Personally, I think Top 10 lists are the cheapest form of expressing an opinion in written or broadcast form. They’re arrogant, biased and easy. However, this is a perfect storm of current events and reader requests to make a hypocrite of me and do such a thing. With the recent closing of the Metrodome in Minneapolis and the e-mails I have been receiving about new topics (by the way, I love the feedback and suggestions. Keep e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org) I decided to give in. After all, to quote my idol, Jalen Rose, I gotta give the people what they want. A few people have asked for a top ten list of the worst baseball stadiums. Yet, doing a simple list of the ten worst ball parks would be too easy. It has also been done too many times already and it is the same list over and over again. Every list contains all the domed stadiums plus the Vet and Exhibition Park. So, I’m going to tweak this reader request to make it a little more original by compiling a top ten list of the worst non-domed stadiums in the history of baseball.
First, the rating system. Each ball park will be ranked on a scale of 1-10, with one being awful and ten being perfect, in five categories. The categories are fan experience/comfort, player/coach experience, the surrounding area, longevity/durability/upkeep and aesthetics. Fan experience/comfort measures the level of enjoyment a fan has at the stadium. This includes up to date amenities, quality seating arrangements and anything to make a fan want to come spend their hard earned money at the ball park. Player/coach experience measures how much or how little a player wants to play in that ball park. Some of the factors that go into this are ballpark factor (both pitcher and/or hitter friendly), player amenities (locker rooms, dug outs, etc) and even weather or protection from the elements. The surrounding area ranking measures how nice or terrible the area around the stadium is. So, is the neighborhood filled with shops, bars, restaurants and hotels or is it on the wrong side of the tracks? Longevity/durability/upkeep is a little complicated to explain. This measures how well the park is maintained and if it is properly updated and renovated. For example, the O.co Coliseum would receive a low score in this category. While it is actually one of the oldest stadiums in baseball at forty eight years old, it is literally rotting and decaying from the inside out. Also, a stadium such as Turner Field would receive a low grade since the Braves already plan to move out in the next couple of years after less than twenty seasons there. So, this category is a hybrid of longevity and maintenance. Finally, aesthetics measures if the park looks good and if it fits in well to the city. Now, let’s start with the tenth worst ball park in Major League Baseball history.
10. Hilltop Park (New York Highlanders/Yankees, 1903-1912)
Fan Experience – 3/Player and Coach Experience – 1/Surrounding Area – 9/Longevity, Durability and Upkeep – 1/Aesthetics – 10
Overall Score – 4.8
Hilltop Park was the first home to the New York Yankee franchise and like their 2013 season, it was all show and no substance. Although the scenery and stadium was absolutely beautiful, as fans behind home plate had a scenic view of the Hudson River and the hills of northern New Jersey, it was not suited to host baseball games. Most of the grandstands were uncovered, leaving the fans exposed to the elements. Furthermore, the stands where hastily built which led to their quick deterioration. However, it was the player/coach experience that landed Hilltop Park on the list. First, there was no clubhouse, so players and coaches had to get ready in their own rooms or houses before getting to the field. For opposing teams, this was potentially dangerous. Fans or rooters, as they were called backed then, were much more violent and confrontational during this time. Fights between players and fans in and out of the ballpark was not uncommon. So, opposing players were taking their lives into their own hands when they traveled to Hilltop Park. Also, the playing field was in deplorable condition. Hilltop’s massive right field was swamp grounds and was never covered up, so all of right field was constantly soggy and marshy. Although, during this time the last thing the owners cared about was player safety and comfort, or even winning, it was all about packing as many paying customers into the park and turning a profit. There is good news, though. When Hilltop Park was demolished in 1914, it became the site of Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital.
