A lot of the e-mails I receive through my website take me to task for ranking one ballpark or another over their favorite ballpark. I’ve been told, “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” more times than I can count. The chief accusers? Fans of the two “Sox” teams (one Red, the other White). They simply don’t understand how I can rate Wrigley Field or PNC Park higher than their beloved Fenway or U.S. Cellular Field.
Of course, when I ask if they’ve visited the northside of Chicago or the spot where the three rivers meet in downtown Pittsburgh, the answer is invariably, “No … but it doesn’t matter, because nothing is better than Fenway (or The Cell).”
OK, let’s say they’re right. So taking into account that I don’t know what I’m talking about, here are my five favorite Major League parks. Note that when I write a review – or even make a simple assessment – of a ballpark, I look at four facets of the facility: setting; exterior; the architecture of the interior; the “game day experience” of attending a game there. Here are the parks that check all the right boxes for me:
In my book, Wrigley wins hands down. In fact, on my book, Wrigley wins hands down. That’s because an oil painting of “the Friendly Confines” graces the cover of the book I wrote on baseball stadiums. I love the “Wrigleyville” neighborhood that surrounds the park (but what those neighbors charge to park your car in their alley is pretty frightful). The exterior of Wrigley is very stately and conveys the senses of history that lies within. The wonderful upper deck, the world-renowned bleachers and the incredible ivy surround the prettiest field on earth. And watching the Cubs play our national pastime in the sunshine is a treat beyond words.
Is the place perfect? No. We all remember those falling chunks of concrete and the pungent plumbing problems of a couple of years ago. And there are a lot of seats where the view of the field isn’t too good (stick with the upper deck if you can). But no place anywhere matches Wrigley for sheer baseball magic.
If Wrigley is the best of all time, then PNC is certainly the best of the newer parks. No sports venue anywhere can match its view. Fans can ignore the poor play of the Buccos down on the field and instead focus on the Allegheny River, the gleaming Roberto Clemente Bridge, the downtown “Triangle” and massive Mount Washington beyond. And when you examine the exterior and interior of the park itself, I think PNC Park is without a doubt the crowning achievement of HOK, the architecture heavyweights who have designed the majority of the big league parks that have opened in the last two decades.
Of all of the 30 Major League parks, the two I think that are the most underrated are Atlanta’s Turner Field (but it still doesn’t quite make my top five) and Coors Field. The Rockies’ home has a stunning exterior, maybe the best in the big leagues. The entryways are phenomenal, and the brickwork all around is exceptional. The view of the Rocky Mountains – especially from the upper deck on the first-base side – is to die for. If you’ve never visited Denver, Coors Field is reason enough to go.
Kansas City Royals
When you look at the Royals’ home park today, there are two facts that are astonishing. First, this stadium opened over 30 years ago. Talk about standing the test of time! And speaking of "time," Kauffman was way, way ahead of its time. At a time when city after city was constructing multi-use, ashtray-shaped stadiums for its football, baseball, soccer and tiddlywinks teams, Kansas City bucked the popular trend and built two. That allowed Royals Stadium, as it was called at the time, to be designed for baseball only – and what a great baseball-only park it is!
The second astonishing fact is that the stadium is about to receive a $250 million facelift. It’s so perfect now, does it really need that much modernizing?
Boston Red Sox
Hey, I knew if I didn’t have Fenway in my Top Five, I’d never hear the end of it – from the readers of BaseballPilgrimages.com and from Graham himself! Like Wrigley, Fenway is in a neat part of town and has an unbelievable sense of history. And like Wrigley, it has a lot of obstructed-view seats. But you have to take the bad with the good!
Joe Mock is the man behind BaseballParks.com, perhaps the Internet's most popular ballpark website. His book, Joe Mock’s Ballpark Guide, is an indispensable resource for any fan visiting one, or all, of the 30 Major League ballparks.