TBtB: Toronto Blue Jays

We leave the states to visit our friends to the north. Canada’s team began play in the futuristic SkyDome in 1989, though it got its current Rogers Centre name, complete with Canadian spelling, in 2005.

For the record, it was just SkyDome. I’m not sure why that bugs people. We don’t say the Wrigley Field or the Willets Point. But call a park a dome, and everybody, including Matt Johnson, has to add the The.

While a precursor to the throwback stadium craze launched by Camden, it did kick off some of the trends in new ballpark construction, such as amenities beyond concessions, restrooms and luxury boxes. The most notable new concept was the hotel with windows overlooking the stadium, a feature I’m sure the late Dick Williams must have appreciated.

Rogers Centre is one of the two remaining ballparks covered with turf, along with Suncoast Dome. The Jays have made overtures of replacing it with grass, though earlier this decade they did the next closest thing by installing a slower turf that allowed Kevin Pillar to kick up black pellets every time he made a diving catch, which is quite often.

Ballpark History

Built: 1989

Capacity: 49,282

Name:  Rogers Centre (2005-present). Before that, SkyDome (1989-2005).

Other ballparks used by club in its current city: Exhibition Stadium, 1977-1989.

Distinctive Features:  The sport’s first fully working retractable roof; 70 rooms of Renaissance Toronto Hotel overlooking field; millions in artwork above entrances; view of the CN Tower when the roof is lifted.

Ballpark Highlights:
In the ballpark’s maiden season, Jose Canseco hit a homer into the previously unreached top deck during Game 4 of the ALCS, helping the A’s roll to their second straight AL pennant.

In 1993, Joe Carter lived out the dream of every child who ever picked up a bat, turning a ninth-inning deficit into a World Series victory with a three-run homer off Mitch Williams. The blast capped one of the wackiest Fall Classics ever, made the Blue Jays the first team to repeat as champs since the Bronx Zoo Yanks of ‘77-78 and gave us our last taste of autumn baseball until 1995.

On July 1, 1997, Pedro Martinez outdueled Pat Hentgen in a 2-1 Montreal Expos victory, the first game in Major League history featuring two Canadian clubs.

On Opening Day 2003, Blue Jays catcher’s Ken Huckaby’s awkward catch and tag at third resulted in a broken Jeter, to the consternation of starlets and sportswriters everywhere. Four years later at that same base, Jeter’s teammate Alex Rodriguez got some measure of revenge on the hosts, distracting and infuriating the Jays’ Howie Clark on a pop-up by yelling, “I got it.”

In the deciding game of the 2015 ALDS, the Rangers and Blue Jays played one of the strangest postseason contests of the Wild Card era. The Rangers took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh when Rougned Odor alertly scampered home on a toss from catcher Russel Martin that hit Shin-Soo Choo’s bat and rolled in between the mound and third, unleashing havoc in Toronto. The Jays responded with four runs in the bottom of the frame, spurred by three consecutive Ranger errors and capped by Jose Bautista’s mammoth homer to left-center, which was followed by a memorable bat chuck to punctuate the blow.

TBtB: Cincinnati Reds

The home of the Cincinnati Reds is perhaps the most overly ambitiously named park of the new entries. It’s no more the Great American Ball Park than the young adult book collecting digital dust on my hard drive is the Great American Novel.

I’ve been there a few times. It’s nice enough, and the steamshippish structure in centerfield is a sensible fit given the Ohio River and its Tall Stacks sit just beyond right field. But it’s simply not going to top many favorite lists. It’s an upgrade on Riverfront, and the Reds Museum is nice, but the overall effect is just not that special. On the other hand, it separates ball and park, calling to mind the rarely seen Primate, Lance (Christopher) Linden.

It’s too bad. Cincy remains a great baseball town, and it treats Opening Day with the reverence that most important of days deserves. It’s damn near a holiday in the Queen City (non-Charlotte division).

Chairman’s Ruling: Following the Pete Rose permanent ban is strongly encouraged, but will not be mandated. We don’t think there will be any serious references to Charlie Hustle from our team of nominators unless Bear makes one of his infrequent forays in here.

Ballpark History

Built:  2003

Capacity: 42,319

Name:  Great American Ball Park.

