2001 Raising Arizona

High-rolling Jerry Colangelo survives the ups-and-downs of his Arizona Diamondbacks' infant years, attempting to bring home a World Series trophy against the New York Yankees—uniquely cast as sentimental favorites in the aftermath of 9-11.

Arizona pitchers Randy Johnson (left) and Curt Schilling together hoist the World Series MVP trophy, for which they both shared.

There is an unwritten rule in baseball: Any expansion team must be born to suffer and pay its dues over its first three years, if not longer.

Jerry Colangelo wouldn’t have abided by that rule had it been tattooed backward on his forehead for him to read in the mirror.

The owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks had no intention of becoming an expansion lackey for baseball’s established lords. Shove the baby steps, insisted Colangelo; he was determined to be an instant player with the big boys, and they were going to like it. Of course, they didn’t.

Colangelo’s wild spending habits became the stuff of urban legends over his first few years as the Diamondbacks’ front man, but amid all the red ink was one very nice return on his start-up’s investment: A world championship in just its fourth year of existence.

It could be argued that, during the 1990s, Colangelo was the most powerful man in the state of Arizona. He arrived in Phoenix three decades earlier as a very young general manager of the NBA’s Suns, and from there built himself up as a man of many things; whatever he wanted, he got. He purchased the Suns, helped bring the Super Bowl and the NHL to town, and successfully led the effort to bring in major league baseball. Colangelo lobbied and got sparkling new facilities for both the Diamondbacks and Suns.

Colangelo had a generous reputation for doling out dollars, as many of the original Diamondback players found out in 1998. He first racked up veteran infielder Jay BellExcept for slamming 38 homers with 112 RBIs in 1999, Bell yielded common output over his five years at Phoenix. for five years and $34 million—far above what anyone else considered paying. He then acquired slugger Matt Williams, so desperate to play near his Phoenix home that he would have played for peanuts—but Colangelo instead gave him $45 million over five years. Catcher Jorge Fabregas lost an arbitration case against the Diamondbacks and was ready to settle for $875,000 when Colangelo threw it out and gave him a two-year contract at nearly $1.5 million a year—the same amount Fabregas had fought for in arbitration. Over the next few years, lofty D-Back payouts were awarded to superstar pitcher Randy Johnson ($65 million over five years) and somewhat-star pitcher Todd Stottlemyre ($32 million over four years). Colangelo’s mortified fellow owners wondered: With guys like this, who needs a players’ union? The joke started circulating that the team should be renamed the Greenbacks.

The Diamondbacks lost 97 games in their inaugural year but did a stunning about-face in 1999 by winning 100 to take the National League’s Western Division—before bowing out in the postseason’s first round to the New York Mets. They remained competitive for 2000 but did not make the playoffs, and the question arose: What was more likely to happen first with the Diamondbacks, a World Series title or bankruptcy?

The Diamondbacks showed tremendous impatience out of the starting block, reaching the postseason— and winning their first World Series—faster than any of the other 13 major league expansion teams since 1961.

Even with near-maximization of revenue—the Diamondbacks had corporate sponsorship for practically every nook and cranny of Bank One Ballpark, which fans often filled—the franchise was said to be suffering serious financial pain. Colangelo raised ticket prices, asked team investors to fork over $50 million to keep the checking account solvent, got another $46 million from deferred salaries, and laid off front office personnel. All this while rumors floated that the Diamondbacks—and especially Colangelo—were actually operating in the black. Colangelo showed sensitivity to such issues when, after being prodded about his personal gains during an interview with Armen Keteyian for HBO’s Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel, he profanely stormed off the set.

On the field, the Diamondbacks entered 2001 with an equal mix of questions, promise and pressure. They replaced abrasive first manager Buck Showalter with the more emotionally unbuttoned Bob Brenly—a former catcher who had never managed at any level, and most recently had been the broadcast analyst for both the Diamondbacks and Fox. Brenly would be presiding over a highly veteran team (average age: 32) that wasn’t getting any younger, but had gotten more formidable on the mound with the addition of Curt Schilling—who along with Randy Johnson formed one of the most feared and exciting one-two pitching punches the game had seen in years.

