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Hey, Yeah … Why Do All Ballparks Look Totally Different?

Baseball Is Fun

Every football field looks the same. Every basketball court looks the same. Every hockey rink looks the same. Every soccer field looks … well, I’ve never actually seen a soccer game. But I’m pretty sure every field looks the same. Baseball, then, is the unicorn of the sports world, when it comes to their lack of playing field uniformity …

… A topic we recently had a lot of fun discussing with respect to these utterly insane high school fields:

But why do all baseball fields look different? Why do some fields have short porches, while other have deep wells? What’s a Green Monster anyway? Are these home run baskets fair? And, hey, those walls are uneven!

Well, official MLB historian John Thorn is here to answer all those questions and more!

There’s more to it than what follows, but here are some of the highlights/timeline of Thorn’s explanation:

  • No initial requirements for outfield walls
  • Baseball moves into urban settings
  • Owners put fencing around parks to charge admission
  • MLB institutes outfield minimum outfield wall distance (250 ft.)
  • Fenway forced into imperfect plot of land (berth of Green Monster)
  • Bill Veck changes distance of outfield walls depending on opponent
  • Concrete-donut, multi-use stadium invented, jewel-box ballparks replaced
  • Camden Yards (single-use) blends quirkiness of old stadiums with amenities of newer parks
  • Popularity of Camden Yards led to more quirky ballparks across the country

Voila!

There are a lot of factors – including the willingness of the league to actually allow a total lack of uniformity (don’t sleep on how unusual that is) – but to me, the success of Fenway and, more notably, Camden Yards really helped solidify a future of unique ballpark shapes into our collective history. Had Camden Yards not be constructed the way it was, we may have seen more and more “Concrete donut, multi-use stadiums” with absolutely no character at all.

So … thanks, Orioles?

I never thought I’d say that.



Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami