Since the Houston Astros had a home game, and we were staying a couple of blocks away, we checked out the scene. As with most stadiums they have sold the naming rights, so they play at Minute Maid Park 🙂
The crowd was gathering outside before the gates opened.
Anytime I visit a new stadium I like to get there early and walk around to check out the sights.
The TV people were preparing for their broadcast.
As with all the stadiums built in the last 25 years, all have ‘quirky’ features. This stadium has a retractable dome (which was closed because it was 90 and humid), as well as a giant glass wall facing the downtown buildings.
The bullpens were empty.
Some basic instructions were occurring.
Marketing + Marketing = Excess.
The left field scoreboard and stands.
Finally it was time for the game and the obligatory national anthem. This group of young string instrument players were excellent.
The Phillips 66 Home Run Pump, brought to you by Phillips 66.
They have a large train along the glass wall. This train weights 60,000 pounds, and the driver actually drives (and stops) it. In researching this there is no apparent reason why there is a train there other than someone liked the idea.
The massive main scoreboard – everything you need to know about Jose Abreu.
If you can’t hit a real baseball virtual reality gives you the chance.
They have cheerleader at a baseball game…. The most excited the crowd got was for the free t shirts.
Almost forgot – there was a baseball game played.
Crowds going for, or dodging, foul balls always make good subjects.
Despite what Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, or even Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana say, Rickwood Field in Birmingham is America’s oldest baseball stadium.
Opened in 1910 it is in amazingly similar look and condition to the day it was opened.
While it is no longer used regularly for the minor league Birmingham Barons, it still sees some use with a tribute game by the Barons, as well as other use.
Most frequently it is used as a movie set for retro baseball movies, as well as local colleges.
As you enter the stadium you are greeted with old entry gates, not metal detectors.
The lineups are written on a chalkboard.
Going into the box seats you have a fence surrounding the home plate area for protection from foul balls.
The seats are still all wood, not plastic.
For most a large roof protects you from the hot Alabama summer sun.
Looking down the stands towards the press box. The original press box was a tiny 4 person booth on the roof, but this one was added for a period piece movie and it was left as it is more functional.
We were permitted to go onto the perfectly manicured field to check it out. The center field fence seems far away from here.
Also note how much foul ground there is behind home plate – many would be foul balls likely turn into outs here.
Looking down first base toward right field show the unusual cantilevered light towers.
Left field is similar, with a ‘batting barn’ built further off to the left.
A view from home plate back towards the stands again show the foul territory.
Despite it’s minimal use, they keep the field in perfect condition.
The view of the right field stands are far longer than those along left field. When this stadium was built in 1910 Forbes Field in Pittsburgh had just been completed as the standard in stadium design, and the architects here used essentially the same design – albeit with much less seating than the major league stadium.
As we make our way into the outfield you can see the advertising along the outfield fence. This was a common practice in the early 1900s, and the advertising that is there is either period advertising, or new companies with the ads made to look period correct.
The scoreboard has been restored to the early 1900s look, with the scorekeeping done manually.
The teams listed would be those from the 1930s – Atlanta is still in the Southern League, and Brooklyn still has the Dodgers.
Birmingham is happy to see you.
Even the Vulcan is present.
The ads are very cool.
Another sign of the history of the south – there were all white teams, and all black teams. Rickwood Field hosted both Birmingham teams.
This practice ended in the 1950s.
The right field stands.
Rickwood Field is easily one of the best baseball ‘park’s I have ever seen. While it has been made retro for Hollywood , it really works nicely.
The Ohio History Center recently opened an exhibit on the history of sports in Ohio. It featured both professional and team sports, as well as sports geared toward participation, such as these classic old roller skates.
The Cincinnati Bengals came into existence as part of the American Football League (AFL), a couple of years before they merged with the NFL. The exhibit had a rare referee’s uniform from the AFL days.
A classic bowling shirt from the 1960s.
One of the most famous annual events in the state is the world soap box derby championships in Akron.
