It sounds like a line from a bad standup routine: “The baseball stadium I went to is really, really old.” The audience, in unison, shouts “How old is it?” “It’s so old,” the comic retorts, “There’s no Wi-Fi in the stadium.” And that’s the great thing about America’s Pastime; the baseball stadiums — home to 30 pro teams and hundreds of minor-league squads — differ as much as the communities that house them.
From AT&T Park with its glorious view of the Bay, emblematic of San Francisco, to Wrigley Field, with its wind-blown flags and out-of-the-park bleacher overhangs in left field, there are no doppelgängers in baseball. That said, some of the oldest baseball stadiums age gracefully over the years. They take on the charm that comes with fans filling the seats year after year as team owners act as honorable stewards of their facilities.
But then you have old ballparks that lack the charm of carefully maintained baseball abodes; they beg to be put out of their misery. In examining five old ballparks — four from the majors, one from the minors — there needs to be an asterisk. The two oldest baseball stadiums in the majors, Fenway and Wrigley Field, can’t be on the list. The homes of the Red Sox and Cubs live in a separate category much like homes listed on a historical registry. We must note that we visited all five selections (as well as Fenway and Wrigley), so we can speak firsthand.
1. Dodger Stadium, 1962
At 54 years old, Dodger Stadium opened in April 1962 as the first permanent home of the Los Angeles Dodgers after the team’s exodus from Brooklyn. The stadium, often referred to as Chavez Ravine, was built in three years (while the team played at Memorial Stadium) at a cost of $23 million. We’ve seen improvements over the years, but the Dodger Stadium looks pretty much the same as it did the day it opened.
Our recollection of the place: It’s amazingly clean. Although it lacks some of the modern trappings of newer ballparks, it is by no means an old dowager. Also noteworthy: It’s darn near impossible to get there by public transit; fans show up late and leave early. The good news is that there are Dodger Dogs for hungry fans.
2. Oakland Coliseum, 1966
Three words describe the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum: What a dump!
Build underground, the home of the Oakland Athletics and Oakland Raiders looks far older than its 50 years. And we find few good things to say about it. Clearly the ugly stepchild to San Francisco’s AT&T Park, the place is cold, cavernous, and soulless.
Home to the AFC’s Oakland Raiders, the Coliseum takes on the character of its rowdier fans — ill-mannered. BART gives Bay Area residents access to the Coliseum, but we forewarn you: The woefully small station for the park forces fans to wait in long lines to get on train cars headed north and south.
3. Angel Stadium of Anaheim, 1966
The home of the Los Angeles/California/Angels has had as many names as Joe Maddon has silly T-shirts. Once known as Edison International Field of Anaheim, this 50-year-old park has aged gracefully over its half century. For that, we can thank careful ownership and the fact that Disney visitors like their venues nice and tidy.
With the primary distinction of a massive scoreboard/Jumbotron, the stadium improved as a place to enjoy baseball when the team cut capacity by nearly 20,000 in the late ’80s. The end result: a more intimate place to watch a game and enjoy the Orange County scenery beyond the outfield stands. The ballpark is easy to get to; it’s within walking distance from many Disney hotels. Various trains serve the fans who visit from other parts of the SoCal metro area.
4. US Cellular Field, 1991
Originally called Comiskey Park, like its predecessor, the White Sox South Side home, changed its name to U.S. Cellular Field in 2003 when the telecommunications company bought the naming rights for $68 million a season for 20 years. U.S. Cellular is best known as the last ballpark built before the wave of retro stadiums led by Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles.
The stadium looks far older than its 25 years, mostly due to the fact that it is one large pile of concrete. It’s doubtful any baseball stadium has as many concrete pilings at the home of the Chisox. What’s not concrete is made up of large steel girders. If you get the feeling this sounds more like a parking lot than a place to play baseball, you are spot on. To the team’s credit, there have been multiple series of renovations. The most recent one involved three new HD video boards installed prior to the current season.
5. Jackie Robinson Ballpark, 1914
Technically known as Radiology Associates Field at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, the home of the Daytona Beach Tortugas, the Cincinnati Reds entry in the Florida State League (A League), was the site where Jackie Robinson played his first minor league game in 1946 for the Dodgers minor league affiliate in Montreal. Due to segregation laws, ballparks in Jacksonville and Sanford, Fla. refused to let Robinson play there. A statue of Robinson sits outside the main entrance to the park.
Over the years, the stadium (located between Daytona Beach proper and the Atlantic Ocean) has been the Spring Training home of the Orioles and Montreal Expos as well as the site of Bethune-Cookman University home games. At 102 years old, “The Jack” joined the National Registry of Historic Places.