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July 6, 2020 [LINK / comment]

Nationals to host Yankees in season opener

Believe it or not, major league baseball is on track to get underway in less than three weeks, and at last they have released the actual 2020 schedule. Until today the MLB.com website still had the same schedules that were in effect back in March, which was very strange. So, at 7:00 PM on Thursday July 23rd, the World Champion Washington Nationals (that sure sounds nice!) will have the honor of opening the 2020 season by hosting the New York Yankees. Later that evening the L.A. Dodgers will play the Giants. The games are set to be broadcast by ESPN, which is too bad for the many millions of fans who have "cut the cable" in recent years. If they were smart, they would co-broadcast it on ABC, which is owned by the same parent company, Disney. Presumably Max Scherzer will start for the Nationals, and I heard that Gerritt Cole might start for the Yankees, even though I thought he was among those who are "opting out" this year. It will be a strange and surreal, and yet very emotional and dramatic event.

Summer training (or retraining) began last week, under strict protocols such that only players who have tested negative for covid-19 are allowed into the stadium. In today's Washington Post, relief pitcher Sean Doolittle said he hoped to play when the season starts on July 23, but expressed concern about health and said he might opt out. "Sports are like the reward of a functioning society," he said, making it clear that he thinks this country is not handling the pandemic effectively enough. Dootlittle, who like Ryan Zimmerman graduated from the University of Virginia, has been known as a socially conscious players who is very attuned to workers rights and minority issues. Even though I very much want baseball to get underway, I don't blame the players for hesitating. For professional athletes, their bodies are their livelihoods, and damage to one's lungs could wreck a career.

I saw a report on ESPN.com that 38 MLB players have tested positive for covid-19, which is about 1.2% of all those tested, but it could be more. Two Nationals players have tested positive, but we don't know which ones yet. Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves is among those affected.

Barry Svrluga points out in Friday's Washington Post how strange it's going to be when baseball starts well after what would be the midpoint of the season: "It's going to get late early." On a wry note, he laments that with no fans in the stands, the Houston Astros will not have to endure the loud jeering by fans which everyone expected, and which would be richly-deserved.

The Astros cheating scandal

For the first three months of this year, while I was preoccupied with teaching duties, the big news story in baseball was the cheating scandal involving the Houston Astros. How soon we forget! (Quick rehash: for at least three years up through 2019, including their 2017 World Series championship, the Astros had been stealing signs from the catchers via a TV camera in center field of Minute Maid Park, and relaying the signs to somebody in the team clubhouse, so that the Astros batters would get a warning (clang, clang! with a garbage can lid) if the next pitch was going to be off-speed or not. That might explain why the Astros had the best win-loss record in home games in all of major league baseball last year, and why it seemed so remarkable that the Nationals overcame that record in the World Series. Reactions varied widely, from the cynically dismissive to the righteously outraged. Somehow or other before or during the World Series the Washington Nationals caught wind of what had been going on, and they evidently took the appropriate counter-measures. As one side-effect of the scandal, Manager Alex Cora, who played for the Astros while the cheating was going on, was released as manager of the Boston Red Sox.

So how big a deal was it, really? Back in March, senior Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell noted that Oriole Hall-of-Famer Cal Ripken thinks the Astros aren't that much worse than many other teams, and that sly cheating in one form or another has been going on for a long time. Players are always going to bend the rules to get a competitive advantage, but what the Astros were doing was far beyond what's tolerable. It's too late to revoke their World Series title, but there should definitely be some asterisks in the record books. Those who said it was far worse than what Pete Rose did may have a point, and MLB officials will need to consider more thoroughly what sort of sanctions there should be.

Comiskey Park

Comiskey Park update

Since last year I had been meaning to make some minor corrections to the Comiskey Park diagrams, and finally got it done. While I was working on it, I came across a few puzzles and inconsistencies that I had to resolve. The support beams in the profile diagrams have been moved back a couple feet (one pixel), and such things as the size of the dugouts have been tweaked as well. I've concluded that the "real" distance to the foul poles for most of the years since 1934 was 347 feet, rather than 352 feet or 349 feet as it was sometimes reported. Photos indicate that the left foul pole was at the exact same position when the sign said "347" as when it said "352," and I think somebody goofed in the measurements back in the 1930s, and it never got corrected until 1986. I have compiled my own estimates of the actual outfield dimensions over the years, and I may include that information on that page.

