Chicago White Sox A 2015
Oriole Park at Camden Yards Baltimore Orioles A 2014
Dolphin (Sun Life) Stadium * * Florida Marlins A 2015
Mile High Stadium * Colorado Rockies A 2015
Progressive Field * Cleveland Indians A 2016
Globe Life Park in Arlington * Texas Rangers A 2016
Coors Field Colorado Rockies A 2016
Turner Field * Atlanta Braves A 2016
Tropicana Field * Tampa Bay Rays A 2014
Chase Field * Arizona Diamondbacks A 2015
Safeco Field Seattle Mariners A 2015
AT&T Park * * San Franciso Giants A 2016
Minute Maid Park * Houston Astros A 2015
Comerica Park Detroit Tigers A 2015
Miller Park Milwaukee Brewers A 2018
PNC Park Pittsburgh Pirates A 2015
Great American Ballpark Cincinnati Reds A 2018
Citizens Bank Park Philadelphia Phillies A 2015
PETCO Park San Diego Padres A 2015
Busch Stadium III St. Louis Cardinals A 2016
Nationals Park Washington Nationals A 2015
Yankee Stadium II New York Yankees A 2016
Citi Field New York Mets A 2016
Target Field Minnesota Twins A 2016
Marlins Park Miami Marlins A 2018
SunTrust Park Atlanta Braves A 2018
Red border: Denotes stadiums whose diagrams are not yet finished.

[ * (asterisk) = name change; * * = multiple name changes.]

As you can see, all but eight (i.e., 68 of the 76) diagrams are state of the art, or close to it. For those who only visit this website occasionally or may be new, there are two related pages that track my past progress in updating stadium diagrams: Stadium diagram updates (chronological archives, year by year) and Diagram update log (arranged by city name in alphabetical order). Occasionally I find mistakes on those pages, such as when I was almost done with a particular stadium and that got sidetracked after after inserting a link for an anticipated completion date. So, like the diagrams themselves, those pages are "subject to revision." This table summarizes how many of the diagrams were last updated in each successive year. Since none of the "A"-rated diagrams were done prior to 2012, I have omitted them. But for those who are really curious, I began posting such diagrams way back in 2002 -- a full 16 years ago! (By my current standards, they are embarrassingly crude and amateurish.) My progress over the years has been interrupted by occasional pauses, and indeed I had forgotten what a bleak year 2017 was, diagram-wise.

Year Number of final
stadium diagram updates
2012 2
2013 4
2014 8
2015 20
2016 21
2017 1
2018 10
TOTAL 76

With eight stadiums left to do, the total for 2018 could theoretically go as high as 18. Anything is possible! As of today, December 7th, here are the "coming attractions," in order of targeted completion:

  1. Tiger Stadium
  2. Polo Grounds
  3. Yankee Stadium
  4. Olympic Stadium
  5. Griffith Stadium
  6. Metropolitan Stadium
  7. Forbes Field
  8. Crosley Field

Nats sign Patrick Corbin

The Washington Nationals signed free agent Patrick Corbin to a six-year contract that is supposedly worth $140 million. He was evidently the most sought-after pitcher on the open market, so that seems to be a coup for Nats General Manager Mike Rizzo. Corbin was an All-Star this year (representing the Arizona Diamondbacks), and he will become the third Nat starting pitcher (after Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg) to have earned that honor. Corbin is 29 and had an ERA of 3.15 this year, with 246 strikeouts. The main downside is the possibility that his arm may not last for the full six years, since he had Tommy John surgery. See MLB.com. But as we know, both Stephen Strasburg and former Nat Jordan Zimmermann have pitched well for years after having had such surgery. As a left-handed starting pitcher, Corbin essentially replaces Gio Gonzalez in the pitching rotation.

If Bryce Harper was looking for a sign that the Nats owners are willing to spend what's necessary to attract a full roster of top talent, this was it. Personally, I think Bryce wants first and foremost to play on a championship team, and the salary is not necessarily to determining factor in where he ends up. I really hope he does decide to settle down in D.C., but the longer negotiations drag on, the less likely that seems. frown

The mail bag

Thanks to Joe Johnston for confirming that the curved grandstand along the first base line in Arlington Stadium was indeed built in 1973, as I hypothesized. He was at a game there in 1972, the inaugural year of the Texas Rangers, and he remembers the temporary rectangular bleachers (built for football games) on that side.

