The past few summers my friends Marc and Paul and I have established a little tradition of visiting a few baseball stadiums. It’s a great way too to travel and see places I might not otherwise visit, and we usually make time to take in some of the sights and sites.
This year we went to Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis, and we saw four games at four stadiums. I have now attended games at 21 stadiums of 17 franchises (I have been to both old and new stadiums of the Yankees, Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians). I’ve got 13 more major league parks to visit.
We arrived in Chicago on Saturday July 2 in time to attend the Jayhawks concert at the Taste of Chicago festival. My other friend Paul gave us a tour of Grant Park (including the fountain from “Married With Children”) after the show. After dinner in the Damen neighborhood (where we went to an 80s-themed coffee shop with a DeLorean from Back to the Future), we returned to downtown Chicago and walked around Millennium Park. Lamely, the park closed at 11pm and we had only a few minutes there.
Above: The Cloud Gate.
Above: Chicago buildings by night.
Above: Wrigley Field Chicago: “There’s magic in the ivy and the old scoreboard.” July 3, 2011. Chicago Cubs 3, Chicago White Sox 1.
Above: “When you’re born in Chicago you’re blessed and you’re healed / The first time you walk into Wrigley Field. ” Eddie Vedder, “Someday We’ll Go All the Way.”
Wrigley is great for its atmosphere, not just the ivy and the old scoreboard and the closeness of the upper deck grandstand, but its urban atmosphere contributes much to the enjoyment of a day out. There are endless souvenir shops to peruse before the game, each selling different shirts and hats and other cool stuff. After the game, there are numerous places to hang out for drink or food. By contract, Minneapolis’ Target Field, also in an urban setting, had none of the t-shirt vendors or souvenir shops, and the area immediately around that stadium (primarily parking lots and highway) was dead.
Above: Before the late afternoon game in Milwaukee on July 4, Jim Duff, President of Soldiers Home Foundation, gave me a tour of the grounds of the Milwaukee National Soldiers Home Historic District. The fantastic old main veterans home building is currently disused. The group is raising money to preserve the historic buildings, which are still owned by the Veterans Affairs agency.
Above: July 4 at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home.
Above: The soldiers cemetery.
Above: Miller Park in Milwaukee, July 4, 2011. Certainly one of baseball’s most unique-looking stadiums. The Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 8-6.
Above: Teamwork – the statue dedicated to Jeffrey Wischer, William De Grave and Jerome Starr, three ironworkers who died during a construction accident at Miller Park.
Above: Target Field, Minneapolis, July 5, 2011. Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of a ballpark? The Hometown Twins escaped with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays.
Above: Last call for concessions. Edward Hopper would have been more interested in this scene than in the game behind me.
Above: The deflated Metrodome, Minneapolis. On the morning of July 6, we walked over to the Metrodome to pick up the train to the Mall of America. Fortunately, we saw an electronic billboard advertising a tour that day at 11am! It didn’t occur to me that tours would even go on while the roof was being fixed, but they were. And it was the best stadium tour ever. It cost only 4 bucks (any reason the Yankees and Cubs charge 20 bucks, besides “because they can?”), and before we even went in we got a Metrodome pin, pencil and a piece of the old roof!
Think the Yankees would ever give away a piece of the old stadium? Not a chance. People in the Midwest, heck almost anywhere outside of the northeast USA, are so consistently friendly and approachable. Even if you’re wearing the other team’s jersey, you’re not likely to get hassled. There’s such a different atmosphere out there.
We got to see the press box, a couple of luxury boxes, the Vikings’ locker room, and most all of the concourse. If not for the roof work, we would have gone down to the field level.
Above: After the Metrodome and the Mall of America, we visited Mill Ruins Park and walked across the Mississippi River, “the mighty Miss, the old miss, the old man,” on the Stone Arch bridge.
Above: Mill City Museum, Minneapolis. The museum was closed due to state government shutdown, but I had already visited here in December 2008. A great example of industrial preservation.
Above: The Milwaukee Road railroad station in Minneapolis. An ice rink was built in the train shed. I skated there in 2008.
Above: Gnomish landscapers in a Minneapolis park. Minneapolis is among my favorite cities to visit. Besides baseball and the Metrodome, there’s music at the famous rock and roll clubs like First Avenue, and NHL hockey in St. Paul. Downtown does have some dead spots and we found some of the pubs to close early on a weeknight, but all in all there is no shortage of interesting local sites and activities to partake in. For food I recommend Pizza Luce – they have tons of great vegetarian options. The guys obliged me as we had dinner there both nights.
Above: New Comiskey Park, Chicago, July 7, 2011. The home White Sox got trounced 6-2 by the Minnesota Twins. Opened in 1991, the stadium has been decried by critics for having predated the “retro park” movement, deemed to have officially begun with the opening of Camden Yards in Baltimore in 1992. However, I find that many of the stadiums classified as “retro” as so far modern that any classic touches are overwhelmed by modernity. The White Sox’ stadium actually isn’t all that different from the so-called retro ballparks, and in my mind actually fits in with them. The scoreboard is nice and easy on the eyes, unlike the Yankees’ giant screen TV, although the upper deck roof was an addition to make the stadium a little more historic-feeling than it had been when built.
After buying our upper deck ticket at the window (this stadium wasn’t part of our original itinerary), we found out that the White Sox have one of the worst stadium policies in baseball, whereby only ticket holders for any level are allowed on that level. Meaning that a fan with an upper deck ticket cannot walk the field level concourse, as is allowed at most if not all other ballparks. Boo Chicago White Sox.
Above: New Comiskey at night. Not quite old Comiskey. I still cannot believe that the White Sox, Tigers and Yankees demolished their old stadiums and built new parks. That’s just criminal.
Above: Chicago skyline.
BONUS 1: Aerial photos from the flight.
Above: Site of the old Kensico aerators in Westchester County, NY. The aerators were recently covered with fill from a nearby construction project.
People ask me if I ever get into trouble taking photos of abandoned buildings. I don’t. No one cares about abandoned buildings. I only get into trouble when I take photos in public, of obvious structures visible from public places. Example: In 2006 I went over there to take some photos of the disused aerators before they got covered. I was on a public street, on a sidewalk no less, with no warning signage and upon almost making it back to my car, I was surrounded by 15 DEP police officers, including a guy I went to high school with, in five cars. Only after a local officer showed up and asked me to name some names was I let go. I wonder if I would have merited such a response if say I broke into someone’s home or assaulted someone. Probably not. But lug around a camera and suspicions are heightened.
Above: Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, NY, the Tappan Zee Bridge, and the Hudson River.
Above: The Palisades Mall and the Tilcon rock quarry, West Nyack, NY. Which one will have a longer lasting impact on the environment?
BONUS 2: “The Birthplace.”
A couple nights ago I listened to Richard Thompson’s “From Galway to Graceland.” I don’t know if there was some cosmic underpinning to my song selection, but I later found out it was the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. Here’s a photo of his birthplace in Tupelo, MS, which I visited in April 2009. At 3 bucks (I think), the tour was about 42 bucks cheaper than visiting Graceland (30 dollars tour + 15 dollars parking.) I skipped Graceland.