Other ballparks used by club in its current city:  Got a minute: Bank Street Grounds, 1882-83; League Park 1 1884-1893; League Park II 1894-1901; Palace of the Fans, 1902-1911; Crosley Field, 1912-1970; Riverfront Stadium, 1970-2002.

Distinctive Features: A gap in the stands between home and third, allowing views in and out of the park from downtown; centerfield smokestacks; murals and sculptures of Reds’ history, including Reds Legends of Crosley Field; Reds Hall of Fame and Museum; the possibility of hitting the ball into another state (like the airport, the river is in Kentucky).
Ballpark Highlights:
Virtually every home game for the better part of six years, Marty Brennaman bitched about Adam Dunn.

Spurred by antagonistic comments and unwelcome shinguard taps from Brandon Phillips and the general hardassery of Yadi Molina, the Reds and Cards emptied the benches before the first pitch of their NL Central showdown in 2010. Fortunately, the cooler heads of Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker were there to keep things from getting out of hand.

Later that year, in their only home playoff game, the Reds were blanked 3-0 by the Phillies’ Cole Hamels. Hell, at least they got a few hits.

On June 13, 2012, Joey Votto showed us what humans are capable of (though we also wouldn’t mind a few swings sprinkled in there), if they truly put their mind to it.

On June 6, 2017, waiver wire pickup Scooter Gennett became the 18th player to homer four times in a single game.

Last night, Homer Bailey tried to pitch without the ball. Given his recent success when he has a ball in hand, it was probably worth considering.

TBtB: Minnesota Twins

As with just about everything else in the Twin City, the new stadium there sports the Target brand, a company headquartered there, not in France. Surely, the metropolis that gave us Husker Du, Prince and Craig Finn can do a little better on a name for its nifty new park*.

Unlike their wimpy football-playing brethren, the Twins gave a big middle finger to the notoriously challenging Upper Midwest weather by opting against a lid for Target Field. If they ever enjoy a return to the glory of the Kirby and Hrby years, we’ll see if they (and MLB) come to regret that decision.

I took my daughter, wife and a temporary family member to the Twin Cities for a college visit back in 2016. During the mandatory stop at the Mall of America, I found the old home plate plaque, seen below, from Metropolitan Stadium. Saving home plate’s spot on planet earth should be federally mandated when any old ballpark comes tumbling down. It’s just the right thing to do.

*Which, the bottom part tells me, has now been open for eight seasons. That doesn’t seem possible.

Ballpark History

Built: 2010

Capacity: 38,649

Name:  Target Field 2010-present.

Other ballparks used by club in its current city:  Metropolitan Stadium, 1961-1981; Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, 1982-2009.

Distinctive Features: Double-decker bullpens in left-center; the major’s only bonfire in the roof deck; illuminated Minnie and Paul logo; small ballpark footprint in the city’s Warehouse District.

Ballpark Highlights:
On Oct. 3, 2010, the Twins lost a 5-2 decision to New York to fall behind 0-2 in the ALDS, proving the club could be just as inept in outdoor home games with the Bronx Bombers as they were inside.

In 2014, Mike Trout went 2-3 to claim his first of back-to-back All-Star Game MVPs in a 5-3 American League victory.

In the final game of his best big league season, Phil Hughes fanned five and walked none in eight innings against the Angels. Hughes finished the 2014 campaign with 186 strikeouts and 16 walks, setting the major league record for the best K:BB ratio. He also came up 1/3 of an inning short of triggering a $500,000 bonus for throwing 210 innings, declining a later offer from Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire to pitch an inning in relief.

In 2017, the first college football game was played at the ballpark, a contest between the St. Thomas Tommies and the St. John’s Jonnies, setting us up for our next renaming project – Minnesota’s Division III college teams.

TBtB: Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Following the lead of the Rangers, the Diamondbacks owners were in negotiations over the conditions of their 20-year-old ballpark, which I like to think of as Miller Park Southwest (I’ve only been to Miller, but they strike me as pretty similar. Their retractable roof set-ups look alike from my screen, and the Bernie-only slide in Milwaukee is countered by the pool built in the desert for inebriated Phoenicians and celebrating Dodgers). That issue appears to be settled. At least for now. You can never say never, since there’s no quit in extortionist.

