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Only 44 more days until Opening Day!

February 7, 2019 [LINK / comment]

R.I.P. Frank Robinson

Not long after reports circulated that Frank Robinson was suffering from a life-threatening condition, the 83-year old Hall of Famer passed away. He had bone cancer. Robinson was admired and liked by almost everyone he played with or against, and his character was shaped by the struggle against racism, which was still very strong in the early part of his career.

Over the course of his career as a player, Robinson hit 586 home runs, with 1,812 RBIs, and a .294 batting average. He played his first ten years with the Cincinnati Reds and then (after the 1965 season) was traded to the Baltimore Orioles, in what is widely regarded as one of the dumbest player transactions in MLB history. The next six years in Baltimore turned out to be some of the most productive of his career, including two World Series victories. [He was the only major league player to be named Most Valuable Player in both leagues: in 1961 with the Reds (the year they won the NL pennant) and in 1966 with the Orioles (their first AL pennant, as they swept the Dodgers in the World Series), as he won the Triple Crown award. In 1976] he ended his playing career with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the first African-American manager in MLB history in 1975. [He was a player-manager there for two years.] He later managed the San Francisco Giants, the Baltimore Orioles, and after a lapse during most of the 1990s, the Montreal Expos.

Robinson became manager of the Expos after Jeffrey Loria sold the struggling franchise to Major League Baseball in 2002. That transaction was a sign that the Expos were slated for relocation to Washington, D.C. and Robinson indeed became the "born-again" Washington Nationals' first manager three years later, in 2005. He remained as head of the team for two seasons, and was (rightly) a bit miffed that the Nationals' new owners, the Lerners, declined to offer him some kind of advisory position in the front office. I had the great fortune to see him up close before the next-to-last game of his career as a manager:

Frank Robinson

Frank Robinson, being interviewed before the Nats-Mets game at RFK Stadium, September 30, 2006.

Braves Field minor update

Braves Field

Prompted by some tips from Angel Amezquita about the precise timing of the reconfigurations of the home field of the Boston Braves after they moved to Milwaukee in 1953, I made a few minor corrections and enhancments to the Braves Field diagrams. (It's now called Nickerson Field, and I was there in September 2016.) There is one new diagram, for soccer, and the two football diagrams are now labeled according to the first years in which the given configuration was in effect: 1955 and 1972. The main change was that the huge roof is not quite as big as it was before, and that the peak of the roof where the structural beams were located is now about 10-12 feet farther from the field than before. Otherwise, the only changes are trivial in nature.

Games outside the U.S.A.

I already knew that the Oakland A's and Seattle Mariners are slated to play the first two official games of the 2019 season at the Tokyo Dome in Japan (on March 20-21), but I just learned that there will be four other games outside our borders this season, all of them at the Estadio Monterrey in Mexico. On April 13-14, the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds will play there, and on May 4-5, the Houston Astros and L.A. Angels will play there. I will update the text on those pages shortly. Finally, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will play in London Stadium (England, not Ontario!) on June 29-30. I'll have to make a diagram of that one, I guess. I don't mind occasional foreign series, but more than one per year is a bit problematic to me.

But wait, there'll be yet another MLB game at a "neutral" venue this year, in the United States: the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals will play at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska on June 13. That will come immediately after (or before) the College World Series, which is held there every year.

For the 28 teams other than Oakland and Seattle, Opening Day will be on March 28 -- exactly seven weeks from today!

Rangers choose fake turf

The Texas Rangers confirmed widespread rumors and announced that their new stadium ("Globe Life Park II") will have artificial turf, because of the difficulty of providing grass in retractable-roof stadiums with sufficient sunlight. It probably makes sense in economic terms, but it represents a big step backward for the sport, in terms of aesthetics and player safety. The last new MLB to open with artificial turf was Tropicana Field, 21 years ago. See dallasnews.com (hat tip to Mike Zurawski) and wfaa.com (hat tip to Bruce Orser). The renderings I have seen of the new stadium (scheduled to open in 2020) give me a mixed impression: There are at least four main decks with numerous, arbitrary quirks here and there, looking rather messy, and the dual-slanted roof (also featured in the new NFL stadiums in Minneapolis and Indianapolis) makes it look like a great big house.

