What makes a truly magnificent baseball stadium? For me, the most important considerations are field asymmetry, which makes the game much more interesting (and argument-prone), and aesthetic harmony, which is of course quite subjective. Each of the great early-20th century stadiums had some funky distinguishing feature: Brooklyn's Ebbets Field and Cleveland's League Park both had very tall fences to make up for short distances in right field, not unlike the 37-foot "Green Monster" in left field of Boston's Fenway Park. Pittsburgh's Forbes Field had extreme variations in dimensions in both fair and foul territory, Cincinnati's Crosley Field had a banked slope in left field, and Chicago's Wrigley Field still has that curving ivy-covered brick wall where balls often get lost. Both the Polo Grounds and Detroit's Tiger Stadium had upper decks that extended out over the playing field. Prior to the 1974-1975 renovation, New York's Yankee Stadium had the enormous left field ("Death Valley") as well as a magisterial facade along the roof. The "retro" stadiums built since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992 have often been pretty good imitations of the classics, but in other cases they are either too artificial and antiseptic (Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix) or too contrived and phony (the Ballpark at Arlington). Minute Maid Park in Houston has a splendid banked, deep center field and other quirks, but the steam locomotive above the left field wall is a mismatch with the Astros' team identity. Anyway, here are the five criteria I use to rank stadiums, with brief descriptions:
- Field asymmetry: Are field dimensions balanced from right to left field? Do outfield fences have unusual angles or heights?
- Architectural design: Does the form fit the function?
- Seat proximity: (and sight lines in general) How well can most fans see the action on the infield diamond?
- Location: Is it close to downtown? Is there a scenic backdrop or notable landmark?
- Aesthetics: That hard-to-define "look and feel"
The overall ranking for each stadium is a simple weighted average of these five factors. Note that, in contrast to other such ranking systems, my criteria do NOT include "fan amenities" such as food service, skyboxes, kids' playpens, or bar/lounges. As a staunch traditionalist, I look down on such "bells and whistles" that distract attention from what's happening on the field. Note that the table includes separate line entries for stadiums that went through two or more distinct "phases." For some stadiums such as Yankee Stadium, the "classic" configuration was much different than it is today. That page and several others have two or more rows of data to reflect major renovations in the stadiums. Some of the capacity figures are rounded to the nearest thousand; the official numbers often fluctuate from year to year.
Notwithstanding the pretentious, pseudo-scientific methodology used to derive these rankings, the following caveat is in order: the rankings are subject to occasional change, based on further thoughtful reflection or just a whim. For objective data on field dimensions, etc., see the Stadium statistics page.
NOTE: This page no longer shows the stadium rankings of two other sources: The Sporting News Baseball 2001 and Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks: The Ultimate Guide to America's Top Baseball Parks, by Bob Wood (1988). Many other publications have had similar rankings as well.