Monday, April 18th, 2011

The New Baseball Palace of the World

If you turn the clock back 20 years, baseball fans did not use the term "retro" to describe ballparks. Over the last 20 years, many of the old ballparks were demolished and replaced with "retro" ballparks. The craze began in 1992, when the Baltimore Orioles moved out of Memorial Stadium and built the first old-fashioned ballpark called Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The red brick look and quirky dimensions were back, and fans loved it. In 1990, the Chicago White Sox said goodbye to Comiskey Park, the oldest ballpark in the major leagues at the time, to move to a more contemporary stadium across the street.

On April 18, 1991, the White Sox celebrated the opening of the new Comiskey Park with a home game against the Detroit Tigers. The new ballpark was different than the old one. It seemed sterile. The old place was dark and enclosed. The new place was bright and open. Fans hated the sea of blue seats. They also hated the upper deck seats. Fans thought they were too step and too far away from the field. They also didn't enjoy the Tigers destroying the White Sox during the first game in their new home. The Tigers won 16-0.

I didn't make it to the new Comiskey Park until the 1994 season, just before the strike. My feelings at the time were not different from those of the masses. The seats were high. The blue seats didn't seem right. I didn't even think the exploding scoreboard was as loud as the old one across the street.

Since the White Sox knocked down old Comiskey Park and built their current home, almost every city in Major League Baseball followed suit. Not counting expansions teams after 1991, only Fenway Park (1912), Wrigley Field (1914), Dodger Stadium (1962), Angel Stadium (1966), Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (1966), and Kaufmann Stadium (1973) still stand. Even the New York Yankees demolished classic Yankee Stadium.

Over the years, the White Sox made changes to new Comiskey Park. Seats were removed from the upper deck. The ocean of blue was replaced with black and green. In 2003, the ballpark received a name change. Thanks to corporate sponsorship, new Comiskey Park was changed to U.S. Cellular Field. Many people protested, but I when I think of Comiskey Park, I think about the old place.

Despite being a Cubs fan, I must agree that U.S. Cellular Field is a great place to watch a baseball game. For all the negative buzz that surrounded the place 20 years ago, the White Sox did transform it into an amazing place to visit.

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