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WANTED: Your photos!
I invite fans of this Web site to share any photos which they have taken of the major league ballparks. There are currently no photos on the pages for the ones listed below, most of which are no longer in existence. I would also be glad to include photos of stadiums that served as "neutral venues," or photos that are of better quality than the current ones...
- Baker Bowl
- Braves Field
- Candlestick Park
- Colt Stadium
- Comiskey Park
- Crosley Field
- Ebbets Field
- Exhibition Stadium
- Forbes Field
- Jarry Park
- Marlins Park
- Memorial Coliseum
- Metropolitan Stadium
- Mile High Stadium
- Milwaukee County Stadium
- Polo Grounds
- Seals Stadium
- Shibe Park
- Sick's Stadium
- Sportsman's Park
- Wrigley Field (L.A.)
Please Contact me (via e-mail) if you would like to share some of your "photographic memories" with other fans.
I always credit the original photographers, and am much obliged to the following people:
- John Minor
- Glenn Simpkins
- Paul Dimitre
- John Crozier
- Joe Johnston
- Brian Vangor
- Brian Hughes
- Mario Vara III
- Mike Zurawski
- Gavin Dow
- Marc Myers
- Phil Faranda
- Lonnie Spath
- Fritz Roberson
- Keith Kirkpatrick
- Edward Findlay
- Howard Corday
- William R Kooney
- John Mikulas
- Michael Hoecker
- Wayne Whitham
- Jeff Stark
- Bill Blake
- John Clem
This web site has no connection to Major League Baseball or any of its affiliated franchises. The information contained herein is accurate as far as the author knows, and the opinions expressed are his alone.
May 21, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Harper's homers lift Nationals into 1st place!
There's no doubt that the astounding comeback victory against the Braves on April 28 marked a decisive turning point for the Washington Nationals. Ever since then, the Nats have steadily climbed from last place in the National League East Division, bypassing one rival after another, and last night they took sole possession of first place. Bryce Harper was the key to that successful drive, hitting ten home runs already this month, with nine more games yet to be played. In recognition of his superhuman performance, he was named National League Player of the Week for two weeks in a row.
The Nationals took three of the four games against the Mets at Citi Field (April 30 - May 3), winning the latter two by razor-thin 1-0 scores. Solid pitching and much improved defense were the keys to victory there. That paved the way for an upbeat home stand, as the Miami Marlins came to town. Yunel Escobar proved his worth by getting five hits in five at-bats in two consecutive games. His batting average is now up to .333. The game on May 5 was a setback, as Stephen Strasburg only lasted three innings, exiting because of a sore arm. It was on the next day, May 6, that Harper came out of his home run "slump" in a big way, hitting three long balls in the Nats' 7-5 win over the Marlins. He thus became the fourth National player to hit three homers in one game:
- Apr. 21, 2006 -- Three home runs by Alfonso Soriano; WSH 7, ATL 3.
- July 7, 2010 -- Adam Dunn hits 3 home runs; WSH 7, SD 6.
- May 29, 2013 -- Ryan Zimmermann hits 3 home runs, but Orioles rally; BAL 9, WSH 6 @
- May 6, 2015 -- Bryce Harper hits 3 home runs, Marlins' rally falls short; WSH 7, MIA 5
According to ESPN, Harper is the youngest player (age 22) to hit three home runs in one game since 1970. But wait, there's more! The very next day he hit two more homers, and so did Danny Espinosa! Jayson Werth, still recovering from surgery earlier this year, also hit a homer, and the Nats easily beat the Braves, 9-2. Then on Saturday April 9, Harper hit one more homer, a two-run ninth-inning walk-off home run to center field, making it six four-baggers in just three days. Un-be-lievable! The final score in that game was 8-6. On Sunday afternoon, the Nats finished their sweep of the Braves with a 5-4 victory. Wilson Ramos hit the go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning.