Mike Zurawski recently informed me about Elon Musk's plans to build a tunnel for a high-speed subway line to Dodger Stadium, presumably from downtown. A separate proposed line was recently turned down. Now comes news that they want to build a gondola transportation system that would take 5,000 passengers per hour from Union Station to Dodger Stadium in approximately five minutes. See urbanize.la. Such a system functions much like a ski lift, and in fact I rode one in Medllin, Colombia nearly two years ago. Depending on the terrain, they can be expensive to build, but seem fairly cheap to operate.

More news about the future Oakland stadium soon...


December 7, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Much, much more music!

Since my last solo musical show three months ago, I have cut back somewhat on appearances at the Queen City Brewing open mic nights. Instead of roughly three weeks per month, it's been more like twice a month this fall. I have also spent a bit less time learning new material, trying instead to polish the songs I already know, but I have not stopped entirely. Far from it! (I may have been at the September 19 open mic event, but if so, I didn't write it down.)

Here is what I have played at recent open mic events, beginning with October 10. This was soon after the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and I thought a song about excessive drinking in college would be appropriate, hence "Chug All Night," a little-known early Eagles tune. But the big "hit" of the evening for me was "Hummingbird," marking the departure of hummingbirds who head south every October -- or most of them, anyway! (See below.) The other four songs (which I had played in public before) went OK, although I wish I could have played the harmonica (denoted by the # symbol) more cleanly on "Gypsy Forest."

A week later, on October 17, I played three new (for me) songs, indicated with asterisks as in the list above. They all went surprisingly well. "Mr. Powell" is about John Wesley Powell, the first explorer to navigate the rapids of the Colorado River in its entirety, in 1869. I learned it a long time ago, but made some "final corrections" before doing it in public for the first time. "Under the Bridge" is one hell of a cool song from the nineties, and really impressed the bartender, Kyle. smile

On October 31 (Halloween!), there weren't many musicians present, so we each had to do a few extra songs. This time I had two new songs, both by Chicago. I did passably on the first three "encore" songs, but for the final song, I gave up on Jethro Tull's "Living In the Past" after flubbing the intro. That hasn't happened to me in a long time. So, I played Carole King's "It's Too Late" instead, and that went just fine.

Two weeks later, on November 14, I played three new songs (two by Chicago) and did "Hummingbird" again, in recognition of the surprise visit of a Rufous Hummingbird to the home of a local bird club member. (See November 10.) My friend from the bird club, Peter Van Acker, was in attendance, appropriately enough. The first song I played, "The Last Resort," called attention to the disastrous wildfires that killed perhaps a hundred or more people in California. It's all about ruining the wilderness with vacation and retirement residences, and of the consequent risks to the environment. I had just learned that song a couple days earlier, and managed to pull it off very well, I thought. My final song, "Elected," was of course a tribute to the congressional midterm elections that had just happened.

November 28 was frigid, and I had trepidations about heading out to play music, but I'm glad I did. I played four brand-new songs of very distinct genres, and the audience was very friendly and appreciative. I really wowed them with the first three songs, and Fritz Horisk kindly complimented me on "Wichita Lineman." For the fourth one I gave them fair warning of a slight change of pace, and to my surprise, some of the "older" folks were singing along! For the "encore" song, I did "Under the Bridge" again, but should have played the intro more cleanly. Also, I kind of messed up the chords on the final part of that song. Nevertheless, it was for the most part an excellent night, and Craig Austin's percussion added a lot. My set list:

( # ) = with harmonica

Chicago! Chicago! Etc.

As you might have noticed, I played five songs by Chicago, the first time I have covered that particular group. Not surprisingly, given that the band relies heavily on brass instruments, I used the harmonica in all five songs. I'm working on one other Chicago song, "Beginnings," but it will take a lot more practice before it's ready for public consumption!

I have also been learning more songs by Carole King and Joe Walsh, among others. A couple months ago I was working on Doobie Brothers and Three Dog Night but then set those aside. Maybe I'll get back to them soon...


December 13, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Tiger Stadium update -- with "new" photos!!!

After another multi-day marathon effort, I finished updating the Tiger Stadium Tiger Stadium diagrams earlier today. Actually, I had to make a few minor corrections later in the afternoon, mainly to ensure that the original permanent bleacher section in right-center field (1912-1937) matched the lower-deck diagram, which represents 1938 but applies to all subsequent years except for the deeper center field area (it really was 440 feet until they built an inner fence in 1954) and the absence of warning tracks.

So, what changed compared to the previous diagram revision in June 2009? There are separate diagrams showing the uncovered upper and lower decks, with all the juicy details such as support beams and entry portals. I found out for sure that the bullpen to the left of center field (behind the big flag pole) was in fact used by both teams' relief pitchers. That seems very weird, and I wonder if such an arrangement had ever been done before or since then?