January 31, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Four stars tapped for Hall of Fame

Last week the Baseball Writers Association of America announced that four former MLB players had received the necessary 75% of votes cast to qualify for induction into Cooperstown. One of them, Yankee closing pitcher Mariano Rivera, became the very first such player in history to receive unanimous approval! The other new Hall of Famers are Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, and Mike Mussina. In addition, Harold Baines was selected by the Veterans Committee.

Mariano Rivera, nicknamed "The Sandman," was born in Panama, came up with the New York Yankees in 1995 (along with famed team mates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte), pitched spectacularly for 19 years, during which the Yankees won five World Series championship trophies. In September 2013 he retired in a special ceremony, complete with rocking chair. Over the course of his career, he saved 652 games, surpassing Trevor Hoffman for the all-time MLB record. He threw a total of 1,173 strikeouts (8.2 per nine innings) and finished with an ERA of just 2.21. (See baseball-reference.com.)

Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera, coming in to close the game at Kauffman Stadium on August 16 2011. The Yankees won that game, 9-7.

Edgar Martinez played for the Seattle Mariners from 1987 to 2004, his entire career. For the first six years, he was a third baseman, but from 1995 on he was the team's designated hitter. That probably delayed his Hall of Fame selection, as some traditionalists believe that only all-around players should qualify. He had a lifetime batting average of .312, with 309 home runs and 1,261 RBIs.

Roy Halladay began his career as a pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998, but late in 2009, he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, breaking hearts north of the border. In May 2010, he threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins. For four straight years, he had an ERA under 3, but then in 2012 he started going downhill, and he retired after the 2013 season. In November 2017, he died in a plane crash off the coast of Florida. He was the first player to be chosen for the Hall of Fame posthumously since Roberto Clemente in 1973.

Mike Mussina pitched for nearly one decade each with the Baltimore Orioles (1991-1999) and with the New York Yankees (2000-2008). In his first full season with the O's (1992, when Camden Yards opened) he achieved an amazing 18-5 win-loss record with a 2.54 ERA. He remained steady and very reliable throughout his career, finishing with a 3.68 cumulative ERA, with 270 wins and 153 losses.

Finally, Harold Baines spent the 1980s with the Chicago White Sox, and then bounced around several teams from 1990 until 2001. He amassed 384 home runs and had a career .389 batting average.

New Hall of Famers, 2005 to date

I went back to my blog posts from the past 15 years to come up with an annual listing of new Hall of Fame inductees. Note that this list includes only the players selected by the BBWAA, and not the various special honorees such as the 17 Negro League players who were inducted in 2006. Managers, umpires, and executives are also chosen by special committees from time to time, but they are not included here.

2005Wade BoggsRyne Sandberg
2006Bruce Sutter
2007Cal Ripken Tony Gwynn
2008Rick "Goose" Gossage
2009Rickey HendersonJim Rice
2010Andre Dawson
2011Roberto Alomar Bert Blyleven
2012 Barry LarkinRon Santo
2013 NONE
2014Greg Maddux Tom Glavine Frank Thomas
2015Randy Johnson Pedro Martinez John Smoltz Craig Biggio
2016Ken Griffey, Jr. Mike Piazza
2017Jeff Bagwell Tim Raines Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez
2018Larry "Chipper" JonesJim ThomeVladimir GuerreroTrevor Hoffman
2019 Mariano Rivera Edgar Martinez Roy HalladayMike Mussina

NOTE: Bold face indicates players I have seen in person.
SOURCES: My blog posts each January or July; baseballhall.org

Jackie Robinson's 100th birthday

It was one hundred years ago today, on January 31, 1919, that Jackie Robinson was born. Major League Baseball will be honoring him throughout this season, and as our nation goes through some tough times in terms of race relations, it's good to remember what a wonderful effect he had on healing this nation's racial wounds. In December a Jackie Robinson Museum with open in Manhattan. I saw an interview with his daughter Sharon on TV today.

Ebbets Field correction

In the "Stadium upgrades: 1920s-1940s" section of my January 20 blog post, I indicated (erroneously) that the grandstand at Ebbets Field was expanded in 1932. That was based mainly on the stadium capacity data provided in the 2006 edition of Green Cathedrals. The outfield dimensions indicate that the big change took place in 1931, however, and I recently discovered a news article from April 1931 about the construction project that was nearly completed. So, I made a quick change on the Ebbets Field page, relabelling what had been the 1932 diagram "1931," and correcting the text likewise.

