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"The Plague":
Artificial Turf

The sinister, unnatural "plague" got started in the Astrodome in 1966, thanks to the Monsanto Corporation, but it did not start to spread until the 1970s, when it quickly reached epidemic proportions. From 1970 until 1990, only one new major league baseball stadium had a grass field: Arlington Stadium, in Texas. Fourteen stadiums used artificial turf on at least part of the field during some or all of the years that major league baseball was played in them, but no more than ten did so at any one time. Four of these stadiums actually had real grass when they first opened. (One stadium, Comiskey Park, had an artificial turf infield from 1969 through 1976, but the outfield was always grass. It was the only dual-turf baseball stadium in the major leagues.) Candlestick Park was the first all-artificial turf stadium to go back to using God's natural green grass in 1979, and three others eventually followed suit. For the six domed stadiums, grass was simply not a "viable option," as they learned the hard way in Houston. For the seven open-air stadiums, the leading rationales for adopting artificial turf were ease of maintenance and the need for durability during those months when the field was subject to multi-sport use. Indeed, ten of these stadiums are classified as "doughnut clones" (or "cookie cutters"), but six stadiums in that grouping never had artificial turf. There have been two baseball-only stadiums with artificial turf: Royals (Kauffman) Stadium and Tropicana Field. Eight baseball stadiums had artificial turf from the beginning until the end, and two others had artificial turf for all but one or two years of their existence. Now that the Minnesota Twins have left the Metrodome, as of 2010 the only remaining stadiums with artificial turf will be Rogers Centre in Toronto, and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Artificial turf chronology

Stadium   19
  68   70   72   74   76   78   80   82   84   86   88   90   92   94   96   98   20
  02     04     06     08     10
Astrodome * Gr-
Astroturf Astroturf (Still in limbo.)
Comiskey Park  Grass Grass AND Astroturf* Grass  
Stadium II
  Grass Astroturf Astroturf Astroturf Grass  
Riverfront Stadium    Astroturf Grass  
Three Rivers Stadium    Tartan Turf TartanTurf Astroturf  
Veterans Stadium    Astroturf Astroturf NeXturf*  
Candlestick Park  Grass A Astroturf Grass (Still used in NFL.)
Kauffman Stadium    Astroturf Grass
Kingdome *   Astroturf  
Exhibition Stadium  Thumbnail diagram   Astroturf Astroturf  
Olympic Stadium *   Astroturf FT (Still in limbo.)
Metrodome *   SporTurf Astroturf Astro Play NFL
  Astroturf FieldTurf
Tropicana Field *   Astro FieldTurf
TOTAL 0 1 1 1 2 5 7 7 8 8 8 7 10 10 9 9 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 9 8 8 9 9 7 5 5 5 4 3 3 3 3 3 2

NOTE: The following special cases are indicated above by brown borders around the bright green table cells:
    From 1969 to 1975, Comiskey Park had a grass outfield and "Sox Sod" (Astroturf) in the infield.
    For a few years in the Astrodome (1966-1970), Busch Stadium (1970-1976), Three Rivers Stadium (1970-1972), and Candlestick Park (1971), the infielders' playing area was all dirt.
    Tropicana Field has likewise had an all-dirt infielders' playing area, as in a normal grass field, ever since major league games began there in 1998.
    Otherwise, the only areas not covered by artificial turf were the warning tracks and the small areas immediately adjacent to home plate and each base.

* (asterisk): domed or retractable-roof stadium

Unless otherwise indicated, stadiums listed above were demolished soon after their use by major league baseball came to an end.

The artificial turf at some of the stadiums was replaced once or twice, indicated by separate segments in the table below. In three cases, this simply involved covering the dirt in the infielders' playing area. The "FieldTurf," which was first installed at Tropicana Field in 2000, and the "NeXturf," which was first installed at Veterans Stadium in 2001, have a more natural color and texture than previous rug variations. It was installed at Montreal's Olympic Stadium in 2004 and in Toronto's Roger Centre in 2005.

SOURCES: Lowry (2006)

FAN TIPS: Mark London

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