The mail bag

Terry Wallace suggested a baseball-fever.com page as a nice diversion. It provides an annotated series of old photographs of the ballparks in which Babe Ruth hit home runs going 500 feet or more. He also pointed me to a page with all of Ed Burns' "Burns-Eye Views" stadium sketches from the late 1930s.

Angel Amezquita pointed out a glitch on the Turner Field page, so I fixed that and updated the rest of that page as well. Note that I am in the process of segregating the hard data and estimates for each stadium from my own subjective evaluations of them: the "Clem Criteria." I am also experimenting with putting the crude city "maps" that show the stadiums' approximate location in a separate section toward the bottom of each page.

Last fall, David Marshall asked me about doing a diagram of London (West Ham) Stadium where the Yankees and Red Sox played last year. So, I got restarted on that little project as well.

I've still got a boatload of other news items and tips from fans that I need to cover, so please be patient while I get caught up...

July 3, 2020 [LINK / comment]

Racism in pro sports: what to do?

Ever since the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer in May, there has been a rising drum beat against all vestiges of racism in the world of sports. It so happens that the team in Minneapolis (the Twins) were moved there by an MLB franchise owner (Calvin Griffith) who harbored strong racist views, motivating his departure from Washington. While baseball declined in Our Nation's Capital during the 1950s and 1960s, football surged upward, thanks in large part to the efforts of George Preston Marshall, who bought the Boston Redskins and moved them to Washington in 1937.

There was a problem, however: Marshall espoused racist views as well, and refused to hire African American players, so the Redskins were the last NFL franchise to get a black player. It was for this reason that the statue of Marshall next to RFK Stadium (see below) was removed by D.C. workers earlier this month. It's sad and ironic because as the Redskins had become one of the NFL's premier franchises in the 1980s, a sense of pride and social harmony was restored in the D.C. area. But over the years the team's name began to bother more and more people, who took it as an ethnic slur. One might question why in the world a team would adopt a name with a derogatory meaning, but that's not even the point any more. It appears more and more likely that the Redskins will adopt a new name in the not-so-distant future. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians announced that they are looking seriously at changing the team's name; see mlb.com. They got rid of the grinning "Chief Wahoo" mascot after the 2018 season, and one would imagine the same is in store for the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs. Unlike other teams, the Indians had a valid reason for adopting that name: one of Cleveland's star players in the late 1890s, Louis Sockalexis, was a Native American.

And so, I would like to remind folks about the origins of the Redskins' name. The franchise was born in Boston in 1932, and since they played in Braves Field, home of the Boston Braves, they used their host team's name as their own. One year later they moved to nearby Fenway Park, which necessitated a new name to avoid an awkward situation. What name could retain a sense of identity with their founding and yet be compatible with their new hosts, the Boston Red Sox? The answer was fairly obvious: the Redskins. When Marshall bought the franchise and moved them to Washington four years later, they chose to keep the name.

So, what should the Redskins' new name be? Either the Braves or the Red Sox would make sense, but I think "Warriors" sounds better, since the first letters match the city's name. There ought to be some kind of continuity in team identity, as pro sports franchises invariably derive success from upholding a proud legacy. (When the NBA Washington Bullets changed their name to the "Wizards" in 1997, it kind of fell flat.) Redskins team owner Daniel Snyder will have to consult with D.C. government officials, because they have made clear that they will not accept a new stadium for that football team as long as it retains the current name.

George P. Marshall statue, RFK Stadium

The statue of longtime Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall, in September 2018. This image is part of a larger panorama of RFK Stadium, seen in the background.

More web page updates

I have updated the Stadium names chronology page with several corrections and clarifications. The columns for the early decades (1910s-1040s) are now narrower because there were fewer name changes, and the columns for the later decades (190s-2010s) are wider because there have been more name changes lately. Also, I have updated the Stadium lists, Baseball chronology, annual and Stadium chronology, annual pages.

