History of Baseball Stadiums: Part I
For well over a century, Major League Baseball has been woven into the very cultural and social fabric of American society. The creation of ballparks to house the teams in various cities around the United States became the focal point for community pride and social interaction between the various classes of American society as they shared a passion for baseball.
Baseball ballparks are social and cultural monuments to community development and civic pride.
As the sport of baseball grew in popularity throughout American society by the end of the 19th century, the desire for fans to actively watch their local teams play developed a need for the creation of a new architectural design – the ballpark. The original designs of such places as the original Polo Grounds in New York conveyed the tenuous if not temporary structural designs of these early baseball meccas.
Early ballparks were easily constructed with materials readily available – namely wood. Of course, wood burns easily and many early ballparks did in fact burn down by the first decades of the 20th century. A classic example of the need for sturdier, safer and more permanency in structural design was seen in the Polo Grounds fire in April, 1911.
Out of the current big league ballparks still in use, the oldest continually used stadium is none other than the venerable Fenway Park. Built and opened in April, 1912, Fenway Park has been welcoming Red Sox fans for over a hundred years and shows no signs of going away in the near future. With its manual-operated scoreboards and the famous “Green Monster” ever present in left field, Fenway screams old school and rightly so. Fenway Park can legitimately claim to be the oldest MLB ballpark still is use; I just wish I could be around to see this Boston icon turn 200 years old in 2112.
Right behind the granddaddy of ballparks is the equally impressive and historically important Wrigley Field. Home to the Chicago Cubs off of Addison Street since 1914, the Friendly Confines is exactly that – a friendly, wonderful place to take a step back in time and enjoy baseball as a leisurely summertime sporting event. With its ever-present ivy covered outfield walls hiding brick and iron and its late addition of lights for night games, Wrigley Field is as American as the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
The third “old school’ ballpark in this category can hardly be classified as an old stadium because it’s Dodger Stadium. Built in Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, the Dodgers created a permanent home in 1962 after initially using the Los Angeles Coliseum for their first few years on the west coast. Dodger Stadium just exudes baseball and has been very well maintained despite being the third-
oldest ballpark in the big leagues. You can just hear Vin Scully’s voice selling Farmer John Dodger Dogs very time you make your pilgrimage to this fine southern California landmark.