Oct. 5 - 11
|League Championship series
Oct. 12 - 21
Oct. 23 - 31
|St. Louis Cardinals
|Los Angeles Dodgers
|St. Louis Cardinals
|St. Louis Cardinals
|Boston Red Sox
|Boston Red Sox
|Boston Red Sox
|New York Yankees
|New York Yankees
October 30 ~ The Curse Is Eclipsed! Once more, superstition and astrology intersect with the world of baseball. Was it just a coincidence that the Red Sox triumph on Wednesday night took place during a lunar eclipse? Within the span of one full lunar cycle, two unthinkable historic passages in the baseball world have transpired: first, official confirmation of the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington ("when the moons and the suns and the stars and the dollars are aligned correctly," as Bob DuPuy said), and now, the Red Sox have become World Champions, and have done so in spectacularly decisive fashion. Both miracles followed decades of maddening frustration suffered by fans in their respective cities, and in both cases a central part of the story was rising above old demons, either internal or external. (Just in time for Halloween!) Just as Washingtonians were momentarily stunned by news that they were about to become a real baseball city once again, Bostonians are temporarily dazed by the new reality of being on top of the proverbial heap, now freed of their past crippling self-doubt and bitter grudges. It was a Cinderella story that only a total grouch could fail to appreciate, though a World Series without pinstripes still seems a little empty to spoiled Yankee fans like me. Four years without a world title?
Johnny Damon's first-inning homer was all the Red Sox needed in Game Four, putting the Cardinals in an effective psychological "pin" position from which they could not escape. Pitching performances by Schilling, Martinez, Lowe, and Foulke far surpassed expectations; apparently not many experts gave the Red Sox as much credit for pitching before the postseason as I did. Many have remarked that Boston not only set a record for consecutive postseason wins, they also sustained a perfect inning-by-inning lead in runs. Another odd facet of this World Series was that both teams' scores in each successive game declined in steady fashion. And what are we to make of the enormous ironies involving the actual or possible trades of Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra this year?
I was amused to find out that Boston's pitching hero Curt Schilling endorsed Bush at the end of his brief appearance on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday. After Charles Gibson offered congratulations to him and the Red Sox, he replied: "And make sure you tell everybody to vote, and vote Bush next week." (via www.georgewbush.com)
In Washington, the city council held a marathon public hearing on the baseball stadium issue, and more than 300 folks showed up. The opposition seems split between total rejectionists and those who would like to get a better bargain, so Mayor Williams' plan is likely to be approved. (See Washington Post.) There is a remote possibility, however, that all this is part of a negotiating ploy aimed at setting up a more reasonable deal, mobilizing public sentiment in D.C. to demonstrate than the city government can't bend any further and will have to get more private money to fund the construction. In other words, give the extortionary deal demanded by Peter Angelos a fair shot, and then force him to settle for something less. I wonder if the terms Angelos is getting include an upper cap on D.C.-Baltimore revenue sharing, in case the Washington team earns a higher profit than expected?
October 27 ~ Could it be?? Thanks to Pedro and Manny both living up to their high expectations at just the right moment (and Jeff Suppan making a colossal base-running goof), the Red Sox edged closer to what will be regarded the history-making triumph of our time. The fat lady is not yet singing, but the ghost of Babe Ruth seems to be sleeping. (Good SNL skit on that, but I missed Ashlee Simpson's lip-sync gaffe.) The Red Sox must have set some kind of record in errors in the first two games, but their batting made up for it. A 4-0 sweep would cut into FOX's ad revenues [Fans! It's game time, time to grab a cold, fresh Budweiser!] so let's see if they can contrive some way to stretch this series out another game or two. As we all know, coming back from an 0-3 deficit is almost unheard of...
Four letters to the editor in the Washington Post on Tuesday made some good points about the developmental effects of the proposed new ballpark, and some bad ones. To succeed, stadiums must be close to downtown, which is why the option of keeping the team in RFK indefinitely is simply not plausible. That's also why FedEx Field is such a sterile, unhappy home for the Redskins. As for the complaint that a homeless shelter near the new site may get shut down, that needs to be compensated in some way. Insisting on private funding for the new stadium is a nice thought, and the Giants' SBC Park is a noble example, but MLB's terms for relocating the Expos were very explicit on that point. They're a monopoly, and -- as long as Congress lets them run free -- they make the rules.
October 24 ~ Hey, a win's a win. Johnny Damon sparked the Red Sox into taking an early lead last night, but the Cardinals clawed their way back into the game in the latter innings. Two errors by Manny Ramirez almost blew the game wide open, but Mark Bellhorn's home run in the bottom of the eighth saved the day. The way I figure it, Manny owes him a BIG favor; a loss in Game 1 would have been a crushing blow to the Red Sox. The idea of a World Series in Boston is still almost too unreal to absorb; the Red Sox have made it to the October Classic about once every two decades since the 1940s. It's interesting that their recent success coincides with the transfer of ownership from the Yawkey family, the owners since 1933, to John Henry, the former owner of the Marlins.
October 22 ~ Red birds vs. Red Sox Thanks in large part to that amazing diving catch by Jim Edmunds in the 2nd inning, which saved (at least) two runs, the Cards managed to beat Roger Clemens and the Astros last night. So this year's World Series will be a rematch of the 1967 and 1946 contests between two of the "reddest" teams in baseball. Had Houston won (they led until the 6th inning), it would have been the second all-wild-card World Series in three years. If Boston had held onto their 5-run lead in last year's ALCS Game 7, both teams in last year's World Series would have been wild card teams as well. Rewarding grit and spunk is all well and good, but the emerging pattern suggests that there ought to more of an advantage for teams that do better during the regular season. (Am I beating a dead horse here?) The problem is that playing at home doesn't yield as much of an advantage as one might think. Excepting this series, 12 out of the 23 other postseason games this year were won by the visiting team. This was only the fourth seven-game postseason series in MLB history in which the home team won all of the games. (The previous times were the 1987, 1991, and 2001 World Series.)
(revised, that is) Baseball in D.C., with a photo and map of the new stadium site, a chronology (not yet complete), Web links, etc.
October 21 ~ "The World Turned Upside Down" -- That was the name of the song played by the British Army band when General Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington at the Battle of Yorktown on October 19, 1781 -- only one calendar date earlier than the stupendous victory by the underdog Red Sox in the Bronx last night. How can such a thing have happened?? In my view, there were three main factors: reliable batting through the entire Boston lineup, solid pitching (when it really counted, at least), and gritty team spirit. I had wondered how the Yankees would manage to win in the championships without a first-rate pitching staff this year, and the consequences of that gap are now obvious. David Ortiz obviously earned the ALCS MVP award, but it was the down-on-his-luck "caveman" Johnny Damon who provided the necessary power (six RBIs) last night, with TWO homers, including a squeaker of a grand slam and a huge blast into the upper deck. What a well-timed rally on his part! Last year I felt a certain charitable sympathy for that perpetually frustrated team from Boston, but this year was different. During September they clearly established themselves as worthy contenders to the American League pennant. Even after their early losses in the ALCS, I thought they would end up with a respectable showing, but even I couldn't imagine the record-smashing comeback they pulled off in the last four games. Will this triumph help Boston fans to get over their hatred and resentment of the Bronx Bombers, at long last? Will it lead to national reconciliation and promote world peace?? Well, at least now I may be able to wear my Yankees cap without fear when I finally get a chance to see a game in Fenway Park. In the mean time, I will be cheering the Red Sox on in the World Series, confidently and whole-heartedly. That being said, I feel the need to repeat what I wrote about the Florida Marlins victory in last year's World Series: "I hate spunk!"
I've redone the panoramic (spliced-together) photo of the back side of Wrigley Field, and have added large versions of the two other photos on that page. Stil pending are diagram revisions to show how that historic stadium evolved over the early decades of its existence.
October 20 ~ Naughty A-Rod EVENING UPDATE: Jim Edmonds just forced Game 7 in the NLCS with a home run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Just in time for this evening's Main Event to begin!!! Julian Tavares got so mad at himself for blowing Game 5 in Houston that he pulled a Kevin Brown masochism stunt, and I was amazed he was able to pitch with two broken fingers tonight. Interestingly, the Astros-Cardinals series is the first postseason series in at least a couple years in which all games have been won by the home team -- so far. The Red Sox jumped out to an early 6-run lead thanks to yet another homer by Ortiz, and a grand slam by Johnny Damon, who has been ice cold lately. In Game 7 of the ALCS last year, the Yanks came back from five runs down to win; can they somehow recover from a six-run deficit this year???
When I first saw Bronson Arroyo's failed tag on Alex Rodriguez in the 8th inning I had chilling memories of the similar game-ruining gaffe by Bill Buckner in 1986. But then the replays showed clearly that A-Rod had swatted the ball away from Arroyo's glove with his left hand, and the conferring umpires quickly made things right, after which the outraged fans started throwing balls onto the field. Things soon calmed down after riot police took up positions, averting a possible forfeit but spoiling the atmosphere nonetheless. Thanks for leaving a sour taste in our mouths, A-Rod! Let's not forget the incredibly brave pitching performance by Curt Schilling, who somehow lasted SEVEN full innings, in spite of his fragile ankle. The deciding game this evening will be extremely tense, which raises the ugly possibility of another brawl.
The Montreal Expos franchise is officially on the auction block. Do I hear $300 million? The ultimate price will be greatly inflated by virtue of the publicly-subsidized future stadium in D.C., the "extortionary" price of admission made necessary by the obstructionism of Peter Angelos. Interested parties should contact mlb.com. In Washington, opponents of city funding for a new stadium seem resigned to defeat, as no one has any better ideas on how to revitalize the South Capitol Street neighborhood. See the Washington Post.
I've just read a book that provides a lot of insight into the recent (and yet-unfinished) struggle over the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C. It's Playing Hardball: The High Stakes Battle for Baseball's New Franchises (1993), by Donald Whitford. It focuses mainly on the long campaign by Denver (and Colorado) to land a big league franchise, either via relocation or expansion. Their long sojourn in the "wilderness" is similar to what Washington has been through, except that Denver never had big league ball, and the nearest alternative big league team for them was several hundred miles away. The other case was the Florida Marlins, whose original owner Wayne Huizenga emerged from the pack of franchise contenders quite suddenly, in contrast to Denver. This illustrates how modern baseball has increasingly come under control of flamboyant risk-taking tycoons whose ties to their local communities are often weak. Two other themes in the book are fascinating to me: the persistent role of politicians who get carried away trumpeting economic development spinoffs (such as then-Denver mayor Federico Peña, who later served as U.S. Secretary of Transportation), and the unique personal styles of the successive MLB commissioners who struggle to balance heavy pressure from owners while justifying baseball's special monopoly status as a matter of public interest. How would baseball have evolved in the 1990s if Bart Giamatti had lived a full life?
The 2002 Archives and 2003 Archives pages have been cleaned up, and there are now links enabling you to jump from one postseason "scoreboard" to another. (Pretty handy, huh?) Games won by the visiting team are now shaded olive, which reveals some interesting patterns. Another bit of odd trivia I've discovered: there were NO extra-inning games in the 2002 postseason.
October 19 ~ Back to The Bronx The Red Sox came out swinging in Yankee Stadium tonight, but so far (end of 3rd inning) there is no score. Win or lose, the Red Sox deserve huge respect for what they accomplished in their do-or-die home stand this past weekend. Anyway, it will be better for the Yankees if they win at home. Now the big question is, How many innings can Curt Schilling last?
October 18 ~ HOLY COW! UPDATE: David Ortiz just drove in the winning run for the second night in a row, keeping the Red Sox's impossible dream alive. This year's "Boston marathon" has been simply unbelievable! And the Astros' 2B Jeff Kent of all people gets to be the hero for the folks in Houston. (Oh, that home field advantage.) So it's back to New York and St. Louis; could this year's postseason top last year's???
I still can hardly believe what I saw transpire after midnight up at Fenway Park. My hunch that Boston would refuse to quit, in spite of having dropped the first three games to the Yankees, was proven correct. Who cares that no team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in a postseason series? Anything is possible! Those scrappy wild card teams have certainly added lots of spark to the postseason, and we should give credit where credit is due for that innovation: Thanks, Mr. Selig! Nevertheless, I still think the highest-percentage team in each league should get a bigger advantage than at present, with only three games in the first round, and all at home. That's a little different from what I had suggested before; after rethinking the matter, I decided that a 3 home game / 2 away game series format would put too much pressure on the team with the home field advantage.
Interestingly, both games yesterday were decided by a home run to the right field bullpen. It was also coincidental that "Houston" and "Boston" rhyme, and both are in states that are home to a presidential candidate. What's more, both stadiums bear strong similarities in layout, with a short left field with a high wall and grandstands that are squeezed in along the foul line. (That's not really a coincidence, however, since it reflects the conscious imitation of Fenway Park by the designers of MinuteMaid Park.) The two games in Boston lasted well over nine hours altogether. The 19-8 blowout by the Yankees on Saturday set a number of records, too many to mention here. The Astros have proven themselves worthy competitors to the Cardinals. Carlos Beltran and Albert Pujols are just amazing.