June 30, 2020 [LINK / comment]

Zimmerman and others opt out

Washington National veteran Ryan Zimmerman is among the MLB players who announced that they are opting out of playing this year, on the grounds that they or their families have special factors putting them at greater risk to covid-19. Joe Ross, who was the main contender for the fifth spot in the starting pitching rotation, did likewise. Zimmerman signed a one-year $2 million contract last winter, and that money is subject to the murky conditions that MLB owners and the players agreed to when it was announced that the season would be postponed in March. Other noteable players opting out include former Astros pitcher Gerritt Cole, now with the Yankees, and Mike Leake of the Diamondbacks. I guess Cole figures that with eight years remaining on his nine-year $324 million contract, he can afford to play it safe. See mlb.com.

If a substantial number of other players opt out, it's going to cause a lot of anxiety. Baseball teams are preparing to reopen under the "new normal" protocols for minimizing the risk of covid-19 contagion, but there will be a significant risk no matter what they do. Several members of the Philadelphia Phillies organization have tested positive for covid-19, and all it takes is one careless individual to put an entire team in serious health jeopardy. Games will be played with a figurative cloud of worry hanging overhead. Do fans really want their favorite players to be exposed to such a mortal risk?

According to plans, the umpires make the official "Play ball!" shout in 15 stadiums across the country around July 23 or 24, but with so much uncertainty, nothing should be assumed. Opening Day this year was supposed to be Thursday, March 26. (Personally, I think baseball should never start until April, and should always finish the regular season by the end of September.)

Web page maintenance

I just made some updates to two of my baseball web pages. First, the Stadium locations page is now a bit more friendly to mobile devices so that you can trigger the map/diagram-changing effects without being redirected to the stadium page for the respective cities, and the larger-scale inset portions of those map/diagrams are shaded pale gray to distinguish them more clearly from the city "map." Second, the Washington Nationals page now includes information about the 2020 season, which of course remains rather uncertain at this point. Also, in the near future (seriously!) I plan to update the Baseball cities page with information about attendance during the decade that was just completed: 2010-2019.

June 25, 2020 [LINK / comment]

Players reject MLB's final offer, then accept terms

Just last week, hopes for baseball in 2020 were hanging by a thread, after the MLB Players Association head Tony Clark turned down (on June 13) the owners' proposed 72 games at 70% prorated salary. He said there was no further point to any further discussion, and indeed the owners fourth and final offer (60 games with 16 teams in an expanded postseason) was rejected almost immediately on Monday. But now it seems we are going to have a real baseball season this year after all. One month from today, more or less, according to the plan announced by Commissioner Manfred on Monday and accepted by the players on Tuesday, MLB games will resume. Is our long national nightmare really almost over?

So, in case you haven't read a complete account of the plan, here are the essentials, as reported by the Washington Post:

I suppose any baseball is better than no baseball at all, but this framework will be hard to get used to. Many very strange situations will be created, no doubt. Is it possible that fans could attend on a limited basis after a few weeks? Last month I suggested a staggered seating arrangement, reducing stadiums' capacity to about 40 percent of normal, but at this point we'll be lucky if they allow even 25 percent of the seats to be filled. And why will it take a full month to get ready for Opening Day? Three weeks ought to be plenty.

Most importantly, why in the world did it take so long to get to this point? Baseball fans have endured agonizing uncertainty for over 100 days, and a number of lukewarm fans may lose interest, as was the case after the 1994 players' strike. Why did the players consent to a plan so soon after turning down a proposal that would have been -- from what I can tell -- more advantageous to their side? Something just doesn't add up, but I suppose it has more to do with maintaining a good public image than any concrete benefits. The players seem to have "won" the PR battle, for whatever that's worth.

Belated championship rituals

It's a shame that the Washington Nationals weren't able to unfurl their championship banner and do the World Series ring ceremony as scheduled this year. When those events do finally take place, it will be in a "virtual" setting, televised but otherwise out of the fans' sight. After all they went through to reach the pinnacle of baseball success, the Nats players were robbed of the reward of sharing the joy with 40,000+ cheering fans. What's more, some of their senior players such as Ryan Zimmerman and Howie Kendrick may not return after their contracts expire at the end of this season. I thought about that sad possibility when I saw Ryan's image on the wall of the northeast parking garage at Nationals Park when I drove past it yesterday. Chain link fences surrounded the whole stadium, and it didn't look like the team store was open.

Nationals Park garage champions banner

The parking garage on the northeast side of Nationals Park proudly displays a World Series championship banner; this is a closeup view. (Photo taken yesterday.)

