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High and Tight: Our Rock & Roll Baseball Experts Pick the Best and Worst Big League Stadiums

Tom Morello, Joe Pernice, Alice Cooper and other rock star fanatics sound off on our national pastime

dodger stadiumdodger stadium

Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles celebrates its 50th Anniversary on opening day.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In May 1976, my Dad took me to Detroit’s venerable Tiger Stadium for my first major league ballgame, a Sunday afternoon contest between the pre-“Birdmania” Tigers and the eventual AL champion Yankees. Though just a little over 60 years old at the time, “The Corner” at Michigan and Trumbull (formerly known as Briggs Stadium and Navin Field) seemed ancient and starkly beautiful in its decrepitude, with the ghosts of Tigers past far outnumbering the paying customers. Watching a ballgame there felt something like attending gladiatorial contests at the Roman Coliseum.

Though Thurman Munson hit a home run that day, and Yanks manager Billy Martin managed to get himself ejected from the game before it even started, what really stuck with me was Tiger Stadium’s gloriously lawless vibe. The ballpark’s wooden seats were rickety and splintery, and you could practically taste the lead in the chipping, industrial-green paint that covered them. Tiger fans were smoking weed in the bleachers, and tossing garbage at the Yankees’ right fielder from the second-deck overhang. There were no ushers or security or authority figures of any kind in sight, and I’m sure I could have bought a beer from a vendor if I’d wanted one, even though I was only ten at the time. This was baseball in the Motor City; like so many other things about Detroit, if you couldn’t hack it, you stayed away.

Like most of baseball’s legendary parks, Tiger Stadium is long gone now, replaced by a corporate-named, publicly co-funded, family-friendly facility. There are actually only two truly old-school ballparks left in the majors at this point: Fenway Park (built in 1912), and Wrigley Field (built in 1914). Dodger Stadium, which runs a distant third in the “oldest ballpark” category, turned 50 this spring.

Whatever love I once had for the Dodgers has long since dissipated in the foul-smelling wake of the Fox and McCourt ownerships, but I still can’t get enough of Dodger Stadium. Of all ballparks currently standing, Dodger Stadium’s my favorite… and I say that even as a Cubs fan. I saw my first NL game there in August 1976 (thanks, Mom!); it looked fantastically futuristic at the time – and, thanks to numerous mid-century modern design elements that have aged remarkably well (ranging from the UFO-like cement planters ringing the stadium to the jagged “Googie”-esque roofs hovering above the outfield pavilions), it still kinda seems like something out of The Jetsons. Throw in the palm trees, rolling hills and cool evening breezes of Chavez Ravine, the excellent sight lines from just about any seat in the house, and the fact that the place has remained remarkably unchanged since Sandy Koufax threw his first no-hitter there on June 30, 1962, and Dodger Stadium still feels like a classic baseball shrine, steeped in history and radiating a magic all its own.

So as we celebrate Dodger Stadium’s 50th anniversary, the time seems right to ask our esteemed panel of rock n’ roll seamheads: What’s your favorite ballpark you’ve ever been to – and, while we’re at it, what’s the worst?

alice cooper

Name: Alice Cooper
Position: Vocals

Well, being from Detroit, the old Briggs Stadium was always my favorite because it reeked of bad cigars and stale beer, a smell that somehow radiated from the wooden seats. It was just a grand old baseball park, nothing fancy. But when you realized that Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and all the greats had played there, it felt like watching a game at the Baseball Hall of Fame. As classic as it is with all of its history, the worst design has got to be Fenway Park. I never understood the idea of that left field wall. It is just ill-designed… Bring on the hate mail!