I've received a lot of news tips and corrections on baseball stadium news over the last several days, and I'm sorry that I can't always respond right away. Steven Poppe laid out a list of stadium diagrams in need of revision and/or updating, including some of the "neutral" venues such as the TokyoDome. T.J. Zmina (whose photos are on the PNC Park page) told me that the scrolling stadium menus overlap with each other; I hope that's fixed now. Marc Gilbert tells me that the dugouts at Dodger Stadium will be moved forward next year, as part of the recent grandstand renovations there. I ran across some great photos of it and many other stadiums at walteromalley.com. As always, I greatly appreciate fan feedback, and I keep track of such input on my "to do" list, near the top of which is revising the grievously outdated Baseball in D.C. page.
October 13 ~ Yikes! Once again, the Red Sox couldn't quite mount enough of a comeback against the Yankees tonight, losing 3-1. They've still got plenty of fight left in them, though no league championship has ever been won by a team that lost the first two games. Whatever happens, 2004 will mark another great chapter in one of the biggest rivalries in sporting history. We've learned that Curt Schilling's rocky outing last night was the result of his tendon snapping across his ankle bone every time his foot pivoted. He is listed as "hopeful" for Game 5 (if there is one), but Boston's pitching staff has plenty of depth, so even if he can't make it, they'll still be competitive. The Cards beat the Astros by the same score as the Yanks did to the Bosox last night, 10-7. There seem to be a lot of repeated scores this postseason (8-3, especially).
The Red Sox certainly showed they've got spunk last night, coming within one run of the Yanks after falling eight runs behind. If David Ortiz's drive to left center field in the eighth inning had gone about two feet further, it would have set a postseason comeback record. The way things turned out, the 10-7 loss probably qualified as a moral victory for Boston, whose batting lineup and pitching staff are simply awe inspiring. The Bosox don't need anybody's sympathy this year; indeed, they could ... go ... all ... the ... WAY! Arghhh! The FOX channel on our TV is all screwed up at the moment; where is "the cable guy" when you need him?
October 11 ~ Killer bees! So the Astros have won their first-ever postseason series after 43 years of trying. Meanwhile, the Braves' championship dreams have once again been thwarted, as if it's expected. Those may be the two most frustrated teams in baseball today, but either of them would be hard pressed to beat the Cardinals. Is Houston due? It was nice for a long-suffering lower-ranked team like the Angels to finally get a moment of glory a couple years ago, but other teams have waited even longer. At least Turner Field was (over-) filled to capacity this time; the empty seats in the first two games were an embarrassment. Houston's remarkable success since mid-August is all the more amazing considering that Andy Pettite has been on the DL for so long. What if Roger Clemens faces Curt Schilling in the World Series, with both pitchers having switched leagues since their last joint appearance in 2001!?
October 10 ~ Here we go again! The Red Sox will face the Yankees in the AL Championship Series, just like last year. These being the two highest percentage teams in the AL, this is as it should be. Don Zimmer isn't coaching for the Yanks anymore, so who will Pedro Martinez throw to the ground when the next fight breaks out? Seriously, the Red Sox have shown they are true AL pennant contenders, combining skill, determination, and (so far) self-discipline. (Too bad the Cubs couldn't do likewise.) The Braves eked out another come-from-behind win over the Astros today and will now get a chance to advance to the NLCS at home tomorrow night. The Dodgers are struggling to survive another day against the Cardinals right now, but it doesn't look good. UPDATE: Game over, Cards win 6-2.
Parting is such bitter sorrow: Who can blame Canadians for scorning the $weetheart deal that brought the Expos to D.C.? Here's a headline from www.canada.com: "Washington name? Call 'em the Suckers -- The deal that brought major-league baseball back to Washington is so one-sided there's no need to hold a contest to come up with a name for the franchise" The Washington Post's political columnist David Broder suggested the team be called "The Reagans" because everything else in Washington has been named after The Gipper lately. Or maybe "The Gippers"?
As for us Washingtonians and Virginians, after waiting for baseball for so many years, the recent turn of events is still almost too unreal to believe. (Thomas Boswell eloquently explored this theme last week in the Washington Post.) But it makes me think, if such outrageously improbable things are possible, then who knows, maybe the Red Sox can win the World Series! I said "maybe." Meanwhile, former rogue mayor Marion Barry says he will fight any public funding for the new ballpark in Washington, echoing the flat-out rejectionist position of council member Adrian Fenty. (Do they have any better ideas for bringing in private money to clean up and redevelop the South Capitol Street neighborhood?) Tomorrow's Post has an article on the political opposition to Mayor Williams' baseball deal. Let there be no doubt: This was a sweetheart deal and deserves serious scrutiny in terms of public policy. But beyond the strict developmental aspects of building a new ballpark there lies the deeper socio-psychological purpose of healing the racial animosities that exploded in the 1960s. That was a big reason for baseball's departure in 1971, and Mayor Williams is well aware of the unique role baseball can play in making things right again in Our Nation's Capital.
October 6 ~ Playoffs begin! What home field advantage? Three of the first four playoff games were won by the lower-seeded visiting teams, yet more proof that anything can happen in the wide-open baseball postseason. Har-rumph! See the Postseason scores table below. UPDATE: The Twins scored a run in the top of the 12th inning, but A-Rod's clutch double and Matsui's sac fly saved the day for the Bronx Bombers, who won 7-6. Whew!
Activists in Our Nation's Capital are already organizing to try to block any public funding of a new ballpark, under the false assumption that there is a fixed "pie" of goodies to be divided upon among various factions. ("Education, Homelessness Are More Pressing Priorities, D.C. Group Says" -- Washington Post.) In a capitalist system such as ours, the pursuit of investment opportunities creates a positive-sum gain for society as a whole, though sometimes at a cost to certain groups. True, the economic development spinoffs from sports stadium construction are often exaggerated, but anyone with any familiarity with the South Capitol Street neighborhood should know how desperately new capital investment is needed there. Such blighted areas are a main reason for despair, which is what leads to so many other social ills. The real question is whether to spend D.C. government money from the existing tight budget, or to spend money drawn from new revenue sources in a way that attracts a steady and increasing flow of private money. The amount of money that would be spent in that area by suburban fans would probably cover the entire cost of the stadium well before the expected 30-year bond term expires. Such an injection of outside wealth will have a huge multiplier effect, stimulating new business and residential construction. (See last Sunday's Washington Post.) For anyone who genuinely wants to expand economic opportunities in the inner cities, this should be a no-brainer. The protesters seem more interested in thwarting the private sector elites and blocking investment than in looking out for poor people's best interests. The only question is whether the dislocated residents of the area will be adequately compensated and treated with respect.
Speaking of compensation, negotiations with Peter Angelos are dragging on and on and on. No surprise there. I think some kind of cushion is entirely appropriate, much like the adjustment subsidies given to workers in industries impacted by foreign imports. The point of such programs, however, is to ease the transition, not create a permanent entitlement. Angelos wants not only a 60 percent share of the Baltimore-Washington broadcasting profits, but a guaranteed $360 million resale value for his franchise and an automatic payment to make up for any revenue decline after the team begins playing in D.C. Any one or two of those would be reasonable, but all three? The word chutzpah does not begin to describe Mr. Angelos CORRECTION: The Expos lost to the Mets in their last game, not the Marlins. Thanks for that to "TopGear" who also writes, "By the way, it's interesting to note that the Expos' first game ever was at Shea Stadium as well as their last (as the Expos, at least)."
October 4 ~ Postseason 2004 UPDATE: In a more perfect world, the winningest team in each league would have a bigger advantage in the playoffs*, and frankly I would love to see a rematch of the 1964 Yanks vs. Cards contest. As we've seen in recent years, however, it's anybody's guess as to who will advance to the World Series. The Astros seemed to come from out of nowhere in in the final week, while the Cubs choked, to my distress. The Dodgers and the Angels both made it: isn't it funny how rival franchises in big markets are often so competitive! Will the team in Washington next year give the Orioles the motivation they've been lacking? Nearly all the teams in the playoffs are stronger in batting than in pitching -- except for the Astros, and possibly the Red Sox. (Wild card teams: hmmm...) Also, thanks to James Mauro for reminding me which division the K.C. Royals now play in. (D'oh!) The list of stadiums by league and division on the left side of the Baseball page has been duly corrected.
* I.e., the first round would be in a 3 home game -- 2 away game format (rather than 2 -- 2 -- 1), and there would only be a wild card slot if a team had a winning percentage higher than one of the divisional champions; otherwise, "bye" for the number one team!
D.C.!! I've been "on the road" quite a bit for the past several days. While in our historic state capital last week, I stopped at the home of Richmond Braves and took some photos of The Diamond. (That's the first minor league stadium page I've done, though there is yet no diagram.) Over the weekend I paid a visit to Washington, D.C., where I stopped at the former site of Griffith Stadium and RFK Stadium (which by weird coincidence had to be evacuated later that day due to a bomb threat). Two new photos are found on the respective stadium pages. Finally, I ventured into my (brief) old neighborhood on South Capitol Street, where the future ballpark will be built. (See photo.)
Au Revoir! While Washingtonians danced in the streets and uncorked champaign bottles, 31,395 melancholy Montreal fans showed up at Olympic Stadium to say goodbye to their beloved Expos last Wednesday night. They've known this was coming for several years, which is no doubt why the fans were much better behaved than the ones who stormed the field at the last game in RFK Stadium 33 years ago, causing a forfeit. Or maybe Canadians are just nicer folks. Anyway, the Expos lost to the [Mets] in their last game, 9 to 1. I know from experience what a beautiful city Montreal is, and it would behoove joyful Washington-area fans not to forget the sadness felt by those true-blue fans up north.
Next April 15, the Ex-Expos, or whatever they will be called, will play their first home game in 43-year old RFK Stadium, where no official baseball games have been played for the last 33 years. The longest such vacant lapse among the four previous "hand-me-down" stadiums was four years. When the A's moved into Kansas City's Municipal Stadium in 1955, that structure (or its first deck, rather) was already 32 years old. The Washington Post has a full report on the momentous occasion, and MLB.com has already launched a new D.C. Baseball Web site, for ticket and merchandise information.
September 29 ~ Let us play FURTHER UPDATE (6:20 PM): Mayor Anthony Williams announced at 5:00 this afternoon that Major League Baseball will be coming to Washington, D.C. next year. Two hours before, he had received a telephone call from the Commissioner's office confirming that the transfer will be approved. (A 3/4 vote of the 29 franchise owners is required, but that is a 100% certainty. If the broadcasting package is as generous as is rumored, Peter Angelos himself may vote "yes.") The 15-minute ceremony featured seven city council members who have [either] agreed to vote for the necessary funding [or are leaning that way]. Mayor Williams made it clear that D.C. residents would not bear any tax burden for the new stadium, that a large number of free or low-cost tickets would be set aside for underprivileged youth, and that one dollar for each ticket sold after 2.5 million attendance is reached each year would be allocated to community recreation projects. In short, the Mayor gets it. Baseball is about building communities and restoring hope. For details, see WTOP Web site. Much more to come.
Mayor Williams was particularly gracious in paying respects to Virginia Governor Mark Warner and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, whose welcoming attitude so angered Mr. Angelos back in July. So what's next? I'll be buying myself a Senators (or Nationals or Grays) cap as soon as the franchise is sold and the team's new name is announced. Come next spring, George W. Bush or John W. Kerry will revive the long-forgotten spring ritual by which the President used to throw out the first pitch at the season opening game in The Nation's Capital. PLAY BALL!!! I really look forward to finally seeing a game at Camden Yards, now that my boycott is over.
As in previous years, I've added a table at the bottom of the Baseball page showing the scores of postseason games. A few the championship series slots are still unfilled, so I may have to alter the teams listed. Cincinnati just beat the Cubs 4-3 in 12 innings, meaning the Cubs are in grave danger of losing the wild card race.
FURTHER UPDATE (noon): Steven Poppe referred me to a Canadian blogger Colby Cosh, who insists that the lawsuit by former minority partners in the Expos franchise will stop this deal dead in its tracks. It is, of course, remotely possible that lawyers could still sabotage this deal, even though no serious person on Earth believes that there is sufficient support for the Expos in Montreal to keep the franchise alive. True, MLB may just going through the motions with this relocation process, but the economic reasons for moving the team to the D.C. area are simply overwhelming. The lawsuit, and the threat of an injunction, is nothing more than a ploy to cash in -- one of the "$nag$" I referred to yesterday.
UPDATE: Here's the Post story from the Wednesday edition, and here's the latest press release from MLB.com. No official confirmation just yet. My take on this is that Mayor Williams is jumping the gun just a bit to make sure that the necessary funding legislation gets introduced at the City Council this week. Friday is the deadline.
