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Bushers Book

Dodger Stadium
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles The City of Angels felt the need to give the Dodgers the best chunk of available real estate in the Southland, literally moving mountains to wedge a jewel of a ballpark into the sloping, sun-baked Earth amid palm trees and Pacific breezes. Within sight of downtown and the towering San Gabriel Mountains in the distance, it’s a ballpark you can only love but cannot label. It’s not retro. It’s not modern. It’s just…perfect. It’s time for Dodger Stadium. Read more

Busch Memorial Stadium
Busch Memorial Stadium, St. LouisYes, Busch Memorial Stadium was a “cookie cutter” venue, but a good one—and one that aged fairly well once the Cardinals ripped out an artificial turf you could fry eggs on and planted natural grass beholding unnatural sluggers, cheered on by a loyal red-clad fan base whose enthusiasm was as strong as the 96 arches that topped the stadium were graceful. After years of rickety Sportsman’s Park, Busch Memorial provided a gateway to modern times in St. Louis. Read more

Shea Stadium
Shea Stadium, New YorkNever mind the jet packs and monorails. Shea Stadium represented the Space Age to New Yorkers freed of their rotting baseball relics of yesteryear, proudly serving as the center of the Gotham entertainment universe until early neglect threatened to turn it into a black hole. Good times or bad, you could always count on a high-decibel din courtesy of diehard Mets fans and the airliners roaring overhead. Read more

Angel Stadium of Anaheim
Angel Stadium of AnaheimForget Disneyland. For the Angels, the Happiest Place on Earth is the little slice of heaven they call the Big A, a plot of ex-farmland that once grew oranges and alfalfa but now spawns Salmon and Trout. And like your real housewives of the OC, the middle-age palace has undergone its share of makeovers—with the third time under the knife looking to be the sun-splashed charm. Read more

Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium
Qualcomm Stadium, San DiegoStrategically placed south of downtown near the nexus of three major Interstates, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium ran hot and cold—and sometimes just plain weird, given the promotional lunacy born out of Ted Turner’s early years running the Braves. But the modern venue, efficiently propped up with staggering speed, catapulted the Peach City from overgrown drudgery into the big leagues, helping to cement its standing as the Hub of the New South. Read more

Qualcomm Stadium
Qualcomm Stadium, San DiegoBuffeted by giant corkscrew-style ramps and surrounded by a sea of parking, Qualcomm Stadium—originally named after the beautiful city that built it, followed by the fellow who championed it into being—could be confused for a modern-day fortress, especially in a town renowned for its military reputation. Yet for nearly 50 years it has shined as the beacon that lifted San Diego into the major leagues. Read more

1960s-1980s The Cookie Cutter Monsters

Multi-purpose stadiums become the rage as a line of enclosed facilities adaptable to disparate events welcome in baseball teams fleeing decaying ballparks and inner cities.

Toronto’s Skydome was the last of the multi-purpose giants, a modern retractable-domed facility complete with a Hard Rock Café and a hotel with rooms looking out onto the field.

The westward move of the Dodgers and Giants to California touched off an unprecedented land grab within the majors; from 1961-1977, there were ten new franchises and five relocations. Big league baseball could now be found anywhere, from Atlanta to Montreal to San Diego to Seattle.

For baseball owners, it wasn’t the good’ ol days anymore. You couldn’t build a ballpark on the cheap, as labor and materials costs had shot venue construction from the hundreds of thousands 50 years earlier to the tens of millions by the 1960s. Finding the ideal spot also proved a challenge as available land wasn’t as plentiful as it used to be. But the owners did have one important piece of leverage: The ability to threaten a move out of town by expressing their unhappiness with the status quo. The local politicians got the message and went into the business of building new facilities to keep from being remembered as the leaders who lost their cities’ baseball teams.

