Archive for the ‘Stadiums’ Category

Rosenblatt Stadium

June 13, 2009
Enjoy it while it lasts.

Omaha Municipal Stadium was built in 1947 to hold minor-league teams. The St. Louis Cardinals were the first team to locate a team in Omaha, making it the home of their single-A team. In 1955, the Omaha Cardinals were promoted to AAA status as part of the American Association. Six years later, the Los Angeles Dodgers took the team and renamed it the Dodgers, but the team did remain part of the American Association for two seasons. Between 1962 and 1969 (and 1960), no minor-league teams played in Omaha, but in 1969, the Kansas City Royals moved its AAA team to Omaha. The Omaha Royals have played their ever since, but now, they are part of the Pacific Coast League (the AA disbanded in 1998).

In 1964, the stadium was renamed Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium after the city’s former mayor. Rosenblatt played in semi-pro and even professional baseball before coming back to Omaha and entering into a life of public service. He saw the potential of the city and pushed for the construction of the stadium. From 1954 to 1961, he served as the city’s mayor, and he was a big reason the College World Series stayed in Omaha despite financial losses. Unfortunately, Rosenblatt had Parkinson’s Disease, but his service and dedication led to the renaming of the stadium in his honor.

Though home of several minor-league teams during its history, Rosenblatt Stadium (aka “the Blatt”) is most known for holding the College World Series and has since 1950. Every time that the contract has ran out, the NCAA and Omaha have come to quick agreements to continue the relationship, and the newest contract has Omaha retaining the rights until 2035. However, there are concerns as to whether or not Rosenblatt Stadium will be a part of the College World Series much longer.

Originally capable of holding 13,000 people, the demand for tickets led to renovations that added 10,000 seats. That’s great for the College World Series, but it doesn’t help the Omaha Royals, who struggle to bring crowds that occupy even half of the stadium. The Royals believe a smaller stadium would allow for a more intimate experience. Though the Royals would like to remain in Omaha, a partner for 40 years, they do have to run a business. But what do they do? One suggestion is to build a new stadium with removable seats to house the CWS and the Royals, but the Royals doubt that it would allow for an intimate experience even with the removed seats. Another is to build a stadium for just the Royals, but Rosenblatt Stadium needs more than just the CWS to survive.

As of April 30, 2008, an agreement has been reached to build the new downtown stadium for both the CWS and the Royals. The remaining Rosenblatt stadium will be sold to the local zoo and demolished. However, there is a campaign to save Rosenblatt Stadium, but the desire for modern luxuries and amenities is too powerful. Built back in the late 1940’s, the stadium isn’t beautiful. It’s looks a little piecemeal due to all the renovations, and its bright blue steel beams aren’t exactly attractive. A new stadium would be in the heart of downtown with shops and restaurants. It will have bigger concourses. It will be prettier. As for the Royals, they will not join in, but they will stay in Omaha, building a new stadium in the suburbs. By the time the 2011 College World Series rolls around, the new stadium will be unveiled.

As with most historic stadiums, history and tradition with a renovated facelift or modernity as part of eventual progress? It’s a tough call for all involved.

Stadiums: Shibe Park

March 11, 2009
I told you it looked like a giant square.

While Forbes Field was being built, another famous stadium was being built across the state. This one was Shibe Park in Philadelphia. Its predecessor was Columbia Park, a decent-sized park at 13,500, but fans repeatedly had to stand outside because the ballpark was full. The new method of building skyscrapers with concrete and steel allowed baseball parks to be built bigger and better. Columbia Park lasted eight years, from 1901 to 1909, but Shibe Park lasted 61.

Philadelphia was a town with two baseball teams — the Phillies and the A’s. The Phillies stadium, the Baker Bowl, had shown its weakness when a balcony collapsed a few years before. Athletics owner Benjamin Shibe bought several abandoned lots downtown, and he began building the $315,000 stadium in 1908. The capacity of Shibe Park was a robust 23,000, but it could also withstand 10,000 other standing patrons. By the end, the park could hold 35,000 sitting fans.

Shibe Park, like Forbes Field, was a palace compared to other stadiums at the time (it makes you wonder how the New Yankee Stadium will eventually be dwarfed). Again, it was technically the first concrete and steel stadium because it opened about two months before Forbes Field. Other than the actual structure, it had several new features. The park had rusticated bases, composite columns, arched windows, vaultings, and a huge French Renaissance tower that housed the offices of the vice president and owner.