September 28 ~ Allelujah! Yes, sports fans, it's true. According to both WTTG FOX-5 TV and WUSA TV-9 in Washington, it's a done deal! MLB negotiators have narrowed the differences with Peter Angelos, and the D.C. Mayor's Office tacitly confirmed that an announcement will be made tomorrow afternoon that the Expos will move to Washington next spring. Ironically, a press release from MLB.com earlier today cast a bit of doubt, as Bob DuPuy stated, "No schedule has been set for any announcement" about relocating the Expos. So what was the precipitating factor that brought forth this sublime revelation today, as opposed to later in the week? Were the honchos motivated by sympathy for Expos fans? Those few but passionate long-suffering true blue devotees now will know with certainty that their team's final home game of this season tomorrow will in fact be the last one ever played in "The Big O." Merci beaucoup, Mr. Selig. Was it the alignment of "the sun and the moon" that Bob DuPuy cited last year? (The moon is just about at full phase, it so happens.) Was it the passage of yet another hurricane through the D.C. area today? Or perhaps the rumblings at Mount Saint Helens or the earthquake in California today? Details about the sale of the franchise are still up in the air, and it's entirely possible that the Zients-Malek investor group (Washington Baseball Club, www.baseballindc.com) may get outbid by an out-of-towner. Some visitors to this site have expressed understandable skepticism about this long-delayed transaction actually being consummated, and there will probably be a few last-minute $nag$, but there's really no turning back now. O ye of little faith! It was just about 33 years ago -- a third of a century -- that the final Senators game was played at RFK Stadium, and it was exactly two years ago that I opined that the Southeast D.C. prospective stadium site was my favorite.
September 26 ~ Pennant fever! The Red Sox kept the heat on the Yankees at Fenway, trouncing them decisively in both weekend games after losing a close one on Friday. It was a virtual mirror image of what happened in the Bronx the week before. Obviously, Kevin Brown wasn't ready to return as a starting pitcher; I hope he's not too mad at himself... Yankee Andy Phillips became (according to my records) the 14th player ever to hit a home run on his very first pitch in the major leagues; Marcus Thames (also of the Yankees) was the last to do so, on June 10, 2002.
Following up on the issue of ballpark compass orientation which was brought up in the Washington Post article on the planned new stadium in D.C. yesterday, I have determined such orientations for all stadiums covered on this Web site. (!) The data are now included in a new column on the Stadium statistics page. To my surprise, in only three of the 65 stadiums is center field situated northwest from home plate. (Oddly enough, all three of those stadiums are/were in Canada!) So, it would appear that my proposal of building the new stadium in such a way as to have both the Washington Monument and the Capitol as an outfield backdrop is not very likely. I've come up with a suggested name for the new stadium, by the way: "Senators Park at Navy Yards." (It's just west of the Washington Navy Yards, on the Anacostia River.)
The new CBS drama The Clubhouse may be just the "shot in the arm"* CBS needs to recover from the 60 Minutes - Rathergate scandal. It seems like a well-conceived and directed series, and the fact that Mel Gibson and Aaron Spelling are behind the project says a lot. Dean Cain, formerly of "Lois and Clark" and "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!",** is well cast as the handsome, good-natured veteran star, à la Derek Jeter or Cal Ripken Jr. Tonight's premier episode explored the moral dilemma of team loyalty versus upholding the law, the kind of charcter-building issue you don't often see on television these days. I was puzzled by the source of the imaginary New York team name "Emperors" until I put "Yankee" and "imperialist" together. I was also impressed by the special effects by which Dodger Stadium (which plays the role of "Empires Stadium") and Camden Yards were transformed into an alternate reality by replacing their bleachers with the bleachers from some other stadiums.
* Cheap, gratuitous pun on the steroid issue.
** Gratuitous bragging.
September 25 ~ Spoilers! Three runs down and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Mets came back to tie the Cubs and then beat them in the eleventh inning, ruining what had seemed to be smooth sailing toward a second consecutive postseason appearance. Arghhh! Sammy Sosa struck out four times and then grounded into a double play. He and the rest of the Cubs desperately need to get their stuff together fast. I'm really looking forward to seeing Sosa, Bonds, and the Jones "brothers" playing in Washington next summer...
"A Perfect Setting For a Diamond" -- Saturday's Washington Post looked into the likely uplifting effect a new stadium would have on the South Capitol Street neighborhood, which is a rough urban frontier consisting of warehouses, industrial junkyards, and rowhouses of various classes. (I ought to know, I once lived there.) Andrew Zimbalist and other experts have questioned the touted economic benefits from new stadium construction, but there is little doubt that this project would yield a huge positive impact. It is one of the most compelling cases one could make these days for a public subsidy. Let's hope Ralph Nader takes an open-minded view of this... The Post article discusses alternate stadium orientations, but the author believes that the northwest orientation I favor would put afternoon sun glare in the batters' eyes. Perhaps; I need to finish a comparison of the orientation of other stadiums.
September 24 ~ Braves do it again! Yes, those underrated tribesmen from Atlanta grabbed yet another NL East championship, which makes 13 such titles in a row, a feat unmatched by any other team in any other sport. Marcus Giles's eighth-inning 2-RBI double put the Braves ahead in dramatic fashion. Johnny Estrada, Charles Thomas, Jaret Wright, and Eli Marrero are among the many pleasant surprises on the Braves' roster this year, and senior citizen Julio Franco just keeps on truckin'. I officially take back what I wrote on February 21 about "their ownership just giving up." Up in Beantown, meanwhile, the Yanks pulled further ahead of the Red Sox in the race for the AL East title.
Tick, tick, tick Despite the lack of a formal announcement from the MLB Executive Committee meeting in Milwaukee, Friday's Washington Post is just as upbeat as before about landing the Expos, as all parties realize the proverbial gilded carriage is about to turn into a pumpkin.
"I think we're all running out of time and we realize that," said MLB President Robert A. DuPuy, speaking generally about the relocation process at a news conference in which he revealed few specifics but indicated that years of negotiations will conclude soon.
[UPDATE: The text in red is on the Post Web site but did not appear in my copy of the paper this morning, suggesting careful editorial treatment of this extremely sensitive matter. You know how skittish "unnamed sources" can get.] If MLB officials sign the necessary letter of intent to relocate the Expos as expected, D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams expects to make a formal announcement at RFK Stadium next week. By the way, I wonder what the astrologers are saying about all this. In July 2003, Mr. DuPuy said a decision on the Expos would come "when the moons and the suns and the stars and the dollars are aligned correctly. We'll get there." Is this the dawning of the Age of Aquarius?
September 23 ~ Angelos: "Hell no!" The Major League Baseball Executive Committee met in Milwaukee today, but did not make any decision on what to do with the Expos. As expected, Orioles' owner Peter Angelos remains 100% intransigent. [UPDATE: USA Today headline says: "Expos remain in limbo," though their columnist Hal Bodley opines that they have to move to D.C. "I believe Selig has come to the conclusion there's no other place to locate the Expos."] Thursday's Washington Post quotes MLB sources as saying negotiations with Peter Angelos about compensation for the expected relocation of the Expos to Washington "are going nowhere." His no-compromise position may alienate the other 28 franchise owners, who are starting to look like the biggest chumps on the planet for coddling him. As the Post notes, the tentative stadium deal worked out with the District of Columbia should raise the market value of the Expos franchise by nearly $300 million, which means an extra $10 million in the pocket of each of the 29 franchise owners, who currently share ownership of the Expos. Does Angelos really have enough clout to persuade 28 other men to forego $10 million each??? As a successful trial lawyer, Angelos may well be contemplating filing a motion for an injunction against a franchise move to D.C. However, the Major League Constitution defines the Orioles' "operating territory" as consisting exclusively of areas in Maryland, so "a team could be chartered in the District with no infringement upon that geographic territory." The front pages of Sections A (National), B (Metro), and D (Sports) of today's Post were filled with prominent headline stories on various aspects of the seemingly-imminent relocation, an indication that most insiders conclude it is virtually -- virtually, mind you -- a done deal.
NOTE: I have moved the Stadium chronology table from the bottom of this page to a separate page, to save time in loading and make navigation more efficient. You got a problem with that? Just let me know. The link to that new page is in the Comparisons section.
September 22 ~ Down to the wire! According to the Washington Post, officials in D.C. and MLB have tentatively agreed on a new stadium site on South Capitol Street near the Anacostia River. (See map below.) The L'Enfant Plaza site would have been better, but Virginians could get to this location fairly easily, so it's OK by me. Thomas Boswell echoes my gleefully expectant yet slightly wary sentiments:
Nevertheless, the Expos are so close to coming to the District right now that, if you were Charlie Brown, you'd be absolutely, positively certain that, this time, you were going to kick that miserable football before Lucy could pull it away.
Well put. Let's just hope MLB pays due respect to the feelings of Montreal fans, and makes a decision by this weekend. Only eight more games are scheduled in Olympic Stadium, and the Expos deserve to bow out and begin the transformation of their identity with class.
This map shows the location of the proposed stadium site, but I have turned the field around 180 degrees to bring the "Washington skyline" into view. To see a larger image, just click on it. The existing stadium design is basically just a clone of Ameriquest Field in Arlington (Texas), and I have made preliminary modififications in it to provide for open views toward the U.S. Capitol (down the right field line) and the Washington Monument (in center field). How inspiring would that be? The rectangular notch in center field draws on a similar feature of Griffith Stadium, which would be a nice tribute to Washington's ancient baseball heritage. I may work on a more detailed suggested design in coming weeks... [UPDATE: In the mean time, I just updated the RFK Stadium page, moving five of the eight photos to a separate page so it will load more quickly.]
The Red Sox became the third team in the majors to reach the 90-win mark, edging Baltimore last night. Many people have offered suggestions for a revised postseason format, and my basic feeling is they should avoid tinkering with divisional alignments or divisional series, but should give a bigger advantage to teams with a higher overall winning percentage. In this case, for example, [even though Boston is "only" the (probable) Wild Card team,] they really ought to get a home field advantage over the AL Central champion Twins and whoever wins the AL West.
As the moment of truth approaches for the titans of Major League Baseball finally making their fateful megabucks decision on relocating the Expos to Washington, it's a good idea to take a grass-roots small-town perspective to help remember what our national pastime is all about: fitness, community, tradition, intergenerational bonding, and never-ending faith and hope in "better luck next year." With that shamelessly corny thought, here's a snapshot of a Valley League game in Staunton on August 2. Final score: Staunton Braves 7, Woodstock River Bandits 3. Attendance: about 300.
September 19 ~ Mission Accomplished!? The PETCO Park page is finally done, the last of the 65 major league stadiums I set out to cover when I began this Web project two-plus years ago. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!? Not yet, there are plenty of corrections and enhancements to do in existing stadium pages, and I also plan to do pages for stadiums where major league games were held even though they were not the home field of any major league team. A visitor to this site asked about compass orientation of stadiums, which reminded me that I had been thinking about adding a symbol to indicate "North" in each diagram. So I added one to the PETCO Park and Turner Field diagrams, the latter of which is slightly revised.
Payoff. MLB is negotiating how much money to give to Peter Angelos to overcome his objections to putting a team in the Washington area. According to the Washington Post, an "indemnity payment in the tens of millions of dollars" is expected. (I wonder what he did with all those millions he got from the tobacco settlement?) Then there are the former Expos minority owners who are suing former chief owner Jeffrey Loria and Major League Baseball. Just when the deal is on the verge of being closed, D.C. Councilman Jack Evans unleashed another volley of spiteful bile, as reported by the Washington Times:
Major League Baseball is so screwed up, they probably won't give us the team anyway. ... I have nothing but disrespect for the owners of Major League Baseball, to be honest with you. And if they drag this thing out any longer, they can take the team and put it in Northern Virginia, and I hope it fails. Good for them.
Sheesh. Is he trying to alienate prospective fans from this side of the Potomac? With sick attitudes like that, this whole thing might just fall apart. Or maybe it's just meant as another motivational kick in Mr. Selig's rear.
The Yankees proved they've still got spunk, trouncing the Red Sox by double-digit margins both Saturday and Sunday. It's amazing they can hold the other team to so few runs, given their weak pitching staff. The Red Sox can draw a bit of satisfaction from eking out one win in The Bronx, but they'll need to do better than that in these last two weeks. #701! Barry Bonds did it again, and is single-handed propelling the Giants in the Wild Card race with the Cubs, who have the advantage of facing weak opponents for the rest of the season.
September 17 ~ End game!? On the question of baseball in D.C., I've learned over the years to be highly skeptical about rumors of glad tidings, but this time I think they're really serious. According to the the Washington Post, Relocation Committee Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and other MLB officials have spent 12 hours in meetings with D.C. officials to iron out details on getting RFK Stadium ready for the Expos to play in next year. All signs point to an announcement about the Relocation Committee's recommendation in the next few days. The Virginia option seems to be fading away, as Governor Warner seems to have been caught flat-footed by the recent turns of events. At the same time, the virtual election of the roguish Marion Barry to the D.C. City Council has jolted the MLB into accelerating the process and finalizing the deal once and for all. Barry, who will take office in January, said public funding for a new baseball stadium will come "Over my dead body." Would he go as far as trying to retroactively nullify the kind of targeted stadium tax package that Mayor Anthony Williams has been pushing? In any event, the idea that such funding would come at the cost of education or vital public services is highly dubious, Ralph Nader notwithstanding. If Barry's threat prods Mr. Selig into a decision this month, it will at least have served the purpose of giving the long-suffering fans in Montreal enough advanced warning so that they will have a fair chance to bid a fond farewell to their team. I've criticized Selig's heel-dragging many times, but it is very important that this process be carried out 100% above board, with due deliberation. I wouldn't wish the feeling of abrupt betrayal as endured by Brooklynites (1957) and Washingtonians (1971) on anyone.
