Vote: What Stadium Is the Best?

It’s a tough call, but which stadium is the best for fans in the American League?

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Baseball History: Induction into the Hall of Fame

I’ve blogged a lot about the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in the past. When I interned with the nonprofit that’s all about baseball in the summer of 2013, I learned a lot about baseball history and the integrity of the game, as well as making baseball accessible for all generations and driving new generations to the game.

I had the pleasure of attending the Induction Ceremony while I was up in upstate New York in 2013, and went back to help out in 2014. I saw some of my childhood heroes enshrined into Cooperstown and baseball lore last summer when Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine delivered their induction speeches up on the stage with over 40 living Hall of Famers welcoming them.

This summer, arguably my favorite player will give his speech. John Smoltz, the only pitcher to ever save 150 games and win 150 games will gain entrance into baseball’s most elite club. Check out his Hall of Fame Election Interview, below:

Baseball History: Giamatti Research Center

It seems fitting that baseball’s largest catalog of information and materials would be housed in baseball Holy Land. That’s definitely true with the Giamatti Research Center, located inside the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Along with a lengthy collection of baseball-related books, movies, periodicals, magazines and even audio and video clips, the most fascinating part of the world-class research center is the baseball player files, located upstairs beyond where the public’s eye can reach. Since 1871, if a baseball player has appeared in a major league game, they have a file there. Any news clipping or article ever written about these players is on file.

As you can imagine, the entire floor is stacked to the ceiling with file cabinets. Some files, like Hank Aaron, take up masses of space, while others who only played a single game are a little lighter. Even some umpires have files, and one of my favorites was Michael Jordan’s file, for when he played for the Chicago White Sox’s AA affiliate, the Birmingham Barons in 1994.

When I interned at the Hall of Fame in the summer of 2013, I spent a lot of time in the player archives researching different players. I would use the research to build stories off of for the Hall’s weekly e-newsletter (you can read some of my pieces here, if interested). Mostly, the research center is used by journalists and writers penning the next great baseball book. There would always be several individuals looking up stats or reading past articles on players in the lobby of the facility, under the watchful eye of the Hall of Fame staff, of course.

It’s quite the place, and I guarantee you that if you have any question, obscure or run-of-the-mill, it can be answered at the Giamatti Research Center.

All images property of Andrew Kivette.

Baseball History: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

While up in New York for baseball, you have to consider a weekend getaway to the village of Cooperstown. Nestled between the Adirondacks and Catskill mountains, Cooperstown is simply put where baseball lives.

If Yankee Stadium is “the Cathedral” to baseball, then Cooperstown is baseball heaven. Home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown is all about baseball. The entire village survives on baseball business. From the souvenir shops on Main Street to the restaurants, they all make a living based off the museum which sits at 25 Main Street.

Where all the greats are enshrined, the Hall of Fame plaque gallery (shown below) is stunning. The museum catalogs the history of the game from start to present day. If you want to really experience baseball ecstasy, consider visiting over the annual induction weekend, which usually takes place the last weekend in July. During the weekend-long celebration, the new inductees are enshrined in the Hall of Fame and give their induction speeches in front of thousands of die-hard fans. I had the pleasure of being in attendance to see Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa get inducted in July 2014. It’s an experience unlike any other.

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The plaque gallery at the Hall of Fame (image credit: Andrew Kivette)

 

Baseball History: Monument Park

In my post on Yankee Stadium (which you can read here), I discussed the tradition and history of the Yankees franchise, which you can delve into in Monument Park. Located beyond the fences in center field, Monument Park memorializes great Yankee players. It also has several monuments to significant moments in history, as well. Tucked into a corner of Monument Park is this reminder of the terrorist attacks that occurred in New York on September 11, 2001.

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Image credit: Andrew Kivette

It serves as a great reminder to the victims of the attack. The inscription reads:

“We Remember
On September 11, 2001, despicable acts of terrorism were perpetrated on our country. In tribute to the eternal spirit of the innocent victims of these crimes and to the selfless courage shown by both public servants and private citizens, we dedicate this plaque. These valiant souls, with unfettered resolve, exemplify the true character of this great nation. Their unity and resilience during this time of distress defined American heroism for future generations.