Stadium location "maps"

Finally, I've been making additional pseudo-map thumbnail diagrams to show the approximate relative location of different MLB stadiums in certain cities, such as Washington, D.C. Those diagrams show (in very crude form) rivers or other major bodies of water, other stadiums and arenas, as well as downtown or other significant reference points. I did that for Cincinnati (see below) when I updated the Crosley Field diagrams on January 20, and eventually I'll do likewise for all other MLB cities. The scale varies, depending on how far apart the stadiums were. They will be displayed on the respective stadium pages as well as the Stadium proximity page.

Cincinnati stadiums map

Micah Bowie is ailing

On Monday the Washington Post had a lengthy article about the tragic fate of Micah Bowie, who was a relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals in 2006 and 2007. On December 22, he suffered a ruptured thoracic diaphragm, which makes breathing extremely difficult. It was just the latest episode in a series of misfortunes. The doctors in Texas told him there is nothing more they can do for him, so he and his family packed up a bunch of oxygen tanks and headed to the Rocky Mountains to enjoy his final weeks or months of life. To make matters even worse, he fell just short of the number of innings needed to qualify for an MLB pension with health care, putting his family in desperate financial condition. According to my Nationals media guide, Bowie pitched 19 2/3 inings in 2006 and 57 1/3 innings in 2007, with a combined win-loss record of 4-4 and a 3.74 ERA. May his final days be spent in peace and comfort.

Frank Robinson is ailing

In addition, Hall of Famer (and former Nats manager) Frank Robinson is also said to be in grave condition, health-wise. This coming August 31 will be his 84th birthday...

January 20, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Crosley Field crazy update!

Crosley Field

Almost eleven years after the last such update, the Crosley Field diagrams are now 100% up to my highest standards of accuracy and detail. Separate brand-new diagrams for the upper and lower decks show the positions of the structural beams and entry portals, which are important benchmarks for getting other details just right. Everything was going smoothly and I thought I was all done three days ago, but then I noticed a small discrepancy that almost drove me crazy, as I will explain below. Once again, several straight days and nights of photographic scrutiny and pixel-tweaking finally paid off with a worthwhile result.

Right off the bat (!), you'll probably notice the inclusion of peripheral fences and buildings such as the clubhouses where the two teams went to shower after the games. Another obvious difference is the fact that the rear portion of the grandstand consists of distinct line segments rather than a continuous curve. Crosley Field was like Fenway Park in that respect. To compare the new diagram to the old, you can roll the mouse over the thumbnail image above, or click on the diagram on that page. (Clicking on the thumbnail above will display the "intermediate" diagram revision of 2013, which I never released because of lingering doubts.)

Among the recent "discoveries" I have made, the original (1912) distance to the backstop was about 80 feet, not 38 feet as reported in Green Cathedrals (2006), by Phil Lowry. That's a rather large difference: more than double! It all stems from the not taking into account the fact that Redland Field (as it was originally called) was much smaller until 1927, when approximately 13 rows of seats were added in front of the grandstand (excluding the pavilions extending along the foul lines). Likewise, my estimate of the backstop distance as of 1927 is 72 feet (rather than 58 feet), and almost the same for the latter years: 73 feet (rather than 78 feet). It remains an open question exactly when they added extra rows of seats in front of the pavilions. Based on the drawings I have seen, I'm pretty sure it was after 1927, but no later than 1935, when lights for night games were first installed.

I also noticed that the inner fence that reduced the distance to right field by about 20 feet from 1942 to 1950, and from 1953 to 1957, was not parallel to the front side of the bleachers. The gap gradually narrowed as the fence approached center field. In addition, for some years there was a bend in that inner fence toward the center field side, so that it intersected with the regular fence at the corner where the light tower was. Furthermore, the flag pole that was originally located near that corner was moved toward the scoreboard left of center field in 1939, more or less. By 1942 it was enclosed by a small fence, and any ball going into that area was a ground rule double.

Another small detail I just discovered was that the roof did not cover the front row of seats in the upper deck. The roof on the main portion of the grandstand (near the infield) was nearly flat, whereas the roof above the portions of the grandstand extending toward the respective foul poles (and of the single-deck pavilions before 1939) were slightly peaked toward the front.

The angst-inducing discrepancy I discovered late in the process involved the position of the two dugouts relative to the diamond. I knew that the foul territory was bigger on the first base side than on the third base side, but the extended baselines intersected the dugouts at the wrong position. Did I need to reposition the whole grandstand to make it right? Fortunately, no. I discovered that the third-base side dugout was about 10-12 feet farther from the corner of the backstop than the one on the first-base side. Problem solved!

Another trivial discovery late in the process was that there was no sidewalk at all behind the left field wall! You can see this in the "the site today" diagram, which shows that York Street was virtually flush against the stadium. There was probably nothing more than a curb and gutter.

As for the diagrams themselves, they now include the height of the outfield wall and the grass slope in front of them, as well as the huge "L"-shaped wall near the right field foul pole. Just for the heck of it, I also included a football diagram variant, since they did play semi-professional football at Crosley Field for a few years in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It is purely conjectural, however, as I have never seen such a photograph or text description of the gridiron layout. (And speaking of football, those were quite dramatic and controversial NFC and AFC championship games today, weren't they?)

In my haste to finish rendering diagrams over the past few months, I have neglected to calculate revised estimates of fair and foul territory. I just did so for Crosley Field, and fair territory comes out to 106,700 square feet, the same as before. Foul territory is now 30,400 rather than 31,300 square feet, but that may go back up again if I get a clearer view of the right field corner, which is a bit of a mystery.

It was a bit nostalgic for me to read about the stadium page upgrades on that 2008 blog post mentioned at the top. Believe it or not, this leaves only four stadiums remaining on my diagram update priority list: Griffith Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Olympic Stadium, and Forbes Field! I currently plan to make Forbes Field my last one, but I'm famous for changing plans, so who knows? In any case, I'm getting ready for a big celebration when all that is over and done with...

Stadium upgrades: 1920s-1940s

It is curious that, whereas Crosley Field was the last of the Classic Era and Early Modern ballparks (1909-1932) to undergo a major expansion (1939), it was nevertheless the very first one to have light towers installed for night games (1935). This made for an awkward situation when they began the expansion work, as the light towers that had just been built on top of the single-decked pavilions along the first and third base sides had to be removed before construction began.

The table below compares when the expansions and light tower installations took place at the 15 stadiums in this group, in order of when the first major expansion occurred. It includes alternate names in cases where the changes took place while a different name was in use. (Baker Bowl is excluded from this listing, as it was not expanded significantly during this period, and never had lights installed.) Crosley Field was called "Redland Field" until 1934, when manufacturing entrepreneur Powell Crosley bought the team and stadium. It was at his initiative that major league baseball embarked on the new era of night games under the lights.

Stadium name When was it EXPANDED? When were LIGHTS installed?
League Park 1920 * NA
Griffith Stadium 1921, 1924 *, 1925 1941
Polo Grounds 1923 1940
Wrigley Field 1923 *, 1928, 1938 * 1988
Shibe Park 1925 1939
Forbes Field 1925 1940
Sportsman's Park 1926 1940
Navin Field / Briggs (Tiger) Stadium 1926, 1938 1948
Comiskey Park 1927 1939
Yankee Stadium 1928, 1938 1946
Ebbets Field 1932 1938
Fenway Park 1934 1947
Crosley Field 1939 1935
Cleveland (Municipal) Stadium NA 1939
Braves Field NA 1946

* Expansion involved the lower deck (including bleachers) only. All other expansions listed above included the extension of an existing upper deck, or the construction of a new upper deck where none existed before.

The mail bag??

Mike Zurawski let me know about further progress on the "Ballpark Village" across the street from Busch Stadium (III) in St. Louis. See ballparkdigest.com. I need to incorporate that into my diagrams at some point...

Slowly but surely, I will get to the other e-mails I have received. Trying to focus my brain and get these diagrams done and still communicate with normal human beings can get to be a challenge sometimes. Thank you for your patience and understanding!

January 13, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Brian Dozier joins the Nats

In yet another roster-building coup for Washington's General Manager Mike Rizzo, infielder Brian Dozier agreed to a one-year contract worth $9 million with the Nationals. There is no optional extension. Dozier will become the Nats' regular second baseman, with Howie Kendrick as the presumable backup, depending on his health. By next year, minor league hot prospect Spencer Kieboom is expected to be ready to fill that position. Dozier came up from the minors with the Minnesota Twins in 2012, and from 2014 through 2018 (five straight years), he hit over 20 home runs, peaking at 41 in 2016. His batting average has not been spectacular, and dropped to just .215 last year, but he does have the slugging power that the Nats will need if Bryce Harper does not sign with the team. See the Washington Post sports section for this story and for the one below.

As a veteran who has avoided serious injury throughout his seven-year career, Dozier seems like a safe bet with a big potential for improvement. He turns age 32 in May, perhaps in the prime of his career. He reminds me a lot of Daniel Murphy, the second baseman who wasn't considered worth a big raise by the Mets front office at the end of the 2015 season. They bitterly regretted letting him go after the Nationals snatched him up. Like Murphy, Dozier combines steady reliability with flashes of excellence in clutch situations. In the 2015 All-Star Game, Dozier hit a solo homer, helping the American League to win, and in a preseason exhibition game at Nationals Park in 2016 he also homered. The acquisition of Dozier essentially plugs the final remaining gap in the Nats' lineup for 2019, leaving Bryce Harper and the back end of the pitching rotation as the only big question marks for the roster as spring training approaches. So, I have made a tentative update to the Washington Nationals page.

The fact that the New York Yankees signed free agent D.J. LeMahieu essentially rules them out as prospective suitors for Bryce Harper. He just had talks with the Phillies, and Mets have been rumored to be in the running, but this drama may drag out for a few more weeks...

Rendon, Turner come to terms

It was a big relief that Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner both came to terms with the Nationals front office. Rendon will get $18.8 million this year, while Turner will get $3.725 million. Rendon became a regular with the Nats in 2013, playing second base and then moving to third base after Ryan Zimmerman was reassigned to first base. Other than spending the first half of the 2015 season on the disabled list, he has been steady and extremely productive both in the batter's box and on the field in a defensive capacity. With a .308 batting average last year, he really should have made the All-Star Game. He will turn 29 in June. Turner has likewise proven to be a star-quality player, with the added advantage of high speed on the base paths. I was fortunate to see him debut in the majors on August 21, 2015. At age 25, he has a great career ahead of him.

[UPDATE: I neglected to mention that one other arbitration-eligible player, pitcher Joe Ross, also came to terms a day earlier and will thus avoid arbitration; he will get $1 million this year. Two arbitration-eligible Nationals could not come to terms, and their future with the franchise is uncertain: outfielder Michael A. Taylor and relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough.

Ballpark news roundup

I learned from Mike Zurawski that the Tampa Bay Rays are closing down the seldom-needed upper deck at Tropicana Field to create a more "intimate" experience. This will reduce capacity from about 31,000 to a little over 25,000. (The original capacity was 45,200.) See tampabay.com. So, I added a new diagram variant to the Tropicana Field page, with the upper deck colored gray to indicate that it's currently out of use. I may tweak some of those diagrams in the next couple weeks... The Rays are thus following the lead of the Oakland Athletics, who closed the entire upper deck of Oakland Coliseum in 2006, but reversed course in April 2017 when they resumed selling cheap upper-deck tickets once again. It's not an encouraging sign, but as Mike Zurawski points out, the Rays get a bigger-than-average portion of their revenues from television rights, and that will not be affected.

Yet another MLB stadium is in the midst of changing its name for the 2019 season: The Giants' AT&T Park will [henceforth] be called "Oracle Park" from now on, under the terms of a hefty 20-year, $200 million contract. As such deals go, this one seems pretty legit. See ESPN.com. Coming so soon after Safeco Field was renamed "T-Mobile Park," however, I became a bit annoyed at having to update the Stadium names [link corrected] page once again. It's rather unwieldy to maintain, and isn't very useful anyway, so I got ambitious all of a sudden and created a new, much improved page: Stadium names chronology. The old page (listed in alphabetical order) will remain at least for the time being.

In case you were worried about the Los Angeles Angels becoming "homeless" next year (see Dec. 1), rest assured, they agreed to terms to renew their existing lease agreement for one year. After that, who knows? See ESPN.com. [These last two news items are likewise courtesy of Mike Zurawski.]

And speaking of "homeless" pro sports teams, the Oakland Raiders may not have any place to play next year, as the City of Oakland leaders are (understandably) angry that the Raiders are leaving town in 2020 to take up residence in Las Vegas. One rumored temporary "home" for the Raiders is San Diego, where QualComm Stadium (or whatever they call it now) is in a virtual state of "limbo," hosting just a few college games each fall.

I see from the clock that it's time for football. Catch you later, sports fans!

January 9, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Polo Grounds: a massive update

As befitting the massive size of the original structure itself, the just-completed Polo GroundsPolo Grounds diagram revisions were of a truly monumental scale. Ironically, the overall size and shape of the stadium and field did not change very much compared to the last Polo Grounds diagram update in August 2007 (11 1/2 years ago!!??), but the inclusion of numerous new details and additional diagram variants for different years really added up. As always, historical information (photos and text) from Bruce Orser proved invaluable, and for the first time, I got some helpful tips from Angel Amezquita.

So, what changed? For one thing, the light towers (eight of them in all, built in 1940) were included for the first time. Note that three of the four pairs were laterally symmetrical, but that two of them (overlooking the power alleys) differed from each other, for reasons to be explained. Second, I discovered after doing some careful measurements that the bleachers and adjacent grandstand in center field were about 15 feet deeper than I previously estimated. As if they needed more seats in those extremely remote parts of the ballpark! When games were sold out, some fans had to sit over 570 feet away from home plate! Third, many more peripheral structures are now depicted: the small buildings behind the center field bleachers in the 1913 diagram, and the access ramps leading down from "The Speedway" that ran along the crest of Coogan's Bluff.

For the first time, the diagrams include multiple profiles, to more clearly illustrate how different parts of the grandstand differed from each other. There are now separate diagrams for the upper deck and lower deck, showing where the entry portals and structural beams were located. One detail in the upper deck is worth highlighting: the diagonal lines which separated the relatively steep portion (about three-fourths of the stadium) from the much shallower portions in the left-center and right-center corners. Those lines were angled in such a way so as to enable the fans in the more distant seats to at least see home plate, even if first base or third place were blocked from their view by the steeper-graded seating section to their right (or left). Finally, I have yet to finish a diagram for "the site today," but that will appear in due course. (Likewise for Metropolitan Stadium, as I indicated recently.)

Clearly depicting the awkward situation in which part of the field is covered by an upper deck of seats has long been a challenge for me. As with the recent diagram updates for Tiger Stadium and Shibe Park, I am experimenting with new graphical cues in the Polo Grounds diagrams to indicate that the outfield fence, foul line, etc. lies underneath. Some diagrams depict overhangs with lavender color, and others retain the color of the roof, etc., depicting details below with black or dark gray lines.

[According to Philip Lowry's Green Cathedrals, [home plate] at the Polo Grounds was moved forward in some years, and backwards in others, possibly accounting for the variations in the distance to center field over the years. But it also states that the foul poles remained in the same place, which would mean that the diamond would no longer be a square, and I find that rather hard to swallow. For the time being, I'm "agnostic" on changes in Polo Grounds dimensions other than those in 1962, when the New York Mets were born. Those changes in dimension seem consistent and very plausible.]

[Finally, note that only the first-deck diagram shows details in the bullpens. With the overhanging second deck, trying to depict all the details would result in confusing clutter.]

College football bowl games

Congratulations to the CLEMson Tigers for winning the College Football National Championship game in Levi's Stadium (home of the Santa Clara / San Francisco 49ers) on Monday night! It was their second win in the last three years, and it was the third year of the last four that the two same teams were featured in the final game. This time the Tigers literally crushed the Alabama Crimson Tide, 44-16. Clemson had beaten Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl (which hasn't been played in the stadium called the "Cotton Bowl" since 2009), and Alabama had beaten [Oklahoma] Miami in the Orange Bowl (which wasn't played in the stadium called the "Orange Bowl" from 2000 until it was demolished in 2009).