700 Club! After a few days stuck at #699, Barry Bonds just hit his 700th career home run before the friendly Frisco fans at SBC Park. Not a bad performance, considering he had been hit by a pitch earlier in the game. Early next season he'll no doubt catch up to The Babe, and a year after that probably Hammerin' Hank himself. Unlike some other famed long-ball hitters, however, Bonds has maintained an awesome batting average throughout his career, yielding a stratospheric slugging percentage when you factor in all the walks. Simply put, no one has dominated the game like him in my lifetime.
On the other coast, meanwhile, the Red Sox came from behind in the top of the ninth inning to beat the Yanks in the first game of the Clash of Titans. The often-slack Manny Ramirez actually jumped into the left-field stands in Yankee Stadium to rob Miguel Cairo of a homer, helping to pull his team to within 2 1/2 games of first place. Once again, Mariano Rivera failed to live up to his huge reputation as a closer, as the Bosox used some commendable "small ball" tactics to tie and then take the lead in the ninth. I wonder how high FOX's TV ratings will be for tomorrow's Game of the Week? The e-mail seems to be working again. Note that I've split the scrolling baseball stadium menu into separate "Current" and "Past" sections, which I think should speed up access a little bit. Please let me know if this format is less than satisfactory.
September 15 ~ Balk!? Today's Washington Post reports that several Virginia legislators and Governor Mark Warner are a bit leery of putting the Commonwealth's credit rating on the line to help finance a new stadium. Apparently many have growing doubts about the proposed "Diamond Lake" mega-complex in Loudoun County, especially now that it has been scaled back. Meanwhile, former Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry just won the Democratic primary election for D.C. City Council, assuring him of a victory in the November general elections. Ever the populist, the doubts he raised about spending the District's money on a new stadium throw yet another wrench into the tense endgame negotiations with MLB officials. If only they had made the deal last year... The hit counter for the Baseball page crossed the 10,000 threshhold in the past couple days. Thanks for stopping by, sports fans! (Now if only one percent of you would just click on that Donation button...) The PETCO Park page will be done by the end of the week, at long last!
September 14 ~ RelocationsChased away from their home turf in Miami by Hurricane Ivan, the Florida Marlins "hosted" the Montreal Expos for a two-game series in the Chicago White Sox's U.S. Cellular Field. Total attendance was about 9,000, meaning that about $45,000 will be made available as disaster relief to victims. MLB officials met once again with representatives from D.C. and Virginia today, as haggling over financial details related to moving the Expos goes down to the wire. A preliminary announcement by the Relocation Committee could come in the next week or so. The baseball e-mail account has been disfunctional in recent weeks, possibly the result of malicious hacking. Thanks for your patience until I get communications repaired.
September 9 ~ Frances Tropical Storm/Depression Frances roared through these parts yesterday, and it looks like we got about three inches of rain, a little less than predicted. The power flickered on and off a couple times, but the wind wasn't really that strong. Richmond got hit by heavy rains once again, only a week after the Shockoe Bottoms downtown district was devastated by floods caused by the remnants of Hurricane Gaston. Even before that, the Richmond Braves' home field, The Diamond, had been rendered unplayable by mud and sinkholes. As reported in the Richmond Times Dispatch, though, the grounds crew somehow got the field in shape (just barely) for the end of the season. The R-Braves face the Columbus Clippers in the International League (Triple A) playoffs.
The Turner Field page has been revised, and now includes a "dynamic diagram" to show how the original structure used for the 1996 Olympics Games in Atlanta was transformed into the "home of the Braves" we know today. A little late for this year's Olympics in Athens, but just in time for tonight's Braves' game on TBS. (Football? Huh??) There seem to be an unusually high number of long winning and losing streaks over the last month. The Red Sox and Astros have been almost unstoppable, while the Mets and Devil Rays are plummeting headlong into the cellar. The Orioles had lost eleven in a row, but over the last couple weeks have managed a rebound, even beating the suddenly shell-shocked Yankees. Regroup! The Yankees' lobbying to have a forfeit declared on that game in New York the Devil Rays missed due to Hurricane Frances was not an indication of a team that is confident of its ability to win.
September 6 ~ Davis steps up to plate The Washington Post reports that Congressman Tom Davis (R-Virginia) is throwing his weight behind the effort to land a baseball team for the Washington area, wisely ridiculing the petty parochial jealousies that have erupted recently between Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. He's an avid fan and, at age 55, still plays softball. To him, the political jurisdiction to which the Expos franchise will be relocated is less important than the overriding objective of giving Washingtonians and Northern Virginians a real chance to see big league ball. If the rest of the Virginia congressional delegation would get behind this effort, it just might tip the balance and close the deal once and for all.
September 4 ~ OUCH!!! In case you're wondering about the sparse posts on this site of late, I've been under the weather, and most of my limited energy has been devoted to local politicking and e-mail debating. In fact, I just realized that I had failed to update the Baseball page with the material from September 1. My apologies! Perhaps the 22-0 shellacking suffered by the Yankees at the hands of the Indians this week had something to do with my subpar state of mind. What's worse, Kevin Brown smashed his (non-pitching) left hand in anger. That's gotta hurt! The Yanks lost to Baltimore again today, and Red Sox had a chance to pull to within 1 1/2 games, but even with a 5-run seventh inning at Fenway, they fell short against the Rangers. Yikes... I'm really mad that Fox stops the Saturday afternoon baseball broadcasts in September.
September 1 ~ GABP Four photos and added comments on Great American Ballpark based on my recent trip through the Midwest. Those photos, and the ones I took at Comerica Park, brought to my attention certain inaccuracies in those stadiums' diagrams, so they'll have to be revised at some point. Also, two of the photos of Citizens Bank Park taken by Phil Faranda have been enlarged to show more detail. The pennant races are heating up, as the Red Sox have somehow pulled to within 3.5 games of the Yankees, but even so, the Angels and Rangers are still strong contenders for the AL wild card spot. In the National League, the hard-luck Cubs are clinging to a precarious wild card lead, while the Braves bravely pitched to Barry Bonds during the four-game series in Atlanta last weekend. Result: he got three more homers.
August 28 (encore) ~ Comerica, Bob Feller Three photos and added comments on Comerica Park based on my recent trip through the Midwest. I've fallen way behind schedule as a result of said journey, but I do plan to add photos and comments to the Great American Ballpark page very soon. Also, stay tuned for a 1996 Olympics version of Turner Field. THEN I'll finally get to Petco Park, hopefully featuring photos from a high school friend who now lives in San Diego. Adding pages for special occasion stadiums and doing revisions of other diagrams will keep me plenty busy during the off season.
While heading west earlier this month, I made an impromptu visit to the Bob Feller Museum, in Van Meter, Iowa, just west of Des Moines. The time I spent there browsing through all the historical mementos related to the Cleveland Indians' star pitcher (and World War II veteran) was well worth it. The folks at the museum are very friendly and helpful, and I highly recommend a visit there to anyone passing through that part of the country. (It's just a couple hours west of the Field of Dreams in Dyersville.) To see a closeup of the bas relief images in the adjoining photo, roll the mouse over it.
August 28 ~ The tension mounts... MLB officials held intensive negotiations with officials from D.C. and Virginia earlier this week, a sign that there may just be a final resolution of the Expos relocation issue in the next couple months. Just as the agonizingly long process nears a climax, however, potential "deal breakers" have emerged on both sides of the Potomac. Some Virginia state legislators have expressed doubts about approving state guarantees for debts incurred for a stadium if it's built in the distant hinterlands of Loudoun County, and today the Washington Post reported that the proposed "Diamond Lake" mega-resort complex has been downscaled because the sale of quarry land where the lake was supposed to be fell through. Meanwhile, a poll of D.C. residents points to stiff opposition to using city government money to fund a stadium. What's more, on Friday members of the D.C. city council held a press conference to ridicule the Virginia option, pointing to a poll indicating that 82 percent of adult fans in the Greater Washington area would prefer a ballpark in Washington rather than Loudoun County." It got even nastier when Councilman Jack Evans warned that if Virginia gets the Expos, "the council could pass legislation that would keep a northern Virginia team out of RFK." (From the Washington Post.) I've said in the past that I would prefer that a new stadium be built within sight of the Potomac River, but such obnoxious and foolish rhetoric is a big turn-off. If no baseball games are to be played in RFK, they might as well tear it down right now and save the maintenance costs, which soccer games alone can't cover. Could such petty squabbling sink the whole deal?
Meanwhile, building inspectors in Chicago have verified that Wrigley Field is structurally sound after all. An interesting political angle came to light during this episode: Mayor Richard Dailey (a Democrat, like his father) has recently been at war with the Tribune Company which owns the Cubs, and he has made unsubtle threats that Wrigley might be shut down.
August 19 ~ Relocation deferred... The MLB Relocation Committee failed to reach a decision during their meeting this week. Robert DuPuy issued a statement denying that the Washington area will necessarily get the Expos franchise, but few people believe any other outcome is likely. The Washington Post ran stories on the Washington-based and Virginia-based prospective franchises. Jeffrey Zients has replaced Fred Malek as the lead figure in the Washington Baseball Club, while William Collins keeps on truckin' in that role on the southern side of the Potomac. I've added two photos and some comments to the Tiger Stadium page based on my visit there earlier this month. Photos from Comerica Park and Great American Ballpark will be added next week.
August 18 ~ Believe It Or Not! I just returned from my vacation to South Dakota, the highlight of which actually appeared in last Thursday's Sioux Falls Argus Leader... Unlike our brief rain-curtailed jaunt to NYC last month, this time my intricately scheduled baseball itinerary worked flawlessly: while heading west I saw a game in Detroit (Rangers 2, Tigers 1), and on the way back saw one in Cincinnati (Padres 7, Reds 2). So much for home field advantage! That first game put Texas into first place in the AL West, and they are still neck and neck with the A's. San Diego overtook the Cubs in the NL Wild Card race, though [San Francisco now holds that lead]. Given that the total scores in the three games I've seen this year have risen in perfect geometric progression (1, 3, 9), I would expect the total score in the next game I see to be 27. Stay tuned for updates to three stadium pages, complete with photos, in the near future. (Yes, venerable old Tiger Stadium is still standing.)
August 4 ~ Off to The Heartland I'm heading west to South Dakota for a high school reunion and family get-together. If all goes as planned, I'll see a ballgame in Detroit on the way out there, and perhaps another city or two on the way back. I may try to update this blogsite from a remote location, but otherwise, I'll return by mid-month.
Diabolical plot in the Bronx. Wouldn't you know it, one week after I finally see a game in The Bronx and it's announced that the Yankees have resurrected plans to replace "The House that Ruth Built" with a smaller luxury-oriented venue next door. The New York Daily News reports on the particulars; apparently they would play in the current stadium while a new one is built across the street. So I did some Google searching on Yankee Stadium and come across a New York City blog with a relevant thread, Gothamist, where I posted the following comment:
"Travesty" would be putting it extremely mildly. It's long been known that Steinbrenner is a short-sighted bully who is clueless about the "goodwill" value of the Yankee tradition in general and Yankee Stadium in particular. What is news is Mayor Bloomberg's acquiescence in this latest gambit. He had opposed any public funds for new baseball stadiums in the wake of 9/11, but now it looks like he'll agree to massive new spending on infrastructure, an unwarranted public subsidy to make life more pleasant for the skybox set. He's making Ralph Nader look wise...
Speaking of political controversy at Yankee Stadium, I noticed that Blue Jays slugger Carlos Delgado was getting booed by many fans when I saw them play on July 22. Only later did I read up on what that's all about. It seems Señor Delgado has taken it upon himself to protest against the Iraq war by refusing to stand when "God Bless America" is played. Well, that's his right as an American. (He's from Puerto Rico, actually, a quasi-colony where Yankee hating is still quite intense in some quarters.) See MSNBC.com for more details.
Perhaps indicative of the increasing likelihood that the Expos will finally relocate to Washington next year, the D.C. United soccer team has expressed concerns that their games may conflict with baseball games at RFK Stadium. (See Washington Post.) The stadium seating sections could be moved back and forth with no problem (other than a few rusting wheels perhaps), but the field couldn't take the wear and tear, and the dirt infield would make it very hard to play soccer. The major league soccer season roughly coincides with the baseball season, from April through October.
The Staunton Braves beat the Woodstock River Bandits Monday night, 7-3, thereby qualifying for the next round in the Valley Baseball League playoffs. Stay tuned for some photos of a small-town, American-as-apple-pie baseball game...
July 31 ~ Trades Today was the deadline for trading (excepting late waiver-clearing trades), and apparently the only big news is that Nomar Garciaparra is going to the Cubs. Randy Johnson was expected to be traded to New York or Boston, but the Arizona Diamondbacks owners apparently think they have a shot at becoming pennant contenders next year if they keep him. The big question in the National League is whether any other team has a chance at stopping the red-hot Cardinals. Jason Giambi has been diagnosed with a benign tumor that has been causing him gastric discomfort and weakness in recent months. He will be on the disabled list for at least two weeks. The Yankee Stadium page has been revised with four more photos from the second roll of film we took in New York, including a giant panorama.
