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Play Ball!

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It’s that time of year again for the start of a brand new baseball season.  I’ve written on this blog before about my love for the game, as have other bloggers.  But, I can’t help revisiting it this time of year.  Opening day is the only day of the season when “next year” is “this year.” 

I don’t know what causes my heart to quicken whenever I enter a major league stadium before a game.  Part of it is the roar of the crowd, another part is the sound and smells coming from the field and the stands.  Freshly cut grass, the crack of wood on the ball during infield practice, and the spiel of the vendors all stimulate the senses.  As a child, my favorite ball park was Dodger Stadium, where I saw my first major league ball game in 1963.  At that time, baseball still had Forbes Field (Pittsburgh) , Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, the old Busch Stadium (nee Sportsman’s Park) in St. Louis, Milwaukee County Stadium, and the historic Polo Grounds in New York, plus of course, Chicago’s Wrigley Field in the National League.  The Astrodome had yet to open, so the Houston Colt .45s played in the temporary Colt Stadium, and the San Francisco Giants played in the new Candlestick Park with its outrageous winds.

Los Angeles was unique in that it had two teams playing in one stadium that had two different names.  When the Dodgers were home, the facility was Dodger Stadium of course.  When the American League Angels were at home, the same structure was known as Chavez Ravine (which is the neighborhood where the facility is located).  The American League of 1963 had New York’s Yankee Stadium and Boston’s Fenway Park, which were joined by Chicago’s Comisky Park, Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C., Municipal Stadiums (in both Kansas City and Cleveland), Memorial Stadium (Baltimore), and Metropolitan Stadium (Minneapolis/St. Paul).

Ironically (and sadly) only three of those stadiums are still in use today, Fenway, Wrigley, and Dodger Stadium, which incredibly to me, is now the third oldest baseball stadium still in use.  In fact, many teams are now in their third ball park after having lived through the era of the horrendous, look-alike “multipurpose stadium.”  I love the trend for the new parks to look like baseball stadiums.  Two more new parks open this season, the Mets’ Citi Field and the Yankees’ new Yankee Stadium. 

One huge change that has come to baseball is expansion.  Only ten teams were in each league during my childhood.  Expansion has brought baseball to many more cities around the country, and today, there are 30 major league teams.  Along with the expansion of baseball has come the expansion of Southwest Airlines.  With the recent addition of Minneapolis/St. Paul to our route map, and with the upcoming entrance into New York and Boston, we will fly to 26 of the 30 major league cities (that’s counting Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood for the Florida Marlins). 

Every season, we hear from devoted fans who try to attend games in as many ballparks as possible, and without our low fares and frequent flights, they would have a hard time accomplishing their goal.  In many cities, you will see Southwest advertising at the ball park or during broadcasts, so our roots into baseball are pretty deep.  Let us know how Southwest has enhanced your love of “America’s game,” and be sure to share your baseball travels (or information about your hometown park) in our new Travel Guide at southwest.com.

2 Comments
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Excellent post, Brian! I'm inspired to head out to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (home of the local MLB team, the Texas Rangers) this very minute, and I'm not even a big baseball fan.
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I managed to follow the various expansions and even moving to new parks. I manage to follow stats of my favorite players since Tom Seaver. But, I absolutely can't keep track of the various banks that buy other banks and rename stadiums. Lets hear it for Yankee Stadium - which avoided becoming WAMU stadium (which should really be called FDIC stadium). Here is a link to a nice article about Fenway - http://www.tripcart.com/usa-regions/Coastal-Massachusetts-Rhode-Island/spectator-sports/Fenway-Park.html