The Nationals then headed west (southwest, actually) for a seven-game road trip. It got off to a spectacular start in Phoenix as Denard Span hit a lead-off home run, and the Nats built a 10-0 lead after just two innings. They coasted from there on, and beat the Diamondbacks by a score of 11-1, getting Max Scherzer his third win of the season. (He has been victimized by poor run support.) But any thoughts of an easy series were erased the next day, as the D-backs came right back, winning by a score of 14-6. Once again, the fragile Stephen Strasburg had a short, mediocre outing on the mound. The pressure was on for the Nats to win the rubber game on Wednesday, as the Diamondbacks are a below-.500 team. The home team had a 6-5 lead going into the top of the ninth inning, whereupon the Nats loaded the bases. It was all up to that promising but skinny reserve center fielder, Michael Taylor, and he rose to the occasion in a way that will be remembered for a long time. He worked the count and fought off pitches until he got one that he liked, and then BOOM! He just crushed that ball, which sailed over the center field wall at Chase Field, 410 feet away and 25 feet above the ground. It was a carbon copy of the 11th-inning grand slam that Michael Morse hit on June 5, 2011. And so, the Nats won the final game of that series, 9-6. It was a real kick to see the big grin on Taylor's face.
Next the Nationals traveled to San Diego for a four-game series. The Thursday game was delayed by rain for about two hours, only the fifth rain delay in the history of Petco Park. Perhaps that was what threw Doug Fister out of sync, as he gave up seven runs in only two innings, and the Nats lost to the Padres, 8-3. But the visitors from Washington bounced right back with a 10-0 victory on Friday, as Bryce Harper got another home run. On Saturday, May 15, the Nats scored three runs in the first inning, and that was all they needed in a 4-1 victory which earned Max Scherzer his fourth win. On Sunday, Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper homered to lead the Nats to a 10-5 victory, as Stephen Strasburg finally had a solid outing on the mound. The Nationals chalked up a 5-2 record on that road trip.
Zimmerman did it again!
Back home in D.C. from their road trip to the Southwest, the Nationals faced one of their biggest challenges of the year thus far: the AL East-leading New York Yankees. The Washington Post had a feature story on the daunting duo of Bronx relief pitchers: Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, both of whom had ERAs of 0.00. Tuesday's game was a back-and-forth slugfest, with homers by Espinosa, Harper, Ramos, and (in the tenth inning) Ryan Zimmerman. Yunel Escobar had just reached base on a single, and all Zimmerman needed was to get a double to get the winning run home. Instead, he worked the count and smashed a line drive to right field that bounced off the foul pole. And the crowd went wild! It was the Nationals' third walk-off home run this year, making it very likely that they'll break their record of four walk-off dingers in one year (2008 and 2010). Also, it was Ryan Zimmerman's tenth career walk-off home run, and his first one since July 26, 2013; see the recently updated Washington Nationals page. Those were the first runs given up by Miller this year.
Washington Post columnist Dan Steinberg wrote about how Ryan Zimmerman got his nickname "Mr. Walk-Off," attributing it to blogger William Yurasko, a frequent contributor to the Facebook group Washington Baseball History, in which I also participate.
The Nats managed to eke out a victory in the second and final game of that series, thanks to homers by Ian Desmond and Tyler Moore. The game was tied 2-2 going into the inning, at which point Denard Span got a clutch RBI single, and that one run was all the Nats needed to win the game, and thus the series. It was their seventh consecutive series win. On the downside, Wilson Ramos failed to get a hit, putting an end to his 19-game hitting streak. Since the Mets lost yet again, that put the Nationals into first place in the NL East, all by themselves.
But back to Bryce Harper, he now has 15 home runs this year, the most in the National League, and just one behind Nelson Cruz, of the AL Seattle Mariners. He still leads the majors in walks, RBIs, and slugging percentage. With one-fourth of the season completed, Harper is on track to reach 60 home runs this year. For more on his exploits, see hittrackeronline.com. It's going to be fun to watch him at the Home Run Derby before the All-Star Game in Cincinnati this year. Will he reach the Ohio River?
Mmeanwhile in Citi Field in New York this afternoon, the Mets finally broke their losing streak, and beat the Cardinals 5-0. The Nats were off today, so they are still a half game ahead in the NL East.