In the agonizing process of getting all the pieces to fit, I made two important discoveries. First, the wall in deep center field (1938-1953) was not a consistent curve but angled off slightly on the right side, where there was a wide access gate that was presumably used for landscaping vehicles and maintenance equipment. I had noticed such a minor anomaly in one of the seating charts published in the Kessler (whiskey that's "smooth as silk"!) annual baseball guides back in the 1960s, but disregarded it until I noticed exactly such a feature in a photo of Tiger Stadium. That section of center field was angled slightly so as to align properly with the lower-deck seats on the right field side, which were ten feet farther from home plate than the upper deck seats.

Second, the upper deck between first base and the right field corner was not only discontinuous with the adjoining portions of the upper deck on both ends, but it had a significally shallower "pitch" (i.e., steepness) -- about 27 degrees rather than about 33 degrees. I knew that there was a similar disjuncture in the pitch of the upper deck to the right of center field, and I knew that the upper deck portion in question did extend out about 12-15 feet in front of the adjoining upper deck portion, but when I noticed in a photo that the rear of those two portions coincided very closely (just a few feet difference), it dawned on me that the only way those two things could be true is if they were different in terms of vertical angle. Frankly, I don't see the point of building that portion of the upper deck that way.

Finally, there are a few new details in the diagrams, such as the elevator tower in back of the southwest corner of the grandstand. There are also multiple profiles in both the upper-deck and lower-deck diagrams, to facilitate comparison of the different sections of the grandstand. Tiger Stadium was awkwardly patched together in stages over the years, and it often seems that they didn't plan ahead very well.

The 1934 diagram shows the peculiar profile of the temporary bleachers that were built for the World Series (also for 1935), in which the rear three-quarters had a shallower pitch than the front one-quarter. Ordinarily, the farther back you go in a grandstand, the steeper it gets. Those bleachers covered Cherry Avenue, and when what was then called Navin Field was expanded in 1938 (and renamed "Briggs Stadium"), that street was moved about 150 feet, making room for the double-deck grandstand beyond left field.

The added bonus of three "new" photos taken while I was in Detroit in 2004 (five years before Tiger Stadium was demolished) stems from a discovery of a shoebox full of old photos (mostly baseball-related) a couple months ago. Last week I finally got around to scanning them, and two of them are pretty good, showing lots of detail. In addition to the previously-displayed photo I took from the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Avenue, there are also exterior shots from the southwest corner, the northwest corner (up close), and the northeast corner. I really wish I had taken more photos when I was there. Other "new" photos that I took at Comerica Park and other stadiums will be posted in coming days...

Tiger Stadium ext SW 2004

Tiger Stadium seen from the southwest side (behind home plate), August 5, 2004.

New ball field at the stadium site

Meanwhile, at the site of Tiger Stadium, a new ballfield opened this year. It is called "The Corner Ballpark presented by Adient," and last March they started holding youth baseball games there, a long-overdue community development initiative. See Detroit Free Press. The massive (125-foot) flag pole has been placed at its former location, but unfortunately, the field has artificial turf, even though the fans who maintained the old Tiger Stadium site volunteered to keep the green grass trimmed and healthy. See detroitnews.com.

Nats trade Roark to the Reds

One of the tragic aspects of the Washington Nationals this year is the suboptimal performance from Tanner Roark, who had been a solid, often excellent starting pitcher since 2013. (He had been acquired from the Texas Rangers in a trade for infielder Cristian Guzman and another player in 2010.) Today he was traded for another guy with the same first name: Tanner Rainey! This will save the Nats about $10 million in salary costs this year, giving them more flexibility to bargain with Bryce Harper and/or Anthony Rendon.

Roark always had a great attitude, smiling gregariously but very serious about winning. He proved his ability to perform in clutch situations when he helped the USA win the World Baseball Classic in 2017, winning the next-to-last game. But he wasn't given a chance to pitch in the National League Divisional Series last year, mainly because rain forced a one-day postponment of Game 4, and Dusty Baker went with Stephen Strasburg instead. (See October 11, 2017.) Not having thrown a single pitch in the NLDS, it's understandable that Tanner felt slighted, and perhaps that explains his evident lack of motivation this year. Maybe he just needed a change of scenery. He deserves great appreciation for his six fine years of pitching with the Nats, and I wish him all the very best in Cincinnati!

Tanner Roark

Tanner Roark, warming up to pitch against the Miami Marlins on October 1, 2016.