I do have high hopes the name you guys come up with will be a good one. The Diamondbacks, while a little long, is a great baseball nickname, meeting my two main requirements (uniqueness and local relevance), and as a bonus, it’s got a baseball term tucked in. Along those lines, despite arriving on the scene much later than the rest of the major facilities, Phoenix’s Sky Harbor is the best-named airport in America, or at least the best since the tongue-tickling Idlewild became one of 11,232 things in New York to change its name to JFK in the mid-60s.

Of course, the club also represents one of the true sources of destruction of the American ideal. Our problem isn’t in the ability to name things, but nickname them. Two perfectly suitable diminutives exist for Diamondbacks, either Backs or Snakes, and Diamonds would do in a pinch. Instead, we get the thoroughly artless D-Backs. If the Pittsburgh club was born near the turn of this century, instead of the last one, we’d undoubtedly be eschewing Bucs for P-Rates. Blecch.

Ballpark History

Built: 1998

 

Capacity: 48,686

 

Name:  Chase Field 2006-present. Formerly called Bank One Ballpark (2000-05).

Other ballparks used by club in its current city: None, though the area is rife with spring training stadia given the Cactus League is now entirely a Valley production.

Distinctive Features: The skinny tie of dirt that connects the pitcher’s mound to home; swimming pool beyond right field; first retractable roof stadium paired with natural grass; like everything else in Phoenix, working AC. The Diamondbacks annually rank first in the Fan Cost Index, which estimates the average price for a family of four to attend a game. That’s a nice feature.

Ballpark Highlights:

On Oct 3, 1999, Jay Bell tripled and homered to lead the Diamondbacks to a 10-3 win over visiting San Diego, the 100th victory of the campaign for a team just one season removed from its first year of existence. Of the sport’s other 13 expansion franchises, only five (New York Mets, LA Angels, Seattle, Houston and Kansas City) have ever won 100 in any season.

On May 8, 2001, Randy Johnson fanned 20 Cincinnati Reds before exiting after nine innings of the eventual 4-3, 11-inning Diamondback win. Because the game lasted more than nine, even if the Unit didn’t, the feat isn’t listed in the record book alongside Clemens, Wood and Scherzer.

Luis Gonzalez’s cued a single over the head of a drawn-in Derek Jeter off future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera to cap a two-run ninth-inning rally and one of the best World Series of the last 30 years. The fourth-year Diamondbacks won their only title despite Bob Brenly’s dogged efforts to prevent that from happening.

In 2006, Jake Peavy and six relievers combined to shut out Mexico in the United States’ inaugural game of the World Baseball Classic.

In 2009, Opening Day starter Brandon Webb, who had placed first, second and second in voting for the three previous NL Cy Young awards, was lifted after four innings. He would never throw another pitch in the big leagues, thus retiring as the greatest Diamondbacks-only player in club history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TBtB: Houston Astros

Exhibit A in the Trouble with Naming Rights. Minute Maid Park was formerly known as Enron Field, until that energy trading company became the poster child for corporate malfeasance. Contrast that with Houston’s former home. The greatest potential embarrassment for the Astrodome was if George Jetson’s dog started humping Mr. Spacely’s leg.

While Enron was a crappy company, it was a pretty solid corporate name for a ballpark. It rolled off the tongue quite nicely, particularly given how you could squint your ears and think it was Home Run Field. Its replacement makes you think of Florida, even if the corporate office for Minute Maid is right there in the 281.

As with the Fish Tank, Houston went a little overboard on the quirk, but in a location where it doesn’t necessarily fit as well as it does in South Beach. You have the railroad to nowhere above left field, and, Tal’s Hill, now leveled, in center. I guess you have to try a little harder when you’re replacing the Eighth Wonder, even if the old place had gotten quite long in the tooth.

Unlike the recent batch of five parks where the old name was a strong contender, I doubt MM is even nominated here. It’s just that useless.

Ballpark History

Built: 2000

Capacity: 41,168

Name: Minute Maid Park, 2002-present. Before that, Enron Field 2000-02; Astros Field, a few months in 2002.

Other ballparks used by club in its current city:  Astrodome, 1965-1999; Colt Stadium, 1962-64.

Distinctive Features: The train honoring the site’s history as Houston’s Union Station; the left field wall scoreboard below the Crawford Boxes; Home Run Pump in center, tallying Astros homers hit in the park since its opening; Tal’s Hill and flagpole, (2000-1916), the 30-degree incline and in-play pole, both cursed by a generation of NL centerfielders.

Ballpark Highlights:
A disputed ninth-inning home run by Brad Ausmus just cleared the pointless yellow line in left center, rallying the Astros from a five-run deficit in a 2005 NLDS game with Atlanta. Nine innings later, a Chris Burke homer gave the ’Stros a 7-6 win to claim the series in the longest playoff game in ML history.

Looking to close out the series, Brad Lidge gave up the Holy Shit Homer to Albert Pujols to keep the Cardinals alive in the rematch of the 2004 NLCS. Two nights later, the ’Stros would win Game 6 in St. Louee to earn their first Fall Classic appearance.

In the first World Series game played in Texas, Geoff Blum hit a 14th-inning home run off Ezequiel Astacio to propel the White Sox to a 7-5 victory. The following evening, the visitors finished off the sweep for their first title in 88 years.

On Opening Day 2013, the tank-mode hosts accidentally beat visiting Texas 8-2, marking their first game in the American League after 51 seasons in the Senior Circuit.

Alex Bregman’s 10th-inning single to center scored pinch-runner Derek Fisher to give Houston a 13-12 victory in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series. Three nights later, in Los Angeles, the Astros would claim their first world title.

 

TBtB: Moving On

As expected, there was no serious objection to the names of the ballparks the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees call home – Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium.

Milwaukee, too, is retaining its current name. While there were some nominees thrown out, the consensus seemed to be that Miller Park works for the Brew Crew.

That leaves us with two holdovers from By Acclimation Week. I’m kind of shocked that so many people think Oriole Park or OPACY is a suitable alternative when the positively glorious Camden Yards is there for the taking, and the name the park is most often called. But we’re going to vote anyway.

Colorado will follow, but we have to sort out the potential nominees first.

 

TBtB: New York Yankees

Ah, perhaps the toughest entry of all for me to come up with, given how I place the Yankees just above Pol Pot and one spot below You Tube stars on my hierarchy of historical malevolence, and that’s only because the Yankees have slipped down a few spaces after the nice anti-bullying spot they recently did.

Yankee Stadium III is that rare new park that seems to be least appreciated by the fans of the club, particularly in comparison with the facility it replaced. From what I can tell, it tends to do better on rankings from non-Yankee partisans.

The name has been a constant, from the place that George Herman had a hand in constructing through the 1970s renovation that maintained the old footprint through the newer place located nearby. It’s not terribly original, but it’s also hard to imagine it being called anything else. Hell, if Yankee fans at BTF are representative of the fanbase as a whole, the bigger question isn’t whether the name is good enough for the park, but whether the ballyard is good enough to be called Yankee Stadium.

Ballpark History

Built: 2009

Capacity: 47,309

Name: Yankee Stadium 2009-present.

Other ballparks used by club in its current city:  Yankee Stadium II (sort of) 1975-2008; Shea Stadium 1973-74; Yankee Stadium I 1923-1973; Polo Grounds 1913-22; Hilltop Park, 1903-12. Stadium also used as home for Major League Soccer’s New York FC.

 

Distinctive Features:  Monument Park; roof frieze; exterior of Indiana limestone (my Hoosier pride); the moats; all those damn pennants.

Ballpark Highlights:
In the first season of the new park, the Yankees appeared on their way to a Subway Series loss to the crosstown Mets when Alex Rodriguez popped up with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth. However, Luis Castillo dropped the can of corn, giving the Yanks a 9-8 victory.

Later that year, short-rest starter Andy Pettitte extended his record for most career postseason victories to 18 in a 7-3 win over Philadelphia, giving the club its 27th World Series title.

In 2010, Alex Rodriguez homered off poor-spelling Blue Jays pitcher Shawn Marcum for his 600th career dinger, becoming the youngest to join the club. Baseball, Bud Selig and Biogenesis made sure he never reached 700.

In 2011, Derek Jeter became the second player to homer for his 3,000th hit (following equally unlikely candidate Wade Boggs). Icky Yankee mouthpiece Randy Levine strong-armed a fan out of the historic baseball.

One month later, Curtis Granderson hit an eighth-inning grand slam off Oakland’s Bruce Billings. It was the third Yankee slam in the team’s 22-9 victory, the only time in major league history a team had three homers with the bases loaded in the same game.

Teammates Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter lifted Mariano Rivera with two outs in the eighth inning in the future Hall of Famer’s final game, culminating the first of back-to-back long farewell tours for Yankee greats.