Stanton's long balls
Lest Harper's rampage distract our attention, let's not forget that the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton has been on a tear as well, with multiple tape-measure homers. In Marlins Park, he crushed one to center field that was actually caught bare-handed by a fan standing in the corner of the second deck. (That was an amazing feat in itself!) That ball was estimated to have traveled 478 feat. See the video at MLB.com. A few days before, he had hit a home run that landed on top of the pavilion roof at Dodger Stadium, but my estimate of the distance is about 20 feet less than the "projected 475 feet" that was announced; see the video at MLB.com. Use the Stadiums superimposed page and decide for yourself.
Work on renovating Wrigley Field is steadily progressing, and the bleachers in left field are already full of fans again. The target completion date is July 3, at which point the bleacher capacity will be about 500 more than it was before. Read all about it at bleedcubbieblue.com.
In Cleveland, the upper deck in right field at Progressive Field (ex-Jacobs Field) has been gutted, with fancy new restaurants and whatnot taking the place of the previous rows of seats. The official capacity is now just 36,856, which is 6,549 less than it was ten years ago. It's the same thing that was done to Coors Field in Denver last year.
Finally, the new fences in right-center field at Citi Field seem to be helping the Mets score more runs, but it's uncertain whether it is helping them or their opponents more. Even after watching games on TV, I'm still not sure exactly how the bullpens are aligned now. See this nypost.com article from last November.
RFK Stadium photos
Finally, I recently bought a new printer with a built-in scanner, enabling me to rescan several old photos, yielding much better quality. I now have high-definition versions of those photos (about 1800 x 1200 pixels) which I will make available in some fashion, eventually. While I was at it, I scanned a few "new" photos of RFK Stadium, including this one:
View of RFK Stadium from the front row of the upper deck in right-center field. (July 2, 2006) The Nationals beat the Tampa Bay Devil (!) Rays that day, 6-2.
Schoo-oo-ool's out ... for ... summer!
April 30, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Nationals end dismal skid with historic comeback
After a six-game losing streak, the Washington Nationals staged a spectacular victorious comeback in Atlanta on Tuesday night. It was a desperately needed win for a team that had been stumbling badly. The game started on a hopeful note, as the Nats scored a run in the first inning. But by the end of the second inning, the Braves were ahead 9-1, humiliating the Nats' starting pitcher A.J. Cole in his major league debut. It seemed that the demons of defeat were haunting them again, but the Braves' pitcher Julio Teheran failed in the task of containing the Nats.
The crucial moment came in the fifth inning when Braves shortstop Alberto Callaspo fumbled what would have been a double-play ground ball. That set the stage for an RBI sac fly by Jayson Werth and a three-run homer by Jose Lobaton. That narrowed the gap from 10-2 to 10-6, making it a real game all of a sudden. Denard Span homered in the sixth inning, but the Braves got a run right back in the bottom of the inning. In the seventh inning, Dan Uggla (who used to play for the Braves) hit a two-run triple and then scored when Reed Johnson got a pinch-hit double, making it 11-10. Excitement rippled all across Nats Land at the prospect of a miraculous come-from-behind victory, but down 12-10 with two on and one out in the top of the ninth, it seemed too much to hope for. Dan Uggla had two strikes against him, and then connected perfectly with the ball, which sailed a dozen or so rows beyond the wall in left field. Un-be-lievable! That made the score 13-12 in favor of the Nationals, and their closing pitcher Drew Storen maintained his composure well enough to get the save.
And that is how the Nationals won their biggest comeback victory ever, turning an eight-run deficit into a one-run margin of victory. Take a look for yourself at MLB.com.
The acquisition of Dan Uggla by the Nats this year may turn out to be one of the smartest moves by the front office. He was released by the Braves in the middle of last year, and managed to win a spot on the roster after hustling his way through spring training. He is still being paid $12+ million by the Braves under the contractual obligations -- Ouch!