July 28 ~ More trivial pursuits There is a new page showing proximity of baseball stadiums where one stadium replaced an older one. Eventually each respective stadium page will display this information in a consistent way. Thanks to T. J. Zmina for his photos from a recent visit to beautiful PNC Park in Pittsburgh. I hope I can pay a visit there this year...
July 27 ~ Is Wrigley crumbling? According to USA Today, Wrigley Field is being inspected for structural defects after small chunks of concrete fell from the upper deck three times in recent weeks. Fortunately, no one was injured. A similar incident happened in The Bronx five years ago, and the Yanks had to take refuge in Shea Stadium. For now, the Cubs are just going to install protective netting to protect lower-deck fans, so they probably won't have to play in their South Side counterparts' home for the time being. For couch potato fans (like me, usually), here is some vicarious ballpark fun: Great Baseball Trip 2004 with Andrew (not me) & Ben. They just got back to their home in the Chicago area, where I hope to be a week or two from now...
July 26 ~ Is this heaven? Our pilgrimmage to that sacred green field in The Bronx last week was rewarded with a Yankees win (against the Blue Jays), but just barely. The only score came in the bottom of the ninth inning when Ruben Sierra knocked a home run that just cleared the center field fence. To my dismay, neither Derek Jeter nor Jason Giambi played, and Jorge Posada didn't enter the game until the 7th inning. It was a pleasantly warm, humid, partly sunny day, and our seats were in the shade. The Yankee Stadium page has been revised with four photos and much new text based on our experiences and other recent research. There will be minor corrections to the diagrams in the near future. Because of the heavy rain on Friday, we cancelled our plans to see either the Braves-Mets game at Shea Stadium or the Cubs-Phillies game at Citizens Bank Park on the way home. To my surprise, the latter game was held after all!
Boston marathon! The four-hour Yankees-Red Sox game in Fenway on Saturday afternoon had plenty of runs and entertainment value, though there were too many errors and wasted opportunities. Every time I try to wish well on the Red Sox, another senseless brawl breaks out. I thought A-Rod reacted fairly mildly to being hit by a pitch, and there was no reason I could see for Jason Varitek to get in his face like that. (OK, I did lip-read A-Rod's retort, but still...) Bill Mueller's stunning game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth gave Boston fans a sweet memory that will last for years. It gave me heartburn.
July 21 ~ Off to Gotham! Jacqueline and I are heading north to see the Yankees playing host to the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday afternoon. (And to think, I waited 40+ years for this!) With any luck, we'll catch the Phillies hosting the Cubs on our way home.
Marc Fisher, writing in the Washington Post, tried to downplay the D.C.-Virginia rivalry for getting the Expos franchise, saying that such lively tensions boost attendance and competitive spirit. Indeed! He also noted that the Montgomery County Council endorsed the D.C. alternative, which is no surprise, and heaped scorn on the racist notion that black people don't care about baseball, one of the lame excuses once expressed by Calvin Griffith and Bob Short.
A few Baseball pages have been (or are being) corrected or updated, thanks to recent helpful input from Vince Tucci, [G.H.], T. J. Zmina, and Steven Poppe, who just passed the quarter-century mark. And many thanks to Paul Cox for being the first guy to step up to the plate and contribute to this Web site, or rather, to my very first brewski in the Bronx.
July 17 ~ Braves rebound After weeks in the doldrums, the Braves managed to climb into a tie for the NL East lead with Philadelphia, but then fell a game behind again. It was a shame that only one Braves player made it to the All-Star roster, and he was a new arrival: Johnny Estrada. (Chipper? Andruw?) I was a little disappointed that the center field slope in Minute Maid Park only came into play once during the All-Star Game, when A-Rod hit a triple. The MLB promo guys kept saying "This one counts!" When is the National League going to start playing like it does?
According to the Washington Post, Bud Selig announced that there will be no more Expos games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, next year, raising the likelihood that the team will be sold and relocated next year. Target decision date: an MLB owners' meeting in Philadelphia on August 18-19. We'll see...
The Exhibition Stadium page has been revised with some minor corrections and a dynamic diagram to show the football gridiron and baseball diamond separately. Other diagram revisions are in the works as well, of which Wrigley Field is the top priority.
July 13 ~ ALL STAR GAME Poor Roger! Was that awful 6-run first inning some kind of divine retribution for having had second thoughts about "retiring" from the Yankees and then joining the Astros? As of the sixth inning, the score is AL 9, NL 4.
The Washington Post ran a front-page story on Sunday exposing the weak link in the campaign to bring the Expos to the Washington area: jealousies and distrust between D.C. and Northern Virginia. How many Washingtonians would drive out to Dulles for a night game, knowing that they wouldn't get back home until after midnight? One D.C. official even cast doubt on whether RFK Stadium would be available for a Virginia team on temporary basis. Yikes! The way MLB honchos are playing Virginia against the District for bargaining purposes may end up ruining everything. One thing is almost certain: whether the stadium ends up north or south of the Potomac, the majority of fans would probably be suburbanites, and most of them would be from the Virginia side. Suggestion: Whether Bill Collins (Virginia) or Fred Malek (D.C.) gets the Expos, they should put in an immediate bid to sign Vladimir Guerrero, the former Expo who joined the Angels this year. One of Vlad's main concerns was playing in a city with a high hispanic population, and Washington certainly fits that bill.
Thanks to Steven Poppe for reminding me about a nagging legal problem that may block any Expos relocation. The Las Vegas Sun reports that Expos minority owners are suing MLB and former Expos principal owner Jeff Loria (new owner of the Marlins) over the way their interests were trampled upon when Loria sold out. I would think there is enough spare capital in Washington to pay off the disgruntled investors. According to renowned baseball economics expert Andrew Zimbalist, however, there is a very real chance that the Expos are not going to move at all. Another little-known fact is that Virginia's legislative provisions for baseball stadium financing expire at the end of December. As far as I'm concerned, it's this year or never.
July 10 ~ End game negotiations in D.C.? A group of officials from MLB's Relocation Committee, including White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, just held meetings with interested baseball parties from D.C. and Virginia. According to the Washington Post, written commitments were submitted, suggesting that a final decision on the Expos' fate may be near, but President Robert A. DuPuy said none of the six prospective new home cities have been ruled out yet. Things do seem to be coming to a head, but I'm almost afraid to get my hopes up once again... Sentiment from those folks who send me e-mail is running in favor of a home in D.C. rather than in the wilds of suburban Northern Virginia. I'm inclined to agree, but ONLY if the new stadium is built in Southwest Washington.
John Moores, owner of the San Diego Padres, wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post on Thursday in which he defends Commissioner Bud Selig for taking a strong leadership role that, he believes, has restored vitality to baseball. I suppose averting a calamitous strike is praiseworthy, and the move toward revenue-sharing is certainly overdue. I'm also mildly in favor of inter-league play, but fear it will be overdone. But the fact remains that Selig's actions qualify him as the apostle of "stadium socialism," validating the anti-"capitalist welfare" arguments of Ralph Nader and others. The Big Unknown Factor in all this is to what extent Bud Selig is independent of the owners. The series of articles in the Washington Post by Steve Fainaru two weeks ago portrayed him as in control of major decisions. Most of what I've read, in contrast, suggests that Mr. Selig is more of a passive mouthpiece for the 29 MLB franchise owners. Eric McErlain says Selig is not the real problem, it's the big owners behind the throne. I guess we'll find out pretty soon...
July 9 ~ Future Expos Web sites The Washington Post reports that "squatters" have already claimed domain names of propsective future homes of the Expos, who are currently playing in San Juan: www.nevadaexpos.com, www.norfolkexpos.com, and others are taken (but not operational), while www.washingtonsenators.com has been an active Web site since the 1990s. Attendance at Hiram Bithorn Stadium has been running about 8,000 per game lately...
July 8 ~ Show me the money! Now that I've resumed devoting top priority to this Web site over the past several weeks, I feel comfortable with setting up a "tip jar" via a PayPal account. I'm only asking for five bucks annually, the price of a beer. Feel free to donate more if you think it's worth it; I would be extremely appreciative. (Proceeds will go toward my long-deferred summer baseball tour!) If you're one of those fine folks whose photos I've included on this site, consider yourself paid. If this works as I plan, donors will get special consideration in terms of access to comments pages, etc. I had neglected keeping up with the Amazon Honor System over the past year, and need to figure out what happened with it. I hope to avoid indulging in too much crass money-grubbing, but you may see a few ads or commercial links here and there...
July 7 ~ "Cell" photos The Baseball stadium pages now have a logo at the top left corner with a link back to this page, for easier navigation. The RFK Stadium and U.S. Cellular Field pages have been revised with new text as well as new data on the backstop distance and the outfield fence height in the "Vital statistics" table. The latter page also includes two great new photos kindly submitted by Bill Blake. The other stadium pages will be modified to include the additional information in coming weeks...
July 5 ~ Angelos lashes out George Solomon wrote an exasperated column in the Washington Post: "Hey Bud, Time for Decision-Making Is Over." In it, he notes that Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said last week that he wouldn't mind a baseball team in the Washington area, seeing it as promoting a friendly rivalry. Good for him!! In response, Peter Angelos issued a bitter, insulting rebuke to the mayor, once again making plain his grim, dead-set opposition to any new team nearby, and revealing his megalomaniacal paranoid mindset, bordering on dementia.
If the resort complex site near Dulles is ultimately chosen as the least objectionable site to Mr. Angelos, it would constitute a tragic abandonment of the vital social function of community building for which baseball is uniquely suited. (Catering to an upscale clientele would also be a very questionable use of taxpayer-subsidized bonds.) Unfortunately, my suggested option of West End Alexandria does not appear to be in the cards, either. I hope all those "NIMBY" elitists up in Arlington are satisfied. On a parallel note, new visitor to this site T.J. Zmina offers another good reason to question the wisdom of the proposed baseball stadium site in Loudoun County: JET NOISE!
So they want to put a new stadium in D.C. near Dulles Airport. Two words: Shea, LaGuardia. Not a good idea if you ask me.
I managed to let the All-Star voting slip by this year, but the lineups on both sides are pretty much what I would have chosen anyway. The entire AL infield played for the Yankees either this year or last year. The Red Sox' fifth-inning collapse in Atlanta yesterday does not augur well for keeping up with the Yankees during the second half of the season. With a new manager and a relatively inexperienced owner, trying to keep a lid on personality squabbles may be very difficult.
July 3 ~ Talk, talk, talk MLB president Bob DuPuy met with Commissioner Selig on Wednesday to report on the Relocation Committee's preliminary findings. According to the Washington Post, serious deliberations on the fate of the Expos are proceeding (albeit slowly), whereas last year such talk dwindled away as the summer progressed. (One of the things I learned from that Post series last week was that DuPuy is also Bud Selig's personal lawyer. Hmmm.) The Post cited reports in Sports Illustrated and USA Today that the committee is leaning toward Washington or Northern Virginia. Furthermore, according to USA Today, "Selig said last week that he expects a final decision soon after the July 13 All-Star Game in Houston." Same story, different year... It is worth mentioning that USA Today also made a detailed analysis of all the prospective new locations for the Expos, concluding that Northern Virginia is the best choice.
June 30 ~ RFK The RFK Stadium page has been revised with a dynamic diagram and another photo, which was spliced together from a video clip. Text revisions to follow...
June 29 ~ "The Last Cartel" The Washington Post just published a splendid three-part series of articles written by Steve Fainaru, entitled "Baseball: The Last Cartel." It exposes in gory detail many of the dirty dealings in which MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has been associated, raising the distinct possibility that an honest resolution of the issue of relocating a baseball team to the Washington area may not be possible. PART ONE details how Selig contrived to get Wisconsin taxpayers to pay for most of Miller Park, which ended up causing great political damage to former Governor Tommy Thompson (a Republican). PART TWO chronicles the disgraceful saga of the Expos franchise, which could easily have been relocated to the Washington area five or more years ago, but which has been kept in money-losing limbo for the sake of one of the 29 major league franchise owners: Baltimore's Peter Angelos (a Democrat). PART THREE probes into the nature of the alliance between Angelos and Selig, detailing the composition and operations of MLB's Relocation Committee, which seems heavily stacked against Washington-area interests. The upshot is that the custodians of our national pastime are flagrantly abusing the antitrust exemption they have enjoyed since 1922 on behalf of purely parochial interests. It's a reminder that if Selig once again goes back on his word to finally resolve the issue this year, the only recourse may be in the halls of Congress.
It was quite a coincidence that these articles ran just as I returned to take some photos at RFK Stadium for the first time since the exhibition game I saw there in 1999; there are two new photos on that page, which will soon be updated with a dynamic diagram, revised text, and another photo or two.
