Wrigley Field, 2015 (Photo courtesy of Gregg Kiesewetter)
I’ve always been a big proponent of the importance to remember and preserve the past. Baseball has a rich and extensive history, and the best remaining links to that past, which a fan can thankfully still experience today, are the two oldest major league ballparks, Wrigley Field and Fenway Park.
It’s unfortunate that a baseball team has the power to tear down a ballpark which has so much historical significance and replace it with something they’re probably only going to keep for 25-30 years anyway. Considering the large number of god-awful MLB stadiums that were built in the 60’s and 70’s, it’s a miracle that any ballparks survived this time period at all. And even though great places like Tiger Stadium, Comiskey Park, and Old Yankee stadium survived the stadium construction boom of the 60’s and 70’s only to be torn down more recently, it’s still a disappointing thought to know that as a fan of the game, you’ll never be able to experience again (or ever) what it was like to watch baseball in such wonderful ballparks from a long forgotten period.
By keeping and playing at their stadiums long enough that they’re now the only two remaining classic style ballparks, the Red Sox and Cubs have been able to learn from the mistakes other teams have made and unfortunately can never undue with respect to their stadiums. Baseball stadiums are extremely unique amongst sports venues because of the variety of things that can be done to a ballpark to add character and differentiate itself from other stadiums. With respect to hockey, basketball, and football, due to the rectangular shape and set dimensions of the playing surface, it’s difficult to add much character to the building or playing surface. With baseball however, due to their architectural uniqueness and historical significance, you’d think that more of them would have been worth holding onto.
Could you imagine baseball without Wrigley or Fenway? Without these gems, the game would lose it’s biggest connection to it’s past, and we as a society would be turning our back on a big part of our history. Baseball and cultural icons such as Ruth, Williams, Robinson can’t live on forever, but to be able to watch a game where these great athletes once played, and where so many great moments have taken place is special and something not to be forgotten. For baseball fans from around the globe, Wrigley and Fenway have become pilgrimage sites, places where you can experience baseball much as it was over a century ago. And for local fans of the Cubs and Red Sox, these two ballparks have become irreplaceable pillars of the community which have a sentimental value beyond probably any other building in either city.
North America doesn’t have the extensive history that one can find throughout Europe, but what we do have, if it’s important enough, needs to be preserved and embraced. A big part of our relatively short history has been the contributions from baseball, and the lasting legacy of baseball’s history is it’s classic style ballparks, of which only two remain in major league baseball. The major league teams that chose to tear down their old stadiums were of the mindset that baseball is first and foremost a business, and forgot, or never even understood that it’s also a pastime and a means of preserving an important part of our history.