For baseball’s owners, it was understood that this new wave of publicly funded sports venues would come with concessions. First off, these would not be ballparks. They would be multi-purpose stadiums, built with more than just baseball in mind as pro football began to command equal (if not greater) popularity over the National Pastime. For the architects, who by and large were locally-based and nationally known, this presented a challenge: How to reconcile a rectangular football field with baseball’s pizza-slice dimensions and make the seating sightlines equally optimal for both. In almost every case, this was solved by creating an enclosed, circular structure akin to the Roman Colosseum with lower decks designed to swivel apart from baseball’s V-shape to face each other across a football field.

The second concession would irk players and purists to no end: The birth of artificial turf. Given the practical and financial challenges of maintaining a field partially covered by the moveable lower stands, fake grass became a necessity at many of the new stadiums. The players hated it. Their knees took a pounding from a hard surface slightly softer than asphalt; their legs, elbows and arms endured “carpet burns” from sliding catches; and they had way too much time to think just how in the world they were going to throw out a runner while awaiting a hundred-foot hop hit off the bouncy turf. At the height of its reign in the mid-1970s, artificial turf covered four of every ten facilities used by major league teams.

These “concrete donuts” were wholly modern civic achievements remarkable more for their size than beauty, all but indistinguishable from one another. Even the names were similar, as those who confused Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium with Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium will attest. “I stand at the plate in Philadelphia,” said the Pirates’ Richie Hebner, “and I honestly don’t know whether I’m in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, St. Louis or Philly.” The kitschy factor was nil. The outfields were symmetrical, the fence heights the same. There were no beer gardens. No traces of ivy. No quirks. No signs that said, “Hit it here.”

Philadelphia’s Shibe Park shortly after its abandonment in the early 1970s. Aging steel-and-concrete ballparks and their association with decaying urban centers were frowned upon by civic leaders who sought to build new facilities in safer environments.

More curiously, the stadiums seemed to reflect the society of the times. Ballparks once embraced the city, absorbing themselves into the urban environment as if they had organically sprouted from the soil. But the 1960s and 1970s brought rampant inner-city crime, counterculture and a shattering of the public trust via Vietnam and Watergate. People wanted to escape from it all—and the stadiums, enclosed and shut off from the outside and surrounded by vast parking lots acting like protective moats, may have been their sanctuary.

The blandness of the open-air facilities would be offset by the spectacular debut of the domed stadiums. No sports venue during this era spawned more chatter than the Houston Astrodome, a fantastic architectural statement that, unlike the other new stadia of the 1960s, spared no expense in the grandest of Texan traditions. The air-conditioned Astrodome included cushioned seats, a vast, electrical celebratory display, the first modern luxury boxes, a garish presidential suite and a bowling alley.

The Astrodome was the first of five major league domed facilities to open over the next 25 years. All five had different roof designs; all five had problems. In the Astrodome itself, the glare of translucent roof panes made finding a fly ball almost impossible for fielders to spot; once painted, the lack of sunlight killed the grass. Ceiling tiles fell from the Seattle Kingdome’s thin concrete roof; severe weather occasionally tore holes in the Minneapolis Metrodome’s fabric roof; the retractable lid at Toronto’s Skydome (now Rogers Centre) sometimes didn’t work, while the one at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium never did.

Amid the multi-purpose mania, there were a few new ballparks. Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium and Kansas City’s Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium, ironically titled as “stadiums,” were the only two baseball-specific facilities to survive as such between 1960-90; Anaheim Stadium and San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, two other venues constructed solely with baseball in mind during this period, were later expanded and reconfigured to accommodate neighboring football teams. (Anaheim Stadium downsized back to baseball-only in 1997 following the departure of the NFL’s Rams to St. Louis.)

The Ballparks: The FutureForward to the 1990s-2010s: Coming Home Oriole Park at Camden Yards opens the door for a new wave of ballpark construction as teams return to their roots and embrace yesteryear with a clever eye toward massive revenues.

The Ballparks: 1930s-1950sBack to the 1930s-1950s: Dormancy Depression and war embolden the general attitude of most major league teams to contentedly sit it out at their existing ballparks, which undergo expansion and are outfitted with lights for the night.

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