While the NBA was in existence in the early 1960s, college basketball was bigger. An offshoot of that was big time AAU basketball – Cleveland had a team that was the National Champions in 1961.
The 1970s Cincinnati Reds were a powerhouse team, lead by catcher Johnny Bench and the now disgraced Pete Rose.
High School football is big time in Ohio, and are none are bigger than the Massillon – Canton McKinley rivalry.
Probably the most famous athlete from Ohio today is LeBron James.
The exhibit was ok, but given how much sports history there is in Ohio it seemed lacking in depth and detail.
Amazingly the Chicago History Museum was founded in 1856, just a few years after the settling of the town. Although twice destroyed by fire (once during the Great Chicago Fire), they still have a vast collection of artifacts celebrating the history of the city.
During our visit to Chess Records I had heard that the History Museum had a nice exhibit on the Chicago Blues, which was our encouragement to go to the History Museum.
In the display is this map showing the amazing collection of recording studios and clubs that featured the blues that have existed in Chicago over the years.
Raeburn Flerlage was a famed photographer of the blues scene from 1959-1971, although his career in music lasted much longer.
His photographs were used for many album covers.
Included in the collection is a copy of what is generally acknowledge as the first blues record of all time, St Louis Blues by W C Handy, from 1925.
The south side of Chicago was the hub of the blues, with Maxwell Street being the epicenter.
All of the blues greats were celebrated here, including Muddy Waters.
In the 1950s record companies were only allowed to have so many records in radio station airplay rotation at one time, so they would just start another record company.
This record of Koko Taylor’s Wang Dang Doodle is on Checker Records, the sister company of Chess Records.
Moving on from the blues display we checked out Chicago – Crossroad of America. This documented Chicago as the transportation hub of the country since the early days of the railroad.
Also on display was one of the original El cars from 1892.
A number of focus displays included one of the infamous gangland activities during prohibition in the 1920s.
Keeping with the infamous Playboy Magazine started in Chicago, as did the original club with the hostess (bunny) outfit on display.
As noted in other postings, Chicago was always mail order center of the country.
Another section celebrated entertainment events in Chicago including the 1893 World’s Fair.
As well as the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair.
Finally there was a small section celebrating the professional sports teams of Chicago – baseball’s Cubs and White Sox, football’s Bears, basketball’s Bulls and hockey’s Blackhawks.
Our day ended by watching a few innings of minor league baseball. The Fort Wayne Tincaps are a low minor leagues farm team for the San Diego Padres.
The name alludes to ‘Johnny Appleseed’, aka John Chapman. Born in Massachusetts Johnny Appleseed spent much of his life travelling the midwest planting orchards. The legend, perpetuated by a Disney movie, was that he wore a tin pot on his head for a cap.
Since he spent his last days in Fort Wayne, they adopted this look for their mascot.
The stadium itself, as with all stadiums in America, sold it’s naming rights to a local hospital and has commercialization throughout – including the Toyota Picnic area.
Since I like symmetry in photos, this was perfect (before the people arrived).
Another baseball tradition that has been taken to extremes is the first pitch. Historically for important games a celebrity or politician would throw out the first pitch from the stands. Over the last 30 years it has become tradition to do it from the field.
Now instead of being a special event they do it every game, and end up with 8 ‘first pitches’ like this one.
We were honored to be in the presence of Wonder Woman – at least that is what her shirt says.
There actually was a game.
But it was more fun checking out the crowd, including these two young ladies who managed to stand right next to the sign that says no standing.
The crowd was fairly passive all game, despite some close plays.
In the early years of baseball the stadiums were built into tight city lots, so they were asymmetrical. Starting in the 1950s they built them all the same with perfect symmetry, but after 1990 everyone wanted the ‘retro’ look and went back to quirky setups, even though they had the space to build a consistent field.
Baseball is the only sport where the playing field differs at each stadium (although obviously the infield is the same everywhere).
Sunset , clouds and stadium lights – the ultimate in photo lighting.