June 26 ~ How far? In Wednesday's Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher pointed out the hypocrisy that Orioles owner Peter Angelos is seeking to purchase the Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County, even though Major League Baseball forbids ANY relationship with gambling! (Remember Pete Rose?) An article in the Post that same day compared the long distance from the Dulles Airport stadium site to downtown D.C. (21 miles) to stadiums built in the last ten years. At present, the stadium built farthest away from downtown is Ameriquest Field in Arlington (Texas), which is 16 miles from the center of Dallas, but it's somewhat closer to Fort Worth. Intrigued by this question, I took it upon myself to estimate such distances for all current and past baseball stadiums. The results are shown on the Stadiums by class page. Some of my estimates, which were based mainly on the DeLorme Street Atlas USA program, differ slightly from The Post's. Here is a summary of the four major stadium classes:
|Early 20th century
|Modern 20th century
June 22 ~ Griffey's #500 Ken Griffey Jr. finally got his 500th home run in Busch Stadium, keeping the Reds in contention with the Cardinals and the resurgent Cubs for the lead in the NL Central. Tampa Bay has won eleven in a row, but is still below .500. What is the meaning of this?? The Expos remain in a tailspin, and there are rumors of some kind of players' mutiny against manager Frank Robinson. Hey, the paltry payroll isn't his fault. I'd be pretty mad too if I were in charge of a team without any identity or clear future prospects. Saturday afternoon: Happiness is watching the Yankees beat the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium.
The Washington Post has had more stories about promotional campaign to build a new stadium near Dulles Airport, emphasizing the wealthy, fast-growing fan base in that area. The problem is, it's about 22 miles from downtown Washington, as the crow flies. The team name would be tied to Virginia, not Washington. All that just may satisfy Peter Angelos, but I remain skeptical that such exurban settings can provide a suitable venue for authentic baseball. Even if it's built mostly with private money, such a location would never approximate the intense urban vibes you get in Baltimore or Cleveland. Among all current baseball stadiums, the one located furthest from downtown is Ameriquest Field, which is 16 miles away from downtown Dallas. It is situated between two big cities, however, and draws nearly as many fans from Fort Worth, which is about ten miles to the west.
June 18 ~ Valley boys Wednesday's Washington Post had a nice Style section story about the (Shenandoah) Valley Baseball League, of which the Staunton Braves are a part. The League, which draws from the ranks of collegiate baseball players with dreams of making it to The Majors, expanded from eight to ten teams this season. It's high-quality, fun, old-time baseball that brings out community spirit. See Mr. Angelos? We don't need you greedy big leaguers! Aw, who am I kidding...
Speaking of which, another Post story that day reported on the negotiations between D.C. officials and top business leaders, who have mixed feelings about the $20 million extra tax bill they will have to shoulder if Mayor Williams' stadium financing plan goes through. Remembering the disastrous collapse of political support for baseball in Arlington, Virginia one year ago, no one wants to make a commitment until the other parties go first. The situation is still very delicate.
Thanks to Leon Furth for a great panoramic photo of Oakland Coliseum, which I just added to that page. While I was at it, I tweaked the dynamic diagram on that page, which now includes a "combined" version similar to the original one. Thanks to Chuck Jones for pointing out layout problems on this page; I hope they're fixed now.
June 17 ~ Philly Citizens Bank Park, new home of the Philadelphia Phillies. The page includes some comments and great photos from a long-time visitor to this site, Phil Faranda. Thanks, Phil! Now that the site transition is mostly completed, I plan to include more such fan input on the baseball pages, so keep those messages and photos comin' in, folks! Only one more regular big league stadium to go!!!
More inspirational civic action: Iraqi-Baseball, a volunteer project to get Iraqi kids interested in Our National Pastime. (I hope they serve all-beef hot dogs!) Just imagine ten years hence with names in the big league lineups like Akhmed and Rasheed...
June 14 ~ Fenway fix The Fenway Park page has been updated with a revised diagram and a new photo of that beautiful ballpark that I just took! Thanks to Mike Zurawski for alerting me to the new rows of box seats in Fenway, and to long-time visitor Steve Poppe for alerting me to some omissions in this "newly-relocated" Web site.
June 13 ~ Dream On I swear, every time I see THIS it sends chills of emotion up my spine. Thank you ABC, especially for bringing in Johnny Bench and George Brett to chat with Kevin Costner! (Who was that third guy?) I think I'm going to follow the example of Philip Lowry (author of Green Cathedrals) and include a page and diagram for that mystical ballpark near Dyersville, Iowa. It's become quite a tourist attraction, and I've got a few photos from our visit there a few years ago, so why not?
That was quite a dramatic see-saw game broadcast by Fox up in Baltimore yesterday afternoon: the Giants beat the O's, 9-6 in 11 innings. Rafael Palmeiro tied Mickey Mantle for the number ten spot (at 536) on the all-time home runs list, and then passed him with a second homer. Barry Bonds hit a homer too, of course, though it was a "cheapie" in the shallow left center "power" alley. Batter-friendly Camden Yards really gleamed in the afternoon sun. Speaking of which, a couple people have reminded me that the diagram and data on that page are out of date, and I am aware of that. Likewise, I'm aware of some minor errors on a few other pages that people have brought to my attention, and I make it a point to acknowledge them in this "blog" running commentary. In the new list of stadiums in the left hand column (under "Leagues") I've indicated which stadium pages are on my list to be revised (TBR). In most cases, the only intended change is to add a "dynamic" diagram for multi-use stadiums or those that were substantially rebuilt one or more times, such as Yankee Stadium. I do appreciate all comments aiming to improve this site.
June 12 ~ Movin' on up Welcome to the "new" Web site! So far, the only thing that has changed is the address (make sure to "bookmark" it), but there will be a number of enhancements in coming months. Within a month or two I plan to include multiple "guestbook"-type pages, possibly leading to a discussion board making it easier for fans to exchange information. There will also be more photos, and I invite visitors to submit photos that they would like to share with others. (Note the new e-mail address: email@example.com.) All submissions will be properly credited. It will probably take me a couple days to get all the files transferred properly to the new server at ICD Soft. I do virtually everything manually, so there are bound to be some temporary glitches, but that's the price you pay for customized appearance and efficient functionality. Thanks to all for your patience and your support. And now ... Play Ball!
June 9 ~ The Vet, revisited In preparation for the next new stadium page, Citizens Bank Park, the page of the Phillies' old home, Veterans Stadium has been revised, with a dynamic diagram to better represent the baseball-to-football reconfiguration. After a hot streak in May, the Phillies have started to fall behind the Marlins in the NL East once again, while the injury-plagued Braves are gradually catching up.
The top-seeded U.Va. Cavaliers managed two victories in the NCAA regional playoff series in Charlottesville, but lost to Vanderbilt 7-3 in the deciding game (sold-out!) on Sunday. It was a bittersweet ending to a great season; just wait till next year! Two Cavaliers were drafted by big league teams this week: ace pitcher / slugger Joe Koshansky (by the Colorado Rockies) and Mark Reynolds (by the Arizona Diamondbacks).
June 6 ~ D-Day 2004 As described at mlb.com, Yankee Hall of Famer Yogi Berra was stationed aboard a naval vessel offshore during the Normandy landings, the operation code-named "Overlord." Other big league players who served in the armed forces during World War II include Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller, and Warren Spahn. Almost without exception they were modest, selfless, patriotic-minded citizens just doing their duty. The article linked above also refers to the letters exchanged between Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis and President Franklin Roosevelt, who urged that baseball be continued in spite of the war, for the sake of national morale. With some of the best players serving in uniform, the quality of play fell noticeably, and the minor leagues almost evaporated. That was what led to the creation of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, featured in the movie A League of Their Own.
June 5 ~ Ex-home of the Braves The diagram on the Milwaukee County Stadium page has been revised based on a very detailed and clear photograph in the book by Ira Rosen. That page has a temporary "dynamic" diagram with an "experimental" warning track version. I also corrected on that page the spelling of the name of Bob "Mr. Baseball" Uecker, thanks to a tip from a new visitor to this site, "Hazy Dave," who has fond memories of Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron. Soon after this Web site migrates to a new host, I anticipate adding interactive features such as a comments page for each of the stadium pages. Stay tuned!
June 4, 2004 The Oakland Coliseum page has been revised with an improved "dynamic diagram" that better depicts the 1996 renovation/expansion and the football reconfiguration. One of the diagrams shows the warning tracks, adding realism but at a slight cost in terms of clarity. I invite comments as to whether warning tracks should be included on other diagrams. Annette Gaudino (a Yankees fan living in the Bay Area!) recently alerted me to a factual error on the that page: I had written that Jason Giambi was thrown out at home plate in the AL divisional series in 2001, but it was actually his brother Jeremy Giambi. Thanks, Annette! I may get names mixed up, but I'll never forget that amazing acrobatic assist by Derek Jeter.
Speaking of the Yankees, they have been on a hot streak lately, pulling 3 games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East. A-Rod is finally hitting commensurate with his salary, while Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui are starting to live up to their high slugging reputations. Actually, ALL the division races remain quite competitive, especially the oversized NL Central division. Without Sammy Sosa, the Cubs have fallen to fifth place. Oh-oh...
June 2 ~ Braves get a miracle The Skydome page has been revised and now includes a "dynamic diagram" to account for the retractable roof and the football reconfiguration. The Braves' bottom-of-the-ninth rally against the Expos last night was about as dramatic and heroic as you can get. Nick Green (???) knocked a three-run homer with two outs to tie the game, and J. D. Drew homered on the very next pitch to win it. Unbelievable! It just goes to show that baseball is the one sport where there's always hope to come from behind and win -- a uniquely American attitude, it would seem. Donald Sensing's blog "One Hand Clapping" contains some reflections on this.
How's this for inspiring: An organization called Spirit of America has set up a program to teach kids in Afghanistan how to play baseball. I'm a little skeptical of the whole "hearts and minds" aspect, but such efforts certainly can't do any harm. After all, think about all the major league baseball players who come from Japan and countries in the Caribbean that used to be occupied by U.S. forces.
May 31 ~ Wahoo-wa! Even though the second-seeded U.Va. Cavaliers baseball team lost two heart-breaking games in the ACC championships at Salem, Virginia, they will be hosting the NCAA regional tournament nonetheless. This is a tribute to their superb playing this year, and to their (nearly) new stadium, Davenport Field. See collegesports.com for details.
D.C. City Councilman Jacks Evans is pushing for quick legislation to authorize purchase of necessary land for a new ballpark at L'Enfant Plaza, but much opposition remains. See the Washington Post. Even though the Dulles site would be more convenient for me, I would still much prefer a stadium close by the incomparably scenic Potomac River -- even if it's on the northern side.
May 29 ~ A new Big Red Machine? As the summer season swings into high gear, the latest baseball stadium page has just been completed: Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds. It has a lot of odd curves and angles, and thus took longer than usual to render. Its appearance here is quite timely, nevertheless, since the Reds have just taken sole possession of the National League Central Division, having swept the Houston Astros in what must have been a thrilling home stand. Meanwhile, the Cubs just dropped a double header in Pittsburgh.
The Braves and Phillies have split the first two game in their series at brand-new Citizens Bank Park. The broadcasts on TBS Superstation were the first real good look I've had at that stadium, and I'm more impressed all the time. Phil Faranda, a guy who has been visiting this site for quite a while, recently saw a game at the Phillies' new home and told me "they have done an absolutely incredible job there." I just may go there myself before long...
May 25 ~ Ballpark at Dulles? Today's Washington Post has more details on the baseball stadium which would be the centerpiece of a planned resort development in Loudoun County. It would be located at the northeast corner of Dulles Airport, west of Herndon and south of Sterling. An abandoned stone quarry would be filled with water to create a recreational lake. The wheels of lobbyist action are revving up to full speed... Up in Montreal, meanwhile, attendance at Expos games this week has fallen to well below 5,000, and as viewed on TV it didn't even look like half that many were actually present.
May 21 ~ The saga continues... Commissioner Selig elaborated on the reasons for his doubts about the Washington area's desirability as a new home city for the Expos franchise yesterday. According to the Washington Post, he "does not want to repeat baseball's past mistakes" by allowing a franchise relocation that adversely affects an existing franchise. As indicated elsewhere on this Web site, however, franchise relocations to metropolitan areas with existing franchises have only occurred four times: in 1902, 1903, 1954, and 1968. In the first two cases (St. Louis and New York), multiple teams coexisted for several decades. In the third case, the Baltimore Orioles may have diverted a small portion of the Washington-area fan base from the Senators, but that was hardly the main reason for the subsequent decisions of Clark Griffith (1961) and Bob Short (1972) to abandon D.C. The only such precedent that Selig can cite with some justification is when the Athletics moved to Oakland in 1968, taking some fans from the Giants across the Bay. One case is not enough to make an argument! The very real long-term problem of lagging attendance and television viewership in the baseball world has multiple causes, but it is certainly not a function of franchises crowding each others' turf. Interestingly, only one city has ever benefited from an MLB franchise relocation more than once: Milwaukee, which just happens to be Bud's home town! Hmmm... Obviously, he knows what he's talking about.
In spite of his qualms, Mr. Selig expressed confidence that the Expos will have a permanent home by the start of next season, saying "It's time to get this done." MLB officials supposedly expect a final decision on relocation by July. Of course, we've heard that song and dance before, over and over and over again, but this time Selig just may be serious. What's more, Northern Virginia is apparently on the verge of winning the franchise for next year, notwithstanding all the talk about Washington, or the barely plausible alternatives of Portland, Las Vegas, Norfolk, or Monterrey. As Jon Saraceno writes in USA Today,
When it comes to those cities, don't believe a word about their chances of landing the Montreal Expos. Baseball's smoke-and-mirrors strategy is designed for competitive bidding purposes.