After a weak start, the Diamondbacks put together one nine-game winning streak in May to jump into the NL West race, and another in August to pull away from the division’s two prime contenders, the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers. All along, the left-handed Johnson and right-handed Schilling hummed along as, clearly, the two best pitchers in the NL, further excelling in a healthy duel to see who would be the bestCy Young Award voters would give the ultimate nod to Johnson, with 30 first-place votes compared to Schilling’s two.. Statistically, it was a judgment call. Schilling had a slight edge on record, 22-6 vs. 21-6; Johnson had the better earned run average, 2.49 vs. 2.98; and although Schilling struck out 293 (while walking just 39), Johnson blew past him and everyone else with 372—just 11 shy of Nolan Ryan’s all-time mark.

Barry Bonds watches the flight of his 73rd home run on the final day of the season, two days after he had broken Mark McGwire’s three-year-old mark.

At the plate, the Diamondbacks were carried by the gargantuan efforts of the physically unassuming Luis Gonzalez. Three years earlier, the good-natured Gonzalez had radically opened up his batting stance—and as a result, his power numbers grew on a consistent, yearly basis. In 1999, Gonzalez set career highs with 26 homers and 111 runs batted in; in 2000, he upped it to 31 and 114. In 2001, he went off the charts—crushing 57 homers to go with 142 RBIs and a .325 batting average.

While Colangelo’s Diamondbacks topped the Giants by two games for the NL West title, it was the Giants and their fans that heartily enjoyed the consolation prize of watching Barry Bonds personally top Gonzalez—and everyone else throughout baseball history—in the category of home runs.

As he had been for much of the 1990s, Bonds remained the game’s most dangerous hitter. Most players begin to exhibit career decline as they reach their late 30s, but the opposite seemed true of Bonds, who turned 37 with a much more prodigious offensive game.

A year earlier, Bonds had set a personal best by slamming 49 home runs for the Giants; in 2001 he was closing in on a repeat—at the all-star break. Many opined that Bonds was spiking with a record 39 first-half homers, but he actually was setting the pace. Bonds never slowed nor wavered—even as opposing pitchers did all they could to keep him from receiving a hittable pitchBonds set a major league record for walks in 2001 with 177; he would break it again a year later with 198, and once more in 2004 with an unbelievable 232..

Through 1994, major leaguers had hit 50 home runs in a season 18 times. It would take only eight years—from 1995 to 2002—to match that total in a period that has increasingly become known as the Steroid Era. During this time, the previous season record of 61 homers belted by Roger Maris in 1961 would be eclipsed six different times.

Mark McGwire had shattered Roger Maris’ fabled mark of 61 home runs by nine in 1998, and that new bar was considered secure; yet, barely three years had passed, and now McGwire’s 70 was about to be erased from the record books. Bonds would take care of that when, in the third-to-last game of the season, he hit home runs 71 and 72 off the Dodgers to become the latest season home run king. He added the exclamation point on the season’s final day, lofting number 73 off Dodger knuckleballer Dennis Springer into a sea of near-riotous fansWho held ownership of Bonds’ 73rd home run ball fell into legal dispute; two years later, a judge ordered the two claimants to sell the ball and split the proceeds. The final sale price didn’t even cover their legal fees. atop Pac Bell Park’s right-field wall desperate for a famous, potentially lucrative souvenir.

Bonds’ sudden power surge into record territory was not without controversy; media pundits, fans and even fellow players squinted their eyes in suspicion and wondered aloud how a guy in his late 30s could put on 30 pounds of muscle overnight. Bonds attributed such results to a strength and conditioning program and, using his usual abrasive disposition towards the press, waived away in disgruntlement any suggestions of doping as falsehood.

Legit or otherwise, Bonds replaced McGwire, but who knew for how long; in a continued era of outrageous offense, it seemed wisest to use pencil, not pen, to write in Bonds as the new one-year home run king.

The other major achievement of 1998—the New York Yankees’ American League record of 114 wins—would also fall by the wayside.

Safeco Field had opened at Seattle in 1999 as a savior for the Mariners, generating major revenue that would allow the team to retain its superstar hitters. Instead, the new ballpark’s expansive outfields scared them away: Ken Griffey Jr. bolted after 1999, followed a year later by Alex Rodriguez.

First-year Japanese import Ichiro Suzuki became the embodiment of the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who like Suzuki slashed and dashed their way to a record-breaking 116 wins.

Rather then spend tens of millions on one player to replace the departed all-stars, the Mariners wisely committed the freed-up dollars to solid, not star, talent to produce a roster with few holes. Before 2001, few casual baseball fans had likely heard of players like Bret Boone, Mike Cameron, Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer. And Ichiro Suzuki? Even the most dedicated, 24/7 baseball nut had nary a clue.

One hundred and sixteen regular season victories later, a whole lot of people suddenly knew who these Mariners were.

