March 21, 2014
What's that? You say that spring training actually began four weeks ago? Ah, you must mean winter training! My calendar clearly indicates that the vernal equinox took place just yesterday, and today was the first full day of spring. As proof of winter's persistence, I offer this photo of preparations for a baseball game that I took while visiting Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this week. It sure doesn't look like "spring" to me:
The U.Va. Cavaliers beat Towson State in that game, 5-3, coming back after the visitors took a 3-0 lead in the first inning. See augustafreepress.com. Attendance was 2,567, but there were probably a lot of no-shows in the cold, drizzly conditions. With the win against Princeton today, the #3-ranked Cavaliers' record is now 17-3, or .850. It would be hard to keep that up for the rest of the season, but there are excellent chances for Virginia to make another trip to the College World Series in Omaha later this spring.
On a more serious note, I need to acknowledge and bewail having fallen way behind on my baseball update duties once again this year. (Well, Lent is the season for repentance.) And so much has happened! The Nationals have a new manager (Matt Williams), and a new starting pitcher (Doug Fister), among other potential stars. I'll refrain from commenting on the Nats, and about other baseball news such as the impending use of expanded instant replay, until later. Due to a "series of unfortunate events," I have simply failed to muster the energy to finish the diagram work I have been doing. Perhaps this wretched, brutal winter with multiple big snow storms had something to do with it. In any event, "spring" training has just about passed me by, and Opening Day is only ten days away!
Technically, Opening Day is just a few hours away, as the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks are about to play in a official, non-exhibition baseball game at the Sydney Cricket Grounds, in Sydney, Australia. From the photos I have seen, the field is shaped like a circle that has been slightly flattened on one side. The grandstand has been expanded and upgraded over the years, and is now double- (or triple-) decked all the way around, except for the side where a staid old clubhouse still stands. Unless they put in temporary fences, there is going to be a huge amount of foul territory, which could result in lots of pop foul balls being caught for outs. It's a great thing that Major League Baseball is reaching out to the friendly nation of Australia, and I hope this helps to spread interest in baseball around the world. The game will be broadcast on MLB TV. See MLB.com.
Thanks to the "polar vortex" deep freeze that shut down airports all across the midwest in early January, I had an unexpected opportunity to visit the site of Metropolitan Stadium, in beautiful downtown Bloomington, Minnesota. Chicago O'Hare Airport was shut down, and ironically the only way for me to get back east from South Dakota that day was via Minneapolis-St. Paul. I had a long layover, however, and I took the advice of some friendly information booth folks, and took the light rail over to nearby Mall of America, which was built on the site of the former Metropolitan Stadium. (Pretty awesome indeed, living up to its reputation.) Before long, I found the home plate marker, and took a picture:
Speaking of the Twins, their fans
ought to be pretty [would have been] psyched by the acquisition of free agent Robinson Cano. [OOPS: It was the Seattle Mariners who acquired him, not the Twins.] (That was a shock to me; I really thought the Yankees were going to keep him as the designated "franchise" player, succeeding Derek Jeter in that role.) As you probably guessed, I decided to revise the Metropolitan Stadium diagrams, and that work is 99% complete. There are a couple significant corrections, actually, so please stay tuned!
That made me think about my previous visits to the sites of stadiums that were already gone. I believe this list is complete:
In addition, I have been to six ballparks that no longer exist: Memorial Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, Busch Stadium II, Tiger Stadium, and Mile High Stadium. (I only saw games in the the first two of those, however.) I was also in the vicinity of three stadiums that have since been demolished (Riverfront Stadium, Three Rivers Stadium, and the Kingdome), and I have been near the sites of three stadiums that had already been demolished (fully or partially) by the time of my visit: Veterans Stadium, Braves Field, and Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
The remaining "departed" ballparks on my to-do list: Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, Shibe Park, Baker Bowl, Forbes Field, Exhibition Stadium, Jarry Park, Sun Life (Dolphin) Stadium. That excludes the temporary MLB ballparks such as Colts Stadium. I plan to look for any historical markers the next time I visit those places. Of the stadiums in this "legacy" montage of MLB ballparks, two are no longer in existence, one is in "purgatory," with perhaps just a few years left to go, and even the venerable ancient homes of the Cubs and Red Sox may not last more than ten or twenty more years...
In Minneapolis, they wasted no time in demolition of the Metrodome, since they want to be finished with the Vikings' new football stadium in time for the 2016 season. (During my brief layover in Minneapolis, I had to choose between seeing the Metrodome for a second time or else going to the site of Metropolitan Stadium for the first time. Not expecting to be given access inside the Metrodome, I just didn't see the point in the first option.) The first major demolition milestone was when the Teflon-fabric roof was deflated in January. In case you haven't seen it already, there's a video at kfan.com. After that, most of the grandstand was gutted and removed by the end of February, and now they have begun with foundation work for the new stadium. Pretty darned fast!
As for the other two "doomed" ex-baseball stadiums, it's just a matter of time before they come down as well. Fortunately, however, neither Houston nor San Francisco is in as much of a hurry to get rid of (respectively) the Astrodome and Candlestick Park. That's great news for me, because now there's still a chance I can see them before they are gone forever.
Ironically, the main reason the Astrodome is still standing is that it costs too much to tear it down. (Too bad they didn't think about that in Detroit when the now-bankrupt city government was hellbent on tearing down Tiger Stadium!) The estimated cost of demolishing the Astrodome is $29 to $78 million. See www.inquisitr.com. Frankly, I can't see why they can't sell it to some sort of historic conservancy group and make something useful out of it.
And on the West Coast, finally, San Francisco officials plan to keep Candlestick Park for another year, "fully staffed with a team of 15 gardeners, custodians, stationary engineers and others -- at an annual budget of $5.9 million -- as they try to line up a series of closing events in the coming months." See www.sfgate.com. That is good news indeed!
In North Texas, meanwhile, it was recently announced that "Rangers Ballpark in Arlington" is being renamed "Globe Life Park in Arlington" under a 10-year contract with said insurance company. That covers the remainder of the Rangers' lease for the stadium. See wfaa.com. Accordingly, I have updated the Stadium chronology, annual page and the Stadium names page.
From what I can tell, only nine MLB teams have not sold the naming rights to their stadiums:
OK, I admit that I've been more than a little bit taken up in the hoopla over the University of Virginia Cavalier's men's basketball team this year. I'm not much of a basketball fan, but anyone who is into sports has to appreciate the Cavs' phenomenal climb from unranked status at the beginning of this year to becoming the #1 seed in the NCAA East regional championship bracket. The Cavs not only won the regular season in a triumphant victory over the formerly #1 nationally ranked Syracuse Orangemen, but breezed through the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament held in Greensboro, North Carolina. Last Sunday they outplayed the Duke Blue Devils in the ACC championship game, holding a narrow lead for most of the game, and then pulling away at the end, winning by a score of 72-63. Wa-hoo-wa!
In the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament tonight, the Cavaliers had a scare in the first half, falling ten points behind 16th-seed Coastal Carolina. (!?) But then U.Va. came back in the second half and built a 13-point lead late in the game, finally winning by a score of 70-59. Whew!