By Kurt Smith, author of the Ballpark E-Guide series
OK, we talk about the best, we talk about the worst, we look to Joe Mock, webmaster here at Baseballparks.com, to see who’s right, but which ballparks don’t get the respect that they should? There are some great palaces of baseball that, for whatever reason, don’t get ranked highly on people’s favorite ballpark lists.
In my travels, I’ve experienced some great ballparks that aren’t Fenway or AT&T and wondered, why don’t people ever say this one is the best?
So I’m throwing out five I’ve visited that I think are the most underrated, not because people don’t like them, but because I believe that they should be ranked higher than most people do.
In reverse order:
5) Miller Park – It isn’t the structure itself that makes Miller special—although the gigantic roof around this circular monster is indeed extremely impressive, and it’s great to know that when you make a trip to Milwaukee, you’re going to see a game. But it’s Brewers fans that make Miller Park stand out.
Before a game, the Miller parking lot bears a tailgating scene like no other in baseball, perhaps even in sports. Sure, some football teams have great tailgating, but Brew Crew fans do this 81 times a year! As soon as the parking lots open, people are setting up tents and tables of food, firing up grills, and tossing around beanbags with music playing. Everywhere you walk, there is an intense aroma of coals and sausage.
Perhaps it’s that people can enjoy a cold one or two outside for less, and it makes the fans less inhibited. But once inside, the atmosphere is electric, and inside a dome the noise of fans can be deafening. Brewers fans love their baseball, and a game to them is an all-day event. And why shouldn’t it be? You might not like indoor baseball, but no baseball fan could fail to appreciate the Miller experience.
4) Turner Field – I’m not sure why Turner seems to sort of get forgotten among the ballpark heavyweights; my guess is that no one believed you could make a great ballpark by tearing off half of an Olympic stadium. But it turned out just fine.
Turner Field has a beautiful brick façade; attractive Braves blue seats, a gargantuan hi-def scoreboard, and plenty of nods to Braves history with the Braves Museum, Scouts Alley, and Monument Grove with the huge retired numbers where the other half of the Olympic stadium used to be.
There’s a great kids play area in left field, and the view of the city or the entire ballpark from there is not bad at all. Getting there by car or public transit is equally doable.
The Braves are a competitive team and tickets are still affordable, and by the way, the food selection at Turner is as good as any in a ballpark. When you can get a footlong dog with Buffalo chicken dip on it, you’re doing all right. Turner Field is a great ballgame experience, and I highly recommend a trip there.
3) Busch Stadium – I really don’t get why people miss the old Busch. I know there’s history and all that, but I visited all of the cookie cutter donuts back then—Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati—and I thought Busch was the worst of them. Not only was it very much the typical concrete donut, my nosebleed right field seat cost way too much and was one of the most uncomfortable seats I’d ever sat in.
The new Busch, on the other hand, is certainly in my top ten ballparks. To start with, the view is almost unparalleled, with the ballpark perfectly placed for a fine view of the Arch. The outside has huge arches for entrances and the bricks are a dark red color that is unique to St. Louis as far as I can tell. I don’t normally like red seats as much, but they work perfectly here, especially with the sea of red-wearing Cards fans.
Certainly, I wouldn’t argue with a Cards fan who thought his team’s home was the best. Plus there’s a statue of Stan Musial, one of the all-time greats … and the phrase spoken by most Cards fans at one point: I’ll meet you at Stan. Enough said.
2) Rangers Ballpark in Arlington – I haven’t yet visited the home of the Rangers since they put up that large Jumbotron in right field, so I’m not sure if I would still love it as much as I did back in 2000. Joe says it’s great, and I trust his judgment.
But what a great place to see a ballgame! The outside of the ballpark looks like a castle, a square shape with four corners and pyramids in each corner. Not something any other ballpark has.
Inside are attractive dark green seats and support poles and roofs over the right field seating. And because of the location, the designers decided there wasn’t much to see beyond center field, so they put office buildings out there … and I’ve always wondered if a home run could break the glass windows. And it’s great to watch fans scramble for a home run that lands on Greene’s Hill.
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is a great baseball atmosphere. It still ranks high on my list.
1) Comerica Park – I still maintain that had Comerica Park replaced one of those concrete donuts instead of a longstanding icon like Tiger Stadium, it would be considered one of the best ballparks in baseball. Yes, it was tough for Tigers fans to see the old lady on Michigan and Trumbull torn down, but its replacement is as great an experience as a ballpark gets.
Comerica is in the heart of downtown Detroit, and the view of the city from most of the seats is utterly spectacular, on a par with nearly any ballpark except perhaps PNC in Pittsburgh. The front gate at Comerica—which is actually in right field—is my favorite of all of them, with huge tiger and bat and ball statues. The scoreboard is also visually striking, old-style, yet huge and very nice to look at.
Comerica has a real baseball atmosphere, and it’s spreading in the neighborhood—lots of outside vendors, nearby taverns, and party areas at the ballpark. I completely understand missing Tiger Stadium, but when Comerica’s been around long enough, it will be ranked higher. You’ll see.
So there you have it…my five most underrated ballparks that I think anyone could rank as their favorite without losing my respect as a ballpark fan.
Honorable mentions: Kauffman Stadium, Minute Maid Park, Progressive Field, Citizens Bank Park.
Heck, I’ll find something nice to say about any building if it’s got a baseball field in it.
Kurt Smith is the author of Ballpark E-Guides, PDF-format fan’s guides to major league ballparks that provide all sorts of insider tips and info for your visit to the ballpark. To learn more, visit www.BallparkEGuides.com. Feel free to leave a comment below.