9. Turner Field (Atlanta Braves, 1997-Present)
Fan Experience – 6/Player and Coach Experience – 6/Surrounding Area – 2/Longevity, Durability and Upkeep – 1/Aesthetics – 6
Overall Score – 4.2
How does a perennial divisional contender for the last twenty years in one of America’s baseball hot beds do so terribly in attendance? Their stadium is awful. If I made this list a year ago, there would be no way that Turner Field made the list. However, recent revelations regarding Turner Field’s upkeep and under developed surrounding area will label it as one of the worst baseball stadiums of all time. Turner Field was quickly built to host the 1996 Olympic Games, when it was called Centennial Olympic Stadium. This led to shoddy workmanship on the stadium that would assist in its demise. Fast forward to present day and Turner Field is already falling apart and needs serious renovations, due to its poor construction. To add insult to injury, Turner Field is in one of Atlanta’s roughest and poorest areas. When the Braves decided to stay in Fulton County, the city promised to develop the surrounding area. It didn’t and like any other failed government project it made a bad situation worse. The neighborhood continued to fall apart. All this has forced the Braves hand to start over and move into a new stadium, in Cobb County, by 2017. Twenty years of excellent Braves baseball wasted in an awful stadium.
8. Cleveland Municipal Stadium (Cleveland Indians, 1932-1933, 1936-1993)
Fan Experience – 3/Player and Coach Experience – 3/Surrounding Area – 4/Longevity, Durability and Upkeep – 5/Aesthetics – 5
Overall Score – 4
If ever a stadium embodied its city, it was Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Like the city of Cleveland it was full of heart-break, anger, unrest, broken dreams and promises, drunken unruliness, mismanagement and constant disappointment, yet a swelled sense of pride to be a Clevelander. Affectionately called the Mistake by the Lake by Clevelanders and rivals alike, Municipal Stadium was destined to fail. While it boasted a seated capacity of 78,000, the Indians were never good enough to come close to filling it. When the Indians would draw around 20,000 per game, the stadium would look empty. Municipal Stadium was built to overlook Lake Erie but there was no view of the lake, only the freezing swirling winds that came off of it. An ugly, cavernous, empty, freezing, windy stadium is not an ideal place to be for any fan or player.
7. Riverfront Stadium (Cincinnati Reds, 1970-2002)/Three Rivers Stadium (Pittsburgh Pirates, 1970-2000)/Veterans Stadium (Philadelphia Phillies, 1971-2003)
Fan Experience – 7/Player and Coach Experience – 3/Surrounding Area – 5/Longevity, Durability, Upkeep – 3/Aesthetics – 2
Overall Score – 4
The 1970s was really a bad time for this country. Vietnam, two recessions, the oil crisis, Watergate, disco, the Iranian hostage situation and the construction of cookie-cutter all purpose stadiums. The three biggest offenders was the Vet, Three Rivers and Riverfront and I guarantee most people would not be able to tell which on is which if they were lined up together. While these stadiums were considered modern and had up to date facilities, they are some of the ugliest parks ever built. Did I mention AstroTurf? Outdoor AstroTurf! It is blasphemy and players absolutely hate it. The greatest tragedy is these three abominations replaced three iconic and beautiful parks. Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and Shibe Park in Philadelphia.
6. Jarry Park Stadium (Montreal Expos, 1969-1976)
Fan Experience – 4/Player and Coach Experience – 4/Surrounding Area – 7/Longevity, Durability and Upkeep – 1, Aesthetics – 3
Overall Score – 3.8
Parc Jarry, as the locals called it, looked as if it were quickly assembled with ready made parts. Well, that’s because it was. In 1967, when Major League Baseball was looking to expand for the 1969 season, Montreal lobbied hard for a team. When the city was granted a major league baseball club, they needed a stadium. Their first idea of using the old minor league field, Delorimier Stadium, as a temporary park was shot down by the MLB because it was too small (20,000 capacity). Then, they looked at the Autostade, the to be home of the CFL team, Montreal Alouettes. However, the city rejected the idea of adding more seats to the dome to house a major league team. Now, it is August 1968, and the Expos don’t even have a site to build their stadium for their inaugural 1969 season. They finally settle on a small plot of unused land and part of a parking lot in Jarry Park and build the stadium in less than seven months. The stadium has uncovered grandstands, so the fans are exposed to the bitter cold in the beginning of the season and the heat during the summer time. There is a pool out beyond the right foot wall, creating baseball’s first “splash hit”.