As for the unfortunate A.J. Cole, he was sent back down to the minors a day later. He filled in for Max Scherzer, who hurt his thumb in the game against the Cardinals on April 23. (Scherzer is expected to start against the Mets on Friday.) Meanwhile, Michael Taylor was called back up to the majors. He had started most of the games in center field earlier this month, before Denard Span returned from the DL. During his recovery from surgery earlier this year, Jayson Werth was replaced in left field by Clint Robinson. Both Taylor and Robinson have had a few hits, and both show great promise for the future.
The following night, the Braves took a lead in the first inning, putting heavy pressure on starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann. But he kept his cool, and the Nats staged a big rally in the fourth inning, with one RBI by Ryan Zimmerman, and three more by Jordan Zimmermann. An intentional walk loaded the bases, as the Braves expected the Nats' pitcher to be an easy out, but he hung in there pitch after pitch and finally belted a line drive into the gap in left center. He da mann! Bryce Harper scored all the way from first, making it a rare three-run single. In the seventh inning, Danny Espinosa knocked in two more runs, and the Nationals added four more runs in the ninth inning, thanks mainly to a three-run homer by Denard Span, making the final score 13-4.
Those two games set a consecutive-game offensive record for the Nationals, scoring 26 runs. On June 30 - July 1, 2013, they scored a total of 23 runs, beating the Mets (on the road) 13-2, and then beating the Brewers (at home), 10-5.
Tonight in New York, the Nats beat the division-leading Mets by a score of 8-2. Once again, the Nats got plenty of clutch hits, including a bases-clearing double by Bryce Harper in the ninth inning. As a result, they scored 34 runs in three consecutive games, thereby surpassing their previous such record of June 26-28, 2012, when they amassed 33 runs against the Colorado Rockies (in Denver): 12-5, 11-5, and 10-11. (They actually lost that last game, in 11 innings.)
And speaking of records, the Nats' win tonight put an end to the Mets' home-field winning streak of ten games, the most they have done since moving to Citi Field in 2009. The Mets have lost three games in a row, and the Nats are now just five games behind them, and only a half game behind the Braves and Marlins, tied for second place in the NL East.
So, the Nationals end the first month of the 2015 with a 10-13 record, far below what had been expected of them, but not as bad as it could have been. See the soon-to-be-updated Washington Nationals page.
That bleak losing streak
The preceding six straight losses had many Nats fans wondering if the team would be a big flop this year. The Nationals had climbed back to .500 by April 21, beating the Cardinals 2-1 in ten innings. (There were ahead 1-0 in the ninth, but Drew Storen blew the save.) That made it five wins over a six-game stretch, which was quite encouraging after their feeble 2-6 record in their first eight games. But the next night, defensive miscues turned what could have been a win into a 7-5 loss. Max Scherzer
committed two errors [gave up two runs -- one on a wild pitch in the first inning, and another after hitting a batter with a pitch in the sixth inning -- ] in the 4-1 loss to the Cards on April 23. Then the Nationals traveled to Miami, where they were swept in three games by the Marlins. They had solid outings by their starting pitchers, but failed to score more than two runs. In Atlanta on Monday night, the misery continued, as they lost 8-4, sending them into last place in the NL East Division. The last time the Washington Nationals were in fifth place was August 6, 2011, when their record was a semi-respectable 54-59.
Among the most notable factors was Ian Desmond's horrendous defensive performance at shortstop. He currently leads the majors with nine (9) errors, but it should be noted that the first six players on that list are also shortstops. He muffed what should have been an easy double play in more than one game. His batting is mediocre as well, and he somehow just can't seem to resist swinging at bad pitches. He'll snap out of it sooner or later.
On a much brighter note, Bryce Harper has matured greatly both in the batters box and on the field. He is much more patient at the plate, drawing more walks (22) than any other player in the majors this year (month). Plus, he's got five home runs, and has raised his batting average to .286. Can there be any doubt that he'll make the 2015 All-Star Game roster?