There is nothing solid to report about Bryce Harper, by the way. A few days ago, the Nationals' principle owner Mark Lerner said he thinks that Harper is going to "move on," but that was probably just a negotiating ploy. Now that the winter meetings of the MLB owners have wrapped up, there may not be much activity until the New Year.


December 14, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Late fall / early winter birding

Technically, winter doesn't begin until next week, but with a major ice storm, a minor snow fall, and heavy snow storm behind us already, winter essentially arrived one month ago. Freezing rain all day on November 15 resulted in thousands of downed tree branches across this area, and we lost power just before 9:00 that evening. Not until 3:30 the next day did our power (and heat) come back on line: 18 1/2 hours without electricity! It was miserable, as the temperature inside dropped to 60 degrees, but other folks I know suffered for days, and in some cases with major property damage. Anyway, I was fortunate to see and photograph three rare or uncommon bird species over the past month.

On Saturday November 17 I was scheduled to lead an Augusta Bird Club field trip to the new trail at the Mill Place industrial park in Verona, just north of Staunton. But those plans were set aside by the sudden passing away of a dear friend in the club, Ed Lawler. A memorial service for Ed was held later that same morning, so I decided to just make a brief, perfunctory visit to Mill Place in Ed's memory, just in case some people didn't get the news about Ed, to allow for enough time to get to the service. I was not at all surprised that no one else came. But as it turned out, the birding was excellent that morning, highlighted by two birds that only rarely come to visit the Staunton-Augusta area: a Fox Sparrow and a Hermit Thrush.

Montage 17 Nov 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Fox Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Hermit Thrush, American Goldfinch, Killdeer, E. Meadowlark, and in center, Field Sparrow and American Robin, at Mill Place on November 17.
Roll your mouse over the image to see the Fox Sparrow.

Two days later, November 19, I went along on an Augusta Bird Club field trip to Bell's Lane led by Penny Warren. Others had a good view of some Ring-necked Ducks on a farm pond, but I only had a glimpse of them flying away. The big highlight of the morning was not a bird, however, but a River Otter in the beaver pond near the north end of Bell's Lane. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a photo before it swam away.

Montage 19 Nov 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-bellied Woodpecker, Cedar Waxwing, Downy Woodpecker (M), Pied-billed Grebe, American Robin, and American Coot. (November 19)

A day later I was surprised to see a female Pileated Woodpecker in a tree out back. They usually avoid populated areas. Also that day I learned about a flock of Rusty Blackbirds via an e-mail alert from Marshall Faintich, a renowned bird photographer from the Afton/Crozet area. He described the location very accurately, the Cline River Road bridge over the Middle River a mile or so south of the Weyer's Cave airport, so I went there on Wednesday, November 21. It took just a few minutes before I spotted some blackbirds, and I was lucky to see and photograph one in a nearby tree. Bingo! It was the first time I have ever taken a good photo of that species, and that was very gratifying. On the way back into Staunton I stopped at the Bell's Lane beaver pond, and saw a few interesting birds.

Of note is the probable Carolina Chickadee which looks a bit like a Black-capped Chickadee based on the blurry lower edge of the black "bib." Baxter Beamer, a young birder from Albemarle County who gave a presentation to the bird club in October, noticed that feature and opined that it could be a Black-capped Chickadee or a hybrid of the two species. If so, it would be unusual, since the border between the ranges of those respective species is fairly well define, coinciding roughly with Shenandoah Mountain, a high ridge about 15-20 miles west of Staunton.

Montage 21 Nov 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Rusty Blackbird: M, American Kestrel, Carolina Chickadee, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Song Sparrow. (November 21)
Roll your mouse over the image to see the Rusty Blackbird.

I didn't do any real birding for the rest of that month, but on the first day of December I spotted a Brown Creeper on a tree out back. The photo I took was mediocre, unfortunately. Two days later I got lucky when a Flicker showed up at our suet feeder:

Northern Flicker (male), on December 3.

On December 5, following a minor snow storm, Penny Warren spotted some swans on one of the Bell's Lane farm ponds, and invited me to try to take some photos to identify the species: Tundra or Trumpeter? Unfortunately, they were gone by the time I got there, but we did at least see some nice ducks and a young Pied-billed Grebe. The big news of the day for me was a Gray Catbird spotted by Jacqueline outside our apartment. I think the last time I saw that species in a winter month was December 2005; it remained for at least a couple months thereafter.

Montage 05 Dec 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Redhead, Gray Catbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-crowned Sparrow, Pied-billed Grebe (juv.), Ring-necked Duck, and in center, White-breasted Nuthatch. (December 6)
Roll your mouse over the image to see the Gray Catbird a bit larger.