Gradually getting caught up

Since I missed the first four months of this awful year, blog-wise, it will take some effort to even get partly caught up with other "normal" baseball news items. All I can say is that I'm doing my best, under trying circumstances. Here is a modest example of what I have been working on, but there's more to come soon:

Exhibition Stadium

Exhibition Stadium tweak

Thanks to a photo posted on Facebook by photographer Bob Busser, I made a slight correction to the outfield fence in the Exhibition Stadium diagrams, former home of the Toronto Blue Jays. (I actually completed the work ten days ago, hence the discrepancy between the indicated date of the update and today's date.) The power alleys are a few feet shorter, and the total estimated amount of fair territory is now 106,700 square feet, or 600 less than the previous estimate of 107,300 square feet. There is also another profile in the diagram, showing the grandstand behind home plate, where the press boxes and luxury suites were. Additional details include the pitchers mounds and plates in the bullpens, and the zig-zag ramps leading up to the entries along the sides of the roofed portion of the grandstand in left field. The text now mentions that the "dugouts" were actually at ground level, i.e., not dug out. Exhibition Stadium was one of nine stadiums with such a characteristic that I listed on May 31 last year.

Home of the Braves renamed

While I wasn't paying attention in January, the Atlanta Braves announced that their semi-new home in Cobb County, Georgia has been renamed Truist Park. following the merger of SunTrust Bank and BB&T Bank which resulted in the creation of "Truist Bank." (See the Stadium names chronology page.)

Globe Life Field

Now that baseball is almost guaranteed to be played, the Texas Rangers' new home (Globe Life Field) will officially open next month. That's enough time for me to finish the diagram(s).

More fake turf: yukh!

The center field fence at Marlins Park has been moved in by about ten feet, and the former grass surface has been replaed by artificial turf. So I added a slightly modified new diagram to that page. See

The installation of artificial turf in Miami plus the new stadium in Arlington, Texas means that the number of MLB ballparks lacking genuine grass has risen from three to five this year. For 13 years (from 2010 through 2018) there were only two such ballparks, and for a while it seemed possible that the Toronto Blue Jays might put real grass in the Rogers Centre. Such as not to be. The Turf page has been updated accordingly.

May 1, 2020 [LINK / comment]

Pandemic puts 2020 baseball season in jeopardy

The 2020 Major League Baseball season should have started five weeks ago, and what originally seemed to be an annoying two-week delay is now threatening to doom the entire season. Opening Day was originally set for Thursday, March 26 (way too early), and one week later (April 2) the Washington Nationals were scheduled to host their first home game of the year (against the New York Mets), with the triumphant unveiling of their 2019 World Series championship banner. Alas, the glorious moment has been put on indefinite hold as the nation and the world wait to see whether this awful covid-19/coronavirus pandemic will somehow recede in time for baseball to be played.

Virtually no one expects baseball games to begin before July, which rules out any All Star Game this year. Presumably, the venue where it was supposed to held -- Dodger Stadium -- will become the host of the 2021 All Star Game. Earlier this month, Baseball executives were considering the idea of holding fan-free "quarantined" MLB games in Arizona stadiums: Chase Field in Phoenix, and the various "Cactus League" spring training ballparks in the area. As the 2015 Baltimore Orioles game proved, however, major league baseball without fans is an eerie and disturbing spectacle. Now the most likely scenario is playing perhaps half of the season beginning in July, with an altered schedule in which the existing leagues and divisions would be replaced by three regional divisions encompassing both leagues. The idea would be to reduce travel time to an absolute minimum. In such a scenario, the playoffs would probably be extended into November. Frankly, I don't care much for that alternative, either.

In all but two years from 1904 until 1960, there were 154 games in a complete major league regular season, allowing for 22 games for each pair of teams in the eight-team National and American Leagues. In 1918, however, the baseball season was shortened by about one month (canceling about 26 games in September) because of World War I, with the final regular games taking place on September 2. A total of 227 major league players were drafted that summer, including Eddie Grant of the New York Giants. He was one of three such players who died in combat, and in his honor a monument was later placed in center field of the Polo Grounds. Meanwhile, the "Spanish flu" (which did not originate in Spain) had been spreading from city to city in the United States, and as the autumn progressed, a second big wave caused a devastating loss of life as several cities were under mass quarantine: at least 548,000 Americans died of the flu from 1918 to 1919 (about one half percent of the entire population), and anywhere from 20 million to 50 million people died around the world. For a fascinating narrative, see axios.com. Expecting that the public's fear of lingering contagion would cause a big drop in attendance, the major league owners decided to postpone the 1919 Opening Day until April 23, more than a week later than usual. The schedule changes resulted in 14 fewer games than normal. Nowadays, however, the 1919 baseball season is remembered primarily for the "Black Sox" scandal following the World Series.