Riots cancel games in Baltimore
The Baltimore Orioles were obliged to postpone two of their games against the White Sox this week, and the game yesterday afternoon was held without any fans being allowed inside to watch. That was bizarre, and I just don't see the point of playing under those conditions. Today's Washington Post had a photo of the empty grandstand at Camden Yards while the game was underay. The Orioles still managed to win, They will play their next three "home" games against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
How about them Cubs?!
Until they lost yesterday, the Chicago Cubs had climbed to within one game of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. Could this be their big year??? For your schadenfreude* amusement, read "What The World Was Like The Last Time The Cubs Won The World Series" at buzzfeed.com. (Link courtesy of Doug Mataconis.) That would be 1908, when horseless carriages were a new-fangled curiousity, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire still dominated Eastern Europe.
* German for "taking pleasure in (other peoples') suffering."
The end is near!
End of the semester, that is. I look forward to getting much more active as a baseball fan and ballpark diagrammer in about two more weeks. I'll try to get to some of the e-mail messages I have received lately, acknowledge the support some of you have kindly offered, and so on. The best is yet to come!
April 12, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Play ball! Opening
Day Week 2015
A full week has now passed since the first official baseball game of the year in Chicago. (The Cubbies lost to the Cards.) There are a number of surprises, such as the fact that the only two teams with undefeated records (6-0) are from the same division: the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals. Two of the weekend series pitted two teams that had not won any games: the Minnesota Twins at the Chicago White Sox, and the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Milwaukee Brewers. No sweep in either case, so all 30 teams have won at least one game this year.
Frustrations for the Nationals
For the Washington Nationals, widely expected to make another postseason run this year, the first week was a rude shock. Lacking three key players (Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon, and Denard Span) clearly cost them, but they should have won at least four of their first six games. Their first game on Monday was going very well for the first 5 2/3 innings, as Max Scherzer had a no-hitter going, with a 1-0 lead thanks to a Bryce Harper homer in the first inning. That's when Ian Desmond bobbled a routine ground ball that should have been a double play, but instead left two runners on base with just one out. The next batter hit the ball into the right-center gap, and before you knew it, the Mets were ahead, 2-1. Another error by Desmond gave another run to the Mets, and the final score was 3-1.
Hopes that the first game was just a fluke seemed born out by the second game, which the Nats won, 2-1. Ryan Zimmerman's two-run homer in the first inning was all the offense the Nats needed, thanks to Jordan Zimmermann's commanding performance on the mound. The afternoon game on Thursday raised concerns again, however, as Stephen Strasburg struggled to contain the Mets' batters. Michael Taylor got two RBIs, but otherwise the bats were quiet. Final score: 6-3.
So, the Nats headed up to Philadelphia, and the very first batter in Friday night's game, Michael Taylor, hit a home run into the left field corner. But no other Nationals players crossed the plate for the rest of the game, while the Phillies took advantage of Gio Gonzalez seeming to get tired in the seventh inning. (Gio had been throwing quite well up to that point.) But after walking two batters and then hitting one with a pitch, loading the bases, he was replaced by Xavier Cedeno. Then came a two-run single, another hit by pitch, another RBI single, and an RBI sac fly. And that's how the Phillies came from behind to win, 4-1.
In the fourth inning of the game on Saturday, Wilson Ramos hit his first home run of the year, a solo shot, and the Nats again had a rally going in the top of the eighth inning, but only scored one more run. The fact that Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman had back-to-back strikeouts with two runners on base in the top of the eighth says a lot about what is going wrong. Much like last year, the Nats just aren't taking advantage of run-scoring opportunities. In the bottom of the inning, the Phillies tied it, and in the bottom of the tenth, they scored, winning, 3-2.
Today's game fit the dreadful pattern to a T, with the Nats losing an early lead, even going into extra innings with the same score as yesterday (2-2). But this time the Nats got a genuine rally going in the top of the tenth, thanks to a leadoff double by Yunel Escobar (who made it to third on a sac fly and then home on a wild pitch), a double by Clint Robinson, and an RBI single by Wilson Ramos. The added insurance run made all the difference, as Drew Storen walked the first two batters in the bottom of the tenth, one of whom scored. But Storen hung in there, and when Ryan Zimmerman snagged a hard bouncer for a force-out at first, that was the game. Whew! Ryan seems to be adapting to his new defensive position very well, making a number of great plays.