Boone, a third-generation big leaguer, made pop Bob and grandpa Ray proud, setting family highs with a .331 batting average, 37 home runs and 141 RBIs. Cameron contributed 25 homers and 110 RBIs, and his sensational play in center field made Griffey’s memorable defense look passé. Garcia led the AL in ERA (3.06) and innings (238.2) while producing an 18-6 record, and Moyer went 20-6 at age 38.

But the most heralded of Seattle’s previously unheard-of was Suzuki, who had ripped apart Japanese baseball and proved, as a 27-year-old rookie in America, that major league pitchers were no better. Often referred to only as Ichiro—like a Brazilian soccer star—Suzuki led the AL in hits (242)Suzuki’s 242 hits were the most by a major leaguer in 71 years., average (.350), steals (56) and Japanese media reporters hounding his every move in the States.

For much of the 1990s, the Mariners were a talented team whose pitchers were tortured trying to survive in the bandboxed Kingdome. But after the team’s move to spacious, damp Safeco Field in mid-1999, the fortunes of Mariner hurlers improved dramatically—and thus, so did those of the team. It all peaked for Seattle in 2001.

Under veteran manager Lou Piniella, the Mariners’ 116-46 record was consistently superb, no matter which way you split it up. They won 57 at home, 59 on the road; suffered only one losing streak greater than two; never lost more than nine in any one month; and they won at least twice as many games as they lost against every team they played.

Seattle’s .716 winning percentage trailed only the 1954 Cleveland Indians (.721) for the AL’s all-time best. Yet the 2001 Mariners would share something else in common with the 1954 Indians: Season-ending disappointment.

After the Mariners received a tough first-round playoff test from the modern-day Indians—having to win the series’ final two games to advance—Seattle readied for an ALCS rematch against the Yankees, a team not only looking for a fourth straight World Series title, but also a group of individuals hoping to give New York City an emotional lift after the traumatic September 11 attack on the World Trade Center by Islamic terrorists.

The Yankees had repeated with ease in the AL East thanks to continued solid starting pitching, from free agent pick-up Mike Mussina (17-11, 3.15 ERA) and Roger Clemens—who two years after winning 20 decisions in a row put together a 16-game win streak to help start his year at 20-1, before losing his final two decisions.

In the ALDS, the Yankees were threatened with a three-and-out against the wild card Oakland A’s—who at 102-60 had the misfortune of playing in the same division as Seattle. But shortstop Derek Jeter saved Game Three, the series—and the season—as the A’s Jeremy Giambi scampered toward home on a likely game-tying double by Terrence Long; Jeter came out of nowhere to take an errant throw near home plate from outfielder Shane Spencer, and somehow delivered an off-balance shovel toss on time to catcher Jorge Posada, who put the tag on Giambi—who until that instant didn’t feel compelled to slide. What is considered one of the greatest defensive plays in modern times completely reversed the series’ momentum, which fell squarely in the Yankees’ favor as they delivered a five-game series triumph.

The Mariners were no luckier than the A’s. The Yankees critically began the ALCS with two wins on the road at Seattle, then after absorbing a 14-3 loss in Game Three in New York, broke open Game Four in the late innings, 3-1—and broke it open early in Game Five, storming to a 12-3 rout to put a disheartening coda on an otherwise overpowering Mariner opus.

Having mastered the Mariners to conquer the AL, the Yankees re-entered the World Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks with the enormous task of upstaging the two fireball stars that made up “The Schilling & Johnson Show.”

The twin Diamondback aces had already rendered their first two postseason opponents—the St. Louis Cardinals and, in the NLCS, the Atlanta Braves—impotent at the plate. Between them, Schilling and Johnson started six of the ten games in those first two rounds—winning five with four complete games, striking out 58, and producing a 1.24 ERA that seemed to make the rest of the Arizona staff (at 4.74) mere extras spending downtime in the bullpen.

The fresh scars of 9-11 enshrouded the World Series. Security at both ballparks—particularly at Yankee Stadium, just nine miles from Ground Zero—was intense; all nearby air traffic, including the blimp hired for network TV aerials, was banned; and in an utterly emotional tribute, the tattered American flag that survived the collapse of the World Trade Center was flown at Yankee Stadium.

