PDA

View Full Version : Totally Biased Book Review: Storied Stadiums


Baby Fisk
03-07-2005, 09:33 AM
Storied Stadiums: Baseball's History Through Its Ballparks - by Curt Smith (2001, 577pp.)

If yours is a household that maintains a fine assortment of bathroom books, Storied Stadiums by Curt Smith recommends itself to your collection.

From the earliest nineteenth century fields to the latest twenty-first century marvels (as of 2001), Smith tracks the history of major league baseball through the places where it has been played.

Ballpark aficionados will get their fill of stadium facts here (ballpark dimensions, architectural notes, attendance figures, opening day firsts, etc.). Smith does a good job of weaving all of that dense information into brief narratives with historic anecdotes and tales from each park. Team histories, playoff runs, comedic moments, championship seasons and other memories are all distilled into bite-sized mini chapters.

Most parks get more than one mini chapter, spread chronologically through the book. For instance, old Comiskey Park is treated to four entries (covering the 1910s-1940s, the Go-Go 50s, the second Veeck era, and the Winning Ugly era).

Okay, let's get to some of the good bits. From old Comiskey's opening:


Everything was big about Comiskey Park 1910-90 a.k.a. White Sox Park, Charles A. Comiskey's Baseball Palace, or Baseball Palace of the World.

The new park rose in five months for $750,000. "A record-breaking crowd witnessed the opening game, at what may be without hesitation, declared to be the finest ballpark in the United States," [a reporter wrote]. Sox rookie Lena Blackburne singled for Comiskey's first hit. Missing: runs. The Browns' Barney Pelty bested Ed Walsh, 2-0.

Return with us to their South Side of Chicago -- blue collar, working class, Catholic, Irish, and Eastern European. They have an ardor for the underdog, work in stockyards and slaughterhouses, and abide the hardscrabble life. Their steel and concrete home wraps double-decked to the bases from home plate. A single tier trims the left and right-field wall. Comiskey is named the Old Roman. "He wanted an ornate facade," mused writer David Condon, "to fit his moniker." Funds lapse and a brick facing replaces it. Arch windows stud a classical look.

And from old Comiskey's later years:


In 1981, Carlton Fisk joined the White Sox. "This [team] was baseball's Rodney Dangerfield," said owner Jerry Reinsdorf. "No respect. Carlton changed the way people saw us." Rookie Ron Kittle hit 35 dingers in '83. LaMarr Hoyt went 24-10. Manager Tony LaRussa coined "Winning Ugly." Comiskey Park hosted the All-Star Game: AL, 13-3. "Some night," said Chicago native Fred Lynn, smacking the Game's first grand slam. "Fifty years to the day since the series started here, and we break our 11-game losing streak." The Sox clinched the West on September 17, 1983.

Baltimore took a 2-1 game lead in the best-of-five playoff. On October 8, 45,477 South Siders tried to stay execution. Chicago had 10 hits and no runs through nine innings. O's reserve Tito Landrum then homered into the wind. "It hurt," Fisk said of the 3-0 loss. "But we figured we'd get back." Fisk's 37 set a bigs mark for catcher homers in a year. The '86-'89ers fell to fifth and seventh. Comiskey turned eighty July 1, 1990: New York's Andy Hawkins lost a 4-0 no-hitter. Steve Lyons was even stranger. One night he reached first base. Forgetting his place and mind, the Sox infielder began to pull down his pants to remove loose dirt. Thousands gasped. Lyons' face reddened. A nickname -- "Psycho" -- rose.


Plenty more Sox lore is jammed into this phone book-thick volume. Combine that with 500+ pages of entries for every team in every park where they ever played and this is a winner for your loo library, or even just for the baseball bookshelf.

A random dip into any section of the book produces stories from all of MLB's parks, past and current. Bonus eye candy: two full colour sections showcase 36 panoramic lithographs of ballparks from New York's Hilltop Park (the first Polo Grounds), to Old Comiskey during a night game, to San Francisco's Pac Bell Park (as it was called when it opened). Smith's oft-eccentric prose stylings are unique but can get annoying. Throughout: clipped sentences. Like that one.

One more gem:


In 1971, ex-Cardinals voice Harry Caray became the Sox radio/TV announcer. Caray had owned St. Louis. He became a patch of folklore at 35 and Shields.

"There's only one song I know the words to," Caray said. "I've always sung it, but nobody had ever heard me." Let us visit a '76 seventh-inning stretch. Organist Nancy Faust is playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Caray starts singing sotto voce. Spying him, Veeck lip-synchs the words. The next night he covertly hides a P.A. mike. "All of a sudden," roared Caray, "my voice comes roaring back at me with everyone else." Later he asked, "Bill, what was that about?" Veeck said, "I've been looking for 40 years -- and as soon as I heard you, I knew you were the guy I was looking for."

Caray was flattered. Caruso never sounded better. Veeck then applied a lance. "As soon as I heard ya' I knew that any fan knew he could sing better and'd join in." Harry's jaw dropped. "If you had a good voice," Bill continued, "you'd intimidate them and they wouldn't take part." Instead, he grabbed the P.A. mike and bellowed, "All right, lemme' hear ya', everybody!" -- never letting interest die, even when the Pale Hose did.




--Baby Fisk

CubKilla
03-07-2005, 11:11 AM
If that was said about Old Comiskey Park I can just imagine what was written about The Unfriendly Confined.