Dedicated by the New York Yankees
September 11, 2002”

The Cathedral of Baseball: Yankee Stadium

Just a quick ride from Manhattan on the B or D trains take you to 161st Street. Home of 27 World Championships, the New York Yankees call the Bronx home.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing games both in the old Yankee Stadium and the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. The first memory I have of a Yankees game is a good one — way back on June 13, 2004. It was heralded as the return of David Wells to the Bronx. Wells was pitching for San Diego in ’04, and I remember walking up to the ticket booth with my dad and buying two tickets on the very last row in the upper box in right field. There wasn’t a bad seat in old Yankee Stadium, and we had a bird’s eye view of David Wells’s return. The game, a Sunday 1 p.m. start, went extras and saw the Yankees walk off for the win, and spoil the David Wells reunion.

Fast forward to 2012 and my first game at the new Yankee Stadium. I had come up for a few days in the summer to see my Braves play for the first time in the new stadium, and was blown away. A few notes about the game: Sabathia threw a complete game, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira went yard, and Derek Jeter drove in the game-winning run to take the first game of the series against Atlanta, 6-2.

The game was simply a bonus to experiencing the grandiose stadium that is baseball’s cathedral.

A must-see is Monument Park. Talk about history. Monument Park, located beyond the center field wall, is where all the Yankee greats are honored if their numbers are retired. Greats like Ruth, DiMaggio, Maris, Mantle, Berra and Gehrig are never forgotten as they are forever cemented in Yankee lore in Monument Park. There are monuments to historic moments of the past not to do with baseball in Monument Park, as well. Popes that have visited Yankee Stadium are represented, and a moving monument to the September 11th attacks sits in the corner of the outdoor area.

If you get to the stadium early enough, make sure to stop by the Yankees Museum. A new edition for the new ballpark, the museum features rotating exhibits put together by the curator. A centerpiece of the museum is a wall that holds baseballs signed by nearly anyone to ever done the pinstripes. This is the largest collection of Yankee autographs ever, and caps a gorgeous museum that includes several World Series trophies and rings.

As for food, the stadium houses a steakhouse, but I opted for the Italian sausage. You really couldn’t go wrong here, as there is literally anything you could want in the stadium.

Baseball History: Kenesaw Mountain Landis

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Image credit: Andrew Kivette

If you find some downtime while in Atlanta, take a day trip up I-75 to Kennesaw, and the historic Kennesaw Mountain battlefield. Located about 30 miles north of Turner Field in downtown Atlanta, Kennesaw is the namesake of baseball’s first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis. He got his name from the battle of Kennesaw Mountain in the Civil War, where his father was seriously injured while fighting for the North.

Landis is in the hall of fame, as he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum via a special election after his death in 1944.

During his reign as commissioner, Landis oversaw the scandal of the “Black Sox” and most notably banned Joe “Shoeless” Jackson from playing in the majors following the scandal. The photo to the left is a picture of his hall of fame plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y.

For more information on the first commissioner, check out his bios on Major League Baseball’s site or at the Hall of Fame.

 

First Pitch

While filling out college applications several years ago, I was posed a bizarre question for an essay:

Where do you enjoy getting lost? 

Sitting at my desk, I pondered the prompt. “Where do I enjoy getting lost?” The common answers popped into my head: the library, to show I’m studious; a museum, to show I’m cultured; or maybe even a park, to show that I’m capable of getting lost in nature — something like Walt Whitman, I thought.

But then it hit me. I don’t enjoy reading so scratch off the library, I’m not one for museums normally, and I’m no Walt Whitman.

The answer that illustrated who I was came to me, after a few moments. I like getting lost at a baseball game. Let me explain:

Whenever I think about going to baseball games my mind is flooded with fond memories and vivid imagery from simpler, childhood days: the smell of popcorn, the sunshine beating down on my weathered, faded baseball cap,  sticky fingers from cotton candy, and my grandfather showing me how to crack sunflower seeds in my mouth and spit out the hulls. Just a simple thought of going to a baseball game transports me back in time.