In contrast, World War II did not result in significant baseball disruptions, other than a few night games in east coast cities being moved inland because of blackout restrictions. From 1962 until this year, all but four MLB regular seasons have consisted of 162 games. As the table below shows, the exceptions were the years when the players were on strike: 1972, 1981, 1994, and April 1995. The number of actual games varied among teams because of rained-out games that were never made up because neither team was in pennant contention.

Year Actual number of games
(approximate average)
Normal number of games Circumstances
1918 128 154 World War I
1919 140 154 Spanish flu
1972 156 162 Players' strike
1981 110 162 Players' strike
1994 114 162 Players' strike
1995 144 162 Players' strike

SOURCES: Baseball, An Illustrated History (1994), by Geoffrey Ward and Ken Burns; espn.com; The Sports Encyclopedia: Baseball 2003; The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2017

While researching the 1918 season, I "discovered" something that I had learned before but had forgotten about: the National League pennant winner Chicago Cubs used Comiskey Park on a temporary basis for the 1918 World Series! The White Sox' home had about 10,000 more seats than what was then called "Cubs Park," even though the latter was four years younger. Accordingly, I have updated the Baseball Chronology (annual) pages and Wrigley Field to include that fact, which was already included on the Anomalous stadiums and Comiskey Park pages. Speaking of which, my Comiskey Park diagrams are in need of some minor corrections...

Since the "Spanish" influenza outbreak happened over a century ago, it may be difficult to draw major conclusions as far as how baseball ought to respond to the current pandemic disaster. In those days there was much uncertainty, complacency, and outright ignorance, and strangely enough, those same human failings seem to be widespread today. It is hard to imagine that Americans in 2020 would accept the reopening of large-scale spectator sports while enduring a death toll of equal proportions. (Relatively speaking, 548,000 dead back then is the equivalent of 1,700,000 dead today.)

So what are we to do? The possibility of no baseball at all for the entire year is almost too painful to bear, but it's not as bad as the massive loss of life and economic distress that we are witnessing. I would go along with some kind of "salvage" arrangement to play a half season under an accelerated schedule, but only as long as fans are allowed to attend in person. Obviously, those folks attending games would be expected to wear masks for most or all of the time, but most importantly, there should be a strict limit on ticket sales, to keep fans apart. Pairs and perhaps groups of four should be allowed to sit next to each other, but going by the six-foot "social distancing" rule would necessitate three empty seats between unrelated fans. Even- and odd-numbered seat rows would likewise be staggered so that nobody sits directly in front of someone else. With such a system in place, a stadium's effective capacity would be only about 40 percent of normal. Since many fans would be reluctant to attend under the risky circumstances anyway, that would probably be mutually agreeable between the team owners and the fans.

In other news...

There are many other baseball developments for me to get caught up on, but I think I'll leave that until (hopefully) tomorrow... My apologies for such a long hiatus, folks. As soon as the spring semester is over I am determined to begin responding to the many e-mail messages I have received since last fall. Thanks as always for your understanding.

From October through December, a table of all Postseason game scores is shown here.

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Baseball books:

See Sources for a brief description of the above books. Also see more specialized books on the Ebbets Field, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium pages.

Coming Attractions

General diagrams
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General diagrams
yet to be created:

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(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)

Stadium construction

Soon after the 2017 opening of the new home of the Atlanta Braves (SunTrust Park), construction began on the future home of the Texas Rangers, a very brief lapse. The last significant lapse occurred from March 2012 (when Marlins Park was completed), September 2014 (when construction on SunTrust Park began). Before that, there was at least one major league baseball stadium under construction continually from September 1986 until March 2012. Both the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays hope to get public funding for a new stadium, but near-term prospects are bleak.

NEW! Stadium construction page, with a chronology of the past 30 years.

Research department: