Constructing a National Pastime

July 16, 2019

I think I’ve mentioned it a few times that I grew up just outside of Detroit, MI. I moved to Seattle, WA, in the late 90s to pursue a career in broadcast journalism and from that point on, I never thought of moving back to Michigan. My parents still live there, in the suburbs of Detroit, in the same house of my childhood. I’m traveling back home this week for the first time in 15 years. 

Part of my trip is going to be catching a game at Comerica Park to watch my beloved Tigers play the Phillies. This is going to be my first game at Comerica even though the ballpark opened in 2000. I’m hoping to be overwhelmed since my memories of Tigers games are rooted in Tiger Stadium. 

Tiger Stadium was opened in 1912. Back then, it was part of a construction boom of ballparks for Major League Baseball. 

I came across a recent article in the sports website, Deadspin.comwritten by Vince Guerrieri titled “How Concrete and Steel Built Baseball.” Guerrieri answered a few questions that I hadn’t asked such as, why was it called Yankee “Stadium” and not Yankee “Field” or “Park”? Why is it called a “Ferris” wheel? Did you know the Cleveland Indians used to be known as the “Naps”? 

The article paints a great picture of how the new construction technologies of concrete and steel replaced wooden structures. 

Vince Guerrieri writes: “Contractors had their own methodology to pouring,” he says. “Some used orthogonal (where the bars meet at right angles) reinforcement, but some used circumferential or radial construction.” They also cast the concrete in place, Krebs notes, something contractors don’t have to do today. 

The city stopped on a dime for the opening of League Park. At a banquet the evening of the home opener on April 21, 1910, (a 5-0 Tigers win over the Naps), American League President Ban Johnson heralded the new ballpark as cementing major league baseball in Cleveland, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer said it was “the greatest baseball plant in the entire circuit.” 

We’re all connected to this legacy of having built the world as we know it today, whether it was the national highway system or the National Pastime. 

Guerrieri continues: 

Baseball maintained its pre-eminence as America’s favorite spectator professional sport well into the 1960s, by which time a new crop of stadiums was being built, some for expansion teams as the game spread beyond the northeast quadrant of the nation, and some for teams that shifted locations. These stadiums were vastly different from the ones they replaced—but remarkably similar to each other, round, completely enclosed buildings (Krebs calls them the “doughnut” stadiums) that sometimes used new artificial turf and weren’t designed just for baseball. 

Be sure to check out the article. 

Another celebration of independence, along with another MLB All Star game, hacome and gone. We continue creating a new history with the building of ultra-modern infrastructure and unimaginable stadiums and arenas.  Be proud of your place in that history. 

I’ll have a dog and a beer, please!