Showing posts from December, 2007

From Cavernous to Cozy

While charming or intimate would not be the terms any of us would use to describe the now-leveled Cleveland (Municipal) Stadium, its mammoth size makes it memorable in its own right. After all, this was the home park for Hall of Famers such Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Early Wynn and Bob Lemon.Larry Doby and Satchell Paige made their major league debuts while the brilliant Bill Veeck ran the club. And Rocky Colavito and Al Rosen became stars in Cleveland uniforms. When did the bloom wear off this outsized rose? Probably when Veeck lost control of the club due to personal financial issues. A subsequent ownership brought Frank "Trader" Lane in as general manager. Run out of St. Louis after failing to bring the Cardinals a pennant -- and being overruled by owner Gussie Busch after nearly trading franchise player Stan Musial, Lane gained control in Cleveland. His legacy was swapping Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. The move was a disaster for Cleveland, leading

Baseball's Everest

This is the view from the top row of the upper left field stands at Cleveland Stadium. It's June 1992, just before a Yankees/Indians game. Rumor had it that a seat here was the farthest from home plate at any major league ballpark. Yes, higher even than the nosebleed seats at Shea Stadium. A long way from the action, and until baseball's resurgence in Drew Carey's hometown, often a long way from other fans. The Indians didn't draw well in that cavernous park whose hulking configurations were far better suited to football than the national pastime. Two years later, the Indians moved into the cozier confines of Jacobs Field where one could never be as far away or, between the overhang and pillars, as shrouded. I wonder if during the time the promotionally savvy Bill Veeck owned the franchise, whether a Binoculars Day promotion was staged? They probably didn't need to -- briefly, before home games were televised, the Indians held the record for the highest season att


The Yankees wrote the book about celebrating their own history, with the annual Old Timer's Day being a special treat. The tradition was born of tragedy, as Lou Gehrig's former teammates were assembled on the 4th of July, 1939, as the ALS-stricken star's uniform became the first ever retired by the team. And fans, while not aware of the disease that sapped the big man's strength, packed the house to say goodbye. I probably attended my first at Yankee Stadium in the early '60s, when such luminaries of the past as Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Keller, Tommy Henrich, Lefty Gomez and Eddie Lopat would attend. Phil Rizzuto and Jerry Coleman would come down from the broadcast booth. The widows of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig would be introduced. And the alumni would play a couple of innings for fun. A celebration of past heroics at the place they originally took place. Roll forward to the 1990s, and the greats of the past now featured those whom I grew up watching, plus the im

Before There Was a Mount Davis

The Oakland-Alameida County Coliseum was a sunsplashed multi-purpose stadium that featured the American League's largest expanse of foul territory. While its dimensions weren't that different from its architectural cousins "The Big A" and Shea, fly balls traveled well, yet pitchers considered it a fair place to work. A good balance of hurlers (Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman, Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers) and offensive stars (Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Joe Rudi) called the original version of the park home and thrived there. While Dick Williams won his first pennant with the "Impossible Dream" '67 Red Sox, Oakland -- where he won a division title in '71, followed the next two years by World Series titles -- was where he cemented his Hall of Fame credentials. Fortunately, my one and only visit came before the Raiders wandered back from Los Angeles -- forcing the conversion of the bleacher area and its distant patches of greenery into a jury-rigge