One of the recent Christmas season traditions is the proliferation of often-irrelevant college bowl games, which serve in effect as "participation trophies" for the also-ran teams. For example, on December 20 Marshall beat South Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl, formerly called the St. Petersburg Bowl, and probably other names before that. For the first time since 2008, when that bowl was launched, that it was played in Raymond James Stadium rather than Tropicana Field. I believe the only current MLB stadium that hosts college football bowl games is Yankee Stadium II, where the Pinstripe Bowl was played on December 27. This year the University of Virginia (which briefly reached the national Top 25 last fall) played in the Belk Bowl in Bank of America Stadium in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. The UVa Cavaliers swamped the South Carolina Gamecocks, 28-0. Wa-hoo-wa!

Harper: waiting game

According to rumors circulating over the past week, the Washington Nationals made a significantly bigger contract offer to Bryce Harper. At this point, he seems more likely to stay with the Nationals than join some other team, but it's really anybody's guess. The signing of Alex Rodriguez by the Texas Rangers in [January 2001], and of Albert Pujols by the L.A. Angels in [December 2011], are just two examples of how owners can do serious damage to their franchise by wasting money on superstars who no longer have the motivation to perform at championship caliber. I think Bryce Harper is better than that, but spending over $300 million on a single player is extremely risky. Plus, inflated payrolls lead to inflated ticket prices.

But my main concern about paying Harper too much is that it might make it hard to keep third baseman Anthony Rendon for the long term. The Nats made a qualifying offer to Rendon, who is eligible for arbitration if negotiations fail. As a very reliable slugger and fielder who probably deserved to be on the All-Star team last year, he is worth at least one-third of what Harper is worth. But will he get paid accordingly?

December 31, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Shibe Park (surprise) update!

In yet another interruption of my vain hopes for finishing up diagram revisions by the end of the year, I made some revisions to the Shibe Park Shibe Park diagrams. The latter years hardly changed at at, but there were some significant improvements in accuracy and detail for the earlier years, especially 1913 and 1923. In order to get the placement of things like the scoreboard as exact as possible, I included the small buttresses in front of the outfield wall, at regular intervals of about 16 feet. (They were covered up by the enlarged wall built in 1935.) Once I realized I could use those tiny notches as a "ruler," everything became much easier.

That page also has a "the site today" diagram, showing a crude layout of Deliverance Evangelistic Church on top of Shibe Park / Connie Mack Stadium. The previous diagram update for Shibe Park was on Feb. 11, 2016.

This revision was prompted by two e-mail messages I received earlier this year. First, Eric Raudenbush sent me newspaper items that explain clearly how the bleachers in left field were modified prior to the 1923 season. Basically, the first six rows of benches plus the walkway in front were removed, thereby shifting the left field wall back by 18 feet. This clears up what had been a difficult mystery; back in 2006, ballpark expert Ron Selter had inferred from the drop in home runs in 1923 that home plate must have been moved backward by 21 feet. Now we know that home plate did not change (at least not in that year), but that the distances to left field did increase by approximately the amount he estimated. One of those articles indicated that the bleachers were also extended all the way to center field at that time. Yet unresolved is whether the bizarre forward shift in home plate in 1926 cited by Philip Lowry's Green Cathedrals (both the 1992 and 2006 editions) is real or not. Given that the 1923 change was motivated in part by a desire to reduce the number of easy home runs to left field, I have a hard time believing that they would reverse course in such a drastic fashion only three years later. Stay tuned!

Second, Terry Wallace sent me a photo of Shibe Park taken in October 1914, probably during the World Series (the "Miracle Braves" of Boston vs. Philadelphia Athletics). It shows clearly that there was a wall between the left field bleachers and the right field wall, enclosing the center field corner where the "flag pole" was. It was actually a tower with four corners, rather odd for that purpose. It looks like a small oil derrick. After considerable time comparing that photos to others I have seen, I concluded that the hitherto-unknown center field wall was the same distance from the outer wall behind the left field bleachers as was the very short wall or fence between those bleachers and the grandstand near the left field corner. As it turns out, that wall (probably a strutural element in the bleachers) ended up being the left field wall after those bleachers were reduced in size in 1923.

Putting those two crucial clues together reconciled a lot of conflicting information. It also erased any doubt as to whether the old (1910/1913) bleachers were replaced or simply added onto vertically. After looking at details such as the location of the entry portals, I am satisfied that the latter conjecture is much more likely.