Adopted as sentimental Series favorites, the Yankees ran into trouble right away in the first two games at Phoenix. Schilling allowed just a run on three hits over seven innings in Game One, and Johnson threw a three-hit shutout in Game Two; the Diamondbacks rolled in both games, 9-1 and 4-0. Finally, the other Arizona starters became inspired. Brian Anderson and Miguel Batista pitched wonderfully for the Diamondbacks in, respectively, Games Three and Five, and sandwiched in between them was Schilling, who produced a virtual clone of his Game One start in Game Four. But the Diamondbacks lost all three games—the last two when closer Byung-Hyun Kim gave up, on consecutive nights, two-run, two-out, game-tying homersSome folks sarcastically nicknamed the Korean-born Diamondback “Hung One Kim” in quick retrospect. in the ninth that set up Yankee wins in extra innings.

After scoring just six runs in their three losses at New York, Diamondback bats came roaring back to life for Johnson with a 15-2, Game Six rout of the Yankees at Phoenix. But Arizona manager Bob Brenly was criticized for not preserving Johnson for possible Game Seven relief by leaving the Big Unit in for seven innings—when he could have been removed after five with a 14-0 lead.

In a fantastic winner-take-all matchup at Bank One Ballpark, Schilling and Roger Clemens dueled into the seventh tied at 1-1, but up-and-coming second baseman Alfonso Soriano homered to lead off the eighth, unlocking the tie and knocking out Schilling.

Holding the 2-1 lead to the ninth, the Yankees brought in their deal-sealer: Mariano Rivera. The Panamanian-born Yankee closer had been all but automatic throughout his postseason career to date with a 0.70 ERA. But in his bid to garner the Yankees their fourth straight World Series title to rival the Yankees of the late 1930s and early 1950s, Rivera became uncharacteristically unglued. He strengthened a desperate Arizona rally by throwing wild past second base on an attempted force play, then plunked Craig CounsellThis was the second Series-winning rally for Counsell; he scored the decisive tally for Florida in Game Seven of the 1997 Fall Classic. in a moment that ultimately led to a tie game and a bases-loaded situation for Luis Gonzalez. The 57-homer man ended the season not with a blast but with a bloop, a broken-bat job that barely cleared the infield behind second and fell in between pinstriped defenders to score the Series-winning tally.

Game Seven’s winning pitcher: Randy Johnson. There was enough gas left in him after all, retiring all four Yankee batters he faced at the end to keep the game close.

Jerry Colangelo not only savored the moment of triumph but also the added $16 million the postseason brought into his team’s coffers. Perhaps Colangelo could pay off some debts or keep an all-star or two with the money. Whatever the amount, no dollar figure could equate the priceless feeling of conquering baseball’s top prize when other newborn owners would have been content just to field a team.


2002 baseball historyForward to 2002: The Wild, Wild Card West The red-hot Anaheim Angels—riding high on the back of their "Rally Monkey"—attempt to overcome Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants.


2000 baseball historyBack to 2000: New York, New York The first Subway Series in 44 years is spiced with antagonism thanks to an ongoing feud between Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza.


2000 baseball historyThe 2000s Page: Driven Deep to Disgrace The new century gives Major League Baseball a decidedly more international flavor with a healthy rise in foreign-born talent—but a disturbing pall is cast over the sport as one megastar after another is exposed for using steroids.


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2001 Standings

National League East
Atlanta Braves
88
74
.543
---
Philadelphia Phillies
86
76
.531
2
New York Mets
82
80
.506
6
Florida Marlins
76
86
.469
12
Montreal Expos
68
94
.420
20
National League Central
Houston Astros
93
69
.574
---
St. Louis Cardinals (w)
93
69
.574
---
Chicago Cubs
88
74
.543
5
Milwaukee Brewers
68
94
.420
25
Cincinnati Reds
66
96
.407
27
Pittsburgh Pirates
62
100
.383
31
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks
92
70
.568
---
San Francisco Giants
90
72
.556
2
Los Angeles Dodgers
86
76
.531
6
San Diego Padres
79
83
.488
13
Colorado Rockies
73
89
.451
19
American League East
New York Yankees
95
65
.594
---
Boston Red Sox
82
79
.509
13.5
Toronto Blue Jays
80
82
.494
16
Baltimore Orioles
63
98
.391
22.5
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
62
100
.383
34
American League Central
Cleveland Indians
91
71
.562
---
Minnesota Twins
85
77
.525
6
Chicago White Sox
83
79
.512
8
Detroit Tigers
66
96
.407
25
Kansas City Royals
65
97
.401
26
American League West
Seattle Mariners
116
46
.716
---
Oakland A's (w)
102
60
.630
14
Anaheim Angels
75
87
.463
41
Texas Rangers
73
89
.451
43

2001 Postseason Results
NLDS Atlanta defeated Houston, 3-0.
NLDS Arizona defeated St. Louis, 3-2.
ALDS New York defeated Oakland, 3-2.
ALDS Seattle defeated Cleveland, 3-2.
NLCS Arizona defeated Atlanta, 4-1.
ALCS New York defeated Seattle, 4-1.
World Series Arizona (NL) defeated New York (AL), 4-3.