joe pernice

Name: Joe Pernice
Band: Pernice Brothers
Position: Vocals, Guitar

The greatest ballpark I have ever been in is, without a doubt, Fenway Park. It might not have the most comfortable seats or sightlines, and the
”concourse” may not have evolved much past the days of rat
colonies, fleur de vomit and trough urinals, but when you see the green
field appear you know you have entered a baseball cathedral. (The old Yankee
 Stadium had a similar vibe.) Lots of magic has happened within
 those walls; it’s hard to fathom just how many memories 
have starred Fenway Park over the last hundred years. The worst ballpark is The Rogers Centre in Toronto. It’s just horrible. I 
commend them for building a park with a retractable roof, a necessity if you 
want Blue Jays baseball in April. (Which, judging by attendance the last six
 years I’ve lived here, not many people do.) But man, did they have to make
 the place so ugly, soulless and the baseball experience so impersonal? I
 feel like I’m watching a Powerpoint presentation when I’m there. It’s better suited for auto trade shows and stadium motocross (which I
 enjoy) than it is for baseball.

Name: Steve Earle
Position: Vocals, Guitar

I hate to say it, but Fenway is my favorite. Wrigley Field is the other great early 20th century park, but Fenway is by far the more intense competitive environment, and you can’t beat the sausage sandwiches on the street outside.

Name: Handsome Dick Manitoba
Band: Manitoba
Position: Vocals

I’ve only been to four major league parks: The original Yankee stadium, new Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, and Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Shea Stadium totally sucked, and is tied with Fenway Park as the worst, (never been there, but that’s ok, I’m still gonna opinionize), because that little shithole holds the most hateful, most jealous, “we’re never gonna be as great as the majestic N.Y. Yankees” fans in the universe. Now, the original Yankee Stadium, pre-1976, even with the poles blocking your view, was still the most beautiful, majestic, iconic, and fable-like stadium in American sports history. The ushers wiped your seat for a quarter before you sat down, and the dirty-water dogs tasted better to me than any of the food these modern day “rock star chefs” have come up with. It was my shrine. Not being a religious man, this place was my House of Worship.

Name: Scott Ian
Band: Anthrax
Position: Guitar

Yankee Stadium, because it was Yankee Stadium – and I love the new stadium, as well. I’d been to the original park before it was renovated back in 1975, and it was a dump. Worst? I’d say Fenway just because it’s the Red Sox home, but the park itself is great and a great place to watch a game. I once went to a game at the old Olympic Stadium where the Expos played. That place sucked. No character or vibe at all and the fans were quiet. Sucked.

Name: Ben Gibbard
Band: Death Cab for Cutie
Position: Vocals, Guitar

PNC Park is by far the most beautiful park in all of baseball. The place feels so intimate and old-fashioned in all the best ways. I love the design of their out-of-town scoreboard. The views of downtown Pittsburgh and the bridges across the Allegheny River at night are spectacular. You can also buy a gigantic bucket of hot wings there that will stop your heart. The new Yankee stadium is by far the worst I’ve been to. It might look like the old one from the outside, but inside it’s more like a gaudy, Long Island shopping mall than a ballpark. A classic example of what happens when people have too much money and very little taste. Plus, it tends to be full of Yankees fans.

Name: Scott McCaughey
Band: The Baseball Project, The Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows
Position: Guitar, Vocals

It used to be a toss-up between old Comiskey Park (R.I.P.) and Tiger Stadium (R.I.P.). Those parks really struck me as oozing baseball lore and fun. It seemed like you could get away with anything at Comiskey (and the Young Fresh Fellows did), and the seats close to the field really put you right into the action. They never stopped serving beer. I miss it. Tiger Stadium’s design, colors, and vibe all seemed breathtaking to me. Great vendors too. But now I pretty much have to give the nod to AT&T Park (ugh, these damn corporate names!) in San Francisco. What a location! Even the giant Coke bottle is all right, being that it has a huge slide in it. I love the walk along the right field fence looking out to McCovey Cove, the all-pervasive smell of garlic fries, and the fact that there’s even a place where people outside the stadium can see the game. And it’s where the Giants play. And I have a brick with my name on it in Willie Mays Plaza.

Name: Greg Dulli
Band: The Twilight Singers, Afghan Whigs
Position: Vocals, Guitar

I’ve been to every Major League park in America, aside from the new Twins and Marlins fields, and I can still say that Dodger Stadium is my favorite. I used to stay up late when I was a kid in Ohio and watch the Reds play the hated Dodgers, and couldn’t wait to go there someday. I’ve had season tickets for ten years and there’s not a bad seat in the house. Palm trees in the outfield, the weather is perfect and the fans are knowledgeable and into it. 

