Clem's Baseball home

Hiram Bithorn Stadium*
"Home away from home"
of the former
Montreal Expos

Hiram Bithorn Stadium

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2001 2004 2013 (transparent roof)
Olympic Stadium

RFK Stadium

* "Estadio Hiram Bithorn" en español
** and neutral site of a Rangers vs. Blue Jays series in April 2001, and a Mets vs. Marlins series in June 2010.
Vital statistics:
Lifetime Seating capacity Seating rows
Overhang / shade % Territory
(1,000 sq. ft.)
Fence height  CF
orien- tation
Back-stop Outfield dimensions The Clem Criteria:
Built Status Lower deck Mezz. Upper deck Lower deck Upper deck Fair Foul LF CF RF Left
Left-center Center field Right-center Right field Field
asym- metry
prox- imity
Loc- ation Aesth- etics Over- all
1962 FAIR 19,000 45 - - 70% - 108.2 38.7 12 12 12 SE 63? 325 375 404 375 325 2 5 4 4 4 3.8

World Baseball Classic: 2006, 2009, 2013

This single-deck stadium has been the home of the Santurce Crabbers for many years, but there is some confusion owing to the relocation and renaming of Puerto Rican pro teams in recent years, like a game of musical chairs. It first played host to a major league game when the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers opened their 2001 season here. It thus became the fourth stadium outside the "Lower 48" and Canada to host a big league game since 1996, when MLB began an international promotion of the sport. In preparation for this showcase event, new lights and other amenities were installed. More recently, it served as the site of three games between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins ("home away from home") in June 2010. (See Anomalous Stadiums.)

thumbnail The most distinctive design feature is the huge amount of foul territory and the broad sweep of the grandstand, which is even broader than Candlestick Park. Even fans in box seats are very far from the infield. Also, the roof is "corrugated" in a zig-zag fashion much like the pavilion roof at Dodger Stadium. As in other baseball stadiums in the Caribbean region, the light towers above the grandstand are tilted toward the field. (The same is true of Estadio Dennis Martinez in Nicaragua.) There is a row of luxury boxes and press boxes at the top of the back rows, stretching from first base to third base. From the players' point of view, the extremely short outfield dimensions provide a strong bias in favor of batters. In 1995 the original grass field was replaced with Astroturf, which is cheaper to maintain but is extremely hot in the summer.

The stadium namesake, Hiram Bithorn, was the first Major League player from Puerto Rico, pitching for the Chicago Cubs in 1942, 1943 (his best year), and 1946, with three years of service in the U.S. armed forces during World War II. In 1947 he played for the Chicago White Sox, but was taken out after only two innings because of a sore arm, and that turned out to be the end of his MLB career. He later played in the Mexican winter league, and at the end of 1951 he was shot by a Mexican policeman in disputed circumstances. It was a brief, tragic career, but he inspired many other greats from Puerto Rico such as Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Bernie Williams, and Carlos Delgado.

In December 2002 MLB officials announced that the Montreal Expos would play 22 of their "home" games in Puerto Rico during the 2003 season. This was a long-shot venture aimed at finding out whether there was enough potential fan and sponsor support on the island to sustain a major league franchise. New bleachers were installed in both right and left field, and the outfield fences were moved back 10-20 feet, to approximate the outfield dimensions at Olympic Stadium, the Expos' real home. (NOTE: Lowry states that the distances down the line in 2004 were 318 feet, but they are currently marked at 325 feet.) Also, a new "Field Turf" surface (which looks less artificial) was installed, along with other enhancements intended to bring this ballpark up to major league standards. At first folks in Puerto Rico responded eagerly, and many of the Expos' early games in their tropical "home away from home" were sold out, or nearly so. Attendance dwindled after a few months, however. After tentative negotiations with concerned parties from the Washington area broke down during the summer of 2003, MLB announced that the Expos would play 22 more "home" games in Puerto Rico during the 2004 season. This put enormous strain on the Expos players, who logged many thousands of extra airline miles and lost many nights' sleep. In spite of promotional efforts, attendance continued to lag in 2004, dashing hopes that the San Juan city government or the commonwealth government of Puerto Rico might pay for a fancy new stadium. With no acceptable alternative home cities, and the option of "contracting" the money-losing franchise precluded by judges, MLB had little choice but to approve the relocation of the Expos to Washington at the end of the 2004 season. Thus were born the Washington Nationals!

Since the Expos' days came to an end, Hiram Bithorn Stadium has hosted the World Baseball Classic in all three years: 2006, 2009, and 2013. One improvement made for the most recent WBC is the addition of four rows of box seats extending outward from the dugouts. This reduced the vast foul territory from about 43,700 to about 38,700 square feet.

SOURCES: Lowry (2006), Charlie O'Reilly's Puerto Rico Winter Baseball,, Sports Illustrated

Hiram Bithorn Stadium:
Chronology of diagram updates


NOTE: The diagram thumbnails have been continually replaced since 2008, so the images seen in the older blog posts do not reflect how the full-size diagrams looked at that time. Roll your mouse over the adjacent thumbnail to see a pre-2008 version.

HiramB ithorn Stadium
11 Apr 2006 12 Mar 2009 26 Mar 2013 01 Jun 2016

Vox populi: Fans' impressions

Have you been to this stadium? If so, feel free to share your impressions of it with other fans! (Registration is required.) Also, I welcome submissions of original stadium photos that fans have taken, and will make sure they get properly credited. Just send me an e-mail message via the Contact page.

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