It Happened in 2001

…And the Band Stopped Playing
Baseball fans go to sleep the night of September 10 knowing that season records may be on the brink of being set by Barry Bonds (home runs), Randy Johnson (strikeouts) Roger Clemens (consecutive wins) and the Seattle Mariners (team wins). A day later, it all seems like years earlier. America is changed forever on September 11 when airline hijackings by Islamic terrorists result in the destruction of both World Trade Center towers and part of the Pentagon, while another airliner is downed in rural Pennsylvania by the heroism of mutinous passengers.

Baseball, along with the rest of the country, stops; a whole week’s worth of scheduled games are postponed by commissioner Bud Selig, to be made up at the end of the season—thus extending the postseason back a week. It is baseball’s longest work stoppage unrelated to labor since World War I. The games resume on September 17 under heightened ballpark security as fans display their patriotism by wearing red, white and blue; God Bless America replaces Take Me Out to the Ballgame as the anthem for the seventh inning stretch (both songs will be played regularly in later years).

Game of the Year
The Seattle Mariners don’t lose many games in 2001, but they certainly suffer baseball’s most embarrassing defeat of the year on August 5 at Cleveland. The Indians, trailing 14-2 at the seventh inning stretch—from which many fans stand up, stretch and leave—score three in the bottom of the inning, four more in the eighth, and five in the ninth to tie the game at 14-14. After a scoreless tenth, the Tribe notch the winning run in the 11th to win, 15-14. The come-from-behind triumph ties a modern major league mark set twice long ago for the biggest comeback in history.

Yes, Rickey, This Time It’s Really All About You
It becomes Rickey Henderson Appreciation Week in San Diego to close out the regular season, as the nomadic 42-year-old—playing for his fifth team in four years—establishes two major milestones on the Padres’ final homestand of the year. On October 4, he becomes the all-time leader in runs scored, surpassing Ty Cobb with his 2,246th tally. Three days later, on the final day of the season, Henderson clubs his 3,000th hit—a bit of an accomplishment considering he’s the all-time leader in walks, at over 2,000. For the year, Henderson hits just .227 but is still potent enough to score 70 runs in 123 games.

Harvey Haddix Will Call Soon to Explain
On May 8 against Cincinnati, Randy Johnson joins Roger Clemens and Kerry Wood by striking out 20 batters over nine innings of work. But officially, it’s not a record-tying event; the game goes overtime and, in order for Johnson to join the record book, the game has to be decided after nine innings. Arizona relievers take over and lose in the 11th, 4-3, to the Reds at Phoenix.

Two months later in San Diego, Johnson will sneak into the record book in a very different manner—setting the all-time mark for most strikeouts in a relief appearance with 16, accomplished when he pitches seven innings of a game started the night before by Curt Schilling—and halted after two innings when a bank of Qualcomm Stadium’s lights explode.

Dust the Cobwebs Off the Walk-Up Ticket Booths
After 455 consecutive sold-out games at Cleveland’s Jacobs Field, the Indians take the field on April 4 against the Chicago White Sox and find an unusual sight: Empty seats. The second home game of the season at the Jake is short of capacity by nearly 10,000, ending an impressive streak that began in 1995. The sellout streak is a major league that will be broken within a decade by the Boston Red Sox.

The Closing Belle
Albert Belle is forced to retire in spring training due to a degenerative hip condition. The 34-year-old Baltimore Oriole had long since established himself as one of the most feared and productive sluggers in the game, averaging .304 with 39 homers and 125 runs batted in over each of the last eight years. Despite such world-class numbers, Belle’s intensely angry attitude towards just about anyone—opponents, fans, the media, even some teammates—make him a tough sell for Hall of Fame voters in his first year of eligibility in 2006; sure enough, he’ll never net more than 7% of the tally. Because of a provision in his Oriole contract, Belle will make $38 million through 2003 without having to pick up a bat.