The stadium’s dimensions were quite large. In left and right, they weren’t much bigger than stadiums today at 334 feet and 331 feet, respectively. However, center field was a long way away from home plate at 447 feet. It looked like a giant square. The fences weren’t too shabby either, ranging from 12 feet in left to 60 feet in center to 40 feet in right. The fences were raised a few times (they weren’t always so large) because Connie Mack was upset that adjacent buildings were being used to watch games, much like Wrigley Field today. After attempting to sue and failing, he just raised the fences.

Although originally built for the A’s, the Phillies would come in during the 1938 season after a series of unfortunate events at the Baker Bowl in which the stadium continued to errode. The two teams continued to share the stadium for the next 16 years, even playing a doubleheader against each other once. In 1953, Connie Mack renamed the stadium Connie Mack Stadium (Mack bought the team from Shibe a few years after they moved into the stadium). A year later, the A’s went off to Kansas City, and the Phillies were the sole owners of Shibe Park. Well, the Philadelphia Eagels also played there in the 1940’s and 1950’s, but they were the only baseball team left there and the only team period by 1958. Twelve years later, the park would close down after years of disrepair. Instead of killing it quickly and painlessly, the park sat around for another 6 years, suffering fire and vandalism. In fact, the only reason it was razed was because it was the bicentennial celebration, and the city didn’t want the eyesore around for the parades and the All-Star Game.

Stadiums: Forbes Field

March 1, 2009
Will PNC Park have as important of a legacy? It’s considered to be one of the best in majors at present.

Okay, so this is kind of a continuation of the previous post, but I think it’s a good idea to take a look back at older stadiums as they are a huge part of baseball history, both literally and figuratively.

The predecessor to Forbes Field was Exposition Park, but it had a major flaw — flooding. The Allegheny River ran right alongside the stadium, and when it flooded, the outfield became a swamp. Stadium crews tried what they could, even being the first to use a tarp to protect the infield, but they were no match for mother nature. It would take better dams, locks, canals, and other flood prevention measures to make the area more secure, but owner Barney Dreyfuss wasn’t going to wait that long.

Instead of keeping the team inside the city of Pittsburgh itself, he moved the stadium 10 minutes outside of the city to Schenley Park. After initial resistance, Dreyfuss moved forward with his plan. The area was cheap, and therefore, Dreyfuss could use the bulk of the money for the stadium. And use it he did. Forbes Field is known as the first stadium made of steel and concrete, and this new technique (all other stadiums were made of wood and were, therefore, less durable and more likely to have disasters such as fires and collapses) allowed for a larger stadium (10,000 in Exposition to 25,000, but it would have as many as 40,000 by the end) and more durability (it lasted 60 years).

Forbes Field included other new items. Elevators and ramps were included to facilitate fan movement into, throughout, and out of the stadium. It also included the first clubhouse for umpires. Even more impressively, the visiting clubhouse was just a little worse than that of the Pirates, a major step forward from stadiums that hardly gave anything to visiting teams if anything at all.

As for the dimensions of the park, they were all part of Dreyfuss’ philosophy of baseball. He hated cheap home runs, and in turn, the park’s dimensions are enormous. From left to right, the dimensions were 360 feet in left, an unfathomable 462 feet to center, and 372 feet to right. Making things more difficult was the fence, which was as high as 12 feet but no shorter than 9. Behind the plate, the catcher might have to run as far as 100 feet back to retrieve a passed ball. It would obviously be a pitcher’s park, but no no-hitter was ever thrown in the park. Instead, triples reigned. In 1947, the fences in left were moved in to accomodate newly-signed slugger Hank Greenberg, and the new area created by the move in was called “Greenberg Gardens”. In regard to the playing surface, it was known for being rock-hard.

Forbes Field would survive for 62 years. The once-underdeveloped area was becoming a business district that was the perfect site for a university. The University of Pittsburgh was adjacent to the stadium, and they bought Forbes Field. While leasing the field, the Pirates began to investigate moving the team back to downtown Pittsburgh. In 1968, construction began on Three Rivers Stadium, and the last game played in Forbes Field would be in 1970. Two fires further damaged the park that off-season, and 11 days after the second fire, the University of Pittsburgh ripped it down (here‘s what’s left). Showing its age, Forbes Field was done.

The stadium was called Forbes Field in memorium of John Forbes, who captured Fort Duquesne. People frequently tried to get Dreyfuss to change the name of the stadium to Dreyfuss Field, but he always denied the request. When he died in 1947, further attempts were made to convince his wife, but she resisted as well.