Lip Man 1
03-07-2005, 11:50 AM
One historical correction:

(Perhaps you can contact the author) Lyons dropped his pants in DETROIT. It happened in June 1990. He slid into first base trying to beat out a ground ball and dirt got into his pants. So as any 'normal' guy would do he started to unbuckle his belt and drop them to shake the dirt out. (Good thing he had sliding pants on underneath!) Women in the first few rows started waving dollar bills at Steve as he ran back to the dugout. (I have the video)

Lip

TDog
03-07-2005, 11:54 AM
Even though it was the only song he "knew the words to," Harry Caray didn't even know the words to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Foulke You
03-07-2005, 03:53 PM
Another historical correction, and feel free to correct me if I'm wrong here guys, didn't Doug Rader coin the term "Winning Ugly" and not Tony LaRussa as the book article said?

MUsoxfan
03-07-2005, 03:59 PM
If that was said about Old Comiskey Park I can just imagine what was written about The Unfriendly Confined.

"Crumbling Confines" has a better ring to it

Fenway
03-07-2005, 04:11 PM
If that was said about Old Comiskey Park I can just imagine what was written about The Unfriendly Confined.

and since I know that Smith's favorite ballpark is Fenway I can only imagine what he wrote about the old lady of Kenmore Square...

Lip Man 1
03-07-2005, 05:31 PM
Foulke:

You are correct. Rader's actual comment to the Dallas Morning News was , 'they win ugly...'

Lip

NonetheLoaiza
03-07-2005, 06:36 PM
Nice, interesting little snippet you put together Baby Fisk. I'm gonna have to go and check out this book, and give it a looksy. Sounds pretty interesting for the ballpark enthusiast.

NonetheLoaiza
03-07-2005, 06:38 PM
Also, there is a website by Munsey and Suppes that has short little pieces about each stadium in the Big Four sports. I don't know if people have heard about it before, but it contains interesting little facts and figures.

http://www.ballparks.com/baseball/index.htm

HITMEN OF 77
03-07-2005, 06:44 PM
Is there anything in the Book on the Seattle Pilots old Sicks Stadium?

Fenway
03-07-2005, 09:27 PM
Is there anything in the Book on the Seattle Pilots old Sicks Stadium?

That maybe the MOST forgotten MLB stadium of them all given the fact that most people in Seattle probably never heard of it.

http://www.ballparkwatch.com/stadiums/past/sicks_stadium.htm

HITMEN OF 77
03-07-2005, 11:40 PM
That maybe the MOST forgotten MLB stadium of them all given the fact that most people in Seattle probably never heard of it.

http://www.ballparkwatch.com/stadiums/past/sicks_stadium.htm

I know that stadium was near downtown, but I have no idea where it was located. A friend of mine was at the Opening Day there in 1969 and also was at the only TV "Game of the Week" against the Tigers too.

TommyJohn
03-08-2005, 08:16 AM
I know that stadium was near downtown, but I have no idea where it was located. A friend of mine was at the Opening Day there in 1969 and also was at the only TV "Game of the Week" against the Tigers too.

I recall reading in "Ball Four" that Mt. Rainier was in the background of Sicks
Stadium. I recall Earl Weaver hearing it mentioned on national TV and saying
"And it really was a sick stadium."

HITMEN OF 77
03-08-2005, 10:20 AM
I recall reading in "Ball Four" that Mt. Rainier was in the background of Sicks
Stadium. I recall Earl Weaver hearing it mentioned on national TV and saying
"And it really was a sick stadium."

I guess the seats were really bad, everyone was getting slivers in there butts and what not. I know a lot of people from my neck of the woods, would drive 3 hours to go see them play all the time. I'll get ahold of my friend who went up there now and then to see them play and see what else he remembers. I also know there memrobilia items go for big $$$ around here.

TDog
03-08-2005, 11:07 AM
That maybe the MOST forgotten MLB stadium of them all given the fact that most people in Seattle probably never heard of it.

http://www.ballparkwatch.com/stadiums/past/sicks_stadium.htm

Bill Melton had a game there where he homered in his first three at bats and missed a home run by inches his fourth time up.

Baby Fisk
03-09-2005, 09:15 AM
Thanks everyone for the comments. Props to Lip and Foulke for spotting errors. The way the book is written, Smith starts each little chapter with some info about the ballpark, then dumps in a lot of anecdotes and historic tales. He may have been lumping the Lyons and "Winning Ugly" anecdotes in the Sox chapter since they related to the Sox more than other teams, but it's a sloppy way to present team history.

Yes, there is just over a page dedicated to Sicks Stadium. Notable info from the book:

- the park opened with its LF bleachers still unfinished

- the announcers' booth was at such a bad angle to the field that announcers couldn't see the LF or 3Bmen. A large mirror was actually hung in front of the announcers so they could do play-by-play based on what they were seeing reflected in the mirror. Bizarre!

- highest ever attendance was approx 22,000 for a Yankees game; average attendance was far lower.

Like I said, it's an interesting book to pick up and read chapters at random. Smith is fair in that he includes positive and negative comments about each park (yes, he trashes New Comiskey for the usual reasons).

HITMEN OF 77
03-16-2005, 12:22 PM
I recall reading in "Ball Four" that Mt. Rainier was in the background of Sicks
Stadium. I recall Earl Weaver hearing it mentioned on national TV and saying
"And it really was a sick stadium."

I talked with a guy I use to work with about the Pilots and Sicks stadium and he said it was just south of Seattle near the Rainier Beer plant which is about a 1/2 mile south of were Safeco Field is today. I guess there is a plaque in the middle of a McDonalds parking lot there, that says this is where home plate was at Sicks stadium. I'll snap a picture of it when I'm up there in August for the Sox games.