Of course, we've heard that explanation before too: it's all just a ploy to leverage more public funding for a new stadium out of area taxpayers. What has changed the dynamics in recent weeks is the fact that the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority has worked out a plan to build a ballpark near Dulles Airport, most likely in Loudoun County. That is indeed a booming suburban area, and the fact that it is 20+ miles from downtown Washington would certainly make it more palatable to Peter Angelos. As Saraceno says, "Virginia has given MLB what it wants. Baseball has no better option." I'm not so sure, though: With gas prices soaring and no near-term prospect of mass transit to Dulles, attendance at such a far-out ballpark would be a very uncertain thing. I can remember going on bike rides in that area in the 1980s, back when it was full of bucolic pasturelands. The times are indeed a-changin'; are they changing that much?
So, this is a good opportunity to repeat my modest little proposal: Build a small-sized stadium (35,000 seats) in Northern Virginia while refurbishing RFK Stadium (with 45,000+ seats), and have the team alternate between home fields from one home stand to the next, for as many years as is mutually agreeable to the franchise owners and the respective local governments. That would attract the maximum number of fans from the Washington area and satsify all concerned parties -- if only the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia could find a way to collaborate in their own mutual best interests!
May 20 ~ Bud stalls again According to today's Washington Post, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has reverted to his old worries about a Washington-area team cutting into the revenues of the Baltimore Orioles, owned by Bud's pal Peter Angelos. Come on, Bud, we've been through all that! Quit stalling and just make a deal! Recent news on this matter had been pretty upbeat, but when you look at all the folks on the Relocation Committee who are connected in various ways to past "stadium swindles," the odds would seem heavily stacked against Washington.
May 19 ~ Just perfect! Randy Johnson's perfect game in Atlanta last night was the first such feat since David Cone did so for the Yankees five years ago. Depending on how you count the various asterisks, this could be considered anywhere from the 15th to the 19th perfect game in Major League history. Thanks to TBS Superstation, millions of fans nationwide got to see this momentous event live on TV. Atlanta fans showed real class by cheering him on during the extremely tense ninth inning, as the home team lost 2-0. Hooray for forty-somethings!
The Braves are clearly hurting all over, having dropped to fourth place in the NL East. MRI tests revealed that Rafael Furcal has a bruised bone in his throwing arm, while Marcus Giles broke his collar bone and suffered a serious concussion after colliding full-speed with Andruw Jones while chasing a short fly ball over the weekend. Speaking of injuries, Sammy Sosa somehow sprained his back while sneezing in Chicago, and will be out for a while. Fellow Cub Mark Prior and Red Sock Nomar Garciaparra have been on the disabled list since spring training, and yet their teams have been at or near the tops in their divisions. As for the Yankees, Derek Jeter is still slowly recovering from the injury he suffered in early April.
In preparation for this year's All Star Game in Houston, the Minute Maid Park page has been updated and now has a "dynamic diagram" that shows how the roof opens. Other retractable-roof stadium diagrams yet to be updated in this fashion: Safeco Field, Skydome, and Olympic Stadium.
The MLB Relocation Committee met again today, discussing the latest stadium financing offer from D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams. As today's Washington Post indicates, however, Williams will be hard pressed to get the D.C. City Council to pass the necessary funding measures. The article also included a map of the proposed Waterfront stadium site, which is two blocks further east than I had previously thought. The entire grandstand on the third base side would rest on a platform on top of I-395, the Southwest Freeway. The brick-paved L'Enfant Plaza promenade would lead right to the stadium, which would be a perfect link between the Mall, the Waterfront restaurants, and the residential district just to the east. The problem is that the diamond would point toward the southeast, AWAY from the Washington Monument. Why in the world wouldn't they take advantage of such a spectacular scenic backdrop???
May 14 ~ Back to normal The Yankees reached first place after several weeks trailing the Red Sox. Ominously, the Orioles are neck and neck with both those teams. I was following the play-by-play on MLB.com's "Game Day" system on Tuesday night, and was tremendously gratified by the Yankees' dramatic tenth-inning win over the red-hot Anaheim Angels. I did likewise the next night and was sickened by the eighth-inning collapse, as the Angels beat them 11-2. The divisional races continue to provide plenty of drama and tension, and it's great that formerly second-tier teams such as the Rangers are vying for the lead.
Just in time for the Braves' return to their former home city in Milwaukee this weekend, the Miller Park page now has a "dynamic diagram" that shows how the roof opens. Thanks to a tip from an anonymous White Sox fan, I learned of an important news item that might otherwise have slipped under my "radar screen": Just last Friday the Rangers and Ameriquest Mortgage Company announced a 30-year, $75 million agreement under which the Ballpark in Arlington is being renamed "Ameriquest Field in Arlington." Details are at MLB.com.
Finally, the U.Va. baseball team won one [not two as previously stated] of three games at the climatic series against Florida State in Charlottesville over the weekend. Last night they beat Wake Forest and are on the verge of clinching the ACC title. Wa-hoo-wa!
May 8 ~ Go Cavaliers! I neglected to mention another important Washington Post baseball story from Friday: It's about the phenomenal rise to championship caliber of the U.Va. baseball team this year. A big part of the reason is the new stadium, which cost $4 million and seats and over 2,000 fans, including six luxury boxes and a roof. It is widely believed that famed author John Grisham, who lives in Albemarle County, is the anonymous donor who made the new stadium possible. I used to work at U.Va.'s Miller Center, which is right next door, and every once in a while I would walk over to see a game -- back when it was just cheapo aluminum bleachers. This weekend's series against Florida State in Charlottesville is sold out, or else I might go.
May 7 ~ MLB in D.C. (Episode 37) MLB executive vice president John McHale met with D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams yesterday, and according to the Washington Post said, "If we weren't serious about Washington, D.C., we wouldn't be here." Relocation Committee chairman Jerry Reinsdorf apparently declared that the opinions of Orioles owner Peter Angelos about this matter are NOT "an automatic disqualification." (Does that mean it would be a manual disqualification?) Since Williams has offered MLB just about everything they demanded in terms of stadium financing, they have no further excuse to block the transfer of the Expos to Washington next year. We'll see... I'm still intrigued by the proposed stadium site on 14th Street near the Jefferson Memorial. That would draw the biggest number of Virginians to the games, especially if they build a new metro station on the Yellow Line.
The latest round of flirtation with D.C. coincides with a mini-uproar over the planned use of commercial advertisements on bases. Such scrounging for bucks would of course be extremely tacky, but please, folks, let's not forget all the big billboards on outfield walls during the Golden Era of baseball, the 1920s-1950s. Baseball is a business, after all.
Mike Zurawski let me know about a few needed corrections to the stadium diagrams, some of which I already knew about. Most importantly, I was not aware that they had added new rows of box seats behind home plate at Wrigley Field, and indeed on TV last night I noticed the new brick wall back there for the first time. Revisions pending...
Apr. 25 ~ "Poor" Bosox surge The Red Sox just swept the Yankees in a three-game series in the Bronx (shame!), and have passed the Orioles to claim first place in the AL East. But Mr. Henry, I thought you folks were at a hopeless economic disadvantage! Thanks to new visitor Alex Chernogaev for pointing out a few omissions in this Web site, two of which were in the big scrolling menu of stadiums.
Apr. 24 ~ 90th Year at Wrigley Yesterday was the 90th anniversary of the opening of Wrigley Field, or "Weeghman Park" as it was known back in 1914, when it was the home of the Federal League Chicago Whales. That means when I was born it was younger than I am now. Yikes...
The Braves and Red Sox continued to get revenge against their respective leagues' 2003 pennant winners last night, just like the two rematch series last week, but this time playing away from home. Prompted by seeing the Braves beat the Marlins on TV last night, I went ahead and put a "dynamic diagram" on the Pro Player Stadium page, but that's all for now. Jennifer Lim informs me that Davey Lopes was fired as the Brewers' managers two seasons ago, and I've deleted my erroneous reference to him on the new Miller Park page. D'oh! Well, at least my stadium diagrams are fairly accurate. Thanks, Jennifer!
Apr. 23 ~ Upside down standings What is going on this year? The Tigers, Reds, Padres, and Orioles are all vying for the lead in their respective divisions. It's a good sign that both the Red Sox and Cubs have shaken off their crushing postseason disappointments and are back in the thick of things this year. Sorry to sound mean, but has anyone calculated how much money A-Rod is making on a per-hit basis? Long-time visitor Steven Poppe suggested that I delete the football gridiron outline from the baseball configuration diagram of Mile High Stadium since it's visible on the football configuration diagram anyway, and I've obliged him. I used the opportunity to make a few minor tweaks in that diagram while I was at it. After I finish the last few baseball stadium pages over the next several weeks, I'll begin making "dynamic" diagrams for all the dual-use stadiums as well.
Apr. 21 ~ It's Miller Time! As the ever-growing number of regular visitors know, the latest addition to this Web site, Miller Park, has been a long time coming. In fact it is not 100% complete, since I plan to add a "dynamic diagram" to it in coming weeks. Speaking of which, I've updated the Bank One Ballpark page to make the "dynamic diagram" on it more controllable, much like the Busch Stadium (New) page I updated last week. I realized a few months ago that Busch Stadium is slightly oblong in shape, not circular, necessitating a redrawn diagram. Once again, I appreciate comments from the public, and I endeavor to make factual or graphic corrections to these pages whenever they are brought to my attention, though not always as promptly as I would like.
Apr. 17 ~ Revenge! Both of last year's pennant winners just lost two road games against their main division rivals: the Yanks fell to the Red Sox, and the Marlins fell to the Braves. Manny Ramirez got credit last night for a home run that did not in fact cross the fence, and perhaps out of guilt he almost threw the game away a while later by dropping an easy pop fly. Remembering Game 6 last October, I was gratified that Florida's ace pitcher Josh Beckett got taken out of the game in the face of hot Atlanta slugging. Early signs are that the division races will be pretty competitive this year. Hopefully that will put to rest all the whining about the Yankees' "unfair advantage" with their $180 million payroll. By the way, I've run across a number of Red Sox fans in various places since last October, and have had mixed reactions from them to my expressions of goodwill and respect. Some smile warmly, and some give me an icy glare. For many Bostonians, the Yankees are as irredeemably evil as George W. Bush is in the eyes of many Democrats. Oh well... Perhaps we all need to be reminded of a basic fact: It's just a game, for crying out loud! Perhaps the extreme degree of fanaticism portrayed by Robert DeNiro in the movie The Fan is more widespread than I thought.
Apr. 14 ~ Surrender? According to the Washington Post (registration required), Mayor Anthony Williams has proposed full funding for a new stadium in D.C., which would cost from $340 to $385 million. Perhaps there is no further point to resisting the extortionary pressure of MLB. On the bright side, a new stadium site has been proposed at the west end of the waterfront in Washington, just south of the Jefferson Memorial. Though a tight squeeze, it would certainly be the most convenient spot in D.C. for us Virginians, and perhaps therefore least objectionable to "Dr. Evil," a.k.a. Orioles owner Peter Angelos.
The San Diego Padres are above the .500 mark, getting an apparent boost from their new home at Petco Park, which has seen a surprising number of home runs, in spite of the deep outfield distances. An article on the MLB.com Web site addresses that puzzle. No such luck for the Phillies, who are 1 - 6 despite the grand opening of Citizens Bank Park.
Has someone in Miami seen this Web site? The distance marker in right center field at Pro Player Stadium has been corrected: It used to say "385" (at least ten feet too long according to my estimates), but now says "363." However, the difference is partly due to the fact that said marker has shifted toward the right field pole. In other stadium news, the outfield fence at Kauffman Stadium has been moved back ten feet, where it had been originally.
Apr. 2 ~ Play ball! Another sign that spring is really here is BASEBALL!!! The Tampa Bay Devil Rays somehow beat the Yankees in the opening day game in the sold-out Tokyo Dome (capacity 55,000), but the Yanks got more than adequate revenge the next day, winning by 12 to 1. Jorge Posada homered twice, and Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui thrilled the crowd with a home run of his own. The short power alleys in that ballpark (only 361 feet) probably account for most of the runs in that slugfest. It's nice to have such international exposure for our national pastime, but there's something not quite right about staging Opening Day abroad. It should be held in The Nation's Capital, like in the old days... Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell complained about the ungodly hour at which the first game was broadcast (5:00 A.M.) and slammed Commissioner Bud Selig's short-sighted commercialism.
In time for the "real" Opening Day, the U.S. Cellular Field page has been revised, with new diagrams that show the original design and the recently completed renovation. The Anaheim Stadium and SBC Park (formerly Pac Bell Park) pages have been updated to reflect the changes in their names during the off season, and the former page has an improved dynamic stadium diagram. Yet to be revised are the diagrams for Olympic Stadium and Busch Stadium.
Mar. 21 ~ Kaboom! That big old hulk in South Philadelphia, Veterans Stadium, was demolished early this morning, and the walls came tumblin' down in a carefully timed sequence. To commemorate the event, I've updated that page and added an excellent photo of a ballgame in Philly kindly submitted to me by a new fan of this Web site, Keith Kirkpatrick. Thanks, Keith!
In Boston, construction is proceeding on a new level of luxury suites on top of the roof in the right field corner. That spot happens to be quite a ways from home plate, but in the cramped quarters of Fenway Park you really can't complain. That's a small price to pay to get a truly authentic baseball experience. Anyway, it's a good sign that new owner John Henry is committed to renovating and preserving the cherished old ballpark.
