On a Beach Walk: #70 (Baseball – Ballparks)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Today I think about the palaces of the fans known as ballparks to some – baseball stadiums to others.

Ballparks are those places creating a special feeling when hearing the wooden bat hit the ball followed by the roar of a cheering crowd rising to their feet – a bonding moment not only between people and the game, but also between people.

Ballparks are the cathedrals of baseball where people gather to worship with faith and allegiance for their team and yell praise to their cleated heroes. Ballparks are a place where memories are made to be told to the next generation.

I think of places before my time: Cincinnati’s Palace of the Fans, Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, Philadelphia’s Baker Bowl, Cleveland’s League Park, and Washington’s Griffith Stadium.

Many may not remember Los Angeles having a Wrigley Field. Not only the first and one-year home of the Los Angeles Angels, but also the location to television’s Home Run Derby.

There are the classic stadiums of my youth – Forbes Field (Pittsburgh), Connie Mack Stadium (Philadelphia) – previously known as Shibe Park – Sportsman’s Park (St. Louis), Polo Grounds (New York), cavernous Municipal Stadium (Cleveland), Crosley Field (Cincinnati), and others.

All places with their own quirks – yet, places of lore – but these are now gone. Places that may or may not have a sign or plaque commemorating its existence. Places that may be a playground, an apartment complex, a shopping area, a group of office buildings, or something for industry.

Let us not forget Boston’s Braves Field for much of it still stands. Not for baseball, but as a football field for Boston University – today known as Nickerson Field. An old ticket booth remains as a tribute to its past. One can sit in the stands imagining Spahn and Sain, then praying for rain – or slugger Eddie Mathews and other greats who played on this field.

A few teams played in temporary facilities as they waited for their new home – Houston’s mosquito-infested Colt 45 Stadium, Montreal’s quaint Jarry Park, and the Dodgers playing is a make-shift for baseball layout of massive LA Coliseum, which included a temporary high left field fence that made Moon Shots famous.

These ballparks gave way to the circular masses of concrete and steel known as multi-purposes stadiums that hosted baseball and football. Fortunately, most of them had shorter life spans than their predecessors. Not only is Atlanta’s multi-purpose stadium gone, so is it’s replacement.

The current generation of ballparks try to emulate the feel of those ballparks of long ago, but with modern conveniences and design. Yes, New York’s Yankee Stadium still exists, but it is not The House that Ruth Built – yet the city and franchise honors the original location.

For fans of baseball history, fortunately Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field stand of iconic tributes to the past. One has to wonder how long they will last – but for now, there is no end in sight … and for some of us, that’s a good thing.

No matter if in the old, new, or bygone, ballparks are places where vivid memories are made to be recalled – places where one can close their eyes and recall a past moment – a past hero – a past place as Ebbets or Crosley that stand no more, yet occupies a special place in the minds and hearts of their fans.

Ballparks are a special place – but so are beaches because walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On a Beach Walk: #69 (Baseball – The Season)

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(Part 2 of 3)

I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Every mid-February while many are in the midst of winter’s firm grip, the time as come for pitchers and catchers to report for Spring Training.

February-March is the time of the year when baseball hearts emerge from the cold ground as those initial shoots of daffodils. A time when interest and hope are in the air as our Boys of Summer prepare for the annual Rite of Spring.

To baseball fans, spring is a time of hope, resurrection, and anticipation – a time for believing this is the year. To some, that hope may be dashed by mid-May, but hearts remain loyal to their team. There’s always next year! Even while languishing in the cellar, hearts still rejoice with each win – and feels low with each loss.

Baseball is a game played by fan favorites – the icons and legends. Lovers of the game can feel the presence of Ruth, Cobb, Gehrig, Hornsby, and Musial while cherishing the Big Train, the Iron Horse, Wee Willie, Double X, and many more. Unfortunately, most if us knew very little about Satch, Josh, and Cool Papa.

Baseball fans know their childhood heroes as Charlies Hustle, Yaz, Doggie, Little Joe, the Say-Hey Kid, Duke, Mr. Cub, and Pops while fearing the Big Swish, King Kong, and Killer.

Baseball fans appreciate generational links as Ken Griffey Senior and Junior – the 3 generations of Boones or Bells.

The successful careers of brothers as the Alous is difficult to comprehend – let alone contemplating that Boog Powell should have been one of them.

Baseball – that national fascination that grew with the Golden Age of Radio. The game causing families to gather around a large box in the living room to cheer their heroes. A game that a future US President would recreate in a studio from a telegraphic ticker.

Every city has revered radio announcers – names that fans elsewhere may not know – but to locals, these are trusted voices who speak for them. Therefore, it is fitting that the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York has an announcer’s wing – yet each fan prefers the voice of the one from our team.

I grew up in a time when people listened to many more games than watching. The Reds on TV were a rare treat to be savoured and not missed.

There was a time when Opening Day was Cincinnati’s day – a day all of baseball reserved for its first professional team – a day marking the season’s beginning for the entire baseball universe. This was done at a time before baseball sold its soul to cable TV in the name of money – even opening on another continent – but Cincinnatians ignore everyone and keep its traditions by hosting their Opening Day like no other place.

Baseball season is a marathon – not a sprint. The joy of today will be tempered by the sadness of tomorrow – and that tomorrow will provide the hope for another chance at joy.

There was a time when the October classic was fittingly named and didn’t crown a champion on a cold night in late October or early November. The end of the World Series truly meant the arrival of fall instead of the trumpeting of winter. A time when the leaves would swirl in empty stadiums and the ivy on Wrigley’s walls would go dormant – a time when colder temperatures were nearing, but not here yet.

As snows gather on the northern pallacial diamonds – yet we fans wait as flower bulbs below the snow-covered surface for the return of that annual Rite of Spring.

Baseball season is one of the many cycles of life – just like birds flying south for the winter – just like I vacate my northern outpost. After all, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.