The Nats thus averted being swept by the Phillies, and can at least have something to be proud of as they head to Boston for a three-game series beginning on Monday. Jayson Werth may be in the lineup tomorrow, which would be great. With a 2-4 record, the Nats are in fourth place in the NL East. Until today the Braves were undefeated, but the Mets edged them 4-3.
2018 All-Star Game in D.C.!
The new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was at the Opening Day game in Washington, for the purpose of officially announcing that the 2018 All-Star Game will be played in Nationals Park. Huz-zah-h-h!! That means that four consecutive All-Star Games will be played in National League stadiums, the first time more than two consecutive All-Star Games have been played in one league's stadiums. So, of course I updated the Annual chronology page almost as soon as that became official.
Astrodome: 50th birthday!
It's hard to believe, but today is the 50th anniversary of the first official Major League game in the Astrodome. Mark London was at a "birthday" celebration there, and I look forward to hearing about what happened there.
And you know what that means: I updated the Astrodome diagrams, with more accurate profiles, minor corrections, and additional details such as the entry portals in the upper deck. The last diagram update for the Astrodome was in June of 2011.
Opening Day at new (?) stadiums
I've been seeing various references on Facebook, etc. lately about this or that day being the Nth anniversary of the first-ever game at So-and-so Stadium. It occurred to me that there ought to be a systematic record of all such Opening Days. And now there is!
||Nationals Park (2008)
||Great American Ballpark (2002), Chase Field (1998), Tropicana Field (1998)
||Turner Field (1997), Progressive Field (1994), Marlins Park (2012)
||Sun Life Stadium (1993)
||Kingdome (1977), Metrodome (1982), Miller Field (2000), Oriole Park at Camden Yards (1992)
||Milwaukee County Stadium (1970*), Exhibition Stadium (1977), Minute Maid Park (2000)
||Jack Murphy Stadium (1969), K.C. Municipal Stadium (1969*), Petco Park (2004)
||Ebbets Field (1913), RFK Stadium (1962), Angels Stadium (1966), Mile High Stadium (1993), PNC Park (2001)
||Dodger Stadium (1962), Colt Stadium (1962), Veterans Stadium (1971), Kauffman Stadium (1973), Busch Stadium III (2006)
||Crosley Field (1912), Sicks Stadium (1969), Rangers Ballpark (1994), AT&T Park (1999), Comerica Park (2000)
||Shibe Park (1909), Griffith Stadium (1911), K.C. Municipal Stad. (1955), Candlestick Park (1960), Astrodome (1965), Atlanta-Fulton Co. Stad. (1966), Citizens Bank Park (2004), Target Field (2010)
||Polo Grounds (1962*), Citi Field (2009)
||Sportsman's Park (1909), Jarry Park (1969), Milw. County Stadium (1953), RFK Stadium (2005*)
||Memorial Stadium (1954), Seals Stadium (1958), Olympic Stadium (1977)
||Yankee Stadium II (2009)
||Braves Field (1915), Shea Stadium (1964), Oakland Coliseum (1968)
||Yankee Stadium (1923), L.A. Memorial Coliseum (1958), U.S. Cellular Field (1991)
||Fenway Park (1912), Tiger Stadium (1912), Wrigley Field (1916*)
||League Park (1910), Metropolitan Stadium (1961), Arlington Stadium (1972)
||Wrigley Field (1914)
||Coors Field (1995)
||Wrigley Field, L.A. (1961)
||Baker Bowl (1895)
||Busch Stadium II (1966)
||Rogers Centre (1989)
||Polo Grounds (1911)
||Forbes Field (1909), Riverfront Stadium (1970)
||Comiskey Park (1910)
||Safeco Field (1999)
||Three Rivers Stadium (1970)
||Cleveland Stadium (1932)
* : Latter date for "hand-me-down" stadiums used by expansion or relocated teams.