5. Arlington Stadium (Texas Rangers, 1972-1993)
Fan Experience – 3/Player and Coach Experience – 3/Surrounding Area – 8/Longevity, Durability and Upkeep – 2/Aesthetics – 2
Overall Score – 3.6
We’re starting to get into some truly legendarily awful stadiums. It is up to debate as to which stadium got hotter, Arlington Stadium or Houston’s Colt Stadium, but both were stifling. What made it worse was that these simple single tiered bleachers were tilted directly into the sun and there was no covering in the entire stadium, in Texas! Sometimes the temperatures in the stands would rival the temperature of California’s Death Valley! Not to mention this place was a dump. The sun baked the whole stadium, quickening its deterioration and eventual demise in 1993. On the bright side, it was next to Six Flags!
4. The Baker Bowl (Philadelphia Phillies, 1887-1938)
Fan Experience – 1/Player and Coach Experience – 3/Surrounding Area – 5/Longevity, Durability and Upkeep – 1/Aesthetics – 5
Overall Score – 3
The only thing keeping the Baker Bowl from being the worst stadium in history is its mystique of being a forgotten ballpark of yesteryear and its grandiose architecture that captured the spirit of that era. Other than than, this is the worst place to watch a game in the history of baseball, by far. In 1903, a fight broke out during a game in the wooden upper-deck bleachers which caused the section to collapse. The collapse killed 12 and injured 232 people. Another incident during a game in 1927 resulted in one casualty and fifty injuries when the rotting wood of the lower level bleachers gave way and collapsed. On a lighter note, the Baker Bowl was one of baseball’s first home run hitter’s parks. Due to its small dimensions it was referred to as a Band Box. That term is still used today to describe ballparks with home run hitter friendly dimensions.
3. O.co Coliseum (Oakland A’s, 1968-Present)
Fan Experience – 3/Player and Coach Experience – 6/Surrounding Area – 1/Longevity, Durability and Upkeep – 2/Aesthetics – 1
Overall Score – 2.6
In Moneyball, A’s General Manager Billy Beane, portrayed by Brad Pitt, is passionate about keeping as much money on the field as possible as he is about guys who can get on base. Boy, does it show. Last season, there was a massive sewage leak that filled most of the stadium and offices. This was part of an on-going problem at the O.co Coliseum that finally got out of control late in the 2013 season. To me, what’s even worse than poo being spilled everywhere is something that Billy Beane did not have control of. I’m talking about Mt. Davis, the unnecessary extra seating that is almost never used, added on by then Raiders owner Al Davis. Above is a picture of the O.co Coliseum (then known as Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum) before Mt. Davis. Notice the picturesque view of the rolling Oakland hills. Now, here is the O.co with Mt. Davis. It helped turn a bad park into a terrible one. Finally, the O.co is in the ghetto of Oakland. Not a place to take the kids.
2. Colt Stadium (Houston Colt .45s/Astros, 1962-1964)
Fan Experience – 2/Player and Coach Experience – 2/Surrounding Area – 4/Longevity, Durability and Upkeep – 1/Aesthetics – 3
Overall Score – 2.4
If there ever was hell on Earth, this is it. Similar to Arlington Stadium, as it was terribly constructed ballpark in Texas with zero shade from the blistering heat, except for two things,swarms of mosquitoes and rattlesnakes. Temperatures in the stands would frequently be north of 100 degrees Fahrenheit but to make matters worse, Colt Stadium would be over run with swarms of mosquitoes. There were also reports of rattlesnakes finding their way into the stands and the dugouts. During a night game in 1963, over 100 people were sent to the first aid room to be treated for heat exhaustion and excessive mosquito bites. Dante missed this circle of hell during his trip into the netherworld.
1. Exhibition Stadium (Toronto Blue Jays, 1977-1989)
Fan Experience – 2/Player and Coach Experience – 3/Surrounding Area – 3/Longevity, Durability and Upkeep – 2/Aesthetics – 1
Overall Score – 2.2
While Exhibition Stadium may not have collapsed and killed people, or be infested with mosquitoes or be the ugliest stadium, it has a little bit of everything. It is a pathetic attempt to put a baseball field into a football stadium, outdoor AstroTurf, inconvenient seating in the outfield, no protection from the Canadian cold or heat, it was a dump and it did not last long. Despite other fields killing people or having record high temperatures, Exhibition Stadium is a testament that it is a complete team effort in order to make it to the top.
Honorable Mentions: Candlestick Park, RFK Stadium and Marlins Park