MLB Relocation Committee member John McHale contradicted Bud Selig, saying he doubts there will be any decision on the fate of the Montreal franchise by the All-Star break. No surprise there! It would appear that the poor, mistreated Expos must continue play in limbo for the indefinite future, not unlike a gang of undead zombies. Coincidentally, a remake of the classic movie Night of the Living Dead is about to be released. Meanwhile, ex-Expo Vladimir Guerrero has "gone to heaven" as an Anaheim Angel.
While en route with my wife to Peru over spring break (hence the lack of recent postings to this site), I caught sight of another baseball stadium for the first time: Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in St. Petersburg, Florida. At an altitude of 40,000 feet, however, I don't think that qualifies as "being there." It was just a big white blob on the urban peninsula, but to a trained eye such as mine, there was no doubt.
Speaking of which, only nine days remain to the Opening Day game between the Devil Rays and the Yankees in the Tokyo Dome. Pitching???
Mar. 3 ~ No more artificial additives? Less than a month remains until the "Opening Day" game between the Yankees and Devil Rays in the Tokyo Dome... Will Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi have as bulky biceps this year as they did last year??? What about Barry and Sammy? The fact that the MLB Players' Association is dragging their collective heels on the new drug testing policy speaks volumes about the state of the sport these days. In today's Washington Post (registration now required), Tony Kornheiser writes that the players are basically running the show, using Commissioner Bud Selig as a meek figurehead while they set the basic terms in policy. To this I merely repeat my contention that this case of severely imbalanced market forces is the direct consequence of the huge public subsidies to baseball franchises, through stadium deals and other under-the-table concessions.
This spring training season takes some getting used to, with so many familiar faces in unfamiliar uniforms: A-Rod, Sheffield, and Lofton for the Yanks, Schilling for the Red Sox, Maddux for the Cubs, and Pudge Rodriguez for the Tigers. "Who's on first," again??
Feb. 25 ~ Cheaper D.C. Stadium? According to the Washington Post, Washington, D.C. officials have come up with a revised, less expensive stadium proposal so that the prospective baseball franchise owner -- Fred Malek, to be precise -- would have more funds available to pay the franchise fee, which will probably include a hefty premium to Mr. Angelos, who considers that a team in Washington would be "an affront" to Baltimore. Talk about chutzpah!
Feb. 21 ~ Orioles (+), Braves (-) Peter Angelos is feeling pretty upbeat about his team, apparently convinced that the "threat" of the Expos moving to Washington has greatly diminished. He says that is what has given him the confidence to beef up his payroll... The Washington Post had one of their online chat forums last Wednesday, and I got the following response to my query:
Staunton, Va.: What is going on with the Atlanta Braves letting their best players go elsewhere? After all the post season disappointments of recent years, is their ownership just giving up?
David Sheinin: The Braves definitely are slicing payroll. Looks like they've lopped off about $15 million this winter, by letting Maddux, Sheffield and Javy Lopez go. When I talked to their GM, John Schuerholz, a few weeks ago, he said ownership simply came to the conclusion it could not keep operating in the manner they had been accustomed to.
Feb. 16 ~ A-Rod to the Bronx! Nearly two months after the Red Sox failed to close a deal that would have brought Alex Rodriguez to Boston, the Yankees have pulled off the trade of the century, getting A-Rod for Alfonso Soriano, who was one of the Yankees' youngest rising stars. (Too bad he's leaving.) Apparently, Rodriguez will be playing at third base, which must make incumbent shortstop Derek Jeter feel appreciated. (His performance suffered due to a wrist injury early last year.) Today Commissioner Selig approved the A-Rod deal, which most experts believe dooms any hope for Boston to mount a serious pennant race or post-season challenge to the Yankees this year. Don't forget, sports fans, raw payroll size is NOT sufficient to win world championships. (It does smooth the path to the postseason, however.)
Feb. 6 ~ Stadium on D.C. waterfront? At a meeting in Washington this week, D.C. government officials showed MLB honchos a much better baseball stadium site: near the southwest waterfront. It's a pleasant area, with several fine restaurants, and, more importantly, is closer to us fans on the south side of the Potomac than any of the other proposed sites in D.C.! Arlington withdrew from the stadium picture last summer, but I wonder if officials in Alexandria have contemplated having a stadium built on the West End of their fine city? That area has convenient access to Metro, the Beltway, and is close to the Landmark shopping mall and a dense urban high-rise apartment district. Not a perfect site, but at least it wouldn't be in a suburban wasteland.
Many thanks to Mr. Roy Sorice, who explained to me the reason that the Chicago Bears played in the cramped quarters of Wrigley Field all those years was because Soldier Field was such an inhospitable white elephant, until it was finally renovated in 1971, that is. Before that, its main uses were hosting "midget auto races and the college all star game..." (That was before my time, I'm afraid.) Keep those historical tips comin' in, sports fans!
Jan. 31 ~ Monopoly games The MLB Players' Association is beginning to suspect collusion among the franchises as an explanation for the flat salary trends on the free agent market this winter. Could be. Indeed, it happened before, in the late 1980s. Or it could be the widespread realization after the near-strike of 18 months ago that baseball fans' patience with astronomic salary hikes for players has worn thin... Meanwhile, the L.A. Dodgers have been purchased by Frank McCourt (a Boston real estate developer), for $430 million. Bud Selig praised the deal, saying, "Having an unresolved ownership situation was, frankly, hurting the franchise." (Why does this seem so ironic to me?)
Old business: In my review of the movie 61* I forgot to mention that some of the digitally retouched scenes of "Yankee Stadium" along the first base side were rather lame. The second deck was far too big, since it was really the second deck of Tiger Stadium, and the third deck was just a carbon copy "pasted" over the top. The result was a frighteningly huge triple-deck image. Finally, thanks to Dave Russell for pointing out some errors in the Oriole Park at Camden Yards page, which I just fixed.
Jan. 24 ~ St. Louis Construction is proceeding on the new St. Louis baseball stadium, where the Cardinals will begin to play in 2006. The Cardinals' Web site shows that it will overlap with much of the existing structure, which presumably means they will have to tear down the right field side of Busch Stadium during the Cardinals' final year there. What's more, to my astonishment, I noticed a slight oblong shape in the Busch Stadium diagram, and confirmed from the text that it is in fact elliptical, NOT circular as I had always assumed. It's about nine percent longer than it is wide, which explains the long original distance to center field (414 feet) and tight seating configuration at the corners. Those facts just did not jibe with a circular stadium shape, but I was so convinced that the stadium was circular that I wondered whether the actual distances to the corners might be 10-15 feet longer than they are supposed to be. Anyway, that's one more stadium diagram I'll have to revise...
A fan named Joseph H. Johnston let me know that he enjoyed my review of the movie 61* and reminded me what a fine (though overlooked) defensive player Roger Maris was. By coincidence, I recently learned from The Yankees: An Authorized History of the New York Yankees that Maris made the game-saving play in the bottom of the ninth inning in the deciding seventh game of the 1962 World Series in Candlestick Park. By quickly getting the ball hit by Willie Mays back into the infield, he prevented Matty Alou from scoring what would have been the tying won. Yanks 1, Giants 0!!
The Washington Post reports that Major League Baseball turned down a $30 million offer by the Virginia Baseball Club to host all or most of the Expos games in RFK Stadium next year, on a one-year basis without ownership change or any commitment. The fact that such a reasonable (and money-making!) offer can't get serious consideration from MLB officials shows once again how badly the deck is stacked against The Nation's Capital.
Jan. 20 ~ Br-r-r-r The temperature outside is in the frigid teens, but spring training is only a month away!!! I recently got myself a great new book, The Yankees: An Authorized History of the New York Yankees, and am compiling data from a library book, The Sports Stadium as a Municipal Investment. (See Sources below.) Also, I've added a new page, Stadium statistics, containing objective data (e.g., capacity, field dimensions) that was formerly part of the quite subjective Stadium rankings page. The type on both pages is now larger, so it should be easier to read.
Jan. 16 ~ Same old song & dance During the MLB owners' meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, Commissioner Bud Selig commented on the long-delayed relocation of the Expos franchise, saying he hopes "to finalize a 2005 deal as soon as possible." Gosh, I sure hope so, too! The Washington Post story also stated that Mark Ganis, a Chicago sports consultant, said that MLB was using additional prospective baseball cities (such as Monterrey, Mexico) to get more stadium money from the three principal relocation candidates, Washington, Virginia, and Portland. No kidding!? Ominous portent: Orioles' owner Peter Angelos, arch-opponent of baseball anywhere close to Washington, was elected to the MLB Executive Committee.
Jan. 12 ~ Angels Nab Vlad Vladimir Guerrero just signed a six-year contract with the Anaheim Angels, to the dismay of the Baltimore Orioles, who had offered him a generous package. Apparently Vlad wanted to play in a city where Spanish is spoken more widely. ENCORE!?: The "just-retired" Roger Clemens has apprently been persuaded by ex-Yankee teammate Andy Pettite to join him in playing with the Houston Astros. I don't really hold that against him; anyone who has done as much for the game as he has deserves a "victory lap." As for the semi-contrite Pete Rose, I figure they ought to let him in the Hall of Fame after another 14 years have passed, since that is how long he lied to the public about his gambling problem. In my opinion, his words and actions have disqualified him from ever again holding an official position in Major League Baseball.
Jan. 11 ~ Miami Marlins? Last Thursday, Miami city officials approved a plan to build a new baseball stadium adjacent to the Orange Bowl, which would be thoroughly renovated. The baseball stadium would have 35,000-40,000 seats, with an estimated cost of $375 million. The Marlins have pledged $137 million for the project, but they insist that a movable roof is essential because of the frequent summer monsoon rains in south Florida, so it's not yet a done deal. SOURCE: mlb.com
Jan. 9 ~ New home for Twins? The spunky yet cash-poor Minnesota Twins franchise has proposed a new stadium, described on the MLB Web site. It would have 42,000 seats with four levels and a retractable roof. The estimated cost would be $430-$450 million, which is pretty steep for such a modest-sized stadium. Let's hope the hard-working taxpayers of Minnesota can come together and reach a fair deal with Carl Pohlad to keep big league baseball in the North Central region.
Jan. 5 ~ U.S. Cellular Field Details are emerging about the exact nature of the renovations currently taking place in U.S. Cellular Field, and the architects seem to have hit a home run. As explained on the White Sox Web site,
Eight rows and 6,600 seats have been removed from the top of ballpark's upper deck, and the previously sloped canopy-style roof will be replaced by a flat roof, elevated 20 feet above the seating area. The new roof, featuring ornamental ironwork on the facade, will extend over the back 13 rows of the upper deck, leaving just the first eight rows uncovered.
I took a look at some of the photos and artist's renderings, and it's almost everything I could have hoped for. They are leaving the front edge of the upper deck intact, unfortunately, so there will still be ZERO overhang. Neverthless, the reduction in the size of that deck, and the installation of an old fashioned flat roof with structural support beams and a decorative facade (à la Yankee Stadium) represent a quantum leap forward in terms of aesthetic appeal and fan friendliness. Hearty congratulations to the White Sox front office! (Stay tuned for a revised stadium diagram...)
It's official: Pete Rose has 'fessed up to gambling. The careful coordination of the upcoming book publication, the Sports Illustrated article, and the forthcoming interview on ABC all add up to one slick public relations campaign. Will he get a forgiving hug from Dr. Phil?
Jan. 2 ~ Comerica Park + Tiger Stadium! While working on the new Comerica Park page, I had an idea that might generate some excitement for Detroit: Why not have the Tigers play a few games every year in their old home, Tiger Stadium? The Indians used to split their home games between two stadiums, and of course the Expos are doing so this year once again. That would be a way to justify the expense of maintaining Tiger Stadium as a kind of museum, which many people want to do anyway (it's crumbling and rusting badly), and it would probably attract a lot of out-of-town fans who are curious about the good old days. Such a promotion might even yield a profit for the franchise...
Jan. 1 ~ Happy New Year! The Edison International utility company just opted out of the $60-mllion 20-year contract it had signed with the Anaheim Angels in 1998. Both parties say there was no animosity... For the time being, the Angels' home field will be called "Angel Stadium of Anaheim." Very strange; why not just call it Anaheim Stadium, as it was called for 32 years?
David Wells just signed a one-year contract with the Padres, who are getting ready to move into Petco Field. The Yankees had made him an offer, but it wasn't enough for him. I was glad when they brought him back for a second stint with the Yanks a couple years ago, since he's quite a morale-boosting character, though sometimes his mouth gets him in trouble. We'll miss him.
RUMOR: According to the Washington Post, Pete Rose supposedly confessed to gambling in his soon-to-be-published autobiography. If so, it's about time. Does this mean he's really sorry, or that getting into the Hall of Fame is more important than salvaging his pride?
Members of the MLB Relocation Committee will visit Monterrey, Mexico on January 7, seriously exploring the possibility of selling the Expos franchise to a Mexican business tycoon. Coincidentally (??), President Bush will be visiting Monterrey for a special "Summit of the Americas," trying to mend frayed relations with our Latin neighbors, on January 12-13.
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