Name: Steve Wynn
Band: The Baseball Project
Position: Vocals, Guitar 

I’ve been lucky enough to spend time at Wrigley, Fenway and both the original and current Yankee Stadiums. All great parks. And I dig the modern retro thrills of the more recent parks in Philly, Pittsburgh and Detroit. But you gotta dance with the one that brung you, and that means I would have to pick Dodger Stadium, the park that took me from my pre-teen years to this very day. Dodger Dogs, Vin Scully cooing from the transistor radio earpiece of the guy sitting next to you, the palm trees in the background, the expanse of enough blue to make you think you were just a stone’s throw from the Pacific. It’s an amazing place to see a game. It was a new stadium when I was a kid and it’s the third oldest park now – as David St. Hubbins would say, a little too much perspective. The worst? Well, I risk the ire of my wife (and drummer) Linda Pitmon, but I have never been to a more ridiculous park than the Metrodome in Minneapolis. I mean, I saw some great games there and all but, damn, it felt like seeing a game at a Kinko’s. Good thing they have an outstanding park now at Target Field, though they did bring that crazy wolf/bear hybrid T.C. with them. I just can’t figure that guy out.

george thorogood

Name: George Thorogood
Band: George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Position: Vocals, Guitar

Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia. It had the green grass and the red seats, it was the ultimate classic ballpark. It had it all. You could hit the ball into the upper deck, also you could hit the ball out of the park. It had the 35-foot wall in right field. The Ballantine Beer scoreboard had a little catwalk along the front of it; I once saw Johnny Callison hit a ball that rolled on that thing for an inside the park home run. Dick Allen hit a ball over the fence in left field over the bleachers, over the roof, out of the ballpark; the parking lot attendant said he saw Jimmy Foxx hit a tree in the parking lot five times, and he said Allen’s ball went over that tree. Also, it was the ballpark where the very first American League Night game was played, in 1939; it was the ballpark where Ted Williams finished his 1941 season with a .406 average; the ballpark where Babe Ruth played his last big league game in 1935, and Willie Mays played his first 16 years later. Now, how can you ask for anything better than that? The worst ballpark? Any park where the Mets are the visiting team.

Name: Tom Morello
Band: The Nightwatchman, Street Sweeper Social Club, Rage Against the Machine
Position: Guitar, Vocals

Come on now, we all know that Wrigley Field is greatest venue in all of sports, not just baseball, so everyone else just sit down and cork it. What’s the worst?
 The worst venue in baseball is Anaheim Stadium. Not because it’s ugly or because it’s in Orange County, but because they have a thing called “The Rally Monkey,” which comes out on the scoreboard and is genuinely scary for a man in his forties.

Dale Earnhardt jr jr

Name: Joshua Epstein
Band: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Position: Vocals, Keyboards

Wrigley Field is an incredible field to see a ballgame at. It’s small enough that every seat is pretty good, and Wrigleyville is a great surrounding environment. The people who come are pretty diehard too, to still show up after that many years of futility. It’s fun to see a game with a crowd that really knows the nuances. Tiger Stadium used to be cozy like that, and sometimes I miss it (even though the Tigers’ new stadium is beautiful).

Name: Ken Casey
Band: Dropkick Murphys
Position: Bass guitar, Vocal

Well, obviously Fenway is my favorite, but Wrigley is an awesome experience. It just has the old history and nostalgia. The worst, hands down, is Tropicana Field in Tampa. I despise it.

Name: Pete Yorn
Position: Vocals, Guitar

The best stadium for me is Yankee Stadium. Watching the team I grew up with live in that house is perfect.

The worst stadium for me was Candlestick. I honestly felt the place could crumble at any minute. (It might have been my bad seats.) I feel bad that the Niners still have to play there, although I hear they are getting a new stadium.


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