Standard stadium names are used, often differing from the original name.
SOURCE: Lowry (2007), Green Cathedrals, Washington Post, etc.
It so happens that on this date (April 12), there were more MLB stadium openings (eight) than any other date.
Did you notice which stadium opened earlier in the year than any of the others? That's right, Nationals Park! It's rather odd that four stadiums opened during the last two days of March, but no stadiums opened during the first three days of April. The question mark after the word new in the headline above refers to the ambiguous situations when the stadium in question wasn't really "new," but the team was. After making enhancements and/or corrections, I'll probably put the above table on one of the baseball stadium reference pages some time in the future.
April 4, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Happy tenth birthday, Nationals!
Does anyone remember what happened, or where they were, exactly ten years ago today -- April 4, 2005? I sure do! The Washington Nationals were officially "born," playing their first regulation game on the road in Philadelphia at Citizen's Bank Park. And I was there! The Phillies ended up winning, 8 to 4, but that hardly mattered, as the Nats took the next two games to win their very first series, and went on to take first place in the NL East and finished the season with a more-than-satisfactory 81-81 record.
At that game, I had the pleasure to meet (in person) Phil Faranda, one of the folks who first started following my Web site in the early years. He has since become a very successful real estate executive in the suburbs of New York.
Center field at Citizens Bank Park, from the left field corner. (Taken April 4, 2005 at the very first Washington Nationals game!)
The Nats played their first game in Nationals Park this year today (just an exhibition game, of course), taking a 3-0 lead over the Yankees in the first inning, but then they stalled, as the Yankees won the game, 4-3.
Opening Night 2015, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, is less than 24 hours away, and Opening Day in D.C. and 13 other cities is less than 48 hours away! The Nats will host the New York Mets, with their new ace pitcher Max Scherzer taking the mound.
March 31, 2015 [LINK / comment]
Spring training nears an end
Technically, Spring only started ten days ago, so it seems a little odd that Spring training is already drawing to a close. For people like me with busier-than-average work schedules (see note at the bottom of this post*), the days and weeks have been zipping by like a freight train.
The Washington Nationals are currently 10-14 in spring training, 13th out of 15 in the National League, but the world champion San Francisco Giants are in last place at 10-20, which shows you how much those numbers mean. Opening Night will be this Sunday (Easter!), as the St. Louis Cardinals visit the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field, where the bleacher rebuilding project has not yet been completed. (!!??) Opening Day for the rest of the teams will be on Monday.
Ted Bosiack Field, home of the Staunton Braves, covered in snow on March 7.
Nats are banged up already
With a pitching rotation full of superstars and a solid, balanced lineup, the Washington Nationals are widely considered one of the best teams in baseball, if not the very best. Just read what it says in Sports Illustrated! (Good luck finding the in-print article on their Web site.) But everything hinges on keeping the players healthy, and in that respect, the Nats are starting the 2015 season with one hand tied behind their back. Center fielder Denard Span had some kind of muscle injury,
right left fielder Jayson Werth is recovering from (and a brief jail term), and new third baseman Anthony Rendon injured his knee (an "MCL sprain"), and is doubtful as well. See MLB.com. (Bryce Harper is switching places with Werth this year, going from left to right field.)
So the backup crew will get lots of playing time in April: Danny Espinosa at third base (!??), Michael Taylor in center field, and perhaps Kevin Frandsen in left field.
Hurry it up, will ya?
In an effort to counteract the lamentable trend toward longer and longer games, Major League Baseball announced new rules to speed things up. Batter will be required to keep one foot in the batter's box after taking a pitch. Also, pitchers will have a limited time to warm up. Violators will presumably get a fine of some sort, but how this works out remains to be seen.
I'll repeat my long-standing suggestion, for what it's worth: Every second throw by a pitcher to first base counts as a ball, and every second time a batter asks for time counts as a strike.