The mail bag

Thanks again to Eric Raudenbush and Terry Wallace for their very helpful information summarized above. But there's more!

Christopher George asked if I know the actual roof height of old Comiskey Park. He has seen figures of 75 feet and 74. I replied that my diagram indicates the front edge is 78 feet tall, which would be a couple feet higher than the rear. Further checking may be necessary, but for now that's close enough.

Finally, Mike Zurawski sends word that Commissioner Manfred is exploring the possibility of expanding Major League Baseball from 30 to 32 teams, but only after Oakland and Tampa Bay get new stadiums approved. See reuters.com. That could be a while... Portland and Montreal were among the cities he mentioned as possible homes for new MLB franchises. There's more news from Mike that I have not had the time to absorb as of yet...

Who's Who?

After my father passed away two years ago, my siblings and I went through his precious possessions, including his archives of Chicago Cubs and Nebraska Cornhusker memorabilia. Among the more fascinating finds were these copies of issues Who's Who magazine. Unless I am mistaken, Who's Who ceased print publication after the 2016 edition, when Bryce Harper appeared on the cover. I bought myself a copy, not realizing that it would turn out to be the final edition.

Who's Who in Baseball 1926-1946

Who's Who in Baseball: Max Carey (1926), Dizzy Dean (1935), Jimmy Fox (1939), Hal Newhouser (1946), and Bob Feller (1941).

New Year's Eve!

At the stroke of midnight, my Baseball blog page will cease displaying the 2018 postseason series scores (at the bottom) and will begin displaying a countdown of the days remaining until the umpires make the official "Play ball!" shout in 15 stadiums across the country. Opening Day in 2019 will be early: March 28. That's less than three months from now!!!

Happy New Year, baseball fans!

Coming Attractions

(Includes major revisions, minor revisions, pages with additional diagrams, and future stadiums that are under construction. This is only a rough guide; the sequence is subject to change.)

Stadium construction

Between March 2012, when Marlins Park was completed, and September 2014, there were no major league baseball stadiums under construction. It was the first time since September 1986 that this situation existed. But in light of the recent groundbreaking on the future home of the Braves, the table that had been removed from this space is being restored.

Clem's Baseball ~ Stadium construction

Stadium construction
Chronology of the contemporary era: 1986 - present

1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 2020s
1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
UC 1989: Skydome (Rogers Centre) (construction finished in early June)
plan. UC 1990: Florida Suncoast Dome (Tropicana Field)
planning UC 1991: Comiskey Park II (U.S. Cellular Field, Guaranteed Rate Field)
- planning UC 1992: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
- planning UC 1994: Jacobs Field (Progressive Field)
- planning UC 1994: Ballpark in Arlington (Globe Life Park, etc.)
- planning UC 1995: Coors Field
- planning UC 1996: (Olympic Stadium) 1997: Turner Field
- planning UC 1998: Chase Field (Bank One Ballpark)
- planning UC 1999: AT&T Park (Pac Bell Park)
- planning UC 1999: Safeco Field
- planning UC 2000: Comerica Park
- planning UC 2000: Minute Maid Park
- planning UC 2001: Miller Park
- planning UC 2001: PNC Park
- planning UC 2003: Great American Ballpark
- planning UC 2004: Citizens Bank Park
- planning UC 2006: Busch Stadium III (construction finished in late May)
- planning UC 2008: Nationals Park
- planning UC 2009: Yankee Stadium II
- planning UC 2009: Citi Field
- planning UC 2010: Target Field
- planning UC 2012: Marlins Park
- planning UC 2017: SunTrust Park
Texas Rangers: Globe Life Park II   UC 2020 opening?
STILL WAITING ... Oakland Athletics: (?)  
STILL WAITING ... Tampa Bay Rays: (?)  
1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024
NOTE: For most stadiums, groundbreaking years are mere estimates. For most stadiums, construction continued through March of the year in which they opened. Two exceptions are Skydome / Rogers Centre (construction finished in early June 1989) and Busch Stadium III (construction finished in late May 2006).

Stadium construction montage

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: PNC Park (Pittsburgh, Aug. 2000), Citi Field (Queens, NY, Oct. 2008), Nationals Park (Washington, DC, Aug. 2007)

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