This is my utopia.

I was very lucky growing up to have grandparents that cared enough to share with me the great game of baseball. Starting in middle school, each summer they, along with my uncle, would take me along on a baseball tour to several ballparks around the country. We took four tours: a west coast jaunt, an east coast saunter, a southern swing, and a midwestern journey, and all in all, we hit 26 of the 30 major league parks.

So through this blog, follow me on my journey to finish off the rest of the parks that I’m missing! I’ll be sharing stories, opinions and off-the-beaten path facts about each of the parks I’ve visited, along with some baseball-related trips around the country that are worth a visit.

Home Base: Turner Field

It is only fitting for me to start my blog with a tribute to my hometown team, the Atlanta Braves.

Being from Atlanta, Georgia, Turner Field has a special place in my heart. It was the first major league park I ever went to, is home to my beloved Atlanta Braves, and the site of the first Opening Day and postseason games I attended. My junior prom was even hosted at the 755 Club in the park.

Over the years, I have seen dozens of Braves games at “The Ted,” as the park is affectionately known as. I was at Chipper Jones’s last game, and at Jason Heyward’s first game. So many of my childhood memories are ingrained into that stadium in Fulton County. A little bit of history on the stadium: it was built for use in the 1996 Olympic Games, which were hosted in Atlanta. Prior to playing at Turner Field, the Braves jointly occupied Fulton-County Stadium with the Falcons, Atlanta’s NFL franchise. Turner Field was built in the parking lot of Fulton-County Stadium and hosted its first season of Braves baseball in 1997. One of the only remaining reminders of the old Fulton-County Stadium is the outfield wall, which marks where Hank Aaron, Major League Baseball’s former home run king, hit home run number 715 to pass then-king Babe Ruth. Enough history though, let’s get on to some of the unique aspects of the current stadium.

One of the best features of the stadium is a giant Coca-Cola bottle that sits perched above the stadium in the upper deck in left center field. A symbol of one of the city’s greatest icons, the larger-than-life bottle is made entirely of baseballs, gloves, bats and other relics of the game. The bottle shoots fireworks out of the cap after wins, home runs or big plays made by the home team Braves. It’s quite a site on a summer night to see the red, white, and blue fireworks emerge to roars of the crowd after a big-time hit.

Another thing that makes this stadium uniquely Atlanta’s stadium is, of course, the presence of Chick-fil-A. What Atlantan wouldn’t enjoy a chicken sandwich, ice cold Coke and Braves baseball? Note: even the Chick-fil-A’s in the stadium are closed on Sundays.

As for the stadium as a whole, it is quite vast. The park seats over 45,000, which makes it one of the largest parks in the nation for baseball. Rarely does the place fill up, but you can count on it being loud come August and September if the Braves are in the middle of a National League East pennant race.

Some other cannot-miss aspects of the park include the Braves museum in the left-center field plaza. You can get a ticket at the door, but it houses some really neat artifacts from the team’s early days in Boston and more recent days in Atlanta. As the longest continuously running baseball franchise in professional baseball, the museum has relics from some of the game’s best players including Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, and my childhood heroes like John Smoltz and Chipper Jones.

Don’t forget to hit up the Chop House if you are in the mood for something to eat or drink. Located right above the action in right center field, the two-story restaurant offers views of the field and has some pretty tasty wings, as well. It opens when the park does, so if you get there early it is a great spot to have a cold drink and catch batting practice, but be warned, it does get very crowded so get there early.

One of the things that I absolutely love about Turner Field is the pre-game atmosphere in the parking lots. The Ted is one of the few parks in Major League Baseball that provides green space to tailgate in and set up cornhole and other fun pre-game activities. In the summer, you’ll find thousands of fans outside soaking up the sun and having a good time. If you have the time, make sure to check it out.

While Atlanta may not have the flashiest park in the majors, there are some unique qualities that make Turner Field home to me. If you have the chance make sure to check out The Ted.