Pitchers Throw the Darnedest No-Hitters
Florida’s A.J. Burnett no-hits the Padres in a 3-0 Marlin win on May 12, but he’s not exactly sharp. Burnett’s box score includes nine walks—the most any pitcher allows in a game all year—and a hit batsman. Later on September 3, the Padres suffer another no-hit loss at the hands of St. Louis Cardinal rookie Bud Smith, making only his 11th major league start. For Smith, who threw two minor league no-hitters in 2000, it looks like the beginning of a promising career—but that prognosis falls into doubt as he regresses to an ERA near 7.00 in 2002, and then back to the minors full-time in 2003 before exiting the game entirely in 2007 at the age of 27.

One Strike Away
Mike Mussina, in his first year pitching for the Yankees, comes within a strike of being the third Yankee hurler to throw a perfect game in four years. With two outs in the ninth at Boston’s Fenway Park, the Red Sox’ Carl Everett strokes a 2-2 pitch for a single and ruins the perfecto. Mussina settles for the one-hit, 1-0 shutout on September 2; the losing pitcher is David Cone, who threw the last Yankee perfect game in 1999.

Of Three I Ding
Major league sluggers are collecting homers in threes at a record pace. The Cubs’ Sammy Sosa becomes the first player to thrice hit three homers in a game—with all three games coming within a six-week stretch late in the year. Three other players—San Francisco’s Barry Bonds, Toronto’s Carlos Delgado and Milwaukee’s Jeromy Burnitz—power three homers in a game twice. One of Burnitz’s hat tricks occurs on September 25 at Arizona in a game in which fellow Brewer Richie Sexson also socks three over the fence—the first time two players from the same team homer three times each in the same game.

He’s In Control
Greg Maddux sets a NL record—and the major league mark among starters—by pitching 72.1 straight innings without giving up a walk. Bill Fischer, who mixed 16 starts with 18 relief appearances for the Kansas City A’s in 1962, remains the all-time leader at 84.1 innings.

Finally Hatching a Goose Egg
The Reds play 208 straight games without being shut out, breaking a NL record. The Cubs’ Jon Lieber ends the streak on May 24 by blanking the Reds on one hit.

Harris-ing Hitters from the Bench
Lenny Harris slaps out his 151st pinch hit of his career on October 6 for the New York Mets to break the all-time record previously held by career pinch-hitter Manny Mota. Harris’ hit helps beat the Montreal Expos, 4-0.

New Ballparks

PNC Park, Pittsburgh In late 2003, a well-publicized ESPN.com poll named PNC Park as the majors’ best ballpark. It’s certainly hard to keep it out of the top five. Built for a relatively modest $260 million, PNC Park is inviting from the outside with its warm, cream-colored limestone masonry; on the inside, there’s an abundance of steel trusses left intentionally naked in tribute to the Steel City. But most of all, PNC Park exhibits the most spectacular exterior view in all of baseball, with the Pittsburgh skyline and the Roberto Clemente Bridge standing tall behind the center-to-right field seats.

PNC Park is intimate for fans, with the farthest seat only 88 feet from the playing field, but not terribly intimate for sluggers, especially those of the right-handed persuasion—with field distances measuring 389 to 410 feet in left-center field. It’s a shame that fans haven’t filled the joint just to enjoy it, but a few more Pirate wins would help (they lost 100 in their first year at PNC). The ballpark opened on a sad note; legendary Pirate favorite Willie Stargell, for whom a statue had been unveiled outside PNC’s entrance, died just hours before the very first pitch was thrown.

Miller Park, Milwaukee Like PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Miller Park was considered essential to ensure the survival of baseball in “small-market” Milwaukee. That the Brewers didn’t exactly improve in their new surroundings further proved that building new ballparks in the 21st Century was more about keeping up with the Joneses, not getting ahead of them. From the outside, it’s a throwback at its base, a brick façade with tall arches running in an elliptical shape around the facility; but sitting atop is the future, a series of overlaying, retractable roof panels that give it the appearance of a giant sea monster going in for the kill.

Inside, Miller Park’s mass of windows gives it an airy feel even with the roof closed, and parkas are at long last optional for Brewer games in April. The field dimensions seem conducive to a lot of home runs but, strangely, not a lot of runs.

Miller Park was scheduled to open in 2000, but was pushed back a year after a tragic accident in which a giant crane—nicknamed “Big Blue”—toppled over, killing three construction workers and causing moderate structural damage. President George W. Bush throws out the first pitch, and the Reds’ Sean Casey picks up the ballpark’s first official hit; he would also connect on the first hit in PNC Park history.


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