Field trip to Mill Place

Last Saturday, December 8, I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to the new trail at the Mill Place industrial park in Verona, just north of Staunton. Given the freezing temperatures, I was pleasantly surprised that five other members showed up. It is a very scenic nature spot that seems to have been developed with great care in planning, featuring a sheltered picnic area, multiple benches for resting along the way, and a wooden foot bridge. It is all asphalt. Even better, it is an excellent habitat for a variety of sparrows and other songbirds. Highlights of the day were a Red-shouldered Hawk, a Hermit Thrush, and a Swamp Sparrow. In the reeds, two members spotted a very small brown bird that was most likely a Marsh Wren or a Winter Wren, and some of us saw what was either a Yellow-rumped or a Palm Warbler. I counted a total of 21 species, pending confirmation from others who were there.

Montage 086 Dec 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Red-shouldered Hawk, American Goldfinch, Hermit Thrush, Dark-eyed Junco, and White-crowned Sparrows (adult and juvenile). (December 8, 2018)
Roll your mouse over the image to see the Hermit Thrush enlarged.

On Sunday December 9 we had a major snow storm, measuring 8-10 inches in Staunton, far more than the 1-2 inches that were forecast. I haven't done much birding this week, but I am pleased to report that (as of yesterday) the Rufous Hummingbird in Stuart's Draft (see November 10) has survived the brutal wintry onslaught! As always, other photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.


December 17, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Matt Adams rejoins the Nats

One of the bright spots in the Nationals' roster this season was veteran utility player Matt Adams. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in late August (at the same time Daniel Murphy was traded), but yesterday he signed a one-year contract worth $3 million with the Nats; the terms include a one-year extension by mutual option. Adams has been a pretty good hitter, and given his prime age (30), that seems like a bargain. See the Washington Post.

What does this mean for the possibility that the Nats might get Daniel Murphy to rejoin the team? That's not a realistic option, apparently.

Ramos signs with Mets

The New York Mets have acquired the former Nationals' catcher Wilson Ramos, [who signed] a two-year, $19 million contract. It's kind of too bad the Nationals didn't make him such an offer, but apparently they decided his body is too fragile to risk such a high salary. See washingtonpost.com.

A few minor tweaks

While watching Sunday Night Football, I had an aerial view of the future home of the L.A. Rams and Chargers, [under construction]. The field of the new stadium in Inglewood is 100 feet below ground level. (!!!???) They say that the proximity to L.A. International Airport imposed strict height limitations on new structures, so they built downward rather than upward. After construction delays caused by severe flooding last year, the target opening date is August/September 2020. But more to the point, I noticed that there is a new upper deck and associated luxury suites, etc. at L.A. Memorial Coliseum. I had thought that those improvements wouldn't take place until the Rams left the premises, but I was wrong. So, I added a new 2018 football diagram variant to that page -- subject to revision as further details become available.

Following up on the news from November 25, I added an artificial turf diagram variant for Chase Field. I may need to modify that diagram later, if other changes are made next year.

As for Marlins Park, where a new seating area will be built where the fancy art thing currently is located (left of center field), I'm going to wait until I see photos or read more precise descriptions before I update that diagram.

Finally, just for the record, I made a few more tiny tweaks to the Tiger Stadium diagrams. It was mostly in the peripheral structures such as the office building, in the southeast corner of the trapezoidal block. After reexamining some photos, I realized that the building in question was enlarged at least twice over the years.

The mail bag

Mike Zurawski and Bucky Nance both alerted me to the news that the current home of the Texas Rangers, Globe Life Park, will be converted into a football stadium after the Rangers move into their new home next year. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex was awarded an XFL franchise, providing a new use for the Rangers' "old" stadium, which was built just 24 years ago. See star-telegram.com

It looks like the Tampa Bay Rays are going to remain in their bland, dim current stadium for the entire term of the lease, which terminates at the end of 2017. Earlier this year, the team owners had announced a project to build a new stadium in the Ybor City area of downtown Tampa (across the bay from St. Petersburg, where Tropicana Field is located), but Mike Zurawski informs me that that deal fell apart. The Rays' principal owner Stuart Sternberg said that there were too many uncertainties to pursue the deal further, since they are under a legal time constraint. That leaves the Rays with no real alternative new stadium site for the foreseeable future. See tampabay.com.

Finally, Terry Wallace reminded me that the big left field bleachers at Griffith Stadium were not built until 1924, whereas my current 1911 diagram [wrongly] indicates that they were there when the stadium was first built in 1911. I was indeed aware of that, and hope to finish that set of diagrams in the next couple weeks.


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