R.I.P. Ernie Banks
In the first major league game I ever saw, on the north side of Chicago way back in 1963, the star attraction was Ernie Banks. Known as "Mr. Cub," he was not only a slugging superstar (with 512 career home runs), but epitomized good sportsmanship and fun at a time when race relations in the United States were extremely tense. It was his fate to play on a hard-luck team, but losing season after season never affected his upbeat outlook in life at all. Even after the Cubs' heartbreaking collpase toward the end of the 1969 season (when the "Miracle Mets" won it all), Ernie Banks kept smiling and saying, "Let's play two." See the full obituary at MLB.com.
In the January 25 Washington Post, Thomas Boswell wrote of Banks:
The outward joy Banks professed, even if it was partly innate to his temperament, was also a daily act of will: a lifelong private commitment to enthusiasm as a guiding principle. ... When you find a Banks, who sticks to those guns all his life, that's the definition of a role model.
Statue of Ernie Banks on the west side of Wrigley Field. (October 4, 2008)
Target Field update
Way back in January, I updated the diagrams for Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins. But I didn't announce it because I realized I had to fix a few things, and then a few more things, etc. etc. They have been at top-level accuracy for over a month now. Aside from the increased accuracy and detail, there are new lower deck and upper deck diagrams, the latter showing all of the entry portals as well as the unique up-side-down tripod roof supports.
One thing that has changed since the last major Target Field revision (five years ago!), is that the upper deck in left field is now considered part of the mezzanine level, since there is just a small staircase separating them. It's the same way with the upper deck between the foul poles, and at almost all baseball stadiums built in the last ten years. To me, a "deck" is a structurally distinct entity, which is why I don't consider the small luxury suite levels in most contemporary stadiums to qualify as a "deck" per se. But that's just me.
Candlestick Park demolition
Yes, it is really happening. The wrecking crews are busy tearing down the former home of the San Francisco Giants and 49ers. As you can see at CBS local station, the upper deck in right field is already gone. They are using an old-fashioned wrecking ball rather than implosion because of safety concerns voiced by neighbors. If any fans in the Bay Area would like to submit a photo of the demolition process, I'd be glad to present them here.
Speaking of Candlestick Park photos, I'll have some exciting "news" to report very soon...
in near Atlanta
As if to offset the destruction on the west coast, in the east there is some ballpark creation going on. Sun Trust Park, the future home of the Atlanta Braves is now under construction, with much excavation and foundation work already completed. Target date for completion is 2017. I still can't get my head around the idea that Turner Field is going to be replaced, but I'll probably get used to it before long.See MLB.com for some renderings of what it's supposed to look like.
More ballpark news
Here are a few news items courtesy of Mike Zurawski from earlier this year: The Toronto Blue Jays are spending $600,000 to study weather grass can be put in Rogers Centre; see nationalpost.com. It may be trickier than they thought to control the moisture.
In Cincinnati, the Reds are making some improvements to Great American Ball Park, which will host the 2015 All-Star Game. See ballparkdigest.com. Lots of new brick walls, and a few additional seating sections.
In Oakland, new videoboards and LED displays are being installed at "O.co Coliseum." See ballparkdigest.com.
In Miami, the Marlins have been awarded the 2017 All-Star Game. See MLB.com. And finally, the Dolphins are moving ahead with another big phase of renovations to Dolphin Stadium, or whatever they're calling it this week. See ESPN and thephinsider.com.
* Go (Bridgewater) Eagles!
I am teaching at Bridgewater College this semester, the first institution at which I have taught in quite a few years that has a baseball team. They played a home game this afternoon, beating Washington and Lee by a score of 4-3, but I had something else to do. The Eagles are currently fourth place in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (6-6), and 15-7-1 overall. See bridgewatereagles.com. I am also teaching at Sweet Briar College, which recently made news by announcing that it will soon close, and at Central Virginia Community College. No, it is not normal to have such a heavy teaching load, but I had a special opportunity and went for it. Suffice it to say that I am thoroughly exhausted, but loving every minute of it. Once the semester is over in mid-May, I'll be able to enjoy a more-or-less normal life once again -- especially baseball!
